Sex Abuse is about Control and Power

The Catholic League has taken out a full-page ad in the NY Times that tries to be a point-by-point rebuttal to the Times’ reverberating prelude to Holy Week.

As rebuttal it is a tad weak -that’s what happens when your answer rightly requires 10,000 words and 350 is all you can manage in 18 pt Arial Narrow- but it hits its main targets; it manages to make one important point that is too-often ignored, that the church (and secular organizations as well) erred greatly in taking the advice of those psychological organizations who insisted throughout the 70′s and 80′s that the sexual abuse of minors was a “treatable” mental illness that could be remedied with a bit of therapy and a change of scenery.

The church made a huge error, back then, in trusting and aligning with understandings of “the times” and “the world.” Prosecutable cases should have been referred to civil authorities, those that had gone past the statute of limitations should have been prosecuted in-church, and in both cases, the bishops should have been responding with eyes that recognized a spiritual malady which precluded the possibility of public ministry.

All these years later, the church -thanks in large part to the current pope- is doing all of that, and more, but these decades-old cases are still haunting us specifically because, like the ghosts of our musings, they seek validation and address.

The Catholic League ad, however comes apart in the last third, where the organization’s president, Bill Donohue, becomes cringe-inducing:

The Times continues to editorialize about the “pedophilia crisis,” when all along it’s been a homosexual crisis. Eighty percent of the victims of priestly sexual abuse are male and most of them are post-pubescent. While homosexuality does not cause predatory behavior, and most gay priests are not molesters, most of the molesters have been gay.

It’s a small point,
but if most of the abused were post-pubescent, then I suppose we should be talking about a “pederasty” crisis. Donohue rightly points out that most gay priests are “not molesters.” That’s damning with faith praise. I would probably have said, “most gay priests are celibate and faithful,” but more importantly, can Donohue really say that “most of the molesters have been gay?” In reading the case of Father Stephen Kiesle one sees that in 2004 he entered a plea of “no contest” on the charge of molesting a young girl in 1995. This was after he had left the priesthood, wherein he had gone after boys.

Given that most sexual abuse of minors takes place in the home
, among people the children know and trust, it seems self-evident that the sexual abuse of minors is not about homo-or-heterosexuality, or for that matter about celibacy. Say it with me, kids: the sexual abuse of minors is about feeding a sick appetite for power and control. It is also about opportunity. Kiesle’s activities suggest that most of the molestation victims were male, because males were more available, and that is all.

Donohue ends thusly:

Here’s what’s really going on. The Times has teamed up with Jeffrey Anderson, a radical lawyer
who has made millions suing the Church . . .so they can weaken its moral authority. Why? Because of issues like abortion, gay marriage and women’s ordination . . . Those who doubt this to be true need to ask why the debt-ridden Times does not spend the same resources looking for dirt in other institutions that occurred a half-century ago.

It is perfectly fair to ask why the crusading Times seems so disinterested in the epidemic of sex abuse occurring, not thirty years ago but today, right now, in our public schools. But Donohue’s timing and tone are both regrettable, and “so they can weaken its moral authority” only invites the response: “the church, by its actions -whether in-line with the times or not- has itself weakened its moral authority.”

The church was never supposed to embrace times and trends; in holy wisdom and spiritual humility it is supposed to transcend them, in ultimate obedience to its Bridegroom. Had it kept its eternal perspective, rather than adopted a temporal one, it would have understood that a diagnosis of “needs therapy” may have been the worldly (and expedient) answer, but the spiritual answer of “must not minister” was the right one.

Meanwhile, responding to Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone’s recent remarks in Chile, Fr. Martin’s spirited piece makes an argument unwelcome to many*:

…nearly every reputable psychologist and psychiatrist definitively rejects the conflation of homosexuality with pedophilia . . . Pedophilia, say experts, is more a question of a stunted (or arrested) sexuality, more a question of power, and more a question of proximity (among many other complicated psychological factors). Simply put, being gay does not make one a pedophile.

Martin goes on to cite the USCCB’s own studies and adds,

Many of the victims of priest abuse were adolescents. So there were clearly some gay priests attracted to adolescent boys who preyed on them.

But not the vast majority of gay priests, who never abused anyone. This is a critical point. And this is also where the situation grows more complex. [...] Most Catholics. . . know that homosexuality and pedophilia are not the same thing. Perhaps this is why Pope Benedict XVI himself, en route to the United States for his visit in 2008, responded this way to a question about the abuse crisis: “I do not wish to talk about homosexuality, but about pedophilia, which is a different thing.” And they know that there are thousands of celibate gay men in the priesthood and chaste men in religious orders who have never abused anyone and, moreover, lead generous, dedicated, and even holy lives.

Cardinal Bertone’s remarks -which were clearly his own opinion- had many smacking their foreheads. They do not represent the views of the pope and both the Vatican and the US Bishops have criticized them.

Fr. Martin’s piece is very good, and I urge you to read it all, but Martin should reconsider citing the opinions of the psychological and psychiatric communities; they were the very people advising churches and industries that a bit of therapy could manage the problem of child sexual abuse. That theory has been quietly put to rest. Theories abound but there is one truth: the sexual abuse of minors is a sin and a crime not defined by gender, class, sexual orientation, the celibate or married state, families or income: it is about power, control and opportunity.

