Research commissioned by Roman Catholic bishops in the US to analyse the pattern of sex abuse in the clergy have concluded that celibacy, homosexuality and an all-male priesthood did not cause the scandal.
The study, by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said that the problem was largely the result of poor seminary training and insufficient emotional support for men ordained in the 1940s and 1950s, who were not able to withstand the social upheaval they confronted as pastors in the 1960s.
"The rise in abuse cases in the 1960s and 1970s was influenced by social factors in society generally," the report's authors said. "Factors that were invariant during the time period addressed, such as celibacy, were not responsible for the increase or decline in abuse cases over this time."
But victims' groups dismissed the report as an attempt to focus blame for the scandal on priests, instead of on bishops who allowed offenders to stay in ministry without warning parents or police.
"They want us to fixate on abusive priests, not callous bishops," the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said in a statement.