Rome was warned about WHAT?

clergyshirtI thought I had heard everything about the deep, deep roots of the sexual abuse scandals — plural — in the Roman Catholic Church. I say “plural” because they really go back to the early 1980s and the waves of acid have been rolling in ever since.

For most news consumers, the big story today is in the New York Times, written by veteran scribe Laurie Goodstein, who has a solid reputation for getting her facts straight. However, in this case we really need to note that the key documents that are making news right now were first brought to light by the National Catholic Reporter. So click here for that report and NCR gets a big tip of the hat.

But here is the top of the story that most people are reading today:

The founder of a Roman Catholic religious order that ran retreat centers for troubled priests warned American bishops in forceful letters dating back to 1952 that pedophiles should be removed from the priesthood because they could not be cured.

The Rev. Gerald M. C. Fitzgerald, founder of the order, Servants of the Paraclete, delivered the same advice in person to Vatican officials in Rome in 1962 and to Pope Paul VI a year later, according to the letters, which were unsealed by a judge in the course of litigation against the church.

The documents contradict the most consistent defense given by bishops about the sexual abuse scandal: that they were unaware until recently that offenders could not be rehabilitated and returned to the ministry. Father Fitzgerald, who died in 1969, even made a $5,000 down payment on a Caribbean island where he planned to build an isolated retreat to sequester priests who were sexual predators. His letters show he was driven by a desire to save the church from scandal, and to save laypeople from being victimized. He wrote to dozens of bishops, saying that he had learned through experience that most of the abusers were unrepentant, manipulative and dangerous. He called them “vipers.”

There is so much that this story gets right.

For starters, it is clear that this scandal has been around a long, long time. It’s clear that there are issues linked to the spiritual and psychological treatment of these priests and that some people have been tempted to see the problem strictly in one way or the other. It’s clear that many Catholic leaders — for a variety of reasons — have been highly resistant to removing men from a sacred ministry.

At the same time, it’s clear that Fitzgerald was not a conventional messenger for this blunt, painful message. Some bishops rejected the messenger and, thus, it was easier to ignore the message. Thus, we read:

Asked why Father Fitzgerald’s advice went largely unheeded for 50 years, Bishop Blase J. Cupich of Rapid City, S.D., chairman of the United States Bishops Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People, said in a telephone interview that in the first case, cases of sexually abusive priests were considered to be rare.

Second, Bishop Cupich said of Father Fitzgerald, “His views, by and large, were considered bizarre with regard to not treating people medically, but only spiritually, and also segregating a whole population with sexual problems on a deserted island.”

By all means, wade into the lengthy quotes from the documents in the NCR piece, as well as read the rest of the Times report.

But here is my one concern. For 25 years or so, I have heard Catholic sources stress that this scandal really centers on two different problems and that bishops have — again, for many different reasons — often chosen to blur the lines between the two.

You see, “clergy sexual abuse” is a phrase that covers several different sins. When the terms are defined quite strictly, the experts draw a bright line between two different kinds of abuse. Here is how I described that several years ago in a column for Scripps Howard:

The Chicago news was full of sex, children and Roman collars.

This wasn’t part of the first national “Sins of the Fathers” furor in the mid-1980s. This was the early 1990s and the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago eventually opened its files on all 2,252 priests who had served in the previous four decades. The powers that be hunted for pedophiles and they found one.

The key word is “one.” One priest had been accused of assaulting a prepubescent child. The other allegations involved priests and sexually mature, but under-age, adolescents — mostly boys.

Here is how one expert on the left side of the Catholic spectrum — Father Donald B. Cozzens, former vicar for clergy in Cleveland and rector of a graduate seminary in Ohio — described the situation:

By definition, pedophiles are sexually attracted to boys and girls who have not reached puberty. But Cozzens said reports he has studied, and his own experience as a counselor, indicate the more common problem among Catholic clergy is “ephebophilia.” This is recurrent, intense sexual interest in post-pubescent young people — teen-agers.

The term “ephebophilia” is rarely used in church debates and the press. Yet, Cozzens said that whenever clergy vicars held conferences 90 percent of the sex-abuse cases they discussed fell into this category.