At prayer over this, my heart became so heavy with grief for everyone: for all of the victims, who -in the screaming headlines- are not hearing about how effective and heroic they have been in fomenting real change, so that others will not have to suffer as they have; for the people in the pews, who wish it would all just go away; for the all of the good priests -gay and straight- who are being tainted with this scandal. We forget that someone like Bertone is merely a man and a priest who sounds like he is simply feeling the heat and saying, “don’t look over here – look over there” and throwing his gay brother priests under the bus.

I feel the same grief for Benedict who is being relentlessly demonized for understanding things differently in the past than he does today. He was clearly on the same learning curve as everyone else -secular and religious- on this issue and he has displayed, since 2001, when the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith attained provenance over these investigations, a rigorous determination to see things righted, to the apparent interest of no one.


Discussing this with a friend I realize how really tired I am of the whole notion of “gay” and “straight.” I really wish we could get to the point where people’s sexuality was a yawner. I am frankly as tired of the scolds and homophobes as I am with the “in your face about it” activists, who can’t get through a day without waving the rainbow flag. One of my favorite friends a transsexual woman who used to be an Air Force guy, and is quite the Lutheran scholar. She does not spend all her time talking about being a transsexual, because she is too busy being a woman on her own journey to God, and yelling at me about St. Thomas More.

Our jobs are not to judge, not to finger-point, not to consign each other to flames of woe over what we understand of God’s mind, but to simply love each other, as created creatures, all doing the best we can in a broken world, and to remember that God’s mind is not ours; we can never even begin to comprehend or approximate the largeness of his love for every single one of us, or his tender mercy.

But we must try. When St. Paul wrote, “If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal” he nailed it.

And maybe that is the answer to this endless fixation on sexuality, which too often gets in our way, and becomes a stumbling block to our own spiritual lives, and our understanding. We are too wrapped up in “doing” rather than with “being.” We are wrapped up in our own “doings” and everyone else’s “doings.”

“Doing” is our obsession in the world. “What are you doing?” we ask a friend on the phone. “What do you DO?” is the first question anyone asks at a gathering. Perhaps the question should be “how are you ‘being?’”

Then we can all answer “I am ‘being’ as well as I can, with God’s help,” and keep our eyes on Jesus, only.

*Edited for clarity.

After an accusation, here is what happens at the Vatican
John Allen: Candor Creep about the Pope
George Weigel: The Limits of the Papacy
Alan Dershowitz and Ed Koch: Defending the Pope
Benedict: Dedicates General Audience to Priests
An Episcopal Priest: Discusses the issue
Shea: Media Distractions
Eric Sammons: Better, not Bitter
AP: and the question of Bad Journalism
Gender Issues in Main
Anglicans: Why are they Coming?
A Life-Changing Pilgrimage

ISIS takes more Christian hostages; seals its doomed fate
Sr. Mary Ann Walsh: A Humble Way of Mercy
Obama’s Creed: Are we being prepped for 2016′s fake narrative?
Anchoress is CPAC “Blogger of the Year?” Get OUT!
About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Bender

    not the vast majority of gay priests, who never abused anyone. . . . they know that there are thousands of celibate gay men in the priesthood

    On this latter point — I DON’T KNOW THAT. I don’t know any “gay priests.” I don’t know any “straight priests.” I know many, many priests though.

    It is this continuing sexualization of the priesthood that is a major problem. Anyone who self-identifies as a “gay priest” has a MAJOR problem. And anyone who goes around trying to figure out is a priest is “gay” or not has a major problem.

    Either one is simply a priest or he is not. And part of that being simply a priest is recognizing the Bridegroom-Bride, He-She, Father-Mother, spousal nature of the priesthood, which is incompatible with an on-going self-identification with the notion of same-sex relations.

  • Paco

    Possibly Mr Donohue’s phrasing of the add is inelegant but I feel his frustration that we cannot get an accurate assessment of the issue due to the taboos about discussing certain lines of inquiry. It may be true that there is no connection between Homosexuallity and Pedophilia but to me there could be a vast difference between cases of true pedophilia and inappropriate sexual contact between men and preteen/teen boys. It has been reported that the John Jay and other studies cannot help in this area because they do not examine the data in enough detail. So we are left with rough estimates of 70 % male victims with maybe 70% of those preteen and above. I think we need better analysis.

    Does your desire to get beyond our sexuality extend to recent news items about removing all gender distinctions in Maine Schools? Should we now allow unlimited non-gender specific access to Middle School and High School Locker rooms and bathrooms? Will this lead to more or less child molestation? We pay attention to sexuality because it has implications.

    [No, that's taking it to a stupid extreme. But I was talking about behaviors. I am not in favor of interchangable restrooms, locker rooms or, for that matter, dorms. If you think what I was saying is "there is no difference between the sexes" then you have misread me. -admin]

  • Paco

    The question on locker rooms was meant to be rhetorical :-) The main point is that sexuality may matter in this issue and unfortunately we cannot get to clarity because of a need to PC about certain possibilities.

    It is similar to the commenters on Ross Douthat’s NYT piece that want to stop rational analysis of cover-up claims by saying the Church is totally evil so it does not matter if a particular charge is false or not. We cannot fix a problem if we do not know what the problem is.

  • Nmissi

    I can’t really criticise Donahue or the Cardinal, because I think the homosexual aspect of these cases has been suppressed, while the paedophilia aspect has been played up. By my reading, it does look as if most of the cases involved postpubescent boys. That does not excuse what has happened- but how are we to deal effectively with the problem if we don’t recognise it fully? If we’re all watching out for little kids, and the real victims are sexually confused teenagers, then we run the risk of perpetuating the problem, seeing new generations of victims. What was it about the church, in those decades, that was appealing to men cruising for young boys to seduce? How can we make certain that, whatever that atmosphere was, we have eliminated it?

