The Elephant in the Room

Imagine (and you don’t need to try too hard) how some Christian communions might promote their accomplishments and uniqueness.

The hipsters might say something like, “we are the church of the city and for the city.”

Doctrinalists might come up with something like, “we put the strict in confessional subscription.”

The transformationalists (not quite as urban as the hipsters) might talk about “a gospel for all — here Stephen Coulbert’s deep gravelly voice when you read “all” — of life.”

And the social gospelers might promote a communion that is “ushering in Christ’s loving and just reign.”

But what would you say about a communion that touted, “we know how to make effective and gracious use of gay clergy”? I’m suspecting that this would not be the best Call to Communion.

And yet, for all of the Roman Catholic complaint about the sexual laxity of the mainline Protestant denominations, and for all of the teaching about marriage, celibacy, and theology of the body, Roman Catholics ordain homosexuals in what seems to be record numbers.

Please, dear reader, keep in mind that I really dislike cheap shots based on below-the-belt issues. Sex is such an easy way to push the outrage-porn button. So I am not trying — really really trying not to — play any kind of homophobia card. Nor am I knowingly playing on anti-Catholic bigotry. I am seriously curious about how a conservative church reconciles its teaching about sex with knowingly ordaining homosexuals. Not to mention infallibility and certain knowledge. This is a conversation that has been public. It is out of the closet. And yet Bryan and the Jasons went right along — nothing here to see.

How is it, then, that you can promote your communion’s wonderful views of marriage and celibacy, and look to your church as the sensible and chaste alternative to mainline Protestantism, but don’t comment on the numbers of priests that are pretty staggering (even while accusing mainline churches of ordaining lesbians).

Here are a few, scattered and old discussions of the phenomenon (which some might call a problem):

From 2002:

For more than a decade, now, voices have been heard expressing concern about the growing numbers of gay priests and seminarians. Vicars of priests and seminary administrators who have been around awhile speak among themselves of the disproportionate number of gay men that populate our seminaries and presbyterates. They know that a proportionate number of gay priests and seminarians would fall between 5 and 10 percent. The extent of the estimated disproportion, naturally enough, will vary depending on general perceptions, personal experiences, and the frequency of first-hand encounters with self-acknowledged gay priests.

The general perceptions, in turn, are often shaped by various studies and surveys which attempt to measure the percentage of priests who are gay. An NBC report on celibacy and the clergy found that “anywhere from 23 percent to 58 percent” of the Catholic clergy have a homosexual orientation. Other studies find that approximately half of American priests and seminarians are homosexually oriented. Sociologist James G. Wolf in his book Gay Priests concluded that 48.5 percent of priests and 55.1 percent of seminarians were gay. The percentage appears to be highest among priests under forty years of age. Moreover, the percentage of gay men among religious congregations of priests is believed to be even higher. Beyond these estimates, of course, are priests who remain confused about their orientation and men who have so successfully denied their orientation, that in spite of predominantly same-sex erotic fantasies, they insist that they are heterosexual.

Here’s an attempt to turn gay priests into an asset:

Traditional Catholic theology as summarized in the catechism (No. 1578) states that men are called to the priesthood by God. So despite statements that homosexual priests are either a scandal or embarrassment, Catholic belief is that all men called to holy orders are responding to a divine call. (As an aside, it is perhaps unsurprising that in a church that enjoins celibacy on homosexuals, some gay men would choose the celibate life of the priest.) Some have argued that the ordination of homosexuals somehow represents the church in error. But homosexual priests, like heterosexual priests, are ordained through the divine authority of the church, which has that responsibility and right (No. 1578) and, according to traditional Catholic theology, imprints on the priest an indelible spiritual character (No. 1582).

Therefore, one can state that God has called, and is continuing to call, homosexuals to serve as priests in the church and that the church confirms this call through ordination. The question, then, is not whether God is calling homosexual men to the priesthood, but why. Theologically, how might one understand these signs of the times?

