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Michael J. O’LoughlinFebruary 24, 2019
Pope Francis, background third from left, attends a penitential liturgy at the Vatican, Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. (Vincenzo Pinto/Pool Photo Via AP)

In the months leading up to the Vatican’s four-day summit on the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests, some U.S. prelates, activists and even some journalists tried to link homosexuality with the abuse crisis, in attempts to urge church officials to take a hard line against gay priests.

But the topic was barely broached during the summit, and when it was, leading prelates dismissed any connection.

“To generalize, to look at a whole category of people is never legitimate. We have individual cases. We don’t have categories of people,” said Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna, who has become one of the Vatican’s point man in the fight against sex abuse.

Responding to a reporter’s question during a press briefing on Feb. 21 about why the Vatican was not discussing homosexuality, he said that homosexuality and heterosexuality are “human conditions,” adding, “they are not something that predisposes to sin.”

“To generalize, to look at a whole category of people is never legitimate. We have individual cases. We don’t have categories of people.”

“I would never dare to indicate a category as a category that has a tendency to sin,” Archbishop Scicluna said.

Archbishop Scicluna said that when it comes to sexual abuse, it is most helpful to eschew “categories” and instead to look at “single cases.”

Pope Francis also seemed to dismiss the link between homosexuality and the abuse crisis. During a speech given Feb. 24, the final day of the summit, he said that the abuse of minors is “always the result of an abuse of power.” He also asked bishops to “rise above the ideological disputes and journalistic practices that often exploit, for various interests, the very tragedy experienced by the little ones.”

Juan Carlos Cruz, a survivor of sexual abuse from Chile who now lives in the United States, told America that he rejects attempts by some Catholics to pin the abuse crisis on gay priests.

“That is just a fallacy; that's cruel, and that's so far from reality,” Mr. Cruz said in a Feb. 22 interview at the Vatican. “As a gay man and as a gay Catholic, I can tell you, there are gay people that are pretty bad and there are gay people that are incredibly wonderful. There are heterosexual people that are very bad and there are heterosexual people that are wonderful.”

“Heterosexuality or homosexuality is not the cause of pedophilia.”

“But,” he continued, “heterosexuality or homosexuality is not the cause of pedophilia.”

The timing of a controversial new book that claims to detail a network of gay clerics residing and working in the Vatican raised eyebrows, as it was released on the first day of the summit.

Frederic Martel said Inside the Closet of the Vatican does not imply that gay priests are more likely to be abusers. Speaking to America from Paris, Mr. Martel said, however, that he believes there is a link between the allegedly high number of gay men who work for the church and the culture of secrecy that has enabled the scandal to continue.

"There is no link at all between abuse and homosexuality," Mr. Martel said.

[Follow America’s comprehensive coverage of the Vatican sex abuse summit]

But he said “a culture of secrecy that is extremely strong” when it comes to gay priests, who the church has a rule officially prohibiting but which rarely enforces, “was used to protect abusers, even though this culture was not created to protect them.”

“A lot of bishops that protected abusers did so because they are in trouble themselves or they are hiding something, often related to their own homosexuality,” he said. “Often they are afraid their own sexuality will be revealed."

While analysis of reported cases of sexual abuse by clergy in the United States shows most offenses to be against boys and young men, participants in the summit seemed intent on highlighting that many girls and young women have also been victimized by clerics.

Participants in the summit seemed intent on highlighting that many girls and young women have also been victimized by clerics.

“For me, sexual abuse of minors is not just for boys but also for girls,” said Sister Veronica Openibo, in a Feb. 23 address to the nearly 200 bishops and church leaders gathered for the summit.

An adult woman who is a survivor of sexual abuse by a priest spoke to the bishops earlier in the day, telling bishops, “when I was 11 years old, a priest from my parish destroyed my life.”

The survivor, whose identity was not revealed, said in her testimony that recurring trauma from the abuse, which she said went on for five years, resulted in complications with her pregnancy years later.

“Flashbacks and images brought everything back to me. My labor was interrupted, my child was in danger; breastfeeding was impossible because of the terrible memories that emerged,” she said. “I thought I had gone mad.”

The head of the pro-L.G.B.T. group New Ways Ministry, Francis DeBernardo, told America on Feb. 22 that he anticipated the issue of gay priests would be “more prominent” during the summit because of activity leading up to the meeting. But after reading the summit’s preparatory materials, listening to the talks and attending the press briefings, Mr. DeBernardo said, “In the Vatican, they don’t buy the theory that gay priests are the cause” of the abuse crisis.

“In the Vatican, they don’t buy the theory that gay priests are the cause” of the abuse crisis.”

