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Thomas G. PlanteOctober 22, 2018
A rainbow appears in the distance near an angel grave marker following a July 4 thunderstorm at St. Patrick Catholic Cemetery in Neenah, Wis. (CNS photo/Brad Birkholz, for The Compass)

Many people believe that homosexuality is the root cause of sexual abuse by clergy in the Catholic Church since about 80 percent of the known victims have been male. This has led some church leaders to suggest that banning homosexual men from the priesthood could prevent future victimization of children in the church. While it may be understandable that some believe this, it is simply not true. You really have to know something about the psychopathology of sex offenders and pedophiles to understand this issue more clearly.

No one would suggest banning heterosexual men from the priesthood if the majority of clergy abuse victims were young girls. That would seem absurd. This is because many see heterosexuality as normal and controllable while believing that homosexuality is abnormal, dysfunctional and a psychiatric illness. As such, it is often falsely believed that men with homosexual orientations cannot be trusted around male children and that their sexual impulse control is poor. But the research data on this topic makes clear that sexual orientation alone is not a risk factor for pedophilia or for committing sexual crimes against children or teens or anyone. Sexual orientation by itself is irrelevant to child sexual abuse behavior or risks.

Clergy sexual offenders were “situational generalists,” or men who simply abused victims to whom they had access.

So why are so many of the clergy sexual abuse victims male? A study from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 2011 informs us that most of the clergy sexual offenders were “situational generalists” or men who simply abused victims to whom they had access and with whom they had the opportunity to develop trust. In the Catholic Church, these individuals tended to be boys. If Father wanted to have private time with an altar boy or perhaps take a boy off on a camping trip or to a baseball game back in the 20th century, no one would have thought much of it. Boys were trusted with priests. But most of the clergy sex offenders during the last half of the 20th century, according to the John Jay Report, viewed themselves as more likely to be heterosexual than as homosexual.

The psychopathology of pedophiles suggests that the risk factors for this psychiatric illness include impulse control problems, brain injury, poor peer relationships, antisocial personality, a lack of nonsexual intimate connections with others, alcohol and substance abuse, and a history of sexual victimization. Sexual orientation is not a risk factor at all. Furthermore, there are many different kinds of sex offenders who often have multiple pathways to victimization and different targets of their predatory desires. For example, some prefer to target young children while others target teens. Some ideally prefer to have adult peer sexual partners, but due to their inability to negotiate mature adult intimate relationships, select minors as a substitute, especially when under significant stress. And some, like most clerical sex offenders in the church, select those with whom they have access and trust.

The psychopathology of pedophiles suggests that risk factors for this psychiatric illness include impulse control problems and a history of sexual victimization.

The behavior and psychopathology of sex offenders is complex, but there is a large amount of quality research to help us better understand their behavior, with established best practices for evaluating and treating them for their dysfunction. Best practices are also available for child protection by better managing the environment where children are involved with adults—within church activities as well as in schools, youth sports, music and theater programs, and other extracurricular youth activities. Being aware and thoughtful about this well-established research and these recommended best practices in child protection will help keep children safe.

Inappropriately blaming or victimizing homosexual men, within or outside of the church, does not keep children safe or solve clergy sexual abuse problems. Regardless of sexual orientation or the vows of priestly celibacy or even marital vows, only a small percentage of people seek sexual activity with children and teens, and the vast majority of them are heterosexual, married and noncelibate laypersons who tend to exploit members of their own family. The false and distracting focus on homosexuality is not relevant to keeping children safe within the Catholic Church.

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alan macdonald
4 years 1 month ago

This misleading article on homosexuality could only be found in a pro-homosexual magazine or a Jesuit one. Fortunately for the LCBTP, these two interests intersect in "America".

Daniel Montiel
4 years 1 month ago

Sadly (for Alan), he’d need to conduct further research to satisfy his desire to discriminate against those whom the world has already knocked down.
At least he can continue to use the (misspelt) acronym which adds a “P” to the standard “LGBT” - nothing proves Alan’s bias like his / most homophobes’ efforts to pretend that “pedophilia” is part of being queer.

Tim O'Leary
4 years 1 month ago

Daniel - this is the problem with defining people by acronyms. One has to watch one's Ps and Qs. Does P stand for pedophilia or polyamory or something else. Should Q be added (most say yes). What does Q stand for (is is Queer or Questioning, etc.). The Church would be wise to stick with "same-sex-attracted" as it relates to the orientation without necessitating sinful activity. Dr. Plante links to a research article in his second paragraph. A quote from that article indicates it is only referring to pre-pubescent attraction as pedophilia, not teenagers (ephebophilia): Here is a quote: "Second, at present, in discussing Pedophilia, DSM-5 makes reference to the term Pedophilic Sexual Orientation. Sexual Orientation is ordinarily used to designate the category, or categories, of persons whom a given individual finds to be sexually appealing. Those who are heterosexually oriented are sexually attracted to adults of the opposite sex; those who are homosexual, to adults of the same sex; men with a heterosexual pedophilic orientation, to prepubescent females; and men with a homosexual pedophilic orientation, to prepubescent boys."

alan macdonald
4 years 1 month ago

This misleading article on homosexuality could only be found in a pro-homosexual magazine or a Jesuit one. Fortunately for the LCBTP, these two interests intersect in "America".