The school of suffering. The vast majority of homosexuals in the United States are acquainted with the suffering that comes from being a misunderstood and often persecuted minority. This commences from early adolescence and can continue for the remainder of one’s life. Homosexuals are frequent targets of prejudice, ridicule, rejection from their own families and, sometimes, violence. Here, therefore, are men who understand suffering, stigma and frustrationthe very types of experiences that Christian theology teaches can lead one closer to companionship with the Christ who suffers. To use the words heard during Lent, the homosexual is often despised and rejected by others, a man of suffering…one from whom others hide their faces (Isa. 53:3).

Being schooled in this unique experience of suffering can result in a profound sense of compassion and identification with the most marginalized in society: the sick, the lonely, the refugee, the materially poor, the outcast, the least of my brothers and sisters (Mt. 25).

Then some challenge the statistics:

Fr. Cozzens claims that statistics show that 50 percent of priests and seminarians are homosexually oriented. A gay culture in the priesthood or seminary, he says, makes it very awkward for heterosexuals, who as a consequence doubt their vocations and withdraw. Seminaries must therefore consider the kind of support that is needed for heterosexual seminarians in a gay culture. We are not told whether the prevalence of homosexual orientation and gay expression is bad or good. Fr. Cozzens seems to suggest that it is simply a fact of life with which we must learn to live. This is very unpersuasive on a number of scores.

First, I do not believe the statistics. The very few surveys and studies that have been done on homosexuality among priests are almost certainly flawed by the factor of self“selection. Those who, for whatever reason, are interested in homosexuality among priests respond at a far higher rate than others. Had I received a questionnaire in such a survey, I would not have responded. As for Fr. Cozzens’ depiction of seminarians, I can only say that they must be very different from those whom I have known during fourteen years of seminary work. Are there seminarians who identify themselves as homosexual? Certainly. Are there some who are sexually confused and in need of counseling and spiritual direction? Absolutely. But is there a dominant homosexual culture in seminaries that makes life difficult, if not impossible, for heterosexuals? That does not jibe with my experience.

It is very possible that in the 1970s and ’80s there were a significant number of seminarians who were sexually confused, and were encouraged in that confusion by a sexually charged society. They were not challenged to harmonize their ideas and their lives with the teaching of the Church, and today some of them are priests. Some are effective and faithfully celibate, while some are actively involved in the gay subculture. The latter pose a very real problem, but the incidence of the problem, I am convinced, is nowhere near the figure proffered by Fr. Cozzens. His claims are both unsupported and irresponsible.

I understand that a clergy shortage might be one explanation for these figures and reflections. I also can comprehend that someone who is gay but doesn’t practice may be capable of executing priestly duties. But what is odd is conceiving of the convert to Roman Catholicism who might think first about joining the Christian Reformed Church because of the denomination’s position on homosexualism and homosexuality.


50 thoughts on “The Elephant in the Room

  1. I have this to say to encourage recent Protestant converts: [imagine sound of crickets, that’s my normal voice]


  2. Probably more ‘lost generation’ response. The problem is vocations. So, I want all the trad converts to consecrate their first bon son to the priesthood, to show you really mean it. Come on, put your certitude on the line. No more journeying, let’s commit the blood to the one true church. Generations did this before you.


  3. “It is very possible that in the 1970s and ’80s there were a significant number of seminarians who were sexually confused, and were encouraged in that confusion by a sexually charged society”

    So, now it’s societies fault? Yea, well, I hate to counter his experience with my experience but unless the society he’s referring to was living in the rectory or formation center, then we’ve got a large difference of opinion. I don’t recall a lot of sexual confusion either, it was pretty well staked out. I remember my first year back from college and one of the novitiates, who I knew from Jr. Seminary, trying to tell me that homosexuality wasn’t a sin. He wasn’t confused.


