Last week, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) released a report called “The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010” (.pdf), a companion to their 2004 report, “The Nature and Scope of the Problem of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States, 1950-2002“. Both reports were compiled by the research team at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York at the request of the USCCB’s Office of Child and Youth Protection and the National Review Board, a group of prominent Catholic laity (both the OCYP and the NRB were created by the USCCB after the 2002 adoption of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People). It is important to note that, although the research was carried out by the John Jay College, the UCCSB had the final say on whether or not to authorize publication of the report.

Before I read the newly-released report, I tried to be as charitable and optimistic about it as possible, with the thought that “well, this is better than nothing”.

After finishing the report, though, I can say with certainty that both my charity and my optimism were unwarranted. I was wrong. Very wrong. This report isn’t better than nothing. It’s a major setback in the movement towards Church accountability.

In the hope of counteracting some of the report’s detrimental effects, I want to offer some summary and analysis of its methodology, data, and conclusions. The report itself is very long (143 pages), but you can get an overview of its findings by reading its brief “Executive Summary” and/or The New York Times‘s recent article on the report.


First, I want to explain why this report’s findings are neither credible nor insightful:

1. The conflict of interest created by the funding. For example, a recent news report said that “[m]ore than half of the $1.8 million cost for the nearly 150-page report by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice on the ’causes and context’ of child sex abuse by clergy came from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops”. Yes, the USCCB donated $918,000 of the report’s $1.8 million cost. However, such news reports should also explain that the majority of the remaining funding came from organizations that are either explicitly Catholic-affiliated or that have histories of funding Catholic activities and advocacy (the Knights of Columbus, the Raskob Foundation, Catholic Mutual Group, Sisters of Charity Ministry Foundation, the Luce Foundation, the Catholic Health Association of the United States, the St. Joseph Health System, The Greater Cincinnati Foundation, The Assisi Foundation of Memphis, Daughters of Charity Foundation/Province of the West).

So, this is a study that was commissioned by the USCCB (who retained “authorization” rights over publication of the final report) and that was funded almost entirely by Catholic or pro-Catholic organizations. Conflict of interest doesn’t get much more blatant than that.

2. Limited and untrustworthy data. In addition to reusing much of the information from the Nature and Scope study, the researchers explain that:

The primary data sources for the Causes and Context study are as follows: (1) longitudinal analyses of data sets of various types of social behavior (for example, crime, divorce, premarital sex) over the time period to provide a historical framework; (2) analysis of seminary attendance, the history and the development of a human formation curriculum, as well as information from seminary leaders; (3) surveys of and interviews with inactive priests with allegations of abuse, and a comparison sample of priests in active parish ministry who had not been accused; (4) interview and primary data from the 1971 Loyola University study of the psychology of American Catholic priests; (5) surveys of survivors, victim assistance coordinators, and clinical files about the onset, persistence, and desistance from abuse behavior; (6) surveys of bishops, priests, and other diocesan leaders about the policies that were put in place after 1985; and (7) analyses of clinical data from files obtained from three treatment centers, including information about priests who abused minors as well as those being treated for other behavioral problems (2).

These sources are acceptable but insufficient. They aren’t an adequate substitute for independent outside analysis of and inspection of Church data. Had the Church been willing to provide access to data that was not self-reported, then each of the above-mentioned sources could have provided additional useful information for the study. On their own, though, they’re just not enough.

As the report explains, this problem began with the Nature and Scope study:

 …the USCCB wanted to know the extent of the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church on a national level from 1950-2002. Any method of data collection on a project of this scope has limitations. The John Jay College researchers determined that it would be impossible to gather an adequate sample—there was simply not enough known about the problem nationally. It was decided that the best method to study this problem was to conduct a “census,” or to collect comprehensive information from the records of every diocese, eparchy, and religious institute in the United States. Though this method had restrictions, these files provided a wealth of information regarding the abusers, minors who were abused, and the financial cost of the individual cases (7).

Here, the researchers fail to justify the substitution of a “census” of self-reported data for an actual adequate sample and fail to explain the highly problematic nature of self-reported data, beyond mentioning that it “had restrictions”.

If it is true that it would have been impossible for the researchers to “gather an adequate sample”, then the researchers should have acknowledged that they needed to wait until such a sample could be gathered and should have refused the USCCB’s request. Instead, though, they chose to engage in a time-consuming and expensive study that would, ultimately, fail to provide any credible findings or useful suggestions for reform.

The fact that much of the data from the Nature and Scope study was reused in the Causes and Context study (2) is one of the primary reasons that, like the Nature and Scope study, the Causes and Context study was not worth undertaking.

Throughout the Causes and Context study, the researchers blindly accept the truth of the Church’s self-reported data. This is both troubling and dangerous, particularly when it comes to Church officials’ claims that they were not made aware of incidents of sexual abuse by priests until many years after they occurred. For example, the researchers assert that:

Despite data indicating that the incidence of abuse rose steadily between 1950 and 1980 and fell sharply by the mid-1980s, most of these events were unknown to civil authorities or church leaders before 2002 (27).