    The thing that most sickens me about all of this is the one issue that is getting almost no. coverage. in the media- the issue of the abuse of religious authority. It’s sick enough that a grown man would want to have sex with a teenager, but those priests guilty of such did so in the guise of holiness. What would be mundane criminality in the layperson is a vicious, ungodly sin; it is anathema, when committed by a man of the cloth. That’s where the focus of this whole scandal rightly belongs- on the shameful, sinful abuse of the authority of our Lord. Personally, I don’t think laicising a pervert priest is good enough- they should be excommunicated.

  • Mere Catholic

    “but to me there could be a vast difference between cases of true pedophilia and inappropriate sexual contact between men and preteen/teen boys”

    No. Abuse is abuse. In the case of children, the abuser is physically able to overpower the child to sexually molest him or her. In the case of preteen and teens, the child is now physically grown and theoretically could physically resist the abuser. But they don’t because they are psychologically manipulated into a sexual act. And that psychological manipulation is just as damaging to that older child as the physical penetration.

  • archangel

    Anchoress, I love you dearly for your bravery in detailing your own history in this matter and your consistent Catholic musings however, I have to say this.

    It is/was a homosexual issue. These men should never have been allowed in the seminaries, let alone ordained. The psychologists and psychiatrists alluded to are the same ones who would profile prospective seminarians with an eye tilted toward the most infeminate candidates. That is fact. You may not like the distinctions being made here but it is the truth. Church teaching still holds homosexuality as a mortal sin and like all other mortal sins, it is to be avoided at all costs.

    The NY Times ad is spot on, IMO.

    [The church holds homosexual "acts" as mortal sins, of course. But the church also celebrates and encourages its gay members who live chastely, as all are called to do, so a celibate priest -gay or straight- makes no difference at all. I would rather, frankly, have a gay priest who is faithful and keeps his vows than a straight one who does not. I know a number of priests who are "gay" if one needs to make that distinction. They are priests, first and foremost; faithful, dutiful and hard-working and joyful. I can't remember Fr. Mychal Judge, and his faithful ministry, and then declare that no homosexual should be ordained. As with every ordination, it comes down to the man, himself: is he faithful or not? It seems to me that is all that matters. -admin]

  • M. Whittaker

    “…the church (and secular organizations as well) erred greatly in taking the advice of those psychological organizations who insisted throughout the 70’s and 80’s that the sexual abuse of minors was a ‘treatable’ mental illness…”

    About 7 paragraphs later you claim it, “an unwelcome truth to many [that]:

    ‘…nearly every reputable psychologist and psychiatrist definitively rejects the conflation of homosexuality with pedophilia . . . Pedophilia, say experts, is more a question of a stunted (or arrested) sexuality, more a question of power, and more a question of proximity (among many other complicated psychological factors)…’ ”

    If you’re going to rhetorically demonize some experts in “psychological organizations” then lionize “reputable psychologist[s] and psychiatrist[s]” in the course of a single article, shouldn’t you give us poor readers some way of discerning who’s in which camp? Or at least some assurance that you and the author you rely on has a way of discerning it? Otherwise, isn’t this just a way of saying “All real experts agree with me.”?

    [If you had read my entire piece, you'd see that it was Fr. Martin citing the psychological studies, and that I made exactly that point in response: that it did not help him to cite psychologists, since they had erred before. But thanks for reading me all the way through. :-) -admin]

  • Christopher Johnson

    The Episcopalians have no right to triumphalism. Google the terms “Central New York” and “David Bollinger” some time.

  • Aimee

    Brave post, Elizabeth, and well done. Here’s my addition: we need to recall that the use of sexuality as an identity marker, and the very terms we use to do so (gay, straight, etc), are all fairly new phenomena. I would also argue that they’re a bit ill-thought-out, and that we don’t really understand our (fallen) sexuality as well as we think we do. Which is why I respect the stand of the church, which emphasizes what we do, grace when we do what we should not, and leaves the issue of sexual identity where it should be, for now: in a state of uncertainty. I do have to agree, however, with the posters who have pointed out that there IS a distinction between pederasty and pedophilia–the former has a long and illustrious history, and at many points in Western culture, at least, has been a preferred mode of relationship (see: ancient Greece, certain points in British history, etc.). What this points to is, again, uncertainties about just what constitutes sexual identity, for if a culture can emphasize homosexuality as the preferred norm, for men at least, then we have to understand that sexuality is, at least to some extent, socially contructed. To recognize that man-boy “love” is celebrated, even today, in some circles is not to be a homophobe, it is to seek understanding of an issue that we must deal with.

  • archangel

    I understand your point but I would make the distinction here. We’re dealing with competing vocations… marriage for procreation or marriage to the church. The celibacy issue applies only to the procreative vocation. The marital act is a moral act within the confines of the sacrament of marriage. Homosexual behavior is immoral in every context. It is also, arguably, a deviant pschological mindset as well.

    I would humbly suggest that not all celibacy is created equal and that a vow of celibacy from one sacrificing marital life is not on par with one attempting to fight an immoral inclination. We are called to avoid sin and to avoid putting ourselves in places where we will be tempted to sin. Putting one who has a homosexual predisposition in an environment where the population is essentially cloistered individuals of the same sex is asking for trouble. Its like putting a drug addict inside a pharmacy. All one needs to do is research how degenerate some of the seminaries actually became. We can agree to disagree on this point. If there was a predispostion to homosexuality, IMO, the answer should have been no to admission into the seminary and ordination.