  4. OK, I understand that confusion, but where does that leave those who survive the abuses of those accused by the RC’s very own antagonists, SNAP? In other words, if it difficult to judge those inside the “church” on the basis of their same-sex inclinations, what about the youth under their oversight who suffer abuse? I brought this up a few years ago to a spokesperson who was firmly against the LGBT lobbying in my state because their ultimate interest was legal same-sex marriage. She said that pedophelia in the “church” was not the same thing as gay adult relationships. Oh, really? Is that to say that none of those who enter the RC priesthood do so because they see it as an easy route to satisfy their warped desires, no matter how young the victims?


  5. vd, t, that’s not a Roman Catholic website. But I see your point. If I thought like you, I’d know what Roman Catholicism means.

    BTW, Mollie’s post is about journalists:

    The media seem to try to force Francis’ statements to fit their own political and doctrinal views far more than is fitting. And the result is widespread confusion and misinformation.

    She doesn’t deny Cozzens’ book’s findings. But you dodged them.


  6. D. G. Hart
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 9:02 pm | Permalink
    vd, t, that’s not a Roman Catholic website. But I see your point. If I thought like you, I’d know what Roman Catholicism means.

    Dunno. But you’re confused about Catholicism in general and very confused in whatever you’re trying to say with this post.

    Don’t read this.


  7. Bro. Sean, my flock can be counted on to stick to the party line. Join us Friday night for the KoC bar-b-q!


  8. “The other day as I was going up the stairs I mean a man who wasn’t there / He wasn’t there again today / I wish I wish he’s go away”

    Catholics look the other way. The gay problem runs straight up the ladder, and the only conceivable cure will be a married priesthood, something that would undermine the clergy/laity distinction so key to the Church’s identity. It sounds mean-spirited to say, but it’s just sharing my experience when I add that I have yet to meet a priest who does not seem just sort of maladjusted. Even if you read the bio of an old hero like Fulton J. Sheen, his comments on meeting Paul VI… eesh! The formation process is woefully broken. The irony is it is far longer and restrictive than any Protestant one, and yet it produces the most theologically ignorant and socially-challenged cadre. Vatican II shows the irony well in that a global council introducing whopping novelties was rubber-stamped by a group of priests who preferred to let experts handle things. Just strange.


  9. It’s mostly just supply and demand. Like left handed pitchers priests are in short supply so you take who you can get. If it it makes the RCs feel any better most Protestant denominations have the same issue of being in short supply of qualified men who are willing to become pastors.


  10. There’s problems coming to terms with sexuality in RC moral theology. It’s been there for a long time. Self-emasculation(monastics), celibacy, sex only for the procreative opportunity. As good as RC moral theology traditionally has been, they can’t shoot straight on this issue. It’s always been a struggle.


  11. D. G. Hart
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 6:17 am | Permalink
    Susan, when you have provisional knowledge, it’s easy.

    Reading back now on what you just fired off, you do realize you just mocked yourself, Darryl?

    And subverted yourself: “Provisional knowledge” is not faith, in fact it’s not even knowledge. What you pass off here as the “Reformed faith” is no more than a working hypothesis. I would not want to stake my immortal soul on being one of John Calvin’s “Elect.”

    Your behavior is quite antinomian. You are no healer: Old Life is not a hospital, Dr. Hart, it is a theological abattoir.


  12. I would not want to stake my immortal soul on being one of John Calvin’s “Elect.”

    As usual Catholic who accuse Prots of ‘not getting’ things just don’t get Calvinism. No one is ‘staking their soul’ on being elect: they stake their soul on the work of Jesus on the cross. You’d think in this age when Francis is practically lip-kissing atheists, Catholic apologists would see the good in Prot arguments, not the bad. They’re the ecumenically madcap ones, not the 5 pointers. But as usual, the popes are the most liberal and nontraditional ones in the room, even as they try to lean into an unspoken “I AM tradition!” It takes a whole lot of work to uphold the Catholic edifice as imagined by either progressive popes, or differently by conservatives. Either way, at a certain point the barage of arguments gets just as, if not more, convoluted that those around Free Will and Predestination. What’s that, the Jesuits won the latter skirmish? OK, let me got be tutored by Fr. Radcliffe under the open Mercy Doors on the Jubilee… Errr, or maybe not. Francis may be the the gift that keeps on giving, but somehow at Christmas I increasingly can’t take the Catholics seriously. If Calvinism is an abattoir (nice!), RC is a maybe the house of mirrors. One deals in bloody meat, the other distorted reflections.