In 2002, the public response was focused on the leaders of individual dioceses and then on the collective hierarchy of the Catholic Church. What this outpouring of pain and indignation failed to accommodate was the temporal disjunction between the historical occurrence of these incidents of abuse and the emerging knowledge by Catholic leaders of the extent of the abuse (75).

yet their only evidence for this claim of “temporal disjunction” is the dioceses’ self-reported data. Even a cursory glance at the history of the Church’s response to the sex abuse crisis illustrates just how dubious this claim is. One such example can be found in the case of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut. In late 2009, after years of refusing to release sealed documents pertaining to cases of sexual abuse by priests (fighting it all the way to the Supreme Court), the diocese ran out of legal options and was forced to turn over some of their files. As suspected, these documents contain evidence that Cardinal Edward Egan, previously Bishop of Bridgeport, knew about various allegations of abuse at the time of or shortly after their occurrence, but, instead of reporting these allegations to law enforcement, decided to handle the issue “internally”, potentially endangering more children in the process.

And Egan wasn’t merely “a bad apple”. Church leaders in dioceses all over the United States (89) chose to handle sex abuse allegations “internally”, which is a clear indication that, like Egan, many Church leaders indeed did know about cases of abuse at the time of or shortly after their occurrences, despite their self-reported assertions to the contrary.

Additionally, the researchers assert that:

There was no clear indication…of the bishops’ or other diocesan leaders’ understanding of the extent of harm resulting from sexual abuse. Although this lack of understanding was consistent with the overall lack of understanding of victimization at the time, the absence of acknowledgment of harm was a significant ethical lapse on the part of leadership in some dioceses (119).

Here, they researchers acknowledge an “ethical lapse”, yet refuse to place the blame where it belongs: on the abusers and on those who engaged in a cover-up of their behavior. Instead, the researchers claim that, in the 1960s and 1970s, American society as a whole didn’t understand how damaging and harmful child sex abuse was, and that the Church leaders of this time thus couldn’t possibly have known the proper course of action to take in response to an allegation of abuse.

Ultimately, despite the extremely problematic nature of their data, the researchers insist that:

The Causes and Context study provided a unique opportunity to collect robust, rich, and multifaceted data on the sexual abuse of minors over a sixty-year period. Seven sources of quantitative and qualitative data were analyzed, and the findings support a consistent set of conclusions.  This convergence of findings provides confidence in the data, which can then serve as a base for creating policy recommendations (118).

This failure to acknowledge the highly flawed nature of the data in question indicates that the researchers are not credible and that the Causes and Context study’s conclusions are, for the most part, neither trustworthy nor deserving of serious consideration.


Next, let’s look at two of the major problems of and flaws in the report’s methodology and conclusions:

1. One of the most egregious aspects of this report is that the researchers arbitrarily redefine “pedophilia” as sexual abuse of victims that were ten years old or younger at the time, despite the fact that the DSM sets the cutoff age at thirteen. Defining it as “ten years old or younger” allows the researchers to make claims like:

Less than 5 percent of the priests with allegations of abuse exhibited behavior consistent with a diagnosis of pedophilia (a psychiatric disorder that is characterized by recurrent fantasies, urges, and behaviors about prepubescent children). Thus, it is inaccurate to refer to abusers as “pedophile priests” (3).


It is worth noting that while the media has consistently referred to priest-abusers as “pedophile priests,” pedophilia is defined as the sexual attraction to prepubescent children. Yet, the data on priests show that 22 percent of victims were age ten and under, while the majority of victims were pubescent or postpubescent (10).

… whereas if they had stuck to the DSM‘s guidelines (age thirteen or younger), most of the priest-abusers could legitimately be called “pedophiles”, as “[m]ost sexual abuse victims of priests (51 percent) were between the ages of eleven and fourteen, while 27 percent were fifteen to seventeen, 16 percent were eight to ten, and nearly 6 percent were under age seven” (10). In other words, if the researchers had used the DSM‘s guidelines, the percentage would jump from 22% to almost 73%.

Arbitrarily changing the age from thirteen to ten was a very sleazy and duplicitous move, and, unfortunately, many media outlets will most likely report the “5%” and “22%” figures without explaining the study’s authors’ arbitrary redefinition of “pedophilia” (see this CNN story for an example). “Pedophilia” is a word that evokes strong feelings in many people, and, without this explanation, most media consumers will be left with the impression that the Church’s sex abuse crisis isn’t nearly as horrible or widespread as they had previously thought.

Frustratingly, the researchers do not explain why they chose to redefine “pedophilia”, saying only that: “[f]or the purpose of this comparison, a pedophile is defined as a priest who had more than one victim, with all victims being age eleven or younger at the time of the offense” (34).

Even more egregious, though, is the researchers’ attack on any media outlet or individual who accepts the standard definition of “pedophile”:

Media reports about Catholic priests who sexually abused minors often mistakenly have referred to priests as pedophiles. According to the DSM IV-TR, pedophilia is characterized by fantasies, urges, or behaviors about sexual activity with a prepubescent child that occurs for a significant period of time. Yet, the Nature and Scope data indicated that nearly four out of five minors abused were at least eleven years old at the time of the abuse. Though development happens at varying ages for children, the literature generally refers to eleven and older as an age of pubescence or postpubescence (53).

I’m both horrified and perplexed by the researchers’ arbitrary and unexplained redefinition of their study’s primary topic. Remember: their redefinition of “pedophile” allows them to claim that only 22% of priest-abusers were “pedophiles”, whereas, if they had used the DSM‘s definition, that percentage would jump to almost 73%. Media consumers who hear the figure of 22% reported without context will, most likely, assume that it is based upon the standard (DSM) definition, and, as a result, will develop a highly inaccurate understanding of the realities of the Catholic sex abuse crisis. Because of this, I don’t think it’s uncharitable or unreasonable to call into question both the credibility of and the integrity of the researchers.

