James Martin, S.J.November 18, 2009

David Gibson at Politics Daily has the story of what the US Bishops Conference heard yesterday at their national meeting from a "sweeping study" conducted by John Jay College.

[Preliminary] results from a sweeping study of sexual abuse in the priesthood show that the Catholic Church has been much like the rest of society in terms of the incidence of abuse and the response by its institutional leaders.

The data, which was presented to the U.S. hierarchy on the second day of their annual meeting here, also appears to contradict the widely held view that homosexuals in the priesthood were largely responsible for the abuse.

"What we are suggesting is that the idea of sexual identity be separated from the problem of sexual abuse," said Margaret Smith, a researcher from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, which is conducting an independent study of sexual abuse in the priesthood from 1950 up to 2002. "At this point, we do not find a connection between homosexual identity and an increased likelihood of sexual abuse."


When asked by a bishop at Tuesday's meeting whether homosexuality should be a factor in excluding men from the seminary, Smith responded, "If that exclusion were based on the fact that that person would be more probable than any other candidate to abuse, we do not find that at this time."

The John Jay study was commissioned by a blue-ribbon board of Catholic lay people in November 2005 with the goal of exploring and explaining exactly why the abuse occurred. An earlier study commissioned by the board, with the cooperation of the bishops, found that more than 6,700 victims were molested by nearly 4,400 priests over the five decades surveyed; that represents about 4 percent of all the priests who served in the United States over that time. The "causes and context" study, as it is known, is scheduled to be completed by next fall.  --Gibson

Read the rest of the piece here

Let's hope that this study helps the bishops to continue their work in combating sexual abuse in the priesthood, and also begins to bring to a close the false conflation of homosexuality and pedophilia, and the vilification of celibate gay priests.

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Jack Marth
11 years 11 months ago
The presentation of this report was very compelling.  The two women from John Jay who presented the report were excellent and professional - models of intelligent leadership, one might say.  The contrast between these two women in front of the all male assembly of bishop could not be more compelling.  It was a snapshot that symblized the ongoing harm we do to our Church by excluding women from leadership positions.  The only voters, the only people with any real power at the USCCB, of course, are bishops.  Putting aside the issue of the ordination of women - the time has come to find a way to give women real authority and power.  This ongoing exclusion is a scandal.
Of course there is no connection between sexual orientation and abuse.  The horrid scandal of clergy abuse forced the bishops to hand some power over to objective fact-finders and now they are stuck with an honest appraisal.  Hopefully they will change their behavior when it comes to accepting not only openly gay priests but all gay Catholics.
11 years 11 months ago
Too late. The seminaries were already purged. It amazes me how few people are aware of this. It happened over the past three years. It was especially cruel. And during the apostolic vistations, seminary administrators were warned in no uncertain terms that they must not have any homosexual seminarians even if those men are completely celibate and psychologically well-adjusted. Some remain in the pipeline-those who have not been vigorously hunted-but they are scared. The whole thing is as cruel as it is unnecessary, as this study clearly proves.
Jim McCrea
11 years 11 months ago
As if logic and facts have anything to do with church decisions -
This will be "explained" away under Cdl. George's authority of "because we say so, that's why" and roundly ignored because it doesn't support predetermined ideas that have been publicly stated.  Now the lowerarchy would have to admit error - fat chance of THAT happening!
Eric Stoltz
11 years 11 months ago
This is a welcome development. Certainly there are many rational bishops who know gay priests are not the problem who will welcome this study as confirming what they already knew.
Unfortunately the study will not pacify the far right. They will dismiss the study as they do every other study on homosexuality that does not fit in with their preconceived notions (in other words, the dismiss *every* study on homosexuality). This is because they view science in general as a dangerous threat to their beliefs.
So bravo to the bishops for undertaking the study. I hope they take its findings to heart and will find the courage to ignore those on the right who will ignore science and continue to blame gays for whatever goes wrong in the Church.
Bruce Cory
11 years 11 months ago
Not only were many with ''deep seated homosexual tendencies'' purged from the seminaries, but I would also suspect that many men who felt called to ministry, but experienced same-sex attractions, chose either not to answer that call or went elsewhere to answer that call (i.e., Episcopalian or Independent Catholic).  It is one thing to demand that persons with same-sex attractions remain celibate, but when Rome states these persons cannot enter seminary because they are unable to remain celibate, don't they see the contradiction in this statement?
I also want to say that I have been, and continue to be, heartbroken by the way priests who may have a homosexual orientation are placed in the same category as the pedophile priests.  I have known several priests with homosexual orientations.  These have been faithful examples of priesthood.  Yes, I have also known a few ''rogue'' types, but these are also found among the heterosexually oriented priests, and have been the minority.  The orientation is not the issue, it is emotional maturity and formation in self-control.  Banning men with same sex attractions does not solve the problem.  Only improved formation and support for the priest will help.
Anne Danielson
11 years 11 months ago
A celibate ''gay'' priest would be an oxymoron. The word ''gay'',''heterosexual'',''homosexual'', etc. refer to sexual attraction. To define someone or oneself according to sexual attraction is in direct conflict with Christ's teaching regarding the sin of adultery.