If this is the case, then I think that these news reports needed to tell us if these early warnings were truly about pedophiles — a small number of the offenders. I have heard counselors stress that they truly do not believe that pedophiles can be treated. Ever. They can only be removed from any contact with children — forever.

But what about those struggling with “ephebophilia,” the more common condition? Have some bishops assumed that ephebophiles can always be returned to ministry after “treatment,” spiritual or otherwise? Who long did it take for bishops to grasp that they were dealing with two different issues? And if newspapers do not draw any lines between these different kinds of crimes, how do readers make sense out of these stories?

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • dalea

    What this report seems to be about is that popular usage of ‘pedophile’ has two meanings. One is attraction to very young children. The other is that it refers to people below the age of consent. Age of consent in turn has two meanings. One is legal, the other theological. Frequently these are in conflict. Reading the quotes, they are remakably vague. Whatever ‘youngsters’ are, it does give the impression that the problem involves prepubescent children. The idea that it involves boys who are beginning to need a shave is just not there in popular speaking.

    The ghost in this story is sexual orientation. The idea that the priests involved are closeted gay men would explain a lot. In Gay terminology, these are ‘chickenhawks’ who are after ‘twinks’. And no doubt some of the boys are ‘cubs’ looking for ‘bears’ or ‘daddies’. I have known numerous gay men who described themselves in their teen years as ‘adult molesters’.

    What strikes me is the poverty of language used in speaking about highly complex sexual issues. Father Fitzgerald comes across as a very fine person who had troubles communicating because he lacked a vocabulary to describe the problem. The bishops come across as their usual selves.

  • Ben

    I’m sorry, I’ve just never understood why this distinction was all that important. Is the whole point here to suggest somehow that the real problem in the priesthood is homosexuality?

  • John D

    I have disagree with Dalea, if I may comment briefly on a comment.

    “Twinks” are not underaged males. Typically, the term is used by gay men to refer to young gay men of 18-21 or so. It does not not refer to 16-year olds.

    To the article: the Catholic Church is making a smoke screen (incense screen?) by trying to separate out pedophiles and ephebophiles. The fact remains: the priests in question were not going after college juniors. They coerced into sex people who were not of the age of consent.

    Certainly other articles about teens who were molested by priests have made it plain that these people suffered harm from an authority figure.

    Here the truth is hiding behind words. The correct words are not “pedophilia” and “ephebophia,” but “rape of the underage.”

  • Julia

    People forget that even into the 80s, heterosexual rape was a hush-hush matter that stigmatized the victim if the crime became known. There were no women’s shelters for domestic abuse until the late 80s and it was not a crime to rape a wife – in some states this lasted into the early 90s.

    A relative who has treated some of these priests concurs with dalea that many of the teens were/are actually “cubs” soliciting older men.

    A lot of what was happening was terra incognita and baffling to heterosexual bishops. For others, there was a whole subculture to keep under wraps.

    The story of the founder of the Paracletes and his horror at what he uncovered has been out there for years. It started coming out in the early 90s. I have no insider status and I read about it years ago. People were just not ready to believe him. And dalea is probably right that he just didn’t have the vocabulary to get across what he was trying to report.

  • FW Ken

    Thank you, tmatt, for bringing attention to the specific meaning of “pedophile”. I don’t much care for the term “ephebophile”: preying upon sexually mature persons, male or female, is clinically distinct from pedophilia. That distinction, critical to analysis of the Catholic situation, is missing from both articles reviewed.

    Father Fitzgerald was writing in the 50s, a time when adult/juvenile sex was viewed differently than it is later. What’s interesting is that he prescribed spiritual, rather than psychological “treatment”, while the bishops (then as now) tended to buy into psychological treatment as the answer.

    As always, I recommend reading Phillip Jenkins’ Pedophiles and Priests if you are interested in child welfare. If you are just interested in trashing Catholicism, enjoy yourself, but the truth is that sexual abuse – pedophilia, predatory behavior towards adolescents, and adult rape, are a societal problem, not a Catholic problem.

  • Jerry

    By definition, pedophiles…

    Nit-picking but it depends if you are looking at the psychological, legal or common usage definition

  • FW Ken

    Julia -

    As one who spends his days dealing with sexual abuse, I think Fr. Fitzgerald get his message across quite well. And I think you are right: people just didn’t – and don’t – want to hear what he had to say.