    [I understand your concerns, and they are not unusual, actually. I can only speak to my own experience with gay family members and gay priests. None of my gay family members would ever harm a child or condone any sort of activity with a minor. The gay priests I know (and I am sure we have many in our saintly canon, too) are downright heroic men, working with the poor, serving the church both on the streets and on the altar. I wonder if worrying too much about the "fight with inclinations" does not give short shrift to the notion of grace? admin]

  • roc scssrs

    I also think Ed Donohue is bringing up a point that very much needed to be brought up. I’m sure there are many gay priests who serve faithfully, but one should acknowledge the temptation to abuse is there in a very strong way, mainly with adolescent males. I think the statistics bear this out. 70-80% is the figure I’ve seen also. But PC requires we say there is no special problem. This creates a dilemma for those people who simply want to bash the Church. They excoriate the Church for not taking strong preventive measures, but at the same time they’re fine with gay Scoutmasters or schoolteachers.

  • M. Whittaker

    I did read the piece through, including the headline, which I presume articulates pithily the main point you’re trying to convey — pedophilia shouldn’t be conflated with homosexuality.

    Now, what you quote from Fr. Martin, calling it a “truth,” also articulates the point, but it isn’t he who is the author. What Fr. Martin says is that the experts — “reputable psychologist[s] and psychiatrist[s]” — make the point, too. His is an argument relying on the prestige of others. Presumably — and, in fact — because he lacks the training or experience or data to make the point authoritatively himself.

    You do, indeed, criticize his method of argument because you don’t trust the prestige of his experts, both earlier in the piece (as I pointed out) and later (as you yourself point out in response to me).
    But that vitiates your characterizing his argument as a “truth,” and more to the point, subtracts credence from the headline proposition that pedophilia and homosexuality shouldn’t be conflated.

    Fr. Martin agrees with that proposition, but isn’t confident to offer it on his own authority. You knock the pegs out of the authorities he relies on, but still say we should rely on him, and ultimately — because the piece is intended to be a little suasoria — that we should agree with you. And I’m inclined to. But why exactly?

    [Good point. I was being too pithy with the word "truth." I will fix that. I do think anyone making an argument using the "studies" of the psychoanalytical community needs to do so very carefully. To mention them is one thing; to take them as proof is another. What I might take as proof though (using the studies to bolster, but not "make" the case) would be my own life-experiences and personal knowledge of this issue, and my own common sense, which tells me that the vast majority of abuse takes place in the home (and a great deal more at schools than most want to acknowledge) by people who are neither celibate, nor gay. Molesters come in all venues, in all orientations, in all states of life (married or not). No one thinking critically about this issue can assert that there are no cases of abuse among gay clergy -Martin himself does not make such an assertion- but to overemphasize same is to ignore one of the parts of the ugly trinity of abuse: power/control/opportunity. There was much more opportunity to molest trusting boys than girls several decades ago. I fear that simply "blaming the gay priests" does a terrible disservice to those priests who are perhaps so-inclined, but wholly faithful to their vows, in the same way that others looking with suspicion on all priests, due to the actions of a minority, would rather look there, than address the larger -really global- problem of child sexual abuse run rampant. It seems like one of those Russian dolls. The problem exists everywhere, but the Times wants to open the next doll and just focus on the church. Some in the church want to open the next doll and focus on the homosexual priests. Finally we get down to the smallest doll...what does it mean? I think Martin's suggestion that Catholics come to terms, openly and honestly, with the number of gay priests out there who are holy and faithful is not a bad one. I doubt we're ready for it, though! :-) admin]

  • Jeff

    I agree that there is an exasperating tendency in all of these articles to reduce a person’s being to their sexual orientation. This is wrong. But Donahue is correct that the number of priests with homosexual inclinations (which is terribly disordered) grew to crisis proportions after Vatican II. We need not recall what the “Lavender Mafia” is or was, or how many young men with heterosexual desires were put off from joining the priesthood because of the perception, correct in many cases, that the priesthood had become a religion club for men with homosexual desires. This is why screening has increased today, and many who made it in the last 40 years would not make it in now.

  • archangel

    One last bit to chew on. I’ll leave it at this…

    The abomination has entered the Holy place. I trust you’ll catch the reference.

    Biblically, the reference to “abomination” refers to the diabolical/pagan sacrifice of children as well as sodomy. The “Holy place” refers allegorically to the holiest part of the temple. Jesus replaced the temple with His body… the church is called the “Body of Christ”.

    We all fight our inclinations and those who have taken the sacred vows and received the sacrament of Holy Orders are all human. Grace can never be minimized. However, some temptations are more diabolical than others. It seems to me that Jesus realized this and knew that this exact situation was to occur. When He asked that the children be allowed to come to Him, He let out a very stern warning as to their care.

    Be it through abortion or sodomistic rape, it is clear that the church was ill-advised to allow certain individuals into the seminaries. The ones who have overcome their inclinations are truly blessed and should give thanks for the grace bestowed upon them. It does not however, change the facts that as a whole these types of individuals have wrought great damage to the Body of Christ and its clear that only Christ Himself can repair the damage.

    This, IMO, is the church’s gravest hour for the attacks are not upon the “body” of the church but her very soul.

