Pedophilia and Homosexuality

The comments yesterday from a high-ranking Vatican official linking homosexuality with pedophilia, essentially blaming homosexual priests for the abuse crisis, are all the more surprising when you consider a few salient points.

First of all, nearly every reputable mainstream psychologist and psychiatrist (Catholics included) rejects the conflation of homosexuality and pedophilia (and ephebophilia). Pope Benedict XVI himself, in a mid-air news conference with reporters en route to his first trip to the United States in 2008, also remarked that the two (homosexuality and pedophilia) he considered separate matters. (H/T: Grant Gallicho at dotCommonweal). (And the pope was speaking in regards to the sexual abuse crisis specifically.) There are countless pyschological studies that demonstrate that pedophilia (which centers on pre-adolescent boys) is more a question of a malformed sexual orientation, more a question of a stunted sexuality, more a question of proximity, more a question of power, than of homosexuality per se. (I'm no psychologist or pyschiatrist, but this is what the best experts attest to: that is, homosexuality does not lead to pedophilia; other factors do.)

But even noting that many of the victims were adolescent boys, and that some priests with a homosexual orientation preyed on them, you have to distinguish between a some gay priests and the vast majority of gay priests, who lead healthy celibate lives. That is, the actions of a certain percentage of gay priests should not condemn all of them, particularly on a matter this serious. That is simple stereotyping.

One reason that there aren't more public examples to counter the argument, of course, is that many celibate gay priests are unable, unwilling or simply not permitted to speak about their own orientations. (See "The Church and the Homosexual Priest" in America.) In the absence of public models of healthy gay priests, therefore, the image of the gay priest-pedophile predominates, and so can lead to such misunderstanding. There is also the clear witness of millions of emotionally mature and psychologically healthy gay men who have never, ever abused a child (nor would ever think of it, nor are inclined to do so, nor are at all attracted to children). Finally, and perhaps more importantly for the church at this critical moment, there is the witness of thousands of emotionally mature, psychologically healthy, celibate gay priests, who have never, ever abused a child (and, again, would never think of doing so) and who lead lives of quiet service to the People of God.  

And a fuller take on this on Huffington Post.

James Martin, S.J.

(at the National Federation of Priests Councils meeting in Houston, Texas)


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Mark Davenport
10 years 6 months ago
Note to Joe: More than 10% of the children were aged 10 and under, it was 22.57% according to the chart. Most 11 year old boys and many 12 year old boys are prepubescent and I would think that almost no boys of these ages would be postpubescent. A lot of pre-teens were abused.

I still have great trouble understanding why Church leaders would allow these men to continue to abuse children by transferring them from church to church. It seems to me that to them the reputations of the priests and the Church were more important than the souls of children.

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