(Victims of sexual abuse by priests outside the Vatican Embassy in Washington, DC, March 25, 2010/Hyungwon Kang)

A church-sponsored study on Wednesday blamed poorly trained priests and a deviant society for the Roman Catholic Church’s sex abuse crisis, but victims dismissed it as a whitewash of an institutional coverup. The largest study ever done on youth sexual abuse by U.S. Catholic clergy concluded that priests were no more likely to abuse than anyone else, gay priests were not more likely than straight priests to abuse, and the priestly vow of celibacy was not directly to blame.

The study, conducted by researchers at John Jay College in New York and covering the past 50 years, also found clergy abuse cases have dropped since the 1980s.

“There’s no single cause of the sexual abuse crisis … and the problem is largely historical,” study researcher Karen Terry told reporters at a Washington news conference. “It is consistent with patterns of increased deviance in society during that time” in the 1960s and 1970s, she said, adding that rates of abuse within the Church were comparable to that of organizations like schools and clubs.

Priests unprepared for a life of celibacy turned mentoring relationships into abusive ones, she said. Poor reporting of clergy abuse cases to civil authorities and a pattern of transferring of abusive priests to other parishes by some bishops have cast a cloud over the Church.