  • Brian English

    “As with every ordination, it comes down to the man, himself: is he faithful or not? It seems to me that is all that matters. -admin]”

    I believe it was Father Neuhaus who wrote something like: “It is not the nature of the temptation resisted, but the fidelity of the resistance, that is important.”

  • Jeff

    See but that would indicate that it is OK to ordain men with inclinations to fondle young boys or teenagers – - provided that they resist the temptation “faithfully.” Anyone with a modicum of human experience knows that the odds of that happening are a very low order of probability. Some men just shouldn’t be ordained; they can serve God in other ways, in the same way that some people cannot be Navy SEALS. It doesn’t mean that the Navy SEALS are being mean or intolerant.

    [Are you saying that all gay men have inclinations to "fondle young boys or teenagers..." Then I guess all heterosexual men have inclinations to "fondle young girls or teenagers?" They ALL have these inclinations? -admin]

  • Klaire

    Elizabeth I too have to disagree with you on the downplaying of homosexuality. I also have gay relatives whom I love who would never hurt a flea, but the reality is, much of this abuse WAS acts homosexuality.

    It matters not only that homosexual sex is a sin, but as a culture we celebate it. The more we celebrate it, the more we are “too politically correct” to talk about it, the more it becomes accepted into our society, destroying marriage, the family, Catholic adoption agencies, and dare I even say, being or remaining a part of the problem of sexual abuse.

    Why would you bend over backwards to protect “chaste homosexual priests (which I also agree there are probably many), while in doing so, keeping the stigma on the 97% of innocent hetosexual celibate priests? Don’t you think they get weary of being “pointed at” by all of society thinking they are “child molesters.”

    Speaking of pointing fingers, you totally lost me on that one, unless I am missing something in your writing. I know you know we are to judge actions, just not hearts or condemn, so it’s a total enigma to me why you wrote such a thing.

    I would even go so far to say that judging actions, like homsexual sex, is what we, especially catholics, need to be doing more of.

    Lastly, I see this as a great teaching moment, a great opportunity for our PC society to say “whoa…if the majority of the church abuse xases were homosexual in nature, maybe we SHOULD rethink same sex marriage as “the norm.”

    I’m all for “loving the sinner”, hate the sin, but I’ve also had my fill of the tip toeing around realty.

    Gay sex is a serious problem in this culture, and to think we are throwing anyone “under the bus” but calling attention to it is IMO, not living in reality, and being complicit in the consequences.

    As for Bil Donohue, I wouldn’t have gone on Larry King or with Sined O’Connor, but like or not, he often is a courageous needed voice, especially when some of our own bishops are silent.

  • Christine

    I wonder too about the issue of homosexuality and pederasty. When I go to Barnes and Noble and I look at the magazines I am amazed by how young the models for gay magazines made to look. Generally in fashion magazines for either men or women, the young people they use are dressed and made-up to look older than their young age, but the opposite is true in magazines for gay males. The beefcake is definitely photographed to look like young pubescent boys of 15.

    How do you fully separate that from pederasty? Men are very visual creatures and these photos obviously spark desire in some. Does this lust amount to wanting control?

    I have never really bought the idea that rape or child molestation have everything to do with control over another person. I believe that control is a componant, but some people just have disordered sexual appetites and sensibilities so egocentric that using others to fulfill their desires no matter the cost to the other, is acceptable to them.

  • Jeff

    I agree with Christine. Sexual misconduct has to do with lust, the desire for pleasure, first and foremost. This “power and control” thing comes from radical anti-male feminism of the 70s.

    Surely one reason altar boys used to be boys, apart from the all-male priesthood, was the corollary that having young women around celibate heterosexual men was not a good idea. But now we have both! Wonderful. Priests with homosexual inclinations around boys, and heterosexual priests around young women. The Devil handled this one masterfully.

  • kt

    I am so very tired of catholic bloggers piling on Donohue and “cringing” at everything the man writes. I appreciate his forthrightness and his willingness to make right-thinking people cringe. Go Donohue.

    [Well, in fairness to me, I think I was pretty fair to Donohue. :-) I gave him points for the ad, and hitting many marks with limited space. But I do think I (or anyone) can legitimately disagree with him, without being accused of "piling on." It is strange, but it seems like for some, anything less than absolute praise gets seen as damnation. -admin]

  • Jeff

    Re Anchoress comment, no. I was responding to the prior post that all that really mattered in a priest was resisting temptation, regardless of the nature of the temptation resisted. If you are asking whether a celibate male priest at 25 years old might be attracted to a 16 year old “altar girl,” hmm yeah, that is definitely within the realm of possibility. The point is that the Church views the homosexual inclination as a grave disorder (to use Cardinal Ratzinger’s words), and this rush to minimize the problem of homosexuality within the clergy is a huge mistake.

    [I don't know that it is a "rush to minimize." I think it is simply trying to be fair that all gay priests are not tarred with one brush, just as I want to make sure that all priests are not tarred with a single brush (I have a cousin who is a priest; I know all about the abuse that gets hurled at them, daily), just as I want to make sure that victims are not forgotten, just as I want to make sure that Benedict gets a fair hearing, and not a tarring, either. Think of it like Abu Ghraib. Terrible story that tarred all soldiers. Then it began to focus on the females involved. That created some talk about whether females should be put in leadership positions in the armed forces etc....Abu Ghraib happened because the people in authority did not clamp down when things went wrong. Much can be said of our troubles. Had unfaithful priests -who'd gone after males or females- been promptly pulled from ministry and offered laicization or ministry away from the general public, we would not be in this mess today. -admin]

  • Jeff

    Fair enough. All I’m saying is that I’d love to fly 747s over the Atlantic, but my vision is not right, so I can’t. This doesn’t mean the airlines are being short-sighted (excuse the pun) or that I am not a great guy. It just means that I can’t captain a 747 across the Atlantic. I’m trying to look forward and how we can best keep this situation from repeating.