The issue has to do with the ability to Love one another. Love requires that we treat one another with Dignity and Respect. The only orientation we should have, is one that is oriented towards the Will of God, Who Is Love, to begin with.
C Culbertson
11 years 11 months ago
In looking for the study itself, so far I have found (http://www.jjay.cuny.edu/churchstudy/main.asp) and (http://www.usccb.org/ocyp/JohnJayReport.pdf), but is there something more recent than these that reflects what was presented yesterday?  Maybe the word 'preliminary' is throwing me off.  Thanks.
11 years 11 months ago
I would refer readers to an interesting article published in Inside the Vatican in 2005 titled:

“Gay” Priest: An Oxymoron
“It’s not about you. It’s about the Church and the good of the Church”

- by John Mallon, Contributing Editor, Inside the Vatican

11 years 11 months ago
An excerpt from Malllon's article to peak your interest:

"If vows of chastity were being kept, there would be no issue. This is not a matter of scapegoating or a witch hunt. Active homosexuality in the priesthood or the seminary is a scandal all by itself. Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times recently quoted our old friend Rev. Thomas J. Reese, SJ, former editor of the Jesuit Weekly America magazine, saying that with the shortage of priests, the Church can hardly afford to dismiss gay seminarians.

What are you telling us, Father? That the priesthood is a numbers game? That fidelity to Christ and the doctrine of His Church should be dropped so we can have lots of priests to preach the resultant compromised Gospel? That the priesthood of Jesus Christ cannot survive without homosexuals? That in time we won’t work our way out of the humiliating scandals caused by “gay” priests demanding their “rights”?

It is more likely that men with a serious interest in prayer, pursuing holiness and serving Christ will no longer be run out of the seminary by dissent and homosexual hazing.

Reese continues, “It’s much healthier if a seminarian can talk about his sexuality with a spiritual director, but this kind of policy is going to force it all underground.” The attitude of these Jesuits and other clerics making comments to the secular press seems to be that the Church and priesthood is their own private bathhouse and the Pope has a lot of nerve to impose Catholicism on them."
Eric Stoltz
11 years 11 months ago
Maria: Homosexual hazing?  Really? Making the priesthood a bathhouse?
There is a problem with this ''death-panel'' mode of discourse, where one literally makes stuff up and then attacks it. You claim to be defending us from some unimaginable horror, but it's really just a horror you made up a sentence before.
Of course you think this is reasonable because you think all gays are fire-breathing hedonists who roam the streets rapaciously recruiting terrified young men into a life of sexual abandon. But you are living in a world of 1950s pulp novels that never existed.
Perhaps your time would be better spent advocating against the dangers of zombie priests. At least that would be entertaining.
11 years 11 months ago
Even the editors of Commonweal write:

At least in this regard, Rome's concerns are not entirely misplaced. It is no secret that something went terribly wrong in U.S. seminaries in the late 1960s, the 1970s, and even into the 1980s. Both gay and straight priests, as well as former seminarians, acknowledge that, as many priests left to marry, the proportion of priests who were gay increased dramatically, and in some places, gay subcultures flourished. What role this breakdown in discipline and morality played in the sexual abuse of minors is not clear, but the idea that it played no role in a pattern of abuse in which 80 percent of the victims were male is untenable.

William Lindsey
11 years 11 months ago
Fr. Martin, thank you for your concern to safeguard respectful and honest dialogue about these issues.
You ask, "Can we talk about homosexuality without injecting venom and contumely into the discussion?  Can we treat gays and lesbians with, as the Catechism says, respect, sensitivity and compassion?"
Sad to say, after following and participating in some of these conversations on Catholic blogs, I have come to the conclusion that what some of my brothers and sisters want most of all is to inject venom and contumely into the conversation - and into the souls of their gay brothers and sisters, whenever possible.
Respect doesn't seem to enter the picture, often.
11 years 11 months ago
With regard to the vilification of " gay priests ":


Respect for the souls of others: scandal

2284 Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor's tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense.

2285 Scandal takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those who are scandalized. It prompted our Lord to utter this curse: "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea."85 Scandal is grave when given by those who by nature or office are obliged to teach and educate others. Jesus reproaches the scribes and Pharisees on this account: he likens them to wolves in sheep's clothing.86

2286 Scandal can be provoked by laws or institutions, by fashion or opinion.

Therefore, they are guilty of scandal who establish laws or social structures leading to the decline of morals and the corruption of religious practice, or to "social conditions that, intentionally or not, make Christian conduct and obedience to the Commandments difficult and practically impossible."87 This is also true of business leaders who make rules encouraging fraud, teachers who provoke their children to anger,88 or manipulators of public opinion who turn it away from moral values.

2287 Anyone who uses the power at his disposal in such a way that it leads others to do wrong becomes guilty of scandal and responsible for the evil that he has directly or indirectly encouraged. "Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come!"

Hence what you refer to as injecting " contumely " into the conversation. How about a little respect, sensitivity and compassion for the Holy Mother Church, Padre? Or is this contumely?