  13. What does Cardinal Dolan not understand about 1 Tim 3:

    The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. (1 Timothy 3:1-7 ESV)

    The Archdiocese of New York says that it takes seriously accusations in a recent lawsuit claiming that a New York priest embezzled money and maintained scandalous personal habits, while also saying that a diocesan investigation has found nothing to substantiate the allegations.

    “The archdiocese has been investigating these allegations for many months, and has repeatedly requested any information or documentation that might substantiate the allegations that have been made,” Joseph Zwilling, communications director for the Archdiocese of New York, told CNA in a statement.

    “Thus far, no evidence has been offered, and our forensic audit has thus far failed to uncover evidence of embezzlement,” he said. “We have been in touch with the district attorney since the summer, and have promised to turn over anything that might be criminal in nature. We urge anyone with such evidence to do the same.”

    The suit alleges that the Father Peter Miqueli, former pastor of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church on Roosevelt Island and St. Frances De Chantal Church in the Bronx, was engaged in a “million dollar embezzlement scheme,” taking funds from his former parishes’ collections over the course of a decade.

    In addition, the suit alleges, Father Miqueli “used the donations to grow his personal wealth, purchase a house in New Jersey, take dozens of international vacations, purchase and use illegal drugs,” and pay for the sexual services of a male escort.

    The suit further claims that the Archdiocese of New York, including Cardinal Timothy Dolan, were made aware of the situation, and that the archdiocese confirmed its knowledge in Nov. 2014.


  14. Am I not correct that the pedophile priest scandal that got so much coverage on national news involved many victims who had been abused as boys?

    Not saying that all who struggle with same-sex attraction are pedophiles or that there aren’t heterosexual pedophiles; but since homosexuality is a sexual deviancy, why would the Roman church ordain homosexual men to a position which will put them in situations where they will be tempted to act out their deviancy on potential young victims (for example, working, at times alone, with altar boys)? Is that not playing spiritual Russian Roullette with the souls of gay priests by inviting them to temptation and (even of more concern) putting children at risk for molestation? (I can think of one family that, from what I understand, ended up leaving the Roman church during this clergy sex scandal because they have two young boys and did not feel their children were safe in that communion.)

    In the end I think the only way the Roman church will be able to effectively address this issue is to follow Scripture and permit ordained clergy to be married. “Therefore an overseer (= “bishop”) must be above reproach, the husband of one wife…” (First Timothy 3:2, ESV). But I won’t hold my breath waiting for that to happen.


  15. Geoff, it was an issue of the lack of vocations. It was also an issue of embracing modern views of sexual identity and expression. Rome is still struggling with this as is evidenced by the recent synod. What shouldn’t be overlooked is the sheer breadth of what the RC communion tries to confess, it’s massive and often at odds with itself. It’s why you find Burke and Kasper under the same tent. There’s a sociological component of anonymity and acceptance and even sanctification of any activity deemed as ‘human’ or part of the human experience. The anthropological orientation(pastoral application) of dogma at Vat II just can’t be understated.


  16. Joe M
    Posted December 17, 2015 at 2:51 pm | Permalink
    I would not want to stake my immortal soul on being one of John Calvin’s “Elect.”

    As usual Catholic who accuse Prots of ‘not getting’ things just don’t get Calvinism. No one is ‘staking their soul’ on being elect: they stake their soul on the work of Jesus on the cross.

