Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Donohue's "Blame the Gays" Tactic Refuted by John Jay Study Researcher

I’ve recently come to the conclusion that the obnoxious and more-often-than-not erroneous rhetoric of folks like Catholic League president Bill Donohue can actually serve some good.

How so, you ask? Well, it can compel people who actually know what they’re talking about to come forward and calmly refute the ignorance and/or lies that form the basis of such rhetoric by offering a rational presentation of the facts.

Take for instance Margaret Smith, a
John Jay College criminologist who was one of the researchers responsible for the study of sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church - a study commissioned by the U.S. Conference of [Roman] Catholic Bishops and released in 2004.

Smith was recently interviewed for the following article by Jeremy Schulman of Media Matters. Make no mistake, this article is a must-read for anyone interested in ascertaining the true nature of the Roman Catholic Church’s clergy sex abuse crisis.


Expert: Donohue’s Claim that Most
Abusive Priests are Gay is “Unwarranted”

By Jeremy Schulman
April 2, 2010

One of the researchers responsible for a landmark statistical study of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church says that Catholic League president William Donohue “drew an unwarranted conclusion” from her work when he claimed that “most” of the clergy who committed the abuse have been “gay.”

In a March 30 ad published in The New York Times, Donohue described the sex abuse scandal as a “homosexual crisis.” Donohue added: “Eighty percent of the victims of priestly sexual abuse are male and most of them are post-pubescent. While homosexuality does not cause predatory behavior, and most gay priests are not molesters, most of the molesters have been gay.”

During a March 31 appearance on CNN, Donohue elaborated on his claim, specifically citing a 2004 study produced by researchers at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, which found that 81 percent of the alleged victims of sexual abuse by priests were male. During the CNN segment, Donohue repeated his assertion that “most of the molesters have been gay.”

But in an interview with Media Matters, Margaret Smith – a John Jay College criminologist who worked on the 2004 study – said that while Donohue “quoted the study’s data correctly,” he “drew an unwarranted conclusion” in asserting that most of the abusers were gay.

Explaining that it is an oversimplification to assume to that priests who abuse male victims are gay, Smith said: “The majority of the abusive acts were homosexual in nature. That participation in homosexual acts is not the same as sexual identity as a gay man.”

As an example, Smith pointed to the case of Marcial Maciel Degollado, a prominent Mexican priest who allegedly abused male children and also allegedly carried on affairs with multiple women. Smith noted that while Maciel allegedly abused boys, most people would not think of him as a gay man.

In a November 18, 2009, Politics Daily column about Smith’s research, David Gibson reported:

“What we are suggesting is that the idea of sexual identity be separated from the problem of sexual abuse,” said Margaret Smith, a researcher from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, which is conducting an independent study of sexual abuse in the priesthood from 1950 up to 2002. “At this point, we do not find a connection between homosexual identity and an increased likelihood of sexual abuse.”

A second researcher, Karen Terry, also cautioned the bishops against making a correlation between homosexuality in the priesthood and the high incidence of abuse by priests against boys rather than girls – a ratio found to be about 80-20.

“It’s important to separate the sexual identity and the behavior,” Terry said. “Someone can commit sexual acts that might be of a homosexual nature but not have a homosexual identity.” Terry said factors such as greater access to boys is one reason for the skewed ratio. Smith also raised the analogy of prison populations where homosexual behavior is common even though the prisoners are not necessarily homosexuals, or cultures where men are rigidly segregated from women until adulthood, and homosexual activity is accepted and then ceases after marriage.

Such conclusions, moreover, are not unique to analyses of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. As Think Progress noted, Gregory Herek, a psychology professor at the University of California-Davis, analyzed a number of studies and concluded: “The empirical research does not show that gay or bisexual men are any more likely than heterosexual men to molest children. This is not to argue that homosexual and bisexual men never molest children. But there is no scientific basis for asserting that they are more likely than heterosexual men to do so.”

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Blaming the Gays
An Offering of Ashes


Tom Degan said...

In my parish, St. John the Evangelist in Goshen, NY, the first major pedophile scandal materialized in the early nineties. The priest in question, "Father Ed" had been molesting boys in their early teens. To say that the parishioners were traumatized by this would be an understatement. They were devastated. Then something wondrous happened....

Father Ed was eventually replaced by Father Trevor Nichols. Father Trevor had been an Anglican in merrie old England when he converted to Catholicism. On becoming a Catholic was transferred to Saint John's - WITH HIS WIFE AND TWO DAUGHTERS! A married priest! WITH TWO KIDS!

You want to hear the punch line? Our little parish did not implode. The sun did not fall from the sky. Huge cracks did not appear in the earth's surface. In fact, it was nice having them. They were - and are to this day - deeply beloved by the people of St. John's.

Allowing priests to marry would transform the Catholic Church. Having a married priest and his lovely family in our midst certainly transformed the people of St. John's.

Tom Degan

Michael J. Bayly said...

Thanks for sharing this story, Tom.



Mareczku said...

This is another very good article. I think Bill Donahue really needs to be educated about this. After lookng at the figures I was stunned because it appears that the number of priests who are pedophiles is higher than I realized. I consider priests who have sex with 10 and 11 year old children to be pedophiles. I don't know if Bill Donahue does. From what I have read, a lot of children are sexually abused by married men. The information about Father Marciel from Mexico is chilling. The man was on a major power trip. It is too bad that he was allowed to do all the crap that he did because he gave a lot of money to the guys in Rome.