Frank T
4 years 1 month ago

I have never thought that the Jesuit Review has a specific agenda regarding sexual orientation.
I find the articles to be timely and clarifying, the site is informative.
I would suggest that sometimes, as readers we seek justifications for our own perspectives.
Rooting out our own personal bias rather than perpetuating old myths is part of what we as Catholics are called to do.

Daniel Montiel
4 years 1 month ago

Frank, one need only see that Alan has used the slur of including a “P” - for pedophile/pedophilia - in the acronym commonly used to refer to queer people. His hatefilled bias reveals itself in that pathetic attempt.

Stefan Svilich
4 years 1 month ago

Nice opinion piece. Where is his data? Without data to support his opinion, all I see is spin.

Vincent Couling
4 years 1 month ago

Excellent insight, Stefan! Simply brilliant! Of course, this permits us to say of the "church teaching" on homosexuality (be it Ratzinger's 1986 letter, or the CCC, etc): "Nice opinion piece. Where are the data? Without data to support their opinion, all I see is spin."

As for the data ... here is a useful link to some pertinent scientific studies ... http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/rainbow/html/facts_molestation.html

Stefan Svilich
4 years 1 month ago

Nice opinion piece. Where is his data? Without data to support his opinion, all I see is spin.

Daniel Montiel
4 years 1 month ago

Your multiple postings of the same question leads reasonable people to wonder whether you’re trying to hide a fear of actual answers in noise.
Anyway, try this: http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/rainbow/html/facts_molestation.html

Stefan Svilich
4 years 1 month ago

Nice opinion piece. Where is his data? Without data to support his opinion, all I see is spin.

Daniel Montiel
4 years 1 month ago

I wonder if any of your multiple postings of the same question are actually looking for an answer.
If they are, try here:
http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/rainbow/html/facts_molestation.html

John K
4 years 1 month ago

This article does NOT refute the claim that homosexuality is a risk factor in the sexual abuse of children. Unfortunately, it’s just completely off the mark. For one thing, the sexual abuse crisis is NOT a pedophilia crisis. In the John Jay report cited in this article, less than 5% of the priests were classified as true pedophiles. And yet here you link two articles that show there is no link between pedophilia and homosexuality, which may be true, but is completely irrelevant. 77.4% of the victims are over the age of 11. The majority of the victims are considered post-pubescent males. Nothing to do with pedophilia.

John K
4 years 1 month ago

Frankly, this article is just plain bad. It perpetuates all sorts of myths regarding the sexual abuse crisis and does not confront the real issues. I happen to agree that homosexuality is being overemphasized as one of the sources of the problem. But it’s a shame when America magazine posts things like this. It’s one thing to post articles that people disagree with to generate discussion as they say they do. But it’s another thing to post articles that are misleading and confused, purporting to cite evidence but actually citing none. I don’t think the issues of homosexuality, fluid sexuality, and child abuse are fully understood, but this just doesn't help.

John K
4 years 1 month ago

I just read that Mr. Plante is a tenured university professor at Santa Clara. This is just unbelievable. This article is just incoherent and maybe outright dishonest. He cites data saying there is no link between homosexuality and pedophilia, and yet that could only prove that less than 5% of the cases have nothing to do with homosexuality. What about the other 95% Professor Plante? Again pedophilia is not the issue. Incredible.

Again, I think the issue of homosexuality is being overemphasized in more conservative circles right now as the cause of the problem. But this is just flat out unhelpful and divisive

Tim O'Leary
4 years 1 month ago

No data. Unsubstantiated spin. We are not talking about pedophilia, but ephebophilia, or homosexual relations with teenagers. To put this down to a crime of opportunity is about as credible as covering this with clericalism. Opportunity or clericalism do not make pederasty possible, without a prior predisposition or specific temptation. NRB member, Dr. Paul McHugh, former psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins University, said that "This behavior was homosexual predation on American Catholic youth; yet it's not being discussed." Then McCarrick becomes head of the committee and this conclusion gets taken out of the report. Fox among the chickens.

Tim O'Leary
4 years 1 month ago

Why is there so much attention on homosexuality on this website, seeping into every topic? It's an obsession, and not the Gospel. Since July 1, there have been 73 articles that mention this subject (their search system). LGBT in 30 of these articles, Gay is 49, Lesbian in 10, Transgender in 9, Bisexual in 7. pedophilia in 4. Ephebophilia in none (last used in Dec-2017). This is pure ideology. Some writers say the gay trait is just like being left-handed. How absurd! Pray for the Jesuits.

