We have been hearing a lot about the sexual abuse crisis from the pulpit, but this past Sunday the pastor at my parish crossed a line. As background, two of our last four pastors have been removed from ministry because of sexual indiscretions. It tore our hearts out to hear the survivors’ accounts. Many of us felt betrayed and devastated to lose priests who had led our parish for years. Somehow, by grace no doubt, much of our parish family kept coming to Mass.
Our new pastor did not mention any of this. Instead, he praised Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò’s letter, which accuses several church leaders, including Pope Francis himself, of covering up allegations of sexual misconduct against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. This is not a time to leave the church, our pastor said, but to reform it.
After some faint words about loving members of the L.G.B.T. community and recognizing the cross they bear, our pastor brought up the John Jay report on clergy sexual abuse, which was released by the U.S. bishops in 2005. Noting that 81 percent of the survivors in that report were male, our pastor said the cause of the sexual abuse crisis was “predatory homosexuality.” Archbishop McCarrick had a pro-L.G.B.T. agenda, he said, and there are others like him. They are to blame, so said my pastor, for child abuse in the church.
The idea that “predatory homosexuality” is the cause of the sexual abuse crisis in the church is absurd.
“It’s time that all false shepherds be removed from positions of power,” he said. “Any bishop, priest or religious order priest who supports and is active in the homosexual culture needs to be removed from their post.”
A version of that last quote also made it into Prayers of the Faithful. Some parishioners walked out.
After Mass, I exchanged some brief words with my family and friends about leaving our parish, which I’ve attended since my family moved to this country 30 years ago. How ironic that, after two pastors had been removed because of sexual abuse, we would consider leaving because of a homophobic pastor. My 11-year-old son was with me, but he seemed to be more interested in spotting his friends coming out of Mass.
“Do you know why we were so upset with Father D.?” I asked him later, one on one. He did not.
“Do you remember what he said in his homily?” He did not.
I explained. I explained that some priests, not all priests but some, had abused children. These priests threatened the children so that they would not tell anyone. These priests tricked families and violated the trust the community had placed in them. I explained how some bishops, not all bishops but some, had covered for these priests. How these bishops prevented the priests from being punished by the police. I explained how some of the bishops who covered for the priests still have not been punished themselves.
“You know what it means to be gay or lesbian, right?” He did. We had talked about it before. “You know that we are not meant to judge people who are different than we are. Jesus doesn’t want that. He wants us to love everyone, even people that are different.” He knows. And he knows that people who are gay and lesbian and bisexual do not choose to be so.
Some Catholics would like to exploit the abuse crisis to promote anti-L.G.B.T. agendas. We cannot stand for it.
“Well, what Father D. said was not nice to people who are gay and lesbian. It was mean. He was basically saying that people who are gay are the reason why there was abuse. And that’s not right. It’s not true. And it’s not what Jesus wants. And it’s even worse because he’s our pastor and he said those things.”
I think he understood.
The abuse of children happens both inside and outside the Catholic Church. Overall,girls are far more likely to be sexually abused than are boys. The idea that “predatory homosexuality” is the cause of the sexual abuse crisis in the church is absurd. It is an old myth that has nothing to do with the facts. It is dangerous.
Over the years, the Catholic Church has taken strides to become more welcoming to the L.G.B.T. community. I am proud of that. What our pastor seemed to argue is that welcoming the L.G.B.T. community is somehow causing sexual abuse. Yet sexual abuse has declined over the years the church has become more welcoming.
There are some Catholics, like our pastor, who would like to exploit the sexual abuse crisis to promote anti-L.G.B.T. agendas. We cannot stand for it. We cannot regress to this.
We must protect our children from predators. The sexual abuse crisis has made that clear. But we must also protect our children from those who demonize people because of their sexual orientation. In all things, we must strive to be like Jesus Christ. Our children will learn from our example.