    He died only for the members of your “elect” little club, not for all men, just you lucky ones. Everybody, Protestant and Catholic alike, understand you just fine. Your version of the Christian religion is not all that complicated, sorry to disappoint you.


  17. Some Cardinals know there’s a problem:

    A high-ranking Democratic senator called on Pope Francis Tuesday to personally intervene with a cardinal in the Dominican Republic who has made derogatory comments about the openly gay man who is the US ambassador to that country.

    Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said that Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez has launched “hateful” attacks against US ambassador James “Wally” Brewster.

    Lopez said earlier this month that Brewster should “focus on housework, since he’s the wife to a man.” He also used an anti-gay slur and accused Brewster of promoting a gay rights agenda on Dominican soil.


  18. Well, it’s only a matter of time for us, too, if we don’t develop a true, Biblical, solid apologetic to address the Gay dilemma in our churches.
    Look at the rise of Gay Men in church leadership among protestants. Wesley Hill, Sam Allberry, Ed Shaw, and their sympathizers, like Scott Sauls and even Tim Challies, now, too.
    10 years from now, Gay Men in the Protestant pulpit will be more common than you have probably thought.


  19. Well, that should make Mermaid and Susan more communicative:

    Yet when Italians say there’s a “gay lobby” in the Vatican, they don’t mean an organized faction with the aim of changing Church teaching on homosexuality or same-sex marriage.

    Instead, what they have in mind is an informal, loosely organized network of clergy who support one another, keep one another’s secrets, and help one another move up the ladder. The group is perceived to have a vested interest in thwarting attempts at reform, since they benefit from secrecy and old-guard ways.

    It’s called “gay” because, the theory goes, a Vatican official’s homosexuality can be a very powerful secret, especially if he’s sexually active, and threatening to expose him can be an effective way of keeping him in line. It’s hardly the only such possibility, however, and, in any event, the emphasis is not on sex but secrecy, as well as the related impression of people getting promoted or decisions being made on the basis of personal quid pro quos.

    That’s not to say that the perception of a widespread presence of gays in the clergy isn’t a strong part of the picture, especially in light of the furor last fall over Polish Monsignor Krzysztof Charamsa, the former Vatican official who outed himself on the brink of a controversial Synod of Bishops on the family.

    Yet the speculation over a “lobby” isn’t really about sexual orientation, but the impression of a system in which people living personally conflicted lives look out for one another. In that sense, the term “gay lobby” is often synonymous for Italian-speakers with corruption, secrecy, and a sleazy sort of personal patronage.

    Think about it this way: Suppose you have two Vatican officials, one of whom is an embezzler and another who’s made dubious deals to climb the ladder. They come to learn of one another’s secrets, and forge an alliance to help each other and to expand their influence.

    Most Italians would say they’re members of the “gay lobby,” even though neither man may be gay.


  20. Still there in the room but behind the closet door:

    Last spring, a Jesuit — Francis’s community — wrote about being gay in a blog post believed to be the first time a Jesuit has come out with the explicit permission of his superiors. Damian Torres-Botello denied requests to be interviewed for this article.

    In some communities, particularly the Jesuits, gay priests can be out — to a point, the priests interviewed said. Others say Benedict’s words created a lasting chill for gay men and that conditions are much harsher today.

    “If there is a seminarian who is gay, my recommendation would be: Don’t tell anybody,” Hall said.

    Monsignor Stephen Rossetti, a D.C. priest-psychologist who helps seminaries create materials about sexual health, said there is a hesitancy today to admit people who are gay and that the percentage of gay priests has dropped. All other priests interviewed disagreed.

    “They’re more conservative, but no less gay,” said the Pennsylvania priest of the incoming, younger generation of clergy.


  21. If there are five seminarians in the library conference room, how many of them have danced to a Gloria Gaynor song? I know the answer.