    [Yeah...I always wished I could be a dancer, but between the stumpy legs, the utter lack of rhythm and the general gracelessness....sigh. :-) -admin]

  • Joe

    How come you make so much sense all the time? You outdid yourself with this posting.

  • Joe

    I was directing that comment to the Anchoress, of course.

  • Jeff

    Shoot I thought you were directing it at me. My keen insights occasionally startle me.

  • Jeff

    my last word is that the Lion of Judah will prevail. I’ll take the Lion of Judah over the fallen roaring lion any day.

  • Matthew K

    How can anyone have a problem with St. Thomas More?

  • jm

    As a gay man, I want to thank you, Madame Anchoress, for your candid and insightful posting.

    As a young man in the 1990s, I was told by quite a number of people (mostly Catholic relatives) that my sexual orientation was a sign from God that I should become a priest, because there was no opportunity for a sin-free sexual life for me.

    I have often felt inspired by those priests whom I thought might be gay. Readers, please do not disparage them. Many sincerely believe this is their calling, and they have sacrificed much for our good.

  • Mark

    Donahue is implying that the Church’s main problem is not its own actions and cover-ups, but the insidious infiltration of homosexuals into its clergy. Of course, he acknowledges — who would not? — that pedophilia is an abomination. But he emphasizes that most cases of abuse concern pubescent boys, which he views as homosexuality.

    If a priest has sex with a pubescent 14 year old girl, will Donahue then blame heterosexuality?

    He is, frankly, a well-meaning fool. There is a subset of men, both homo- and heterosexual,
    who are emotionally stunted, insecure, and afraid to have sex with adults. They need to feel sexually powerful. And they prey upon children and adolescents. And in the culture at large many more are heterosexuals than homosexuals, simply because homosexuals are a minority.

    This has little to do with sexual preference. It has everything to do with power and childish narcissism.

    The Church attracts more than its share of pedophiles and pederasts who happen to be homosexual in leaning simply because its clergy is a group of celibate men. In all likelihood — and this is poignant — many eventual offenders become priests in the hope of suppressing their illicit desires. Many homosexuals who do nothing wrong also join the Church partly as a way to avoid the mainstream’s expectation that a man should marry. Many a good boy who could never have created or supported a family has pleased Mom nonetheless by becoming a priest.

    It is an impossible dream to imagine that the Church, if it insists upon celibacy, can do without homosexuals. The shortage of priests is already huge, and now even Ireland is contributing only a handful. You will find very very few normal heterosexuals — there will of course be some who are normal, but also many who are sexually insecure heterosexuals — to join the Church in the future.

    You might say, well, how horrible that you emphasize sex and not calling in the choice of how to spend one’s life. Well, saints excepted, we all have many complex and not entirely spiritual motives for what we do. But okay, what of the calling, what of the desire for a spiritual vocation?

    My answer would be that you are asking this of young men of normal sexual desire just when they are most susceptible to worldly love. And there are many other areas in which they can make a contribution. Those among them with idealistic and spiritual aspirations will find other organizations that allow them to serve while also not denying them their God-given erotic natures. In short, fewer and fewer of the people the Church really wants will come to the Church, until the Church conveys that it better understands our sexual natures.

  • PatrickH

    It is true that there is no connection between homosexuality and pedophilia proper. But there is a connection between being a man and being attracted to youth and beauty. Michael Kennedy, on whom the blessed trees took their just vengeance, had sex with a fifteen year old girl. He was not considered a pedophile, just a very bad heterosexual man. There is nothing pedophiliac about being attracted to teenagers…they’ve been getting married and having children for most of human history now. But there is something manly about it, and homosexuals are men, after all.

    And of course the connection of pedophilia and homosexuality has been reinforced precisely by those who have been claiming that sex with teenagers is pedophilia. Since most of the teenage victims have been boys, the pavlovian association has been reinforced by the very denials of homosexuality as a factor and the repeated and specious invocation of pedophilia, a deeply aberrant deformation of the psyche. Child rape is far far worse than statutory rape, isn’t it?

    And sex is about lust and pleasure far more than it is about power. Especially when it involves teenagers. We protect teenagers from sexual predation by adults not because they are children, but because they are physically ready for sex without being emotionally so. Sex = power is feminist folderol.

  • Patrick Of Atlantis

    Why does the Catholic League pay money to the anti-Christ New York Times?

  • Mark

    Patrick, I cannot agree that the equation Sex=power is just feminist folderol. As a universal expression of what sex is, the equation is of course ridiculous. But it does describe certain sexual relationships. Sex can be so many different things; it has so many aspects. (Something the Church does not always understand.) At its root, of course, is pleasure, desire and sometimes lust. But its expression can range from the sweetest soul-warming love to the coldest cruelty and assertion of power. Any heterosexual 30 year old emotionally adult man, looking at a beautiful 14 year old girl, might feel a moment’s attraction. But an emotionally adult 30 year old does not act on his desire. An immature 30 year old man, insecure about his own sexuality and afraid of adult sexual love with a strong woman, might well prey upon the 14 year old. In his case, the pleasure of sex is inextricably fused with power — and the need to feel powerful.