Fran Rossi Szpylczyn
11 years 11 months ago
Fr. Jim, I laud you for your efforts with this and with your other post and with so many good works. While I did not see the comments that were taken down, I can just imagine. Just today I got into more of a heated conversation than I normally care to on another blog, but on this topic.
The lack of civility towards homosexual persons is appalling. I use the word person quite deliberately as the dignity of each human person is at the heart of our Roman Catholic faith, or at least should be.
For what it is worth, I am a heterosexual. That said, my faith has been greatly enriched by fellowship with many other Catholics and other Christians, many of whom are gay. In fact, my own reluctant return to the Church after an 18 year absence was influenced (more than I realized at the time) by a gay male friend.
The continued reduction of sexuality as sex acts does not serve the dignity of the human person. The continued canard of the abuse issues being a "homosexual problem" is an insult to any of us who were abused. No my perpetrator was *not* a priest  and he was not a homosexual, but his need to feed his complusion did not differentiate what children he preyed upon.
Crimes of sexual power are not necessarily those of orientation. It has taken me a lifetime to heal and in my healing I cannot tolerate those who want to paint a broadstroke of a complex issue.
11 years 11 months ago
Why am I constantly getting censored on this blog?  Sure I may have had one or two post that were a bit "fresh" in the line of questioning; however, the majority have been on topic and the last post was simply point out that there are much more important topics to focus on (esp. considering the absymal state of society in term of culture and economics) than homosexuality.
I agree that homosexuals shoudl be treated with respect but this respect includes informing them of the truth of revelation, natural law and church doctrine.  To do otherwise, to withhold the truth - a common practice in our current culture - it the true sign of disrespect and is dehumanizing.
This is not personal, Fr. Martin, I simply find it strange that you can use this blog to question (many times indirectly) the basics of Catholic theology and then delte any responses that question your particular line of thought or the motivation behind the ideas that you seem to encourage.
Should it not go both ways?  If you can quesiton the leaders of the Church can I not question you?  Is this a one-way street?  Do you call for accountablity for bishops but not on your own blog? 
11 years 11 months ago
That last one was me.
Terence Weldon
11 years 11 months ago
I noted above that no research has shown a link between homosexuality and clerical abuse, and that because of under reporting, the figures being used by the bishops are likely to be a significant underestimate.  The problem is a severe one, but the only significant response by the church so far has been to address what is not a factor - to discourage the recruitment of openly gay priests.  What are the real causes, that need to be addressed with the utmost urgency? I have been exploring and writing about this in an extended series of posts at http://queeringthechurch.wordpress.com, and find that most researchers are agreed on the fundamental issues, which all lie deeply embedded in the church itself, in its structure, systems and methods. 
The first analysis of the problem I read was an important book by Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, retired Archbishop of Sydney, who was for a time the key person on the Australian bishops' conference dealing with this problem in that country.  He found his investigations so devastating to himself personally that at the conclusion of his investigation, he chose to retire, specifically to give himself the freedom to write about the problem objectively, without fear of reprisals. Later, I became aware of the work  of Richard Sipe and other writers, and found that while sometimes differing on details of the words they use, pretty well all are agreed on the nature of the key problems.  These are the excessive concentration (and abuse) of church power: inappropriate methods of selection and training of candidates for the priesthood, and compulsory celibacy. These of course, are all interrelated, and reinforce each other.
The concentration of power, by the Vatican over local bishops, and by bishops over local priests, scares off many well-adjusted potential candidates from ever applying.  In turn, the experience at the receiving end of that power during seminary training conditions seminarians at best into adopting the same attitude to exercising similar power over the members of their congregations (inappropriately, but widely described as their “flocks”.) At worst, they may find themselves victims of sexual predators among the seminary staff – thus setting up a pattern they will all to easily follow themselves later. Their victims in the congregations, long indoctrinated into seeing the clergy as mini-gods, arbiters of morality for all entrusted to their pastoral may find it difficult to resist sexual pressures, and even more difficult to get their parents or other adults to take their complaints seriously. 
Enforced celibacy is another factor in driving away potential well-adjusted candidates, but has an impact also in less obvious ways, best understood by thinking of the seminary system of training.  This bizarrely unnatural institution, a creation of the Council of Trent half a millenium ago and largely unchanged since, places young men into single sex, monastic environments for effectively the whole of their training, which typically could cover the whole of the period  when they should be developing their own psychosexual identities, and forming an understanding of human sexuality generally.  Instead, it has been too commonly the case that the training received was devoid of any sexual education or discussion whatever.  As the former priest and now retired psychologist Tom McMahon has observed (in an insightful series called ''The Psychology of the Priesthood'' at Catholica), at his ordination aged 25, after 12 years in minor and major seminary, he entered the adult  world with the sexual awareness and understanding of a 13 year old.  The interim research report observed that while sexual orientation was not a factor in determining propensity to abuse, the degree of psycho-sexual maturity, or rather its absence, certainly was.  This alone is a good reason to end the seminary system, and with it the imposition of celibacy on priests in training – and after ordination.  There is nothing that will better provide a priest with a proper understanding of sexuality like some experience of it – ideally within marriage..
It is also worth reflecting here on the word “seminary”, which has its root in “semen” as in (seed).  This was intended as a metaphor for the insemination of candidates with their required knowledge, in the seed bed of the seminary.  Sadly, for too many of these young seminarians. the only insemination of sexual knowledge takes place rather more literally than intended.
Yet another problem with the current discussion is that it is too limited:  the problem of abuse does not apply ony to young children, but extends much wider. Many adults in religious houses are also preyed on, either in seminaries (for young men), in or around convents (for religious women), or even in dicasteries – for junior priests who become vulnerable to sexual predation by some  bishops. Even willing adult partners become victims, as a result of th enforced secrecy, and harm done when public exposure occurs.
Instead of continuing to discuss a question that has already been resolved by serious researchers, that the problem of clerical abuse is not caused by gay priests, but by their own internal structure, the bishops should now be discussing ways to deal with significant internal restructuring. Of course they will not, because they have yieldly meekly to the