2. The researchers attempt to place some of the blame for the sex abuse crisis on the failures of seminaries to fully prepare priests for the social changes that accompanied 1960’s and and 1970’s culture, focusing on “the impact social changes in the 1960s and 1970s had on individual priests’ attitudes and behavior and on organizational life, including social stratification, emphasis on individualism, and social movements” (7).

For example, the researchers assert that, according to their data:

[T]he problem of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests peaked in the 1970s, with a decline by the mid-1980s in all regions of the Catholic Church in the United States. Though more cases of sexual abuse continue to be reported to dioceses today, almost all of these allegations are of abuse that occurred decades earlier (46).

then proceed to attempt to connect this supposed “peak” in sexual abuse cases (again, remember that all of this data comes from the “censuses” they sent to the dioceses) to the concurrent shift in cultural norms/”social indicators” (36) and rise in “deviant behaviors” (46), primarily “divorce, use of illegal drugs, and crime” (36), arguing that: “[t]he documented rise in cases of abuse in the 1960s and 1970s is similar to the rise in other types of “deviant” behavior in society, and coincides with social change during this time period” (46).

This argument indicates that the researchers need to be reminded of two things: that correlation does not equal causation, something that they either do not understand (doubtful) or actively chose to ignore, and that equating divorce with the “use of illegal drugs” and “crime” and the sexual abuse of children is problematic, to say the least.

Their attempt at justifying this argument is both pathetic and painfully convoluted:

Sexual abuse of a minor by a Catholic priest is an individual deviant act—an act by a priest that serves individual purposes and that is completely at odds or opposed to the principles of the institution. Divorce is an act also made for personal reasons that negates the institution of marriage. Illegal drug use and criminal acts violate social and legal norms of conduct, presumably at the will of the offender. The recorded or reported incidence of each of these factors increased by 50 percent between 1960 and 1980. If the data for the annual divorce rate are compared to data for the annual rate of homicide and robbery, the time-series lines move in tandem. From stable levels in 1965, the rates increase sharply to a peak at or soon after 1980 and then begin to fall. This pattern is indicative of the period effects that can be seen in the Nature and Scope data on the incidence of sexual abuse by priests (36-7).

Yet again, it bears repeating that both this claimed “peak” in sexual abuse cases (which forms the crux of their argument that the sexual abuse crisis was a “historical problem” (2)) and the argument that “period effects” are partially to blame for this “peak” are supported only by extremely limited and inherently untrustworthy data.

All of this grasping at straws serves only one purpose: to deflect guilt away from the perpetrators and those who engaged in covering up their acts.

Even more disturbing and baseless is the researchers’ claim that one cause of this “peak” in sexual abuse cases between the 1960s and the 1980s is that, until recently, seminaries failed to provide a “human formation” (41) curriculum consisting of “the training in self-understanding and the development of emotional and psychological competence for a life of celibate chastity” (5) and providing “a clear delineation of behavioral expectations appropriate to a life of celibacy” (120), asserting that: “[p]articipation in human formation during seminary distinguishes priests with later abusive behavior from those who did not abuse. The priests with abusive behavior were statistically less likely to have participated in human formation training than those who did not have allegations of abuse” (3).

Defending this assertion and attempting to connect it to the supposed “peak” in sexual abuse cases required the researchers to employ painfully convoluted logic including, once again, the “correlation equals causation” fallacy:

Human formation in seminary is critically important. The drop in abuse cases preceded the inclusion of a thorough education in human formation, but the development of the curriculum of human formation is consistent with the continued low levels of abuse by Catholic priests (118).

Men ordained in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s did not generally abuse before the 1960s or 1970s. Men ordained in the 1960s and the early 1970s engaged in abusive behavior much more quickly after their entrance into ministry (3).

In other words, the researchers believe that the vast majority of priest-abusers, whether they attended seminary in 1930 or in the early 1970s (or any time in-between), committed their crimes during the 1960s and 1970s (the time they refer to as the “peak”), and that this is primarily due to the fact that their seminaries failed to provide these priest-abusers with a proper “human formation” curriculum.

All of this begs the question (one that the researchers completely ignore): why would any priest have to be taught (in a “human formation” curriculum or otherwise) that it’s never acceptable, ethically or legally, to sexually abuse a child? According to the researchers, we should unquestioningly accept their baseless assertion because, without a proper training in “human formation”, these priest-abusers were unable to understand “appropriate forms of closeness to others” (121) and that certain behaviors are not “appropriate to a life of celibacy” (120).

The fact that the researchers completely ignore this question, this 500-pound elephant in the room, is egregious and unacceptable, and is yet another indicator of this report’s uselessness.


Sometimes I think that I should stop writing about this issue, as I’ve written about it so many times before and it’s quite difficult not to repeat myself. But I can’t and won’t shut up about it, and neither should you. The day that we stop writing and talking about it is the day that the Church wins this fight.

Time and time again we have seen that the Church will do whatever it takes to downplay and/or cover up their failings and crimes. They have shown their willingness to fight dirty, and one of the most useful and effective tools in their arsenal is their dominance of the discourse and conversation (both in the media and elsewhere) about these issues. The Causes and Context study is a textbook example of this: when the media reports its “takeaways” without providing context, they are, in effect, doing the Church’s face-saving dirty work for them.

