John Jay Study Finds No Link Between Homosexuality and Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests

A new John Jay College of Criminal Justice study, called “The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010,” finds no connection between homosexuality and Catholic priest abuse of minors, debunking a major talking point of Catholic Church defenders like Bill Donohue.

Says the study: Johnjay

[T]he researchers found no statistical evidence that gay priests were more likely than straight priests to abuse minors—a finding that undermines a favorite talking point of many conservative Catholics. The disproportionate number of adolescent male victims was about opportunity, not preference or pathology, the report states.

What’s more, researchers note that the rise in the number of gay priests from the late 1970s onward actually corresponded with “a decreased incidence of abuse—not an increased incidence of abuse.”

So what were the reasons?

…emotionally immature and psychologically maladjusted men entering seminaries; the difficulty of dealing with cultural upheaval in which priests found themselves in the 1960s and 1970s; as well as, again, the issue of proximity–young men and boys were abused because priests were more likely to be working with them, rather than with young women and girls.  But simply put, being a homosexual priest does not make one an abusive priest.

John Jay Report: On Not Blaming Homosexual Priests [america, the national catholic weekly]


  1. Chuck says

    This has been going on for centuries. The difference is the new openness about sex ushered in by the 60s allowed the children who were being molested to eventually speak up and so the church got caught.

  2. Pete n SFO says

    and now that Bill Donahue & his ilk have correct information, they’ll stop with the hysterical lies…

    lol, that’s a good one!

    Isn’t NOM using all the same ads that have been debunked a hundred times???

  3. TampaZeke says

    FINALLY! A study of the situation proves what we’ve been trying to tell people all along. Victim gender selections has a lot to do with availability and opportunity and very little to do with the sexual orientation of the offender.

  4. just_a_guy says

    @Chuck: Fo’ real. And may such victims feel yet freer to speak up–ideally AS SOON AS such abuse begins. And if some abusers happen to be gay, they are no less culpable. We did not fight for our own freedoms to support oppressing and violating children. No, no.

    Pope: Listen. Please. You owe it to the children in your “churches” worldwide. When will God actually grant you genuine divination, man?!

  5. Danny says

    This puts the Roman leadership in quite a quandry: they’ll have to explain (of course, they won’t) why they want to keep “out” gay men out of the priesthood but continue to shelter sexual abusers.

  6. Jim says

    To repeat a word already expressed: “Finally!” A study that looks at the reasons WHY this happens instead of just tar and feathering these priests as monsters! The acts they commit are indeed unacceptable, but let’s look at WHY it happens in order to prevent it from ever happening again!

  7. anon says

    They need to make sure that the study accounts for the % of priests that are gay. Why would the number of priests who are gay increase in numbers in the 70’s? Was it that they called themselves that more, or were there actually more? I can’t see the era of gay lib result in more gays joining the priesthood, though I could see more coming out of the closet. BD’s point is also something of a lark, because he’s trying to say that molesting a 15 year old is no different than two men going at it–perhaps he just wants the age of consent reduced.

  8. Bryan says

    And at no point will anyone say publicly that an institution that maintains power by denigrating women, hating the body, fearing sex, denying sexuality, and worshipping a corpse nailed to a torture device just might be the perfect pervert factory.

  9. BobN says

    “Why would the number of priests who are gay increase in numbers in the 70’s?”

    All vocations dropped in the 60s and 70s, but the percentage of heterosexuals dropped further as pressure to join religious orders disappeared for most straight men. Gay men, on the other hand, still had a good reason to sign up, assuming they were devout Catholics.

    This results today in a disproportionately gay clergy. It did not and does not result in a more abusive clergy. As the study points out, abuse rates have actually gone down.

  10. Gregv says

    I remember when the previous John Jay College study on priest abuse was published a few years ago. Right-wing religiously run “news” outlets like The Washington Times (run by the Moonies cult….not to be confused with the Post) ran stories quoting zealots like Donahue asserting (falsely and without any retort) that the study concluded all kinds of nasty things about gay men.
    I read the actual study and of course the study didn’t say any such things.

