A new report, commissioned by the Roman Catholic Church in the US has concluded that gay priests are no more likely than straight priests to sexually abuse children.

Results from the report, presented at the assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), in essence contradicts the myth that Catholic clergy child molesters tend to be gay.

The report was commission by the American Bishops in 2002 in order to explain the rise in incidence of sexual abuse by priests in the late 1960s and 1970s and its subsequent decline after 1985. It’s been reported that around 80% of these cases took place in the US.

While the results are preliminary ones – the full report will only be completed next year – researchers from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice said that the information released this week is not expected to change.

Speaking at this week’s conference, researcher Margaret Smith said: “What we are suggesting is that the idea of sexual identity be separated from the problem of sexual abuse.

“At this point, we do not find a connection between homosexual identity and the increased likelihood of subsequent abuse from the data that we have right now,” she added.

Researchers noted that while the vast majority of victims were male, the perpetrators were not necessarily homosexual and that greater access to boys also a factor in the abuse. They compared the situation to high incidences of homosexual behaviour among heterosexual men in prisons.

According to the USCCB, around 14,000 abuse claims have been filed against members of the Church since 1950.

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