    It is easy to understand that violent rape is an expression of sex=power. But an adult who has sex with an adolescent is also on a power trip that, very often, will leave the adolescent a psychological wreck.

  • Jeff

    Mark, the Church doesn’t need instruction from you on the complexities of human sexuality. The Church is an “expert in humanity,” and has far more experience than you regarding the human sex drive. And it is feminist folderol to say that sexual abuse is about power and control.

    One reason why there is such a shortage of priests today (not that I see any lines at your average confessional), is that heterosexual males were so put off by the number of homosexuals in the clergy. This is the problem.

  • Mark

    Jeff, I would hope that a Church of such age and standing would have more experience than I do about the human sex drive. And surely the ideal Church does. In practice, however, the Church that we do have is sorely and obviously wanting on these matters.

    The Church need not bend with social fashion, but it should surely listen more to the laity about sexual questions and display, on its part, more humility about an element of life that the laity knows personally and its priests (good priests) know only abstractly.

    We will just have to disagree, I suppose, on the issue of whether or not sexual abuse is about power and control.

  • jh

    “The Church need not bend with social fashion, but it should surely listen more to the laity about sexual questions and display, on its part, more humility about an element of life that the laity knows personally and its priests (good priests) know only abstractly.”

    The Laity seems to have a split personality on this. It currently is saying ti si horririfed that teenagers and Priests had sex but then it very much operates in the world and in fact endorses a SEXUALIZATION of childen. We see their approval in the movie, in the media, and in ads. The Ad people knows what sells and what people like

  • jeff

    It is silly to say that sex abuse is only about power or only about pleasure.It is clear that there is an element of physical pleasure derived by most abusers. It is likely that at least part of their arousal is do to the feeling of power over another. Therefore; Sex and Abuse. Right there in the term.
    I applaud you, Anchoress, for your illumination of the Church’s subjugation of it’s concern for sin and innocence to the trend of psychological treatment. This appears to be the main cause for the horrid continuation of victimization which taints the Church in this scandal.
    Unfortunately I must respectfully disagree about the homosexual aspect. The same trendiness which the Church embraced placing modern psychology over justice is the same trendiness which caused them to place compassion over prudence in the lifting of the ban on homosexuals in the priesthood.
    And it is the case that this scandal concerns homosexual priests. Simply citing one instance of a molester equally disposed to abuse either sex is not a strong argument. Even the argument that it was a matter of access that caused the victims to be male is not very convincing considering the cleverness of the average victimizer, the trust given to priests and the fact that many cases of abuse occurred in confessionals.
    Pederasty is a part of what we now call the homosexual community. There is no heterosexual equivalent to NAMBLA, marching in parades and pushing for the legalizing of sex with young girls. Homosexuals themselves relate tales of molestation by men as children in great numbers.
    Homosexuals should not be allowed in the priesthood.

  • Jeff

    The point really is that it is a mistake to conflate an ordered desire, i.e., heterosexuality, with a disordered desire, i.e., homosexuality. They are not on the same plane, though there are more than a few suggesting that these two drives among the clergy are really indistinguishable provided that no one acts on them. This is wrong. This entry on the Lavender Mafia in Wikipedia makes echoes some of the points discussed earlier:

    Cozzens describes “a heterosexual exodus from the priesthood”, and claims this is partially because of unrestrained gay subcultures in some seminaries, which puts potential heterosexual seminarians off from joining the priesthood.[8]. Randy Engel documents the history of homosexuality in the Catholic Church and the Vatican.[9] Michael S. Rose describes how discrimination operates against people who are heterosexual, including screening out genuine candidates with traditionalist views in favour of those with progressive views.[10].

  • jeff F.

    That last is mine. I’ve been plagued with multiple jeffs my entire life.
    One more point-
    You say that the diagnosis of “needs therapy” might have been the worldly answer and that “must not minister” might have been the spiritual one. Prior to 60s, the diagnosis of homosexuals in general was,”needs therapy” and only a vote changed that. It is only prudent to wonder if “must not minister” should apply there as well.
    I love your writing and your devotion.

  • SKAY

    “They excoriate the Church for not taking strong preventive measures, but at the same time they’re fine with gay Scoutmasters or schoolteachers.”

    Exactly – and-they then excoriate the Church for it’s stand on homosexuality and gay marriage.

    It seems to me that the organization, NAMBLA, is all about homosexuality and pedophilia.

  • Brian English

    “Homosexuals should not be allowed in the priesthood.”

    Here is the Catechism on homosexuality:

    “Chastity and homosexuality

    2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,141 tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

    2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

    2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.”

    In light of this, how can you advocate an absolute ban from the priesthood?

  • Last Sphere

    (If a priest has sex with a pubescent 14 year old girl, will Donahue then blame heterosexuality?)

    You’re missing the relevant point here Mark; 80-81% of the victims were male.

    Why? Obviously there were either a higher percentage of homosexuals recruited for the priesthood, or, homosexual priests had a higher predisposition or inclination towards abuse.

    So which factor was it? Or was it a little of both?

    And most importantly, what recruiting standards led to such a crop of maladjusted individuals? One can only conclude by the gender and age of the victims that homosexuality loomed large as a contributing element in this scandal. If alcohol were the predominate factor here would we be amiss to focus our examination on alcoholism? To ignore this aspect is not only disingenuous, it is dangerous.