No, we must not shut up. We must not allow the Church to dominate the discourse. Speak out in whatever ways you can. On its own, what you or I say or write may not have any effect on the Church or the discourse surrounding this issue. Taken as a whole, though, our words provide a clear indication that there are many of us who will neither blindly accept the Church’s domination of the conversation nor quietly sit by while they evade justice time and time again.

Don’t shut up, even when you feel like you’re repeating yourself. It took me a while to realize that the reason I’ve sometimes been repetitive when writing about this is that the Church itself has repeated the same crimes and the same institutionally sanctioned cover-ups over and over again. They repeatedly refuse to admit their culpability or to face legal punishment when appropriate. And, most importantly, they repeatedly deny outsiders access to their files that contain information on the sexual abuse of children and the cover-ups of that abuse.

Until the day that they allow that access, until the day that the light of public scrutiny is finally able to illuminate and reveal the darkest and most disturbing aspects of the Church, we owe it to the victims to never, ever shut up.

I won’t shut up, and neither should you. The day that we stop fighting back is the day that they win.

Let’s make sure that day never comes.

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83 Responses to A worthless and dangerous report

  1. Steve Zara says:

    A very important post. I’m going to make it as visible as I can.

  2. […] did a close reading of the US Conference of Catholic bishops’ report on child sexual […]

  3. Mandrellian says:

    Never, ever shut up, please.

    I’ll spread this far n’ wide and continue to add my voice elsewhere.

    You’re right – the reason this argument seems to eat & regurgitate itself is because this corrupt remnant of the Roman empire keeps doing the same fucking things – deflecting blame, lying, concealing, paying off, redefining the very nature of the crimes in question, obfuscating & refusing to involve legitimate authorities – over and over. And media, as usual, are guilty of uncritically relaying the Vatican’s words and not investigating. Just how many ‘bad apple priests’ is it going to take before people realise the barrel’s been rotten for decades?

    • Thank you :) & Yes, it finally dawned on me last week that it’s impossible not to be repetitive when writing about this issue, simply because the abuse cases and systematic institutionally-sanctioned coverup itself is so very widespread and repetitive.

  4. mordacious1 says:

    Have you read Bill Donohue’s “critical analysis” on the John Jay study?

    • Tezcatlipoca says:

      Mord, Miranda just dealt with this cesspit of a report and now you want her to subject herself to Donohue’s dreck? Oh the humanity!!!

    • I haven’t yet, but I just can’t stay away from it. I shall read it soon. I imagine that it will bring copious amounts of both facepalms and lolz.

      I did see that he’s mad that the researchers didn’t blame “the gays” more. Seriously, Donohue isn’t going to be happy until someone releases a report called “The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church, 1950-2000: BLAME THE GAYS!!!”

  5. Tezcatlipoca says:

    Great post Miranda, we must never sit silently over this. One quibble… a 500 lb elephant? Is this a baby? A 500 lb gorilla in a room is much more intimidating… ;p

  6. Peter Watkinson says:

    Thanks Miranda for you hard work. I’ve already started to let others know about this post.

  7. […] Go read the rest – it highlights exactly how slimy the Catholic Church’s approach to the scandal remains. […]

  8. Steve Hill says:

    Stunning work Miranda… it ought to be required reading for all the apologists for these people.

  9. clod says:

    Thank you so much for doing that work Miranda. A horrible but essential task and you’ve done it brilliantly. We won’t ever stop, we won’t ever give up. Sharing.

  10. […] Hale’s been on a break from posting, but has come back with a doozy, an analysis—”A worthless and dangerous report“— of the 143-page report by The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (link to the […]

  11. Miika H says:

    Kudos for taking the time to go through the entire report, and three comments:
    1) It’s more or less a criminological truism that only a proportion of crimes ever get reported, and in the case of sexual criminality, that proportion is quite small. What you would need is, first, an extensive mapping of all cases that have been reported; second, a survey not only to known victims, but to all children that have been involved in these Catholic institutions; and third, a methodological study where the sample consists exclusively of known victims, and the goal would be to find out which proportion of victims report the abuse on surveys. Combining those would give you a decent overall picture. If the authors of these reports only discussed cases that had been reported, they have no basis at all to talk about historical trends in the numbers of abuse cases, and they should have known it.

    2) Trying to explain abuse cases by cultural trends really is extremely weak. If there is an overall shift in a society, obviously that does not mean that the values and attitudes every individual in that society have also changed accordingly. That’s a compositional fallacy. Of course, there is a theory that explains crimes by the attitudes that people have adopted from their social environs, but that explanation would require different data.

    3) However, I don’t think that “human formation” courses would be useless or irrelevant. That any future priest knows that sexual abuse is wrong in not to say they would be psychologically mature to deal with conflicts between their desires and what they know to be right. A psychologist called Leslie Lothstein has been talking about the psychosexual immaturity of priests:

    • Thanks! And that’s an interesting NPR story. I’m sure that such courses would be helpful for most priests. I’m just so flummoxed as to why the report’s authors try so hard to connect those courses to their claim that the abuse has all but stopped. The amount of convoluted logic in this report is dizzying!

  12. Martin says:

    Linking to this, thanks for the great post.

  13. Helena Constantine says:

    Yeah, see–those priests were only guilty of statutory rape against the minors they were charged to protect–not paedophilia! That’s so much better!

