One of the nation’s most prominent Catholic leaders has elicited outrage after telling a national news show that the “greatest culprits” in the sexual abuse of children are not celibate priests, but married men.
Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan, referred to in a CBS report as “the American pope” after his election to head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, was being grilled by the network’s “60 Minutes” reporter Morley Safer on some of the Catholic Church’s most controversial stances.
When Safer suggested that the incidence of priests sexually abusing children might be decreased if Catholic clergy were allowed to be married, Dolan responded, “I don’t know if – what we know scholarship-wise would back that up, Morley. The greatest culprits in sexual abuse are unfortunately married men. So, I don’t know if marriage is the answer.”
But David R. Usher, co-founder of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children and president of the newly-formed Center for Marriage Policy, told WND the archbishop’s statement amounts to “blasphemy” against married men.
Usher cited as evidence a 2010 U.S. Department of Health study and report to Congress that found children raised by their married, biological fathers and mothers are actually the least likely to suffer sexual abuse.
“Archbishop Dolan bore false witness against married men and weakened marriage itself,” Usher told WND.
“Sexual dynamics are perhaps the most powerful panic buttons in law and public policy. We need and expect the truth from leaders in politics, religion and law, because the consequences of erroneous beliefs impact millions.”
John Allen, a senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter who is also writing a book about Dolan, called the archbishop “easily the most charismatic and high profile figure on the American Catholic stage.”
In his interview with CBS, Dolan defended the Catholic church’s theological and traditional reasons for requiring its priests to be male and to be celibate, but he also expressed tremendous remorse and revulsion over the clergy sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the denomination.
“When you think of what happened, both that a man who proposes to act in the name of God would’ve abused an innocent young person, and that some bishops would have in a way, countenanced that by reassigning abusers,” Dolan said, “that’s nothing less than hideous. That’s nothing less than nauseating.”
But Usher argues justifying church doctrine by misleading the public on the incidence of sexual abuse perpetrated by married men is crossing a line.
“As a leader of the marriage movement, I call on Archbishop Dolan to publish a letter of apology and correction,” Usher said, “and request it be aired next week on ’60 Minutes.'”
The full study cited by Usher compared the rate of child abuse among various types of homes, including single-parent households, married-parent households and homes where a single parent lived with a partner.
The study found sexual abuse – indeed all forms of abuse – to be least common in homes with married biological parents.
According to the report, only about 1 in 2,000 children in such homes suffer sexual abuse.
By comparison, the report states, 5 of every 2,000 children in single-parent households – and 20 of every 2,000 children in households where a single parent welcomes a partner into the home – suffers sexual abuse.
WND contacted the archbishop’s office to clarify what “scholarship” Dolan may have been referencing and to request comment, but received no reply.