    Political Correctness in this modern culture of death has no place in The Roman Catholic Church, which is ultimately The Body Of Christ on Earth. Remember, the devil’s favorite color is not black nor white- it’s gray.

  • J

    Check out St. John’s seminary in Boston….then get back to me about the nonsense that these are not predominantly homosexuals preying on young men. If you do not inform yourself, it is easy to ignore what is going on…..we cannot afford to do that. This seminary was a nest of homosexuals training priests and sending them out to hurt the young.

  • Doc

    The Lavender Mafia controlled an alarming number of seminaries in this country. Catholic World Report did some outstanding reporting on the abuse scandal several years ago, and I still recall one letter to the magazine detailing how the correspondent was driven from a seminary by the aggressive homosexuals in charge simply because he refused to participate in their filth. Anchoress, I don’t see how you can argue that gay priests don’t severely damage the Catholic Church. There is too much evidence that overwhelms your personal experience.

  • Last Sphere

    Homosexuality is a grave disorder. When ANY grave disorder is acted upon doesn’t it usually lead to evermore serious sin?

    If the alcoholic act’s upon his specific brokenness- doesn’t it usually lead to further sin?

    I take with a huge grain of salt the current politically-motivated “psychology” that emphatically states that homosexuality does not lead to a higher likelihood of pedophilia and pederasty.

    “It seems a pity that psychology has destroyed all our knowledge of human nature.” -G.K.Chesterton

  • Darryl

    Most of the abuse cases involved priests and sexually mature young boys. This is homosexuality by most definitions.

    To be sure, there were hetersexual priests who preyed upon sexually mature young girls, but this was much more rare.

    The big question is: Why are homosexual priests more likely to be unchaste? And what percentage of gay priests abused children?

    We need to remember that homosexuality is a disordered orientation. It is not natural to want to partake in mortal sins. While some would say they know wonderful and outstanding gay priests, I’d be uneasy at best. Such a disordered orientation is an BIG weakness, and an attrative one at that for Satan to exploit. A bigger burden than most of us bear. Certainly, with participation in God’s grace, a gay priest can resist, but the sad facts of the scandal show that Satan had a pretty good success rate.

    Rome wisely instructed seminaries to exclude homosexual men.

  • Mark

    These are not homosexuals in general preying upon young men. These are homosexuals with a particular disorder preying upon young men.

    There are heterosexuals with a similar disorder who prey upon young women. Would you then say all heterosexuals prey upon young women?

    Obviously, the Church’s main problem lies with homosexual predators (though I personally know a woman who was horribly abused by a priest). One reason is that heterosexual predators have much better options elsewhere. The Church has made great strides recently in ensuring that sexual abuse will not occur among priests in general. Sexual predators, homosexual and heterosexual alike, are now much less likely than they were once to enter seminary.

  • Last Sphere

    (One of my favorite friends a transsexual woman who used to be an Air Force guy, and is quite the Lutheran scholar.)

    Anchoress, I’m afraid Pope Benedict XVI would disagree with your reference to your friend as “she”.

    “Without actually using the word, Benedict took a subtle swipe at those who might undergo sex-change operations or otherwise attempt to alter their God-given gender. Defend “the nature of man against its manipulation,” Benedict told the priests, bishops and cardinals gathered Monday in the ornate Clementine hall. “The Church speaks of the human being as man and woman, and asks that this order is respected.” The Pope again denounced the contemporary idea that gender is a malleable definition. That path, he said, leads to a “self-emancipation of man from creation and the Creator.”

    Read more: link.

    [I was waiting for someone, of course, to say this. I do not argue with the church's teaching. But I look at the person before me and understand that my judgment is unnecessary; the person before me -like me- is walking a journey to God, and they work it out together, in the end. All I am called to do, then, is love. -admin]

  • Olaf

    I was disappointed but not surprised by your post. The same premises are also becoming more common throughout protestant thinking, including evangelicals; namely that there is such a thing as a homosexual nature. God created these people this way. Once this is conceded, there seems to be no rationale for claiming homosexual acts are grave evil.

  • kt

    It is a statistical fact that most of the catholic clerical abuse was against boys. I’m mystified, therefore, by criticism of Donohue for calling this a homosexual crisis. The fact that you have gay male friends who are fabulous human beings (who doesn’t?) is irrelevant.

    It is also a fact that there is also a glorification of notably boyish looks and figures in a huge subset of the male homosexual community. To deny this is folly. let’s get real.

  • Last Sphere

    (These are not homosexuals in general preying upon young men. These are homosexuals with a particular disorder preying upon young men.)

    Mark- homosexuality IS a disorder. In fact it is a GRAVE disorder. You seem to be reluctant to admit that.

    When any grave disorder is acted upon doesn’t it usually lead to more serous sin?

    If an alcoholic acts upon his disorder, doesn’t it usually lead to more serious sin?

    (There are heterosexuals with a similar disorder who prey upon young women. Would you then say all heterosexuals prey upon young women?)

    First of all heterosexuality is NOT a disorder. Preying on young women is. Therefore no logical correlation exists between the two.

    But again Mark, in THIS PARTICULAR CASE 80-81% of the victims WERE MALE. Were these priests heterosexual in your estimation? Is it not logical to conclude in this case that a grave disorder led to gravely sinful acts?

    [When you post frequently and in a short space of time, everything ends up in the Spam filter; comments are moderated; it is unnecessary to post your comment more than once. I don't check my spam filter everyday. -admin]