  22. Terry Mattingly to the rescue: blame the journalist.

    It appears that Post editors want to have it both ways, saying that it came from the conservative, and thus bad, Pope Benedict XVI and that it was from the Catechism. Perhaps Benedict did not write this doctrinal material, but merely quoted it?

    As it turns out (thanks to a Catholic journalist for some of this material), the “objectively disordered” – or “intrinsically disordered” – language dates to the mid-1970s and a document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith entitled Persona Humana. No, that language was written before Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) moved to Rome. Meanwhile, the Catechism was approved in 1992, under the authority of Saint Pope John Paul II.

    So which is it? Why try to blame this doctrinal language on Pope Benedict XVI when it clearly was in authoritative teachings before he arrived at the Vatican?

    I think we know the answer to that question.

    No capacity to wonder about the bishops who teach one thing and implement another.


  23. Darryl,

    No capacity to wonder about the bishops who teach one thing and implement another.

    Remember, nothing you say invalidates the perfect separation between doctrine and practice that Bryan and CVD have so carefully worked out in their hermetically sealed superior paradigm that exists in Plato’s world of the forms.


  24. DGH and Robert,

    Or the inconsistency of doctrine to doctrine.

    Some of the men God is giving over to damning wrath are the same He gave a saving charism to: gay priests serving ‘Jesus-in-a-wafer.’

    What a morally confused god who offers MoC: motives of confusion.


    The Apostles! Boo!



  25. Like Johnny Caspar discovered in Millers Crossing, running things is hard:

    Traditionally, bishops have three key tasks: sanctifying, teaching, and governing. New bishops need to hear something about each, but on governance, a preeminent place clearly should go to the fight against child sexual abuse. Ouellet acknowledged it, listing “prevention of abuses” among key challenges.

    In that light, it’s worth reviewing what new bishops were, and weren’t, told.

    The presentation was entrusted to French Monsignor Tony Anatrella, a consulter to the Pontifical Council for the Family and the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, who’s based at the Collège des Bernardins in Paris. He’s a psychotherapist controversial for his views on homosexuality and “gender theory.”

    Although his presentation was long on therapeutic analysis, Anatrella did a credible job of slogging through components of the Code of Canon Law governing clergy accused of sexual crime with a minor.

    In other ways, however, his presentation seemed seriously wanting. For instance, Anatrella argued that bishops have no duty to report allegations to the police, which he says is up to victims and their families. It’s a legalistic take on a critical issue, one which has brought only trouble for the Church and its leaders. Why, one wonders, was it part of a training session?

    Most basically, canonical procedures kick in only after abuse has been alleged. Presumably the goal ought to be to stop those crimes from happening, and in that regard it’s striking that Anatrella devoted just a few paragraphs to abuse prevention, using abstract language without concrete examples.

    It’s especially puzzling given the resources the Church has invested in prevention programs. In the United States, the bishops estimated in 2013 that they had spent $260 million since 2002. A new book called “The Whole Truth” by Chicago-based attorney Joe Klest, an agnostic who’s made millions suing the Church on behalf of abuse victims, praises those efforts.


  26. Eurocentric. Vocational strain. Legalese that exonerates at all costs any potential Vatican complicity. Personal culpability/skeleton/knowledge? Probably time for all the clergy to excuse themselves and let lay charism take this over.


  27. Administrative leave or defrock?

    Police searched his living quarters at the church on Aug. 12 and found about 200 photos of children from the school, though none was considered pornographic, according to a letter to parents from the archdiocese. One of the photos of the 10-year-old student was focused on his genital area, though he was clothed, the police affidavit said. The archdiocese put Pohl on administrative leave after his apartment was searched.


  28. Even Terry Mattingly says this doesn’t reflect well on the ones who are in succession of the apostles:

    Trust me. I understand that it would be almost impossible to write a daily news report about the hellish subject of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy that would please all readers. However, someone has to do this work and do it well.