Vatican's assertion of that excessive control that is one part of the problem - and too many of us sit quietly by and accept that seizure of unjustified control.
If the bishops will not conduct this discussion themselves, we will have to do it for them.  Like the discussion earlier on gay Catholics and their dilemma, the question of opening the priesthood to married men (and women) is another that urgently needs to be brought out of the closet of ecclesiastical censorship.  
The ordination of married men is not just something that would be ''nice to have''.It is recommended by St Paul; was the practice of the early church; was always the practice of the Orthodox Church. and of the Esteran rite churches under the umbrella of Rome; has been the practice of the Protestant churches since the reformation; will be acceptable in those married priests who may now defect from the Anglican church; is widely agreed to have been a factor in the modern shortage of priests; and has been conclusively shown to be a major factor in the enormous problem of clerical sexual abuse.
To continue with the irrational insistence on compulsory celibacy is not just unfortunate or misguided.  It is unjustified, positively dangerous, and hence collective lunacy. 
(For substantiation and sources for the assertions I have made, see my extended series of posts on clerical celibacy at http://queeringthechurch.wordpress.com)
Jim McCrea
11 years 11 months ago
Brett in #16 talks about revelation, natural law and church doctrine.
I’d like to reiterate some of Luke Timothy Johnson’s comments about this matter in Commonweal (June 15, 2007) -
“I suggest, therefore, that the New Testament provides impressive support for our reliance on the experience of God in human lives-not in its commands, but in its narratives and in the very process by which it came into existence. In what way are we to take seriously the authority of Scripture? What I find most important of all is not the authority found in specific commands, which are fallible, conflicting, and often culturally conditioned, but rather the way Scripture creates the mind of Christ in its readers, authorizing them to reinterpret written texts in light of God’s Holy Spirit active in human lives. When read within the perspective of a Scripture that speaks everywhere of a God disclosing Godself through human experience, our stories become the medium of God’s very revelation.
Along with Scripture, the teaching of the church on sexuality is based on what is called ‘natural law.’ By no means do I want to dismiss this tradition. Indeed, in its positive dimensions, the natural-law tradition is compatible with my argument that moral thinking should begin with what God discloses to us in creation. But I add three cautionary points: (1) appeals to what is “natural” are often in fact appeals to what is culturally constructed (Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 11 on the veiling of women comes to mind), and must always be challenged on the basis of actual human experience; (2) determining what is “natural” or the “order of creation” is often-as in recent Vatican theology-far removed from the analysis of actual human existence, and instead represents a form of essentialist thinking on the basis of Scripture; (3) appeals to the order of creation need to be chastened-as Paul himself recognized in 1 Corinthians 11-by the recognition that the “new creation” brought about by the Resurrection of Jesus has real implications for our understanding of the body and sexuality (see 1 Corinthians 6-7).”
“And accepting covenanted love between persons of the same sex represents the same downward spiral with regard to Scripture, since the Bible nowhere speaks positively or even neutrally about same-sex love (glossing over the relationship of Jonathan and David, see 1 Samuel 18- 2 Samuel 1). For those who think this way, the world is becoming dangerously depraved; a line must be drawn in the sand somewhere, and homosexuality seems clearly to be the place.”
“Of course, Christianity as actually practiced has never lived in precise accord with the Scriptures. War stands in tension with Jesus’ command of nonviolence, while divorce, even under another name (annulment), defies Jesus’ clear prohibition. And which Christians have ever observed the exhortation in Leviticus to stone psychics and put adulterers to death? But make this point to those opposed to same-sex unions, and you’re liable to find it turned back against you. See how far down the slippery slope we have already come? many will ask. This has to stop somewhere! For them, the authority of Scripture and tradition resides in a set of commands, and loyalty is a matter of obedience. If the church has always taught that same-sex relations are wrong, and the Bible consistently forbids it, then the question is closed.”
“The Pharisees’ sin has come to be called ’scotosis,’ a deliberate and willful darkening of the mind that results from the refusal to acknowledge God’s presence and power at work in human stories. If the neglect of Scripture is a form of sin, John suggests, a blind adherence to Scripture when God is trying to show us the truth in human bodies is also a form of sin, and a far more grievous one. Both our own sense of integrity as Christians, and our hope of entering into positive conversation with those who disagree with us, obligate us to engage Scripture with maximum devotion, love, and intelligence. If it is risky to trust ourselves to the evidence of God at work in transformed lives even when it challenges the clear statements of Scripture, it is a far greater risk to allow the words of Scripture to blind us to the presence and power of the living God”
timothy kearney
11 years 11 months ago
80% of the sexual abuse was same sex.  As a statistician, there is  information in a number that large.  
david power
11 years 11 months ago
How did these experts reach their conclusions?The ratio of abuse was 4 to 1 in favor of same sex abuse which is to say that for every girl that was abused 4 boys were.This does not mean that every homosexual is also a pedophile but it also needs a little explaining as to how you disentangle the majority case of attraction to minors of the same sex.I am sure that if it were the other way around we would all hear about it.I hope that the bishops are good at math.
William Lindsey
11 years 11 months ago
Nancy/Anne, I'm confused by your statements.  This is a discussion you and I have had on another Catholic blog, where you made similar claims, and I questioned them.  I'd like to ask my questions again here.