Daniel Montiel
4 years 1 month ago

Pretendalying that genetics -if not science itself!- is “absurd” and not relevant in these discussions reveals that Tim ought pray for himself more than Jesuits.

Kevin Murphy
4 years 1 month ago

Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk. - Thoreau

Bill McIntosh
4 years 1 month ago

Ok the problem isnt pedophilia but gay priests chasing adolescent boys! This quote from Jules Gomes nails it:
"The guilty priests weren’t pedophiles, as the media and the church’s hierarchy are disingenuously suggesting or mindlessly parroting. The delinquent clergy were homosexual predators preying on adolescent or young adult males".
https://medium.com/@jules.gomes/homosexual-predators-not-paedophile-priests-are-churchs-deadly-cancer-555dc2eb6a02

PLEASE NO MORE QUEER SEMINARIAN VOCATIONS DIRECTORS

James Hyder
4 years 1 month ago

wiki.

Theodore Seeber
4 years 1 month ago

Apparently the author failed to notice that the current scandal of sex abuse isn't about child abuse. It's about abuse of seminarians.

ALL homosexuality is abuse. Always,.

Edward Ray
4 years 1 month ago

I agree that homosexual men should not always be denied the ability to pursue a priestly vocation. However, those homosexuals who wish to engage in homosexual activity should not become priests. Proper vetting during the interview process should mitigate this risk. Any clergy (priests, bishops, cardinals) caught in homosexual activity should be defrocked/removed from the priesthood. Any clergy allowing or condoning homesexuality should be defrocked/removed from the priesthood. Zero tolerance.

Frank Gibbons
4 years 1 month ago

Dr. Plante, you've come up with a lot of rationalizations in your attempt to explain away homosexuality as the primary cause of sex abuse within the Church. But you've provided very little data to back up your assertions. There are powerful elements in the Church who want to see homosexuality completely normalized. If these forces carry their thinking to its logical end, then same-sex marriage will be regarded as a Sacrament in the Church. They'll deny this for now as a tactical ploy. They know that as long as homosexuality is seen as a problem in the clergy, their dream of celebrating it within the Church will never come to fruition. Thus, the ideological rationalizations will continue.

Carlos Orozco
4 years 1 month ago

No data = ideological argument.

Phillip Stone
4 years 1 month ago

The DSM is supposed to be a compendium of the collective experience of psychiatric and medical specialists; is a work in progress; uses the most primitive of scientific techniques (taxonomy) and is alas now clearly subject to political corruption.

Note, there are two lists which do not always agree - the DSM which is of the USA and the ICD (International Classification of Diseases) which is of the rest of the world. They are both academic tools, not Scripture.

It is true that the DSM was hijacked by political activists.
After twice voting down the attempts by the homosexual lobby to get it declassified, a third meeting was stacked by activists and forced by organised uproar through their preference despite the rest of the professional community already of a different mind. All this is on the record and I have no intention of debating it further.

Now, the devil is in the detail.

In common language, what the Catholic clergy are being exposed of as doing are sex crimes AND organising together to facilitate access to victims AND conspiring together to hide the facts and avoid detection and punishment; all this focussed on by a secular press newly empowered by great advances in multiple electronic media and enabled to do so by the fact that is seems to be the epitome of hypocrisy to have occurred in self-described boastfully specially moral people.

This article is another example of playing word games, arguing from disputed illegitimate authority and deflecting attention from addressing the two interconnected evils apparently manifesting as an historical anomaly - all the usual wrong-doing of power and predatory sexuality by men with both married and unmarried women, female and male children and an atypical addition of homosexually inclined men preying on boys and young men from the 60s to the 90s.

Rabbis, Scout masters, Protestant clergy, psychologists and counsellors, sports coaches and youth workers have all been represented in the latest historically unusual phenomenon.

What are we supposed to learn from it?
Who has the discernment necessary?
Will they be heeded?

F C
4 years 1 month ago

Phillip Stone
What is the source of your account of that the APA 1973 declassification of homosexuality as a disease was driven by "political activitists"? If, as you say, this is "on record", then please supply the reference. Thanks.

Meanwhile, the following international peer-reviewed journal article dealing with the process tells a different story: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4695779/

Mary Howard
4 years 1 month ago

First comment from a woman: I agree with the article, but firmly believe that what is at the root of priestly pedophelia is the church's policy of an exclusively male and celibate priesthood. It is not healthy and does not work in today's society--if it ever did! Is anyone researching and writing about this?

John Placette
4 years 1 month ago

Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't realize McCarrick only had sex with seminarians because they were male and available. Really?

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