    The problem remains the bishops, not the (relatively few) offending priests).

  • Jeffrey L Miller

    This correspondence was first published 6 years ago in the Washington Post.

    The dissident rag the National Catholic Reporter is rather late to the game.

  • Julia

    Jerry: I did a lot of legal work in juvenile court. You would probably agree that people would be shocked at the prevalence of child abuse. And that you can’t tell by looking at or talking to somebody that he/she is an abuser. It’s really true that most people don’t want to hear about it; not surprising that bishops don’t want to deal with it either.

    My purpose in mentioning spousal abuse was to point out that people don’t even want to deal with adult victims – and until recently the cops and society thought it best to stay out of it. And spousal abuse isn’t as yucky and unpleasant as trying to do something about children and teens being victimized.

  • Doug Sirman

    Jason Berry addressed Fr. Fitzgerald almost two decades ago. While that almost qualifies as a scoop by the standards of Catholic Journalism, I dare say little Tommy Roberts hardly deserves a medal.

    I believe Leon Podles reports that Fr. Fitzgerald was later forced out of his position by a certain, very popular pontiff. It was speculated that this was because the truth was embarrassing and unseemly, and the PR lies of Fr. Michael Peterson’s, shall-we-say, more open and relaxed interpretation, lubricated the way to give the American Bishops a tight fit for their favorite biases to plug in.

    Tmatt, the questions to pose to any Catholic journalist playing at being real journalists, now 7+ years down the road is this: was it really “the best science of the time?” and “can anyone name one reputable psychologist who ever held that view?” Funny, I’ve yet to hear of a SINGLE catholic reporter willing to do their homework in this matter; not on the Register (but perhaps they were busy running damage-control for a certain Mexican priest of some note), not on the Reporter and sure-as-hell not EWTN/Catholic Radio. Although the fashionable excuses as to why JPII choose for over 20 years to look the other way seems to know no end. Golly, why is that?

    If I want to know the truth regarding this issue, the last person I’m going to believe is a Catholic Journalist. But then again, give little Tommy another 20 years and maybe he’ll actually be doing some work.

  • dalea

    John D, I of course was refering only to people of legal age, as gay men tend to avoid the underage. Twinks are people of legal age in gay discourse. The terms describe being attracted to the youthful appearing.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    FW Ken–About societal involvement in the priest scandal–Does anyone remember the name Rep. Gerry Studds (D.MA.)He seduced and bedded a teen-age a number of years ago. Did the voters rise up and throw him out the door? Did the media go into high dudgeon? Hah! The local Boston media sided with him, even manipulating some news to his benefit. He was repeatedly returned to office–by huge margins- in his very liberal Democrat district. Candidates who tried to unseat him in primaries got nowhere. The House refused to bar him from a seat there and he got back much of the power he had lost when censured by the House. There was never any media serious follow-up to see how many other victims he may have had.
    As for the media manipulation: Every time someone running against Studds brought up the issue of whether a page abuser should represent that district, the people at the debate or rally were heard off stage on the evening news booing and hissing at the issue being brought up.
    This quickly pushed aside that issue in the public debate. It was only after the election that one reporter spilled the beans–it was the reporters, TV people, etc. doing the news covering who did the pro-Studds razzing off camera. The average people had been quiet. This was far enough back (Studds finally retired and was replaced by Barney Frank) so that talk radio and the internet weren’t the force they are today. The media trick probably would have been exposed before the election if held today.
    And, of course, there was the NY Times front page story about how much worse the situation was in the public schools than in the Church. There, superintendents, would write glowing recommendations for “troublesome’ teachers to get them out of their systems. The Times even said there was a phrase for it: “Moving the trash along.”
    And what killed many of the bills proposed to make it easier to sue non-profit and religious groups farther and farther into past situations?? In many states it was when the issue of making it easier to go after public schools or state social work agencies came up.

  • Ivan Wolfe


    In “Pirate Freedom” a recent novel by science fiction writer (and practicing Catholic – one could even call him devout) Gene Wolfe (no relation), the main character is a priest in part of the frame story (the main tale deals with time travel and pirates).

