PHILADELPHIA — Misconceptions people may have about sexual abuse, sexual harassment and homosexuality as elements of the ongoing crisis in the church can hinder efforts to address it, according to a leading psychologist and expert on the crisis.
The complex nature of each of the elements can make it “hard for the average Catholic in the pew” to grasp key differences among them, delaying the formulation of “good, smart solutions,” Santa Clara University psychologist Dr. Thomas Plante told CatholicPhilly.com, the news outlet of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
A prolific author who also serves on Stanford University’s faculty, Plante has spent more than 30 years researching and treating psychological issues among Catholic clergy and laypersons.
Although many blame the abuse scandals on homosexuality among the clergy, same-sex attraction does not make priests more likely to sexually abuse children, Plante said.
“It’s perfectly understandable that people could be confused by this, because we know that 80 percent or more of the clerical sexual abuse victims are boys,” Plante said. “So people conclude that if you get rid of homosexuals in the clergy, then you’ve got the problem solved. And it doesn’t work that way.”
Most of the clerical sexual abuse perpetrators have been “situational generalists,” a term used throughout extensive John Jay College of Criminal Justice summary reports, the most recent in 2011, to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.