Nightly News | May 18, 2011
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: In this country, news tonight about a very difficult subject, the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church . And it's about a new study commissioned by the church and how few people will be satisfied when they hear the conclusions. The question was, what caused the crisis? Why did so many priests abuse children? Our senior investigative correspondent Lisa Myers reports tonight on these controversial findings.
LISA MYERS reporting: The report's most significant finding that the permissive sexual culture of the '60s and '70s created stress for priests poorly trained to deal with it, and that the surge and sexual abuse of children by priests mirrored transient society. Some call it "Blaming Woodstock."
Ms. KAREN TERRY (Principal Investigator for Report): There was a number of types of deviant behavior that increased in the '60s and '70s, and we saw that the increase in abuse cases in the church was consistent with some of these other patterns of behavior.
MYERS: Researchers from John Jay College of Criminal Justice also found that neither celibacy nor homosexuality were to blame, that gay priests "were not significantly more likely to abuse minors" than heterosexual priests . Surprisingly, the report takes issue with the term "pedophile priest," saying less than 5 percent of the thousands of priests accused of abuse met the definition of pedophile. Researchers say reports of abuse have dropped sharply since the mid-'80s. The bishops credit their reforms. Bishop BLASE CUPICH ( United States Bishop 's Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People ): The study shows that what we are doing works.
MYERS: But some victims of abuse say the report is flawed because it relies on numbers provided by the Catholic Church and undercounts victims.
Ms. BARBARA BLAINE (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests): The bishops are using this moment to push responsibility off on someone else.
MYERS: Some say the church hierarchy has turned a blind eye to abuse .
Mr. JASON BERRY (Investigative Reporter): The problem is the power structure and the fact that bishops are not punished, cardinals are not removed. And yet this report avoids that reality like the plague.
MYERS: All sides agree that for decades the church failed to put children first. Lisa Myers , NBC News, Washington.