    Anyway, there’s an interesting (if brief) incident where the protagonist mentions being at a meeting with other priests discussing what to do about priests abusing boys. The protagonist says something like: “From what you are saying, nearly all of these incidents deal with teenage boys. Teenage boys are hardly helpless. We should teach them that if a priest tries to molest them, they should punch the priest in the face.”

    The other priests declare he wants to encourage violence, but he just says he thinks if the victims were to fight back, the church might have a smaller problem on its hands.

    Of course, it’s a science fiction novel, and the protagonist was hardly a sympathetic character (he was a real pirate before being a priest – looting, killing, etc.). But I wonder if he made that up, or it was something he heard from other Catholics, or what. Is it even part of the conversation? Does this idea show up in media accounts at all?

  • Andy

    Stop hiding behind words.

    The clergy knew that these people were abusing children.

    End of story, they are nothing more than accessories to the crime for covering it up and not reporting it to the police.

    It’s time people stopped treating those involved in spreading and preaching religion as if they are above the law and that goes especially for all those child abusing apologists in Rome.

  • dalea

    My impression is that we are not talking about ‘sins’, we are discussing ‘crimes’. But the whole subject is presented in a theological language. Which is confusing, to me at least.

    My limited understanding of how the subject of sexuality is presented scientifically is that it begins with orientation. There are four orientations; same gender, opposite gender, both genders and asexual. Most humans are oriented to be attracted to opposite gender. An unknown number are attracted to their same gender. An even more mysterious number are bisexual. And there probably are genuine asexuals. My further understanding is that people can be arranged on a continuum, the famous Kinsey one.

    Neither article nor the Father do this. Instead, like Agatha Christy, they drag in a creaky plot device: ephebephilia. I am not sure if this is a scientific or a literary term. After defining the term, its existance is declared to explain the whole situation. This conveniently lets almost everyone off the hook. It is wonderously convenient but I do not find this at all satisfying.

  • dalea

    OK, I regard ephebephilia as a distraction. Is there long term evidence on men who practice this for a lifetime? And if the attraction is to teenagers, there are lots of older ones who are available and legal. And are such people found anywhere but in the ranks of the RC clergy?

    How would I tell the story? People lie about sex. Men in particular lie about sex, especially when it is not the sort they should by having. Men are also prone to opportunistic sex, especially when they have not had sex in a while. So, I regard this scandal as an instance of opportunity sex.

    The press tended to treat the subject as a morality play. Which is one way of viewing it. What they overlooked, or at least never knew about, that there are men who had sex with their priests and found it to be a good experience. I have known quite a few of them. One even had a long term relationship, including the priest putting the guy through college. So, the story being told is very incomplete.

    There are many who were harmed by their experiences. The woefull tales are all over the SNAP website. These are people who deserve our care and compassion. But some of the stories set off my bs detector. Like one where the molestation occurred over a long period of time, about 12 years. Twelve years is a relationship, probably a bad one, but a relationship.

    The press tends to present the saga in dramatic terms.

  • Thomas Michael Barnes

    Okay. I am going to jump in here. I was physically abused by nuns as a child and sexually harrased by nuns fromm ages 13-19. I left seminary in part because of it. The point that seems to me to be overall of most importance is that men and women who claim to be celibates use underage or “under their authority” young people for sexual abuse, harrassment or gratification. That is the major point in my mind. Whether this is ‘this’ kind of abuse or ‘that’ kind of abuse is nowhere near as important as the fact that since the very beginning of the church, the elders (bishops) have known about this and have turned a blind eye.

    Jesus Himself mentions correcting child abuse in a startlingly brutal way. He must have known about it. He mentions it specifically. That is telling. So child abuse among “Christians” and “Jews” must go back a very long way. Based on Jesus’ comment about pedophiles, it goes back to the very beginning of The Way, the precursor to Christianity in Jesus time. Is it possible that a ‘religious outlook’ by definition encompasses child abuse in some circles? Does a religious mindset somehow or other set this up? I think this needs to be researched.

  • Norma Villarreal

    Pedophiles or ephebophiles, some clergy have abused their position as a spiritual authority. It is easier for the bishops to deny the problem that (allegd) clergy sexual abuse exists than to expose predators and be accountable.