    It’s hard to talk about this story having “two sides,” unless you get more specific about the actual topic of a given report. After decades of reading this coverage – some of it courageous, some of it rather shoddy – I think it’s crucial for reporters to make it clear that there are multiple issues being discussed linked to these horrible crimes against God and innocent children and teens.

    First, there is the issue of secrecy among high church officials. At this point, you will encounter few people anywhere in Catholicism who have the slightest interest in openly defending what cannot be defended. Maybe behind the scenes? If so, nail them.


  29. Serious:

    Mark Rozzi dropped out of college and was working at his family’s window and door installation company when a tragic life event inspired him to make a drastic career change and enter politics.

    He did it for one reason: justice.

    Rozzi had vowed when he was 13 never to speak of what happened to him when he was a boy. He wouldn’t tell anyone that a priest at his parochial school in Berks County, Pa., had lured him with McDonald’s, beer and pornography for weeks before raping him in a rectory shower.

    He buried his secret, but he says the shame and the guilt were always there, haunting his dreams and fueling his depression.

    But in March 2009, when a second childhood friend who also had been a victim of the priest’s abuse killed himself, Rozzi was inconsolable. He blamed himself for not telling someone.

    Maybe then he could have stopped it from happening to his friends and the dozens of others, who later accused the Rev. Edward Graff of abusing them. He also worried that the darkness he carried inside him would one day kill him, too.


  30. If you doubt the bishops about reassigning priests, how can you trust them on doctrine or its development?

    After it emerged that a priest with a history of sexual abuse is serving as a pastor, Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City is “assessing the situation.” With all respect to Archbishop Coakley—for whom I have generally had a high opinion—I think he should be assessing himself. In light of this case, actually all the American bishops should be assessing themselves. Because what happened in Oklahoma illustrates why so many people believe—rightly, I would argue—that their bishops still don’t “get it.”

    When the news first came out, Archbishop Coakley issued a statement explaining why he thought it was reasonable to assign Father José DaVila to a parish, five years after the Venezuelan-born priest had entered a guilty plea to charges of groping a young woman in California. He said that the priest understood that his behavior had been “inappropriate,” and “accepts the consequences of his lapse of judgment.” He said that the Oklahoma City archdiocese had investigated the priest thoroughly, including “lengthy interviews with leaders from dioceses in which Father DaVila has served.” (Notice the plural: dioceses; this priest has bounced around a bit.) And he emphasized that Father DaVila, like all others serving in the Oklahoma City archdiocese, would be bound by a strict code of behavior.


  31. Maybe someone could have some bumper stickers made up and distribute them, DG, …saying:There is no fear of God before my eyes.


  32. See?

    We’ve seen this pattern before in other professions. Ask the Catholic Church what happens when an intense concern with public image induces leadership to ignore a growing avalanche of red flags. Pope John Paul II (now a canonized saint) was in most respects an inspiring leader and an intensely holy man. Nevertheless, his strong commitment to developing and ennobling the priesthood gave him something of a blind spot when it came to bad priests. When rumors trickled upwards that priests were abusing minors, the pontiff seems to have assumed that this just couldn’t be true.

    Some have suggested that the Soviets once used allegations of sexual misconduct to undermine and discredit good priests. The young Karol Wojtyla (who would later become Pope John Paul II) got used to dismissing such charges as so much anti-clerical hot wind. It’s easy to understand how that could happen. Plenty of modern people hate the Church! But in this case, tragically, it wasn’t hot wind. When the horrific realities of priestly sexual predation came to light, the Church suffered a blow from which it has yet to fully recover.

    Obviously, the tragedy was devastating for the victims of abuse, and their families. The Church’s reputation was also badly tarnished. The fallout still affects rank-and-file Catholics by the millions, as punishing lawsuits push dioceses into bankruptcy. Unsurprisingly, the crisis deepened an already-dire vocations crisis, and good priests suffered immensely through 2000’s. Just ask a cleric how it felt in 2002, when parents would see him in the frozen food aisle and shepherd their kids in the opposite direction.