You say, ''A celibate 'gay' priest would be an oxymoron. The word 'gay','heterosexual', 'homosexual', etc. refer to sexual attraction. To define someone or oneself according to sexual attraction is in direct conflict with Christ's teaching regarding the sin of adultery.''
As I asked when we discussed this previously, if we who are gay ask to be called gay rather than homosexual precisely because the latter term defines us according to sexual attraction (and is imposed on us from outside), how can the term ''gay'' be a term that defines people by their sexual attraction?  The term is a reaction against the attempt of some people to define gay people solely by sexuality.
I also have to say I simply have no idea what you can possibly mean in claiming that a celibate gay priest is an oxymoron.  If heterosexual/straight priests can be celibate - if this possibility is not oxymoronic - why is it the case that being gay and celibate is oxymoronic?
It sounds to me as if what you are really insisting on is your right to keep defining those who are gay as all about sex, even when we who are gay tell you that this is an unjust and reductionistic way to look at our human nature.
Robert Burke
11 years 11 months ago
One of the ways that ''experts reach their conclusions'' is that they look at more than one possible cause. As one who works in research and uses statistics all the time, I can say with reasonable certainty that life is multivariate. There are many more than just one cause to which you can attribute a result. Even if 80 percent of the cases of sexual abuse of minors by priests are male-to-male, ''experts'' examine a whole range of possible causes, and use statistical methods to determine how much effect each of these causes on the result, as well as the effect of all of the possible causes put together.
Now I haven't read the full report, but what's possible is that, using the statistical method of multiple regression, other possible causes proved to have more effect on the variance than sexual orientation of the abuser.
11 years 11 months ago
I think most people know that the "vocalness" of the Church's current singling out of homosexuality stems from the bad years of the sexual abuse crisis, which have passed and which the Church handled poorly for way too long. That was bad. The safe environment training of parish employees and priests has largely worked, and the USCCB and the dioceses are to be lauded for that. But there are those-mostly on the right-who insist on both finding a scapegoat to blame and making a statement that abuse won't happen again. Seminarians-who are not guilty of any abuse themselves-have become that scapegoat. We are about to loose a lot of fine empathic priests who have an intrinsic understanding of what it means to be marginalized in society-a laudable quality in a priest who must reach out to all those who experience marginalization, be they black, handicapped, gay, non-English speaking, female, ex-cons, or just regular white guys who don't fit in. These guys are getting very little atttention and very little assistance.
But the anti-gay rhetoric is now extending beyond the singling out of gay priests and seminarians to the issue of secular marriage equality. It's like a snowball rolling down a hill and getting bigger and bigger. There is "no vocation" suitable for anyone who is gay, sacred or secular. And a lot of Catholics don't like what we're seeing right now-it is tipping the balance in the mind of many Catholics. My sister called me the other day to tell me how upset the women in her weekly bookclub are over using Washington's pending approval of gay marriage as a threat to withhold charitable services. One woman said she was seriously considering not having her daughter confirmed because she didn't want her child to think that implies a tacit approval of the current actions of the Archdiocese of Washington. As a Church, we have to pay a little more attention to the sensus fidelium here.
The Church should look at the Republican Party right now, 'cause the situation is analogous. The GOP is marginalizing itself, allowing a very vocal, sort-of-detached fringe to set it's agenda. A historically low percentage of people identify themselves as Republicans now. The Church is also giving in to such a fringe minority of Catholics who want to hide their own predujices behind the cross. That's sacriledge as far as I'm concerned: to seek ecclesial cover for one's own dislikes, and it's something we should all step back and discern.
This is compounded by the actions and inactions of individual bishops. Just as moderate republican leaders have not challenged those on the fringe who are setting the GOP agenda, moderate bishops have not stepped up to correct a situation where a fringe of regressive Catholics are dictating the social policies of the U.S. bishops. I pray that after hearing the John Jay report on Baltimore this week, the moderate bishops will offer some correction. Please. This is getting out of hand. Don't put the future of the U.S. church at the mercy of one group of "good" Catholics, we are the universal church. Jesus loves every one of us.
david power
11 years 11 months ago
Thanks RP, it is all a lot clearer to me now.How silly of us for imagining that the majority of sexual abuses being of a homosexual nature might indicate a problem of homosexuality in the Priesthood.Would anybody disagree to the label "objectively disordered" to a pedaphile?And those who could be labelled so may also be seen as sick,Christ came for the sick and not the Healthy.It seems that there are a lot of healthy people in the Church ,with no need for Christ.Christ adn His mercy await us all!
Robert Burke
11 years 11 months ago
Thank you for offering such a delicious teaching moment with your most unscientific response to a scientific question.
One of the hardest issues in cognitive psychology and education theory is the problem of the naive belief: something held firmly without knowledge, analysis, or evidence of its truth. There are lots of things people used to think were true until science demonstrated that they were false. Aristotle, an empiricist but not a scientist, claimed that flies and other vermin were spontaneously generated from decaying animal matter. Medicine - at the time a significantly less scientific subject than it is today - once claimed that a men had one fewer rib than a women, because Eve was made from one of Adam's ribs. Both were believed for a long time, and both were disproven by close examination.
The same holds here. It may look like the root of the sexual abuse problem is sexual orientation of priests, but science has just demonstrated that it is not. David, you need to unlearn something that's false. 
Anne Danielson
11 years 11 months ago
William, it is you who has defined Personhood based upon sexual preference, not I.