  • Jimmy Mac

    I am waiting for those of you who are so much against the NCR to write a letter to the editor and express your complaints. They DO post letters from those who disagree with them, you know.

  • Sabrina

    I’m afraid I think the “bright line” between pedophilia and ephebophilia is garbage.

    As any parent can tell you, a child may no longer be “prepubescent” at 12 or 13, but he or she is still completely a child. I’d go so far as to say he or she has more in common with the 8- or 9-year-old prepubescent child than with the 16- or 17-year-old tentatively approaching adult status.

    The distinction between the two terms in discussions of sexual abuse of a minor has always reeked of blaming the victim.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Ivan Wolfe–Your comment reminded me of an incident involving my teen-age son a few years ago. As he told it to me, he was on the regular route bus that he frequently took home from school. Some guy sitting in the next seat made some obscene comments and a gesture in my son’s direction. My son said to him that if he got any closer he would rip his arm off and throw it out the bus window (My son was a strong looking high school athlete.) The creep ran off the bus at the next stop.
    When my son asked me if he did the right thing, I said: “D**n right you did.”— There are some issues we shouldn’t be milquetoasts about whether a Catholic deacon or a deacon’s son.
    I always remember what the very devout Catholic former president of the Mass. State Senate (William Bulger) said to the Boston Cardinal when discussing the priest scandal with him: “Whatever happened to that millstone that should have been put around their necks and thrown in the lake with them????”
    Incidentally, about the media. All through the copious, widespread, and long priest scandal coverage in the Boston media I never heard or saw any media reference to the local US Rep. Studds page abuse case (except once by talk show host Howie Carr) Something you think that in this neck of the woods would be a natural.

  • JRC

    Anyone who has cracked open a forensic psychology textbook will know that roughly 2% of the employees working in any job that puts an employees in frequent contact with children will be pedophiles. That’s right, 2%. That goes for teachers, principals, day care workers, you name it.

    The most liberal estimate puts the prevalence of pedophilia in the priesthood at 4% in the Boston area, at the epicenter of the sex abuse scandal, without distinguishing between true pedophiles and those who predate on young, post-pubescent men. More conservative estimates place the nationwide prevalence between 1 and 2%, which is below the average for men placed in positions that bring them into contact with children.

    That is not to say that these cases are neither tragic nor particularly heinous; they are. Nor is it to say that we shouldn’t go to the greatest possible lengths to protect our children; we should. But the public’s perception of the problem is way out of whack — I once spoke with a friend who thought the prevalence of pedophilia in the priesthood was upwards of 40%.

    This misconception can to some extent be attributed to unimaginable damage a single pedophile can do — some report molesting literally over a thousand children before finally being convicted. After reading articles like this, it also becomes clear that the media’s treatment of the matter is partly responsible. I would very much like to read an article that provides some numerical perspective. What is going on in the Church is neither unique nor even worse than the average. Pedophilia is obviously a huge problem, period.

  • Dave2

    I don’t see how the pedophile / ephebophile distinction affects this story.

    Did Fitzgerald use the term ‘pedophile’? If so, did he mean to exclude molestation of teenagers? I somehow doubt it.

    It looks as the conversation in the ’50s and ’60s was all about those who molest teenagers. So the distinction seems to be completely irrelevant to the story.

  • Ben

    Tmatt –

    It seems like a lot of us don’t see the importance of the pedophile / ephebophile distinction. Care to defend its usefulness here or in a follow-up post?

  • FW Ken

    JRC – where did you get your stats? They are a bit lower than I’ve seen elsewhere, but have the same import: Catholic priests are no more likely to offender than other persons with access to children. I don’t suppose you found a rate at which men, as a whole, offend against children? I’ve been trying to get that number for years. I have heard 5%-10%, but failed to note the source. I was also told once by a sex offender treatment expert that the rate was thought to be about 8%, but he couldn’t give me a source.

    I am entertained by the spectrum of commenters who reject “ephebophelia” for one reason or another. Morally and legally, it’s meaningless (even accounting for dalea’s occasional adult molester). Clinically, we have been told by the media that pedophiles can’t be cured, which is true; the prognosis for people attracted to sexually mature young people is much less dire. The specific relationship of the psychological and the spiritual aspects are, to my eye, missed in most reporting I’ve read over the past few years.

