FORMER Catholic priests Des Cahill and Peter Wilkinson spent five years reviewing 26 studies from around the world on child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church to answer why the abuse occurred.
The studies included the Hunter-focused NSW Special Commission of Inquiry in 2013, a Victorian parliamentary inquiry in 2012 and the ongoing Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, established in November, 2012 and due to present its final report in December.
The results of their work – the 384-page Child Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church: An Interpretive Review of the Literature and Public Inquiry Reports – makes sobering and damning reading.
The 26 studies provide evidence that about one in 15 priests committed offences against children. The figure is shocking because those priests had unique access to children because of their roles as God’s representatives on earth.
Professor Cahill (pictured) and Dr Wilkinson initiated the study to find out why, out of all institutions in the world, the Catholic Church was particularly susceptible to occurrences of child sexual abuse. The answers confirm what five years of royal commission hearings have painfully revealed.
Mandatory celibacy is not a direct cause of abuse, but it remains the major precipitating risk factor for abuse of children.
The report’s description of priests required to suppress their human sexuality, and intimacy in general, is disturbing and alarming, all the more so because it’s a description from men who left the priesthood.
Children remain at risk from “psychosexually immature, sexually deprived and deeply frustrated priests and religious brothers” who lack intimacy. Some have not resolved their own sexual identity and their thinking is “deeply distorted and mutated towards children”.
The “denigration of women” and the church’s “deeply homophobic environment” are also key factors in the global abuse tragedy, Cahill and Wilkinson found.
The report was released worldwide on Wednesday, as Australia’s same sex marriage debate reveals deep fissures within the Catholic Church, and a virtual chasm between how some Catholic leaders view the issue, and how a majority of Australians see it. The Catholic Church is a powerful institution, but as a moral leader it is sadly diminished.