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 CNS Special report:
 Coverage of John Jay report, National Review Board study.

-back to John Jay series main menu

Transmitted 02/27/2004 4:49 PM ET

Highlights of the National Review Board report on sexual abuse

By Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The National Review Board monitoring the U.S. church response to clergy sexual abuse of minors released a 145-page report on the causes and context of that abuse over the past half-century.

Here are highlights of some of the main findings of that report, which was made public in Washington Feb. 27.

Issues related to priests who sexually abused children included:

-- Inadequate screening procedures to weed out unfit priesthood candidates.

-- Inadequate seminary formation regarding celibacy and sexuality.

-- Special issues that need study concerning sexual orientation of priests, since much of the abuse appeared to have a homosexual character.

-- Special issues to be studied concerning celibacy, since how celibacy was lived or not lived touched not only on the abuse of minors but also on other issues of a healthy priesthood.

-- Special issues of spiritual life for bishops and priests, since both the acts of abuse by priests and the failure of bishops to put an end to it were "grievously sinful."

The report said that in the case of too many bishops their responses to allegations of abuse "were characterized by moral laxity, excessive leniency, insensitivity, secrecy and neglect."

Among issues it cited regarding bishops were:

-- A failure to understand the nature and scope of the abuse and the harm it caused.

-- A failure to respond adequately to victims, pastorally or legally.

-- Making unwarranted presumptions in favor of the priest when assessing allegations.

-- A culture of clericalism that sought to protect the accused priest.

-- Weaknesses in church law that made it difficult to inflict criminal penalties even when it was clear the priest violated church law.

-- A culture of forgiveness that failed to recognize the horror of the abuse and the need to condemn it.

-- An emphasis on secrecy and avoiding scandal "at all costs."

-- Failure to report actions that were crimes in civil law to civil authorities.

-- Overreliance on the therapeutic model, depending on psychologists and psychiatrists to "cure" offenders and make them fit to return to ministry.

-- Overreliance on attorneys, treating allegations as primarily a legal problem rather than one of pastoral and moral concern.


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