New Orleans Prelate: No Surprises in Sex Abuse Study

Urges Bishops to Be "Overly Cautious" in Future Cases

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NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana, MAY 31, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The series of conclusions of the John Jay report released earlier this month on the causes and context of clergy sex abuse in the Church didn't come as a surprise to Archbishop Gregory Aymond.

The archbishop of New Orleans told the Clarion Herald, the newspaper of the archdiocese, that as the first chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People, he was privy to much of the information published in the report.

Nonetheless, he added, "I'm glad that we spent the money, the time and the effort to do the survey and the investigative work."

The U.S. bishops' conference released the study May 18, which was conduced by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York.

The study was the second of two reports completed by the college. The first -- "The Nature and Scope of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States 1950-2002" -- was published in 2004 and focused on the description and extent of the problem.

The second is titled "The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010," and it sought to understand why sexual abuse of minors by clergy took place.

The archbishop praised the John Jay researchers as "reputable people," and affirmed that "they went to primary sources for their information."

Two revolutions

Regarding the conclusions, Archbishop Aymond said he wasn't surprised that "the report seems to indicate the sexual and social revolutions of the 1960s -- the 'Woodstock' generation -- had much to do with the clergy abuse crisis."

He said he agrees with the analysis, and explained that in the 1960s there was a "sexual revolution," as well as a "revolution against authority": "Those two things came into play. People were increasingly doubting objective moral standards. That happened in all aspects of society, and it certainly happened in the Church."

Archbishop Aymond acknowledged that while the sexual abuse crisis is largely a historical problem -- he noted that current accusations number in the single digits -- the bishops must continue to be "overly cautious."

"We must be transparent with the information we receive, we must investigate and we must have objective investigators look at cases," he said. "We cannot do these investigations internally. It takes someone from the outside to give us a professional opinion as to the legitimacy of an accusation."

"As a society we have to be more attentive," the archbishop urged. "The accusations against the Church and the purification of the Church have led us to see this as a more global, societal issue, which we may not have seen otherwise. I’m sorry that it took us to see the reality, but it did."

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