  • tmatt


    Several points:

    * There is no connection between pedophilia and homosexuality. That is a perfectly valid point.

    * The abuse crisis includes a small percentage of pedophilia. Press coverage that focus on that condition miss the overwhelming majority of the abuse cases.

    * The majority of the cases do fit into the ephebophelia model, for whatever reason.

    * But here is the main point, linked to my post. The evidence seems to be that pedophilia simply cannot be treated. That’s what Fitzgerald said. But the coverage is not noting that debates about treatment of the majority of the cases is much more complex and lively. That’s the real story.

  • Ben

    Ken and Tmatt –

    Thanks. That’s a reasonable point.

  • JRC

    The numbers for jobs that place the employee in contact with children were from the textbook, Practical Aspects of Rape Investigation. The claim that an active pedophile can molest over a thousand children may be substantiated by the same text, but I was unfortunate enough to have been shown interviews in class that were conducted with pedophiles who described their careers as such, and so I heard this number from the horse’s mouth.

    The more conservative prevalence numbers specific to the priesthood are summarized by the Catholic League report come from such sources as the New York Times and the AP:

    As to the topic of the article TMatt is critiquing, when I studied this phenomenon it was made clear that a good number of psychologists and psychiatrists still believe that this condition is treatable, and we were shown one such “promising” course of treatment. This was in 2002. I personally think that any such “success stories” will be exceptions to the rule, and so the condition should be regarded as untreatable for practical purposes, but the bishops of yesteryear were certainly acting in accordance with the practices of the mental health community of that time, and there are voices in that community that would dissent from those claiming the condition to be untreatable even today.

  • Doug Sirman

    tmatt: should a 30 year old man who finds a 15 year old girl sexually attractive be treated? For what? Should a 28 year old man who finds a 16 year old boy sexually attractive be treated? For what?

    It is considered normative for the presence of secondary sexual characteristics to elicit sexual attraction/arousal. This attraction is supposed to be tempered by knowledge of the subjects relative immaturity but there’s nothing inherently disordered by the reaction. Disorder enters the picture along gender lines, and when the predatory older authority figure uses his authority to gain sexual power over the adolescent. (That so very, very many catholic Bishops were so willing to blame 12 to 14 year old boys is, while worthy of eternal contempt, nevertheless beside the point.)

    The fact remains that the vast majority of Bishops spoke in terms of child molestation, and then created plausible deniability with the fiction of the “best science of the time.” …

  • Peter

    For those leaping to dismiss the concept of ephebophelia, or to complain about making the distinction, please note that making a valid distinction is not in any way to excuse either or both.

    You can make a valid distinction between assault and premeditated murder, for example, without excusing either.

    A priest should never abuse his authority and have sexual relations with anyone under his care. To do so is wrong. But the circumstance are different if the other person is a consenting adult, a consenting underage but sexually mature person (say, 17) or an 8 year old. And any effective response would need to be dealing with what actually happened.

    Please stop leaping from important factual distinctions to an accusation of trying to support the behavior.

  • Darel

    The John Jay Report offers in Table 4.3.2 data on the age of priest sexual abuse victims at first instance of abuse. Some stats pulled from that table:

    14.2% of victims were age 9 or younger at first instance of abuse
    47.3% of victims were age 12 or younger at first instance of abuse
    62.3% of victims were age 11-15 at first instance of abuse

    As the report states, “The average age of all alleged victims is 12.6. This number has increased over time, however. In the 1950s, the average age was 11.5; in the 1960s it was 12; in the 1970s it was 12.87; in the 1980s it was 13.2; and by the 1990s it was 13.87.”

  • dalea

    … This is a topic the gay press has treated extensively. The consensus reached was, as Dana says, that most of the abusers were closeted gay men. But another finding was that many of them had left the priesthood and married a woman. There are many priests who are somewhat openly gay. I dated a couple over the years. The press never seems to cover the priests who move openly in gay circles. That may be because they are rather quiet about their free time. Openly gay priests are generally not the ones involved with children.

    For the press to wade into the issue, it would have to do some work. Which usually it doesn’t want to do. This means looking at the issues of gay men and the priesthood. I have never an article on this in the MSM. And I am sure the Catholic press would not be able to write one either.

