Kathleen McChesney served as the first executive director of the newly established Office for Child and Youth Protection of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Her analysis of the John Jay report, which was officially released yesterday, has just been posted to our Web site:
The report does not identify a specific definitive cause for the abuse—there is no "smoking gun" for the victimization of thousands of boys and girls by Catholic clergy during the past six decades. There was, rather, a confluence of organizational, psychological and situational factors that "contributed to the vulnerability of priests" during this period that resulted in 4 to 6 percent of them committing acts of abuse. Why the other 94 to 96 percent of the priests, subjected to the same vulnerabilities, did not offend is not clear and may be beyond the limits of psychological and social research. Factors are not excuses, however, and over-dependence on external influences can lead to complacency in abuse prevention.
Those who espoused a pet theory as to why priests harmed children may disagree with the report's findings, and skeptics may question the source data that dioceses provided. Nonetheless, this comprehensive and unbiased look at the most serious problem in the Catholic Church today answers seven key questions and will help its members to better understand what occurred and why.
Read the seven key questions—and answers—here.
UPDATE: Our Signs of the Times news story on the release of the John Jay report is also now online.