Contrary to claims by some Catholic leaders, a landmark study in the US has concluded that neither celibacy nor homosexuality are causes of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy.

The study of past cases, conducted by researchers at John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York, found that there was no single cause or predictor of the sexual abuse.

The report noted that that situational factors and opportunity to abuse played a significant role in the onset and continuation of abusive acts.

“The bulk of cases occurred decades ago,” said Karen Terry, PhD., John Jay’s principal investigator for the report. “The increased frequency of abuse in the 1960s and 1970’s was consistent with the patterns of increased deviance of society during that time.”

She stated that “social influences intersected with vulnerabilities of individual priests whose preparation for a life of celibacy was inadequate at that time”.

Terry also said that neither celibacy nor homosexuality were causes of the abuse, and that priest candidates who would later abuse could not be distinguished by psychological tests, developmental and sexual history, intelligence, or experience in priesthood.

The continued improvements in preparing candidates for priesthood is associated with the continued low levels of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests in the United States, she said.

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