"I suggest, therefore, that the New Testament provides impressive support for our reliance on the experience of God in human lives...in light of God's Holy Spirit active in human lives."- Timothy Johnson

Natural Law reflects the inherent ordered nature of Man who is made in God's image. God is Love. Love exists in relationship. The Father and The Son exist in the unity of the Holy Spirit, a perfect, complementary, relationship of Love.

Love is not possessive, nor does it serve to manipulate, which is why, Sexual Love and sex are not the same, for any act that is not oriented towards the Will of God, is not an act of Love, to begin with.

William Lindsey
11 years 11 months ago
Thank you for your response, Nancy.
You're right, love is not possessive, nor does it serve to manipulate.  And you're right, too.  Love exists in relationship.
Love requires mutuality, respect, the willingness to listen carefully to one another.  It never seeks to impose our definition of the meaning of someone else's humanity on another human being.  And it certainly doesn't try to twist that human being's protest against having his humanity defined by another into a justification for the definition imposed on him or her in the first place.
We definitely agree on what love is all about, and we agree that love can exist authentically only where truth - and the intent to discover truth in our conversations with those to whom love binds us - prevails.
david power
11 years 11 months ago
There I was being so kind as to offer you a teaching moment and you were not up to it.Instead you went off on another rant saying how science had disproved so much and how you were a scientist therefore you were right about everything.It would be great to see a reasoned explanation instead of a repeat of this empiricism that appears to be afraid of facts or anything in the least empirical.Also you have gone heavy on your own brilliance twice now so you can skip to the proof thanks.
Robert Burke
11 years 11 months ago
Sorry, David, but I have offered the proof. If you are determined to believe something that it not so, then it's a free country and I suppose you are welcome to do so. Your comments sound like so much of public discourse today: "My mind is made up: don't confuse me with facts." 
But I must correct for the other readers one important error in your most recent post. Empiricism, by definition, deals with "facts": observations, data. Scientific method - what the John Jay study performed - is one form of empiricism. To say that "empiricism ... appears to be afraid of acts" is absurdly self-contradictory.
James Lindsay
11 years 11 months ago
This arguement is as much about authority as it is about sex. On one side, there are those who believe that what they have been taught about sex cannot change, that it is part of unreformable doctrine and tradition. They see any attempt to change or resist these doctrines as promoting sin.

On the other side are those who believe that doctrine on sex (and birth control and female priests) is very reformable and in fact should be reformed. These are not against the concept of sin and the need for forgiveness, but question whether the Church is correct in her teachings on these issues.

There does not seem to be much of a way to bridge this gap for now, however the generational impact must not be ignored. While there are some young "John Paul" priests, the vast majority of the upcoming generation of the faithful does not hold with the first group. Additionally, you can never tell with those who appear consrvative as to whether they agree publicly out of conservative demeanor yet will go the other way if a more progressive hierarchy told them too. I also suspect that there are more people like Rembert Weakland in the hierarchy than people suspect and that they will be in control of the Church within a decade. The analogy in the judicial sphere is attitudes on Roe v. Wade. Note that there are only 3 Democratic appointees on the Court, while there are 7 votes to uphold Roe - 4 of them being Republican appointees (Kennedy, Stevens, Roberts and Alito).

I have a feeling that a lot of the emotion on this issue is out of fear over impending change. That kind of fear never comes from a good place.
11 years 11 months ago
Forgive me quoting Mallon, again:


Perhaps what is most disturbing is the number of priests who use the term “gay priest” seriously. It is one thing to be a faithful priest who struggles with same-sex attractions, but to openly proclaim one’s self “gay” is another matter. It calls fidelity into question. Is calling oneself “gay” in keeping with chastity? Such a man is trying to serve two masters.

The word “gay” is a term of ideology. It implies that homosexual attractions are not merely a struggle but an identity. Some even go so far as to claim their homosexuality is a “gift from God” or that “God made me this way.”

If homosexual attractions are, as the Church teaches, intrinsically disordered, and homosexual acts intrinsically evil, then it cannot be claimed that God made them. Rather they are the result of the Fall—Original Sin. This is not to single anyone out; we all suffer from the effects of Original Sin.

The ideology implicit in the word “gay” denies that homosexuality is intrinsically disordered, and that homosexual acts are intrinsically evil, and attempts to grant homosexuality the same moral status as race and ethnicity. To accept this Big Lie recalls St. Paul’s warning: “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshipped the creature rather than the creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. Therefore, God handed them over to degrading passions. Their females exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity.” (Romans 1:25-27)

Do we believe this, or do we accuse St. Paul of spreading “hate speech”? Despite the astonishingly up-to-date description this passage provides of today’s world—and today’s Church—citing Scripture is dismissed as “out-of-date prooftexting.” How about what it says?

The Culture of Death is a two-legged stool which only remains standing because it is propped up by lies. Death and lies go together as Christ taught about the Church’s Adversary, “He was a murderer and a liar from the beginning.” The two legs of this stool are homosexuality and abortion. The Culture of Death is the main Adversary of the Church today. The two legs of this stool also comprise not merely sin, but two of the four sins that cry out to God for vengeance: murder of the innocent and sodomy.

Being a Catholic, much less a priest, implies a degree of conversion, and conversion implies a certain degree of renunciation, including first of all renunciation of sin and ultimately renunciation of one’s very self in order to die with Christ. This, in part, is what vows of chastity are all about.

