Bishops Vote to Investigate Sexual Abuse

By Jessica Novak
The Examiner
November 14, 2006

Baltimore - The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops voted unanimously Monday to support research into what leads some priests to abuse children.

Bishops from around the country have convened in Baltimore to tackle the issues facing the modern Catholic Church, and voted Monday to give $335,000 to research that would explore the causes and context of sexual abuse by the clergy.

Nearly 300 bishops from around the country are tackling an array of issues affecting the Catholic Church during the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting at the Marriott Baltimore Waterfront Hotel.

Divided into three components, the study will review the historical context of sexual abuse, individual diocese's responses to notorious cases of abuse after 1985, and the differences between priests accused of sexual abuse and sex offenders who are not priests.

According to the accepted proposal, researchers will explore whether cases of abuse involving priests are similar to abuse by laypersons, and if there are factors specific to the ministry that may influence some priests to sexually abuse children.

"By approving the proposal, bishops are saying we are serious about this; we haven't retreated from our original position and we'll stay on this until we can find the causes that will prevent these terrible things from happening," said Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, of Washington.

In order to provide context on the hot-button issue, researchers will collect and analyze data related to changes in cultural attitudes and institutions, including the Catholic Church, said Karen Terry, lead investigator.

Research will be conducted by John Jay College of Criminal Justice, a division of the City University of New York. Priests and other participants will be interviewed on a voluntary basis. "Given that the vote in favor of the proposal was unanimous, I expect each diocese to fully participate in the research, and the information will not be skewed since it will be kept confidential," said the Rev. Ragan Schriver of Tennessee, one of the required regional observers at the conference.

John Jay College will raise funds for the study, estimated to cost $2 million to $3 million and be completed by 2009.

The nearly 300 bishops at the conference will continue to debate and vote on issues affecting the Catholic Church until Thursday. Topics up for vote today include guidelines on preparing to receive Eucharist and ministering to gay men and lesbians.

Today will be the last day open to the public.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.