  14. Kay Goodnow says:

    Simply spoken: BRAVO!

  15. Ben Goren says:

    Miranda, I left the following over at Jerry’s site. I hope you don’t mind the duplication.



    If Jesus can’t be arsed to keep the men who’re dishing him out piecemeal every Sunday from raping the people — especially children — they’re serving, then what the fuck good is he?

    This goes way beyond the ivory-tower discussions of “The Problem of Evil.” If the Church is the terrestrial manifestation of Heavenly authority, then that authority is so vilely corrupt — not merely incompetent, but actively evil in an almost-incomprehensible way — that the only moral action for believers is to fight it with all their might, no matter the personal cost to them.

    Don’t give me this “free will” bullshit. A cop has the moral (and legal) obligation to stop crimes in progress, and your gods are supposed to be the ultimate cops with the ultimate surveillance system. They’re supposed to know when the shit is about to hit the fan, and they’re supposed to be able to mop it up before it gets there. A cop who failed to act in a similar situation would be thrown behind bars for criminal conspiracy, and your gods are supposed to have morals even superior to ours.

    And “We can’t possibly stand up to Jesus” and “Satan is worse” don’t cut it, either. In such matters, your moral imperative is to do right or die trying. If Satan is worse, then tough shit: you’ve got powerful enemies on two fronts, and they’re both gonna fuck you over royally. Doesn’t mean you should join them, any more than it would have been right for Switzerland, sandwiched between Hitler and Mussolini, to join the Axis.

    All you non-Catholic Christians? This is your fault, too. Yes, fault. There are more Catholics out there than there are of you, whatever your denomination is. Either your Jesus is the same Jesus as the Catholic Jesus, or your Jesus doesn’t give a flying fuck that the Catholics are raping children in his name (or he’s powerless to do anything about it).

    In a sane society, this wouldn’t only be the end of the Catholic Church, but of all Christianity. To my deepest regret and shame, our society is far from sane.

    <sigh />


    • Thanks, Ben. Great comment. If you have a chance, you might enjoy (well, not “enjoy”, but you know what I mean) reading/looking at/skimming the report itself- there’s quite a lot in it that I didn’t write about (so that my post wouldn’t end up insanely long).

  16. Adam Mongrain says:

    Shared. Hope this gains momentum and makes the news.

  17. […] not only her entire dismantling of this catholic funded, catholic approved, catholic biased report here but her other essays and posts and comments from her […]

  18. hrh says:

    Girl, that was fabulous! And don’t you dare ever shut up. You are so needed.

  19. delurking says:

    I have a question. You write: “It is important to note that, although the research was carried out by the John Jay College, the UCCSB had the final say on whether or not to authorize publication of the report.”

    I have been in academic and research institutions my whole life. I have never found an academic institution that would accept funding that carried restrictions on publication. None of the academic places I have worked would accept this, and when I left academia for a federally-funded research organization, no academic department would ever accept funding from my organization if it carried publication restrictions. It seems very strange that John Jay College would. Does anyone have any more details on the agreement?

    • It does seem strange. I wish I had more info/details. All I know is what’s on the second page of the .pdf, which includes this:

      This report by the John Jay College is authorized for publication by the undersigned.

      Msgr. David J. Malloy, STD
      General Secretary, USCCB

      • mordacious1 says:

        “Msgr. David J. Malloy, STD”

        STD? Hmmm, I wonder what those initials mean?

        • jsutton says:

          “Sinful and To be Damned” comes to mind.

        • An Onymous says:

          S.T.D = Sacrae Theologiae Doctor = Doctor of Sacred Theology – it means he has a doctorate in theology from a Catholic university.

  20. Grania Spingies says:

    Thank you for writing this. I’m linking to it from a couple of places, it needs to be read by everybody.

  21. Pierce R. Butler says:

    … a pedophile is defined as a priest who had more than one victim…

    Or more precisely, one caught with more than one victim.

    What would the JJC stats look like if a less “liberal” definition [n=1] were applied? Whose rule is it that the first one is a freebie?

    And when will the church & its sockpuppets bless us with a “study” of priestly exploitation of humans over the age of 17? Don’t they themselves want to know how well their supercelibacy requirement is being met?

  22. […] A worthless and dangerous report Last week, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) released a report called “The Causes and Context […] […]

  23. Yanquetino says:

    Well analyzed, Miranda! I truly admire your tenacity and devotion to truth.

    It is shameful that so-called “researchers” can get away with this kind of subterfuge and deception. As you and I know as academics, saddest of all is that they will likely use this “research” to bolster their publishing records for tenure/promotion. There are times when I think the homo insidious herd needs to be thinned. Sigh….

    • Wells says:

      I hope that the researchers are denied tenure for authoring this report.

      Without rigor; classes are just entertainment, school is just a scam, education is an illusion, degrees are just paper, and research is just propaganda.

      This report lacks rigor.

  24. […] For a more in-depth analysis, check out Miranda Celeste. […]

  25. John Salerno says:

    Miranda, can you clarify one thing? You first say that the study defines pedophilia as ten years and younger, but then you refer to page 34 which defines it as eleven years and younger. Which is it?

    Also, since the study explicitly says eleven years and younger on page 34, shouldn’t the percentage of “pedophiles” be higher than 22%? If 51% of the cases were age 11-14, then some of those (the 11-year olds) should have been included in the “pedophile” statistic and it would have to be higher than 22%.