  • FW Ken

    Openly gay priests are generally not the ones involved with children.

    Not exactly true.

    One point I meant to make earlier is that in any population of sex offenders you find range from, say, Romeo cases – 18 year old boy and 14 (says she’s 16) year old girl – up to true predators. The true predators in the Catholic scandals were often quite openly gay. Paul Shandley and Rudy Kos come immediately to mind.

    Obviously, I don’t agree with the analysis in this article contains an honest look at some perpetrators.

    JRC – the Catholic League article you link is excellent and formed the basis of my comment #5, at least the last paragraph. I didn’t remember the stats as you presented them, but I’m old and memory goes, eh!

    When you hear someone say that pedophiles can be treated, they may well mean one of two things: first, they can give the offender skills he can use to manage his impulses. There are psycho-educational methods (laced with strong confrontation) that do have some good results.

    More likely, the treatment provider is talking about someone who isn’t a real predator. Please understand that not all people who offend against even a pre-pubescent child is a pedophile. They do it for many reasons, substance abuse being a big one, as well as marital strife. It’s often a crime of opportunity only; a treatment provider once told me that the most effective treatment for most of his clients was getting caught. That’s true enough for a certain class of convicted sex offender, and (remembering that most priests have one accusation only) that is probably the group most likely to fit dalea’s “closeted gay” and “somewhat gay” descriptors.

  • Jack


    I attended seminary during the late 90s. Two anecdotes from that time may be useful.

    The director of formation once explained to us emphatically that we had better take celibacy seriously. He reinforced this with the following tale: during the late 60s and early 70s, when he had attended seminary, everyone was telling them that the requirement for celibacy would be lifted any day now. So the seminaries didn’t take seriously their responsibility to train their charges in how to live a celibate life, and seminarians didn’t prepare seriously for it. Along with this, the world was changing, making it harder to live a celibate life. He clearly implied that this explained the subsequent exodus from ministry of many priests during the 70s and 80s. He didn’t say anything about the sexual abuse of children, but since the bishops responsible for those seminaries were the same ones responsible for shuffling child molesters around (seminary rectors are frequently picked to become bishops), I have a hard time believing the two aren’t linked.

    Another priest who had attended seminary during the same period described to us how he was not taught anything about the importance of developing a serious prayer life until shortly before ordination to the diaconate, when he was handed the breviary. He likewise linked this failure of the seminaries of his day to the difficulties many priests had with priestly life.

    Too often we like to attribute problems to reactionary or revolutionary policies, but a lot of problems in the priesthood can likely be attributed to some very immature attitudes of the age that were allowed to infect the formation of seminarians. Since then, many seminaries have started to take their responsibility seriously again–those that refused were often enough closed, either by lack of bishops willing to send seminarians or from above–so much so that one would like to think that priests coming out these days have been taught how to have healthy, celibate relationships with others; how to live a life of prayer; etc.

  • dalea

    The assumption here seems to be that there once was a ‘golden age of celibacy’, but that has now fallen away. Looking at the reports on clerical child abuse in Canada, Ireland and Poland that I have seen, makes it rather clear that this is a problem that dates back to at least the 1920′s. Why is the press not looking into the possibility that celibacy is a system that constantly breaks down in ways that severely hurt actual people? Doesn’t Chaucer have something about Priests and sex? It seems quite possible that the problem has existed for centuries but is only now coming to light, when it is much easier to talk about sex. Even 50 years ago, admitting to sex with another man would have landed a kid in either a jail or sanitarium. Raise the time frame to 200 years, and capital punishment was in view. This may be ‘business as usual’ meets the open age of Oprah.

    Jack says:

    healthy, celibate relationships with others

    this looks to be an oxymoron.

  • Thomas Doyle
    This story and the responses found there way to me this AM. After reading through the string I am struck by a couple things: 1) too many people seem to be using this whole tragedy to fuel their personal attitudes towards homosexuals, the media or “liberal” Catholics, whatever that means; 2) it seems that most people have some but certainly not all of the crucial information about the nightmare and most imprtant; 3) the Catholic hierarchy and way too many Catholic lay people yesterday, today and most probably tomorrow have shoved the victims into the background with no real effort to help them beyond the sop of psychological therapy or even worse, the liturgical services that only rub salt into the open wounds.
    All of this debate seems to miss the major point and its this: there are hundreds of thousands of men and women whose souls have been irreparably damaged by the abusive clergy and the arrogant hierarchy. It doesn’t matter if the abuser was a pedophile or an ephebophile, gay or straight….people’s lives have been ruined and the self-righteous hierarchy continue to obsess only about themselves.