As St. Paul said, “I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)

William Lindsey
11 years 11 months ago
Thank you, Nancy - blessings in return.  May truth, peace, and above all, love, visit both of us and the entire world.
James Lindsay
11 years 11 months ago
Maria, no one is disagreeing on sin in general. We are disagreeing as to whether the Church's current teaching on whether homosexuality in monogamous marriage is sinful and whether same sex attraction is in fact disordered. Mallon assumes the unreformability of Church doctrine on this matter. Those who argue the contrary do not - and for good reason. We are not endorsing sin.
11 years 11 months ago
Homosexualtiy in monogamous marriage? Pardon me?
11 years 11 months ago
Waht precisely are you endorsing then?
david power
11 years 11 months ago
RP,I supplied a fact.I got to thinkin that you are not much of an intellectual and being unable to answer me would resort to phoney intellectualism.There was the challenge, explain what all the huffing and puffin was about. Then you fall into this faux liberal attitude.Ha ha I asked you to back all your supposed learning and you responded "your stupid".Then you say I cant handle facts,give me one.I will repeat mine.81 per cent of sexual abuse according to the JohnJay report were of a homosexual nature.Give me a fact.Indulge us in a little empiricism!
david power
11 years 11 months ago
RP,I did not say that empiricism was afraid of facts but that your particular brand of it seemed to be.I also pointed out that an empiricism that supplies no empiricism could not be treated seriously.So I laid down the challenge.The heavens cry out for a shot of empiricism from our earnest teacher who it seems discovered the word empiricism about a week ago and now is lecturing others on it under the false impression that he is the only one who knows it.Give us empiricism not more tortured wannabe intellectualism.I beg you.
Terence Weldon
11 years 11 months ago
As Fr John has repeatedly asked, can we please keep this discussion on the point of clerical abuse, and not constantly degenerate into debating the morality or otherwise of homosexuality?
The position at this stage is very clear. Very many observers and analysts have concluded that the problem is NOT caused by gay priests, but by deep seated structural problems inside the church itself.  The church authorities quite naturally have no desire to look into their own culpability, and so latched onto gay priests as a convenient smokescreen and scapegoat. 
5 years ago, the John Jay institute presented a report commissioned by the bishops themselves  which made no finding on any link, or the absence of one. Without any conclusion from the professional researchers that such a link existed, the bishops and some conservative commentators fabricated such a conclusion on the basis that 82 % of victims were boys.  This was NOT a conclusion of the researchers.  Reading the full report, it was obvious to me why.  This report was not based on a representative sample of victims, but on a census of complaints that reached a co-operative bishop ( and not all bishops were equally co-operative.) There was no finding that 82 % of the victims were boys - only that 82 % of the cases investigated were boys.  This is not the same thing at all.
The researchers themselves stressed that in other cases of abuse more generally, there is commonly a huge degree of under reporting. Young children typically do not say anything to parents for years, if ever. If they do speak up, frequently they are simply disbelieved (especially if the allegations are made against someone like a priest, who for so long was assumed to be beyond reproach.) Then, even if the children were believed, parents would not necessarily have followed up. Two or three decades ago, many parents would not have thought the allegations as serious as they would do today, the priest may have moved on, or the family moved away, or the family may simply have preferred to keep everything quiet for the sake of discretion - or for lack of knowledge on where best to place a complaint.
All of this leads to the horrifying conclusion that the real rate of abuse, as opposed to the proportion of priests who had allegations against them investigated, is almost certainly substantially higher than the 3-5 % quoted by some bishops.  My rough calculations, following some crude assumptions but based on all the available figures I could find in the original John Jay study, was that the true rate was probably closer to 15 % than 5%.  There are also good reasons to suppose that with a substantial degree of under reporting, it is likely that this will differ in degree for boys and for girls,  This could help to explain why the John Jay proportions differ so markedly from the findings of other researchers, many of whom, including the survivors group SNAP, have found approximately equal numbers of girls and boys were victims.  
So the bottom line is that no reputable investigation has ever confirmed a link between homosexual priests and clerical abuse.  The first John Jay report, commissioned by the bishops themselves and often quoted to support such a claim, did not in fact support that conclusion. The current report on the second phase of the research explicitly states that no link has been found.  
Yet far too many people continue to waste their time arguing about a supposed link, when what we should be doing, is asking if the cause is not homosexuality, what is it?  As I said at the beginning, the roots of the problem are widely agreed to lie deep within the church's own structure and systems.  Is it any surprise that the bishops have given virtually no publicity to this report, and reports from sources closest to the bishops have totally ignored the findings on homosexuality?  It is greatly convenient for the bishops to simply allow this report to lie dormant, and to sweep the findings under the carpet.  We must not allow them to do so.
(I continue with he nature of these internal causes below.  This particular post is just getting too long.) 
Anne Danielson
11 years 11 months ago
William, I wish you Peace In Christ, The Truth Of Love, The Word Of God Made Flesh.
david power
11 years 11 months ago
This is a difficult issue but I think that we can all agree with the Pope that it is the best interests of the Church that we clean up this Filth in the Church or as he said that Christ clean it up.We must open ourselves to His mercy or else the Filth will remain.Hebephilia and pedophilia are condemned by all of us and the laity and bishops can unite on this so that children and teenagers will not be exposed to people with these perversions.One of the more startling facts from the Johnjay report was this tendency towards hebephilia and not as is often thought towards children as such.It is adolescents that they targeted.Let us hope and pray and work together to stop these predators
Robert Burke
11 years 11 months ago
Please put the numbers away. Put the philosophy away, too. You don't know what you're doing, and you are confusing the other readers.
Apologies to everyone else; I can't let an ad hominem attack like that be the last word. 
On the matter at hand, the John Jay study shows, as Fr. Jim points out, the "false conflation" of homosexuality and pedephelia, and the need for new directions in dealing with the sexual abuse crisis beyond sweeping fulminations and recriminations. 
11 years 11 months ago
Queering the Church. God have mercy on us.
William Lindsey
11 years 11 months ago
I’ve taken part in (and followed) conversations about these issues twice now in recent days at America.  I want to share some observations based on this experience of participation.
First, I find these conversations generally unproductive.  They suggest to me that, even when the topic being considered is how the church ought to approach a vulnerable minority group, a powerful segment of American Catholics today are not interested in such powerful outreach.  Their interest, instead, is in continuing the attacks on the minority group and doing all they can to push its members outside the church.
I’m struck by some of the theological rationales given on threads like this to justify behavior that is the antithesis of pastoral behavior.  There’s much talk of the spiritual work of mercy, admonishing sinners.
But those appealing to that norm often seem oblivious to another spiritual work of mercy that needs to be considered here.  This is instructing the ignorant.  When people are willing to reject well-researched empirical data simply because those data conflict with what people wish to believe (and because they undercut the need of some groups to treat targeted minorities with disrespect), surely there’s need to instruct the ignorant — and not just to admonish sinners.
I had understood Fr. Martin’s recent thread about pastoral approach to the gay community as all about creating a dialogue space in which those who are gay and trying to maintain a connection to the church might share our stories.  I understood the invitation as an exercise that might be instructive on all sides — speaking from our experiences, listening to the experiences and views of others, and arriving at some pastoral understanding.
Instead, it seems these conversations degenerate into warfare immediately.  I have concluded that they do so because some groups within the church simply do not intend to hear the stories of their gay brothers and sisters with any respect, because they do not intend to respect those who are gay. 
It seems to matter intently to some people to harm, demean, and exclude this particular targeted minority (and others), and to claim divine sanction for this behavior.  This fascinates me — both the fact that people seem to want to build their lives around such unholy goals, and that they want to claim religious sanction for what cannot be justified on authentic religious grounds.
I have no idea what Pope Benedict meant when he spoke about the filth in the church today.  What I do know, however, is how some Catholics have chosen to interpret that rhetoric.  From what I can see, some Catholics have chosen to hear this term as a justification for ratcheting up their attacks on human beings who happen to be gay or lesbian.
And I’m surprised that as this trend develops, those engaging in it don’t remember that there have been other times in the history of the church when self-righteous groups within the church decided that targeted minority groups were “filth” to be attacked and shoved away from church and society.  The history of the church is full of examples of this behavior, from the days of pogroms to the days of the slave trade, to the teachings that women were misbegotten males and uniquely susceptible to sin as daughters of Eve.
When moral and spiritual crusades coalesce around the belief that certain groups of human beings are filth to be eradicated, ugly things often happen.  Even — or perhaps particularly — when those doing the ugly things use the name of God as their rationale.
William Lindsey
11 years 11 months ago
Sorry for the typo in my last posting: in paragraph 2, the phrase "powerful outreach" should read, "pastoral outreach."
Jim McCrea
11 years 11 months ago
While I agree with Carolyn that instructing the ignorant is a right and proper thing to do, ultimately this will have minimal to no effect on a mind that is made up.
John Adams had it right when he said this:  “There are only two creatures of value on the face of the earth: those with the commitment, and those who require the commitment of others.”
To expect others to fall in line with a way of thinking that is not based on the rationality of facts is nothing more than authoritarianism, authority that has ceased to struggle to become leadership.
“Facts are sacred; comment is free.” An axiom often quoted by the founder of Le Monde, Hubert Beuve-Méry.
We can (and most likely will) go on and on and on about this topic in this and future postings around this or a similar matter.  However, I don’t expect a fair shake out of those who simply aren’t committed to finding the truth in spite of presuppositions.
The truth comes down to this:  In a meal of ham and eggs, the chicken participated but the pig was committed.
Those of us who are at peace with who and what we are, how we find peace (if we do) within some sense of Catholicism, and who hope for the best but are realists, know that we have to struggle to make sense of what we are offered or not offered by church and state.
“People who suffer different lots in life make sense of their lives differently.  They appropriate the symbols, stories and traditions that are available and plausible to them.”   Nancy Tatum Ammerman, Baptist Battles (1990)
Anne Danielson
11 years 11 months ago
We are all called to Holiness. All pastoral guidance should be reflective of this fact. To claim that one is self-righteous because they refuse to condone homosexual sexual acts or any sexual act that does not respect the Sacredness and Dignity of the Human Person, would be a lie from the start.