    • Sorry for any confusion, John. Throughout the report, they define it as “ten years old or younger”, except for in that passage on page 34. I don’t understand why they use “eleven” there instead. There’s no explanation for it, other than a rather confusing endnote, which reads:

      Pedophilia is a diagnosable disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. However, these data are based on the behavior exhibited by priests rather than diagnoses. The behaviors are consistent with that which would be exhibited by an individual diagnosed with this disorder.

      Perhaps it’s somehow related to their assertion on page 53: “Though development happens at varying ages for children, the literature generally refers to eleven and older as an age of pubescence or postpubescence”. (It’s unclear what “literature” they’re referring to here).

      I wish I could be of more help- I’m rather confused by it, too, though.

  26. […] much else to add except go read this post. It’s well written and highlights the moral and ethical bankruptcy of the catholic […]

  27. mike ference says:

    I wrote this essay years ago. Nothing has changed. Just cut and paste and type in the new city, diocese and country. Insert the new pedophile and the new bishop, cardinal or pope who covered up the crime.

    War Tactics Should Be Applied to Abusers and the Lying Schmucks That Offered Protection
    By Mike Ference

    Every day brings new evidence that we no longer live in a civilized and principled society. The worst part, it usually concerns another case of sexual misconduct involving a Catholic priest, young children and a church hierarchy that helped to cover up the case.

    The recently unveiled case of John Wellinger, a former Catholic priest in the Pittsburgh Diocese, suggests that a regime change is the only solution in the Catholic Church. In 1990, I started my own investigation of Wellinger, just months after his alleged abuse of an 11-year-old altar boy at Holy Spirit Church in West Mifflin, PA and five years before Bishop Donald Wuerl got wind of it. I eventually took my evidence to the PA State Police, who agreed that an investigation was warranted. They notified the West Mifflin police, or at least I was told that — and soon thereafter Fr. Wellinger was transferred. Coincidence? I wouldn’t bet the farm. How is it that a nobody such as myself can manage to unearth information about a suspected abusive priest 14 years before the Pittsburgh Diocese announces that a crime has been committed in the Pittsburgh Catholic.

    To be sure, media pressure and public outrage have inspired displays of contrition from members of the church hierarchy. But as more and more cases of abuse — and cover-up — come to light, one begins to wonder whether such displays should be considered any more trustworthy than those of, say, Saddam Hussein.

    So — what is to be done? Given the level of wreckage and anguish caused in the lives of so many people, it seems appropriate to look to the war on terror for a model strategy.

    A first prong of attack might involve a Special Forces unit made up of highly skilled and trained military personnel capable of tracking down and obtaining confessions from any priest accused of acts of sexual abuse against children. If rights are violated, if military personnel sometimes go a little too far, so be it. The Catholic Church had ample opportunity to fess up and repent. Those incapable of civilized behavior shouldn’t expect the rights and privileges of civilization.

    A deck of cards can be created to help identify hard-to-find priests as well as the disgraceful church leaders who permitted, and in essence, condoned the sexual abuse of young children. Photos of the most deviant and reprehensible church officials accompanied by a list of their offenses will encourage us all to do our patriotic duty in helping the authorities track down suspected priest-terrorists or at least be able to identify the culprits as they come and go freely because their sins where covered up and the time to criminally prosecute has expired.

    Another option would be to divide the nation into territories. A color-code warning system would be established, alerting parents about abusive priests being transferred into their respective regions. Depending on the designated color for a particular region, parents would know whether their children should serve at Mass, go on field trips, or even attend Catholic school that day.

    To aid this unique war on terror, a pool of money should be collected, not involuntarily from taxpayers, but voluntarily from those decent human beings who believe crimes committed against our children are sins that God takes very seriously. Some of the funds raised could then be turned into outrageously tempting reward sums for information leading to the capture of our targeted criminals. Once the rogue clerics have been imprisoned and forced to talk, I recommend that their confessions be given to someone like Steven Spielberg or George Romero. Hollywood writers and producers could create a blockbuster movie like Roots or Schindler’s List to serve as a bitter reminder that these crimes should never again be permitted to occur. Tom Savini could be hired to recreate the horror on the faces of child actors chosen to play parts.

    Proceeds from the movie could go to victims of abuse and their families. And no matter how old the crime, compensation would be available. There should be no statute of limitations when the rights of children have been violated by those who lived much of their adult lives perched on a pedestal heightened by the trust of innocent and vulnerable believers. In fact, I would extend compensation to the second and perhaps even third generation of sufferers. It would certainly include siblings denied the experience of growing up with a brother or sister untraumatized by such abuse. And since crimes of abuse tend to echo, it would extend to the victims of the victims as well.

    If all else fails, is it any less rational to declare war on the Catholic Church as part of a war on child abuse than it was to declare war on Iraq (which had nothing to do with 9/11 or Al-Qaeda and apparently had no weapons of mass destruction) as part of a war on terror? How many innocent children have been verifiably lost to this menace — and how many more will be lost if we don’t make a preemptive strike?

    As horrific as sexual abuse by priests may be, the perpetrators might merit a more forgiving place if only their superiors had the courage to do the right thing. For a few, counseling and close supervision might have been enough to prevent future abuses. Others clearly required something more intensive — a mental hospital or a prison.