  • FW Ken

    dalea -

    Why is the press not looking into the possibility that celibacy is a system that constantly breaks down in ways that severely hurt actual people?

    That’s pretty much what’s been going on since 2002 (and before). But since statistics show that non-celibates offend at about the same rate as celibates (Jenkins thought it possible the rate for non-celibates was slightly higher), to link celibacy with sexual abuse isn’t reasonable. You might as well say “if teachers could only marry…”.

  • tmatt


    Things got out of hand while I was traveling yesterday.

    Please take your arguments and name-calling to the GR cafe.

    Spiking has commenced.

  • will

    John D said,
    “Here the truth is hiding behind words. The correct words are not ‘pedophilia’ and ‘ephebophia,’ but ‘rape of the underage.’”

    John you are absolutely correct the sexual crisis suffered by the Catholic Church here in the US, and other places was rape, but what the media failed to report is that due to the overwhelming number of Male victims, this has been a crisis of homosexual clerical rape. Gay men using the Church and the Roman Collar to perpetrate the violation (rape) of young adults.

    Why has the Church permitted so many homosexual men to be ordained to the priesthood in the teeth of its teaching on the paternal nature of the priesthood is a question that I would have liked to have seen explored with more attentions, but I have not ever seen any article on this angle of the problem.

  • dalea

    Will, the gay press has covered the matter of gay male priests in some detail. And there are many accounts of gay men who journey thru the RC priesthood.

    FYI ‘gay’ and ‘homosexual’ are not synonomous. They refer to different states of being.

  • SarahTX2

    I feel very disturbed when I hear anyone make this distinction between ephebophile and pedophile. I get the distinction, and I think we all understand that having sex with an 8 year old is much worse than a 15 year old. But making this distinction does not make the ephebophile any less heinous or dangerous to society.

    I’ve also noticed that this distinction is commonly made by people who have never had children. It does sound like Catholic Bishops have some distorted impression that teenagers are fully developed adults capable of all of the lurid and salacious thoughts and acts that some deranged adults have. Anyone who has raised children knows that a child of 13, 14, 15, 16 may be trying to act mature but they are in fact children who still have very much to learn, and certainly are gravely harmed when their first sexual experience is with a fake-celibate, supposedly holy, priest in his 30′s, 40′s, 50′s, 60′s, and, good God, I guess in their 70′s and 80′s too.

    ALL CHILDREN need protection from sexual predators. Stop discounting the teenagers, just to assert a defense for deranged adults. Or better yet, go have a few children and come back and tell us whether you think a 13 year old kid is ready for sex with any freaky adult, not to talk of a depraved priest.

  • Julia


    As the mother of three sons, I can still see the difference between pedophilia and acting on an attraction to a minor.
    The perpetrators are psychologically coming from a different place. Medical opinion generally thinks a pedophile cannot be cured, but someone acting out with teenagers is usually capable of being trained or induced to give that up. Additionally, whether sex with a post-pubescent person, male or female, is a crime depends on the state or country or era in which the act occurs.

    None of this has much bearing on how great the harm to the victim. Depending on the circumstances the harm to an older minor might be greater.

  • Sabrina


    Whether sex with a post-pubescent person, male or female, is a crime depends on the state or country or era in which the act occurs.

    But rape is rape and is always immoral and unjustifiable and a crime — no matter the age of the victim.

    By the way, your description of sexual abuse as “acting out with teenagers” is unbelievably offensive.

    It reminds me of an incident a number of years ago at the University of Pennsylvania in which a girl was raped not more than 25 feet from a staffed security checkpoint. When asked whether he had seen the rape, the security guard on duty said he had, but he thought they were just “kissing goodnight.” That semester one of the favorite jokes on campus was the warning to “never let that security guard kiss you goodnight.”