    And this is the context for Bryan and the Jasons’ defense of papal audacity.



  33. The report:

    The report sets out the conclusions of all the most important inquiries both by the church and independent bodies in Ireland, the United States, Australia and Europe, including some that are not so well known, such as the Deetman Commission in the Netherlands.

    It details the history of priestly formation, particularly from the time of the Council of Trent, where the policy was to take young boys away from their families and put them into minor seminaries. This turned out to be a disaster, giving rise to a much greater likelihood of sexually and psychologically immature priests becoming fixated on children.

    The prevalence of sexual abuse within Australian Catholic institutions is compared with other countries. The Australian Royal Commission has come up with figures of 7 percent for diocesan priests being abusers as against the 4.3 percent in the United States as revealed by the John Jay report. The authors of the new interpretive review have some misgivings about the accuracy of the John Jay figures, given that they were derived from responses from the American bishops rather than from the production of documents on which the Dutch, Irish and Australian inquiries relied. There were differences in patterns of abuse between diocesan priests, religious priests and the teaching orders, and between different dioceses. The authors provide plausible explanations for these differences.

    The report also rejects the claim that the Second Vatican Council and the sexual revolution were responsible for the outbreak of child sexual abuse, as some have claimed. It also examines various theological and pastoral factors, including “cheap forgiveness” through confession. Despite claims by church spokesmen that the seal of the confessional is inviolable, the authors point out that this has not always been the case.

    The report examines in some detail the profiles of the abusing priests and concludes that while celibacy is not of itself a cause of child sexual abuse, it is the major risk factor when combined with poor psychosexual development through the seminary system. The psychological studies have found that homosexuality as such is not the cause of abuse, but when gay seminarians do not come to terms with their orientation in the church’s closed homophobic environment, it is more difficult for them to become psychosexually mature enough to resist opportunities with minors.


  34. Phil Lawler is speaking tonight at Hillsdale College:

    the Church still operates under a cloud of suspicion. Why is that?

    Sure, anti-Catholic prejudice plays a role here. Yet there are also logical reasons for the public distrust. I’ve been saying the same thing for 15 years now, shouting until I feel hoarse. Still, to this date, the American bishops have faced up to only part of the problem.

    When the scandal broke, the American people learned to their horror that some priests had taken advantage of their privileged status to molest children. That was a horrible crime (not to mention a horrible sin). The bishops—first in the US, and now gradually throughout the world—have addressed that crime, adopting a “zero tolerance” policy that, when properly enforced, will offer the best possible assurance that predatory priests are quickly removed from ministry. The incidence of clerical abuse has plummeted. Although we still hear about accusations against priests, most date from years, even decades, ago.

    But two problems remain: First, there is no effective guarantee that the policy will be enforced, nor that Church leaders will use their common sense in handling potential problems. The Chicago archdiocese, for example, ignored complaints about Father Daniel McCormack even after the Dallas Charter took effect. The archdiocese has now belatedly seen McCormack laicized, and paid several million dollars to his victims. Incidentally, the seminary rector who advocated McCormack’s ordination, despite clear signs of trouble in the seminary, became Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, who retired this week, having remained in office for a year past ordinary retirement age. Innocent children in Chicago were violated, the archdiocese was impoverished, but the people responsible for superivsing McCormack were not called to account.

    Second, and closely related, the bishops still have not grappled with the calamitous loss of credibility they suffered when it emerged that dozens of bishops deliberately covered up the evidence of sexual abuse, protecting the predators and misleading the faithful. Over the years we’ve heard dozens of apologies for the abuse of children, and that’s a good. But we still, to this day, have not heard bishops apologize for the lies they told to their people.

    Accountability. Transparency. Honesty. These are the qualities that the hierarchy still has not demonstrated in this crisis. So it should not be a surprise that this week’s conference at the Vatican is viewed with a certain amount of skepticism.


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