    But repeated abuse, as well as willfully hiding the crimes and the criminals — as far as I can see, this brings us much closer to the realm of mortal sin. And the sinners include not just the church hierarchy, but also attorneys who ill-advised parents not to buck the system and take on the Catholic Church, or may even have provided inside information to thwart legitimate cases against the church, law enforcement officials who may have thought it best to warn church officials of pending investigations, and janitors, housekeepers, teachers, and employees of the Catholic Church who kept silent because of concerns about a paycheck, a 401K, a pension, or a fear of standing up to church authorities. God has a place for everyone — and if you abuse children or protect the abusers of children, we can only hope that your place is called hell.

  28. […] tried to unravel the causes of pervasive sexual abuse by Catholic clergy.  As Miranda Hale noted in her analysis, the report was a tissue of evasions and circumlocutions, pinning the blame not on evil child […]

  29. […] If you haven’t read Miranda Celeste’s analysis of the bishops’ report, read it here: “A Worthless and Dangerous Report“: […]

  30. crowepps says:

    If the report has provided the Church with the answer as to why this happened and it’s not happening anymore, how come the following JUST HAPPENED?

    Father Riccardo Seppia, a 51-year-old parish priest in the village of Sastri Ponente, near Genoa, was arrested last Friday, May 13, on pedophilia and drug charges. Investigators say that in tapped mobile-phone conversations, Seppia asked a Moroccan drug dealer to arrange sexual encounters with young and vulnerable boys. “I do not want 16-year-old boys but younger. Fourteen-year-olds are O.K. Look for needy boys who have family issues,” he allegedly said.

    Read more:,8599,2072613,00.html#ixzz1NW5rqAsy

  31. Bruce says:

    I’ll have to confess to my skipping to a couple of choice details, mostly the issue with the unjustified use of a contentious definition of pedophilia. But…

    I’ve since gone away and read the report over the past couple of days (and the prior 2006 report and its supplement), to come back, read what you’ve written here in full, and still find myself in 100% agreement. A little more reason to feel confident?

    Nice work, incidentally. :D

    I’m going to dig around a little bit more with the methodology and see if I can’t articulate just how unreliable this stuff is – particularly the estimation of the actual incidence of abuse in the Nature and Scope supplementary data analysis. (The assumptions you need to make!)

    Incidentally, today I tried asking a few questions about a piece published on the ABC website (Australia’s public broadcaster) that wrote off the issue of the misleading definition of ‘pedophilia’ as ‘neither here nor there’, only to have the national broadcaster tweet publicly that I should read the report – which I had. Ask a question of a publicly funded media outlet, and instead of an answer, they’ll use their Twitter account to publish insinuations about you! Lolworthy. :P

  32. I don’t want to clutter up the comments section too much, so I’ll just post a general thank you to everyone for the kind comments- I appreciate them so much.

  33. Paul Impola says:

    Thank you for helping to expose this bogus “research” paper. I sincerely hope that your work goes on, and receives the widespread recognition that it deserves.
    To say that I am shocked and appalled by the behavior of the Catholic hierarchy would be putting it mildly. I cannot understand how any sane person can continue to believe that the Catholic Church as an organization has any moral authority at all.

  34. The “Religion and Ethics Editor” of the ABC (Australian) posted a disgusting piece complaining that the media didn’t treat this report seriously. I was angered enough to set up a blog to post a couple of strongly worded beatdowns:

    Warning: I use harsh language and suggest that in fact the Religion and Ethics Editor of the ABC is not a good person.

  35. […] Celeste Hale has the canonical analysis on the recent [Church-funded!] report that was completed about the Catholic church and pedophilia. […]

  36. […] downloaded from here. A good review about how this report is worthless and dangerous can be found here. Related Posts:African Priests Rape Nuns to Avoid AIDSThe Vatican, a Rogue Pseudo-State, Part […]

  37. Stonyground says:

    If it were to be established that there was indeed some kind of causation between the sexual liberation of the sixties and seventies and the peak in cases of Catholic priests abusing children, is not the most likely explanation that more openness about sexual matters made it less likely that people would turn a blind eye to such things? It seems pretty likely that the graph showing the abuse that actually went on would be pretty flat, the graph with the spike on it would represent the cases that were actually known about.

    It should be mentioned that the whole problem is mainly caused by the RCC”s willful ignorance of the simplest basics of human sexuality. It is obvious to everyone exept them, that in the absence of a healthy outlet for natural sexual urges, their preists will often resort to an unhealthy one.

    On the subject of elephants, I think that even if there were a baby elephant in the room it would be pretty difficult to pretend not to notice it.

  38. […] 2. A report, issued by and funded by Catholics, essentially blames the high rate of child rape by Catholic priests on the free-loving culture of the 60′s.  The rate is high even after they try to redefine pedophilia as being only boys 10 years old and under (as though if they are over 10 it is somehow mutual!). […]

  39. Basti2682 says:

    Thanks for an informative report. You have helped more than you know. I’ll pass this around.

  40. […] Miranda Celeste Hale (2011) ‘A worthless and dangerous report‘, Miranda […]

  41. Amadan says:

    Canon law specifically prohibited the release by bishops of files on clerical abuse. They were to be kept in specially locked storage accessible only by authorised clerics. (The recent revision of canon law only seems to transfer the obligation to store to Rome: there is no provision for release to assist police investigations or civil actions, let alone to help studies or even to comply with court orders). So there’s damn all chance that early data can be used to compare pre-1960s abuse with later patterns.