We are called to Holy relationships and friendships with one another in communion with God. Some of these relationships will develop into Marriage. God desires that all Marriages be Holy.

There is an inherent ordered nature in Marriage, which is why "Fathers and Daughters are not demeaned, their equality is not rejected, their Love not denied, when they are barred from Marrying one another."- Hadley Arkes

For this reason, barring same-sex couples from Marriage is not discrimination. All persons must meet the same standards to be Married.

Those who provide pastoral guidance must understand God's Truth regarding our call to Holiness.
S Bond
11 years 11 months ago
Terence, thank you for your posts, particularly this:
"Enforced celibacy is another factor in driving away potential well-adjusted candidates, but has an impact also in less obvious ways, best understood by thinking of the seminary system of training.  This bizarrely unnatural institution, a creation of the Council of Trent half a millenium ago and largely unchanged since, places young men into single sex, monastic environments for effectively the whole of their training, which typically could cover the whole of the period  when they should be developing their own psychosexual identities, and forming an understanding of human sexuality generally.  Instead, it has been too commonly the case that the training received was devoid of any sexual education or discussion whatever.  As the former priest and now retired psychologist Tom McMahon has observed (in an insightful series called ''The Psychology of the Priesthood'' at Catholica), at his ordination aged 25, after 12 years in minor and major seminary, he entered the adult  world with the sexual awareness and understanding of a 13 year old."
That really underscores the problem.  And the fact that the priesthood was a safe haven for pedophiles for decades.
(By the way, straight men can and do abuse young boys, particularly if they were victimized as children.) 

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