  11. Randy says

    The study is flawed by the arbitrary start point of 1950. This has been going on for centuries. The 1960s may have influenced it in some way, but it was already well-entrenched, certainly in Canadian residential schools. Anglicans and Catholics were involved. Native children were forced apart from their families, forced to abandon their culture and language, forced to work, and on top of all that, they were abused physically and sexually. It went on for many decades BEFORE 1950. While I’m glad they debunked the association with gay men, simply transferring the blame to hippies is not being honest.

  12. Andalusian Dog says

    I am not disagreeing with any of the findings of this study, but I wonder how those who conducted it determined that their subjects (the priests) were gay or not. Did they ask them? And if so, do we trust them (the priests) to tell the truth? How many closet cases have we personally witnessed over the years, who say they are not gay, and yet almost exclusively have sex with other men?

    The difficulty is the question of subjectivity about one’s own sexuality, and the divide one may feel between culturally and socially identifying as gay or straight and what one actually does or prefers to do sexually. While many people may fear that this line of critique may suggest a bias or tendency toward a result that would be at odds with what the gay community wants to hear — that priests who prefer sex with men may in fact be more likely to abuse boys than those who prefer sex with women — I think that would be jumping the gun. It would, however, lead to a more rigorously concluded studied.

    Moreover, I think this line of critique may in fact help open up a broader cultural discussion about the nature of sexuality. My guess is that many priests, given their circumstances, their faith in the organization to which they belong, and their religious beliefs, have remained largely shielded from broader changes in the cultural discourse after the sexual revolution of the 60s. Meaning, cultural factors, such as the emergence of a out-and-proud, politically active gay community, likely did not impinge on their own sexual practices — or if they did, they did so in largely a negative way, such as doubling up the pressure to remain closeted and functionally asexual (for a time) for fear of being “found out” in the face of a world that grew ever more tolerant, accepting, and eventually celebrating of gay people. (Think of how our own sex lives have been impacted by knowing that there is such a thing as the gay community – cultural factors play an important shaping role in how we express ourselves sexually.)

    So the focus group of priests in such a revised study might in fact shed light onto questions such as the difference between the cultural and biological factors that may or may not determine the totality of one’s sexual life. It may demystify what for many are still taboo subjects. It may teach us something about how we as a culture categorize sexuality (instead of coming to accept the good old Kinsean spectrum, which, forgetting the numbers involved, even a priori makes a certain amount of sense just in terms of how we biologically are constituted as humans). It may teach us something about how we pathologize certain sex acts and how this impacts the cultural question of sexual orientation.

    Finally, it may once again teach us the very crucial point that sexuality is likely governed both by biological as well as cultural factors — crucial, because we should not as a community retreat to the genetic, “nature” explanation of our lives and sexuality when greeted with opposition from right-wing types, but rather always call for clarion truths about sexuality. Remember: being gay has given us the great gift of having to come out, be honest with ourselves, and to present an unabashed and total human experience to the world (sexuality included). This is why, even though we have many straight allies, many people still hate us, others want to regulate our activities (getting married, having sex with each other, etc. etc.), and others still deign to “tolerate” us: they fear the power of the truth that our lives represent. We should always aim to tell these truths about the human experience.

  13. Sean says

    The Catholic Church needs to take a long look at what has drawn these abusive clerical reprobates to their profession. As a student veteran of Catholic education and the countless abuses (verbal, emotional, psychological, corporal) that I witnessed therein, I will assure that the priesthood has long been a warehouse for badly maladjusted men. There needs to be a strict psychiatric profiling of Catholic clerical candidates before they are allowed to be around defenseless young people. Unleashing adults of dubious character and mental hygiene on children is not only reprehensible, but clearly dangerous. In its unwillingness to admit fault, the Catholic Church is showing a lack of integrity rivaling that of its sexual abuse perpetrators.