    Secondly, the claim that ‘We didn’t know how harmful it was!’ is pure, rank hypocrisy. Week after week, we could sit in Mass and hear how even Holding Hands With Malice Aforethought would bring us to syphilitic drug-addled alcoholic perdition, not to mention fiery damnation, and, worst of all, Break Your Mother’s Heart.

    This is all about protecting the queen bee. F*ck the worker ants.

  42. […] on that Catholic report, from an excellent editorial in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, “Same old spin on sex abuse […]

  43. […] list of rapist priests. More on how the Catholic church is a vehicle for rape, rape apologism, misogyny – you know, the […]

  44. […] Kirche aufgefallen. Am Ende der (offenbar) dreijährigen Untersuchung dürfte wohl ein ähnlich wertloses Ergebnis stehen wie bei einer ganz ähnlichen Untersuchung im Auftrag der US-amerikanischen […]

  45. […] Kirche aufgefallen. Am Ende der (offenbar) dreijährigen Untersuchung dürfte wohl ein ähnlich wertloses Ergebnis stehen wie bei einer ganz ähnlichen Untersuchung im Auftrag der US-amerikanischen […]

  46. […] analysis, “A worthless and dangerous report”, can be found here. If you’re unfamiliar with the USCCB’s report, take a look at my analysis, which offers […]

  47. Robert Gertz says:

    Very thoughtful review. As a Catholic (sort of) I cringe at the Church’s miserable response, despite the fact that it continues to insist dogmatically on its infallable moral position on a number of other subjects.

  48. […] more than a mere “problem”) occurred between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s comes from self-reported data provided by various Catholic dioceses. This data is limited, flawed, and inherently untrustworthy. 2) Donohue provides zero evidence to […]

  49. […] of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010″ can be found here. Share this:MoreDiggEmailPrintLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. Tags: Catholicism, […]

  50. No one should be surprised over the actions of the USCCB. They have a long history of using their leverage to influence legislators at all levels of government, and forcing them into line with the USCCB’s agenda. Taking it one step further, with the apparent rise of Rick Santorum, a devote catholic and strong proponent of everything endorsed by the USCCB, will given even more light to the USCCB and their agenda. As they are finding much support along evangelical protestants and their lobbyists, particularly from Ralph Reed, they will rise that much higher and come under that much more scrutiny. I can across and article recently which asked the question is the GOP serious about the 2012 election. The author’s position was that the GOP was rejecting a moderate in favour of a hard-core demagogue like Santorum, so there was no way they could win in November. I’m not so sure about that, because by rejecting Romney in favour of Santorum, they are running for the pure social conservative vote — voters who always vote. In doing so, they are betting that Obama’s support will stay home.

  51. […] as a source in it: Speaking of damage control, over the course of my research, I ran across an analysis of a May 2011 USCCB 143-page $1.8m report [PDF] analysing the extent of the sex abuse crisis in the […]

  52. […] religious indoctrination.Hale spent her spring break reading and analysing what she calls a worthless and dangerous report, which blames the cultural revolution of the 1960s for the abuse.Hale says one of the most […]

  53. Skee Hanson says:

    The priests involved did not understand that sexual activity (in this particular context the age of the victim is immaterial) was incompatible with a life of celibacy??!!! And the source of this problem was that the seminaries didn’t teach courses in I think the gobledegook for what they didn’t teach means “child psychology” ???!!!! This leaves one not really minor question: What part of the word “sin” does the church not understand?

  54. Congratulations, a really good analysis of some of the problems with the data itself. I have posted a link on my website to your post. (& facebooked & tweeted it). It should also be noted that although this report says 1950 -2010, all the graphs and statistics end as of 2002 with a couple of paragraphs & 3 graphs to cover to 2008: pp.32-33).

    It would be interesting to do a comparison of the earlier “Nature & Scope” with this one – there are some changes in how the data is reported. Just one example: compare the Tables 4.4.5 & 4.4.6 (p.76) of the Nature & Scope report to Table 5.7 (p. 112 where the 2 previous tables are collapsed into 1)) of the Causes & Context report. The initial report (N&S) shows the gifts & enticements offered to victims in a raw count and as a percentage of incidents, while in C&C it is broken down into % of male victims & % of female victims. The C&C table makes it look far less of an issue – let’s look at alcohol/drugs – In the N&S the table reads 712 count or 38.8% of 1,834 incidents. In the C&C table, it is now listed as 8.6% of males and 1.2% of females were offered alcohol and/or drugs – not so bad now, is it!

    What is more egregious is the missing N&S tables in the C&C report. These are the tables (pp. 73-75) 4.4.1: Alleged Acts of Abuse by Gender; 4.4.3 Threats by Victim’s Gender and 4.4.4 Type of Threats by Victim’s Gender. These tables all discuss the true nature of what these priests did to their victims, 4.4.1 being the one that would truly upset the apple cart in a report that essentially would like to suggest that it really wasn’t all that bad & besides it’s getting better. Clearly, no one needs to be told about oral sex, manual penetration, penile penetration or group or coerced sex Time to do my own blog on the report, I guess, even if it is a year later.

    One sees the mighty hand of the Roman Catholic editors in the construction of the C&C.

    Just what is the colour of the sky in their world, anyway?

  55. […] –  “A worthless and dangerous report”: an analysis of the United States Conference of Cath… […]

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