There does not seem to be much agreement about the root causes of the abuse crisis, which flared up again last summer in the United States following the release of a grand jury report in Pennsylvania detailing abuse allegations there. Pope Francis and his allies have repeatedly blamed a clerical culture that places priests and their well-being above lay people.

Speaking to reporters in Rome on Feb. 18, Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich, one of the summit’s organizers, citing academic studies of the abuse crisis in the United States and Australia, said the research has “indicated that homosexuality in itself is not a cause.”

The cardinal, who has previously defended gay priests, added, “It is not as a result of being homosexual that you abuse, as though homosexual people are more prone to abuse children than straight people.”

But emboldened by new waves of revelations of historical abuse, including the recent laicization of the former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, some Catholics have set their sights on gay priests, whom, going against what the findings of experts and a church-commissioned academic study, they blame for the abuse crisis.

Some Catholic organizations and activists are leveling a campaign against gay priests, using the ongoing abuse crisis as a platform.

Recent articles about gay priests have appeared in The New York Times and New York magazine, reigniting a debate about the church’s stand. While Pope Francis has seemed more open to welcoming L.G.B.T. Catholics into the church than his predecessors, he also upheld the church’s official ban on gay priests as recently as last year. In a recent interview, the pope said having gay men serve as priests “is something that worries me” and said that homosexuality is becoming “fashionable” in both society and the church. Deeper analysis of the pope’s words suggested that he was talking about sexually active gay priests and not clerics who abide by their promises of celibacy.

That has not stopped some Catholic organizations and activists from leveling a campaign against gay priests, using the ongoing abuse crisis as a platform.

In a statement released Feb. 20, the U.S.-based Catholic League rejected the idea that a culture of clericalism created conditions ripe for the abuse crisis and, as the organization has done many times in the past, instead pinned it on gay priests.

“The preoccupation with clericalism on the part of so-called progressive Catholics has more to do with their myopia, and their desire to divert attention away from homosexuality, than with a pursuit of the truth,” said the group’s leader, Bill Donohue.

Rhode Island Bishop Thomas Tobin tweeted Feb. 21 that the abuse crisis was caused by a number of factors, including “gay currents in the Church.”

A number of bishops who were not part of the meeting, which was limited mostly to the heads of bishops conferences, also sought to link homosexuality and the abuse crisis ahead of the summit.

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput wrote in a brief blog post published on Feb. 19 by the National Catholic Register, that while bishops and lay people must work together to ensure abuse is handled correctly, that “predatory homosexuality played a major role in most of the abuse cases we know about.”

Archbishop Chaput’s comments echo those of Cardinal Raymond Burke and Cardinal Walter Brandmuller, who in a letter published Feb. 19 said the “plague of the homosexual agenda has spread within the church” and that it is “protected by a climate of complicity and a conspiracy of silence.”

And Rhode Island Bishop Thomas Tobin tweeted Feb. 21 that the abuse crisis was caused by a number of factors, including “gay currents in the Church.”

But abuse survivors have largely dismissed the connection between homosexuality and the abuse crisis.

As for Mr. Cruz, he said the heart of the crisis is allowing priests who have abused children to remain in ministry. Those priests, he said, should be dismissed from the clerical state and if bishops failed to act or covered up abuse, they should also be punished. He said he would be watching closely following the meeting for concrete next steps.

“Everybody has the right to be very angry, I am, too,” he said. “But I feel when there's an opportunity, where a door opens, you have to take it.”

Want to learn more about what’s happening at the Vatican? In our new podcast, Gerard O’Connell and Colleen Dulle will take you behind the headlines for an intergenerational conversation about the biggest stories out of the Vatican. Listen now.

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JR Cosgrove
4 years 1 month ago

Hasn't the abuse of minors been essentially eliminated? The real question is the motivation of those who protected the abusers? There are a lot of unasked consequently unanswered questions. For example, How many minors have been abused since 2002? What is the total number of abusers before 2002 and after 2002? What is the percentage of girls vs boys? What percentage of nuns have been abused?

Other institutions should be investigated to see what trends they have experienced. Clericalism exist in similar forms in education, sports, performing arts, foster care, orphanages etc.!!!

John K
4 years 1 month ago

This is yet another attempt by America Magazine to deflect and deny the link between homosexuality in the face of the facts. This is not a "crisis of pedophilia" since the vast majority of victims are post-pubescent males. It has been proven that there is virtually no link between homosexuality and pedophilia. But this is not the question. The link is between homosexuality and young teenage men, who make up 70% - 80% of the victims, in countries we have comprehensive data (e.g., U.S., Germany, Belgium, Chile) not between homosexuality and little children.

Vincent Couling
4 years 1 month ago

To argue that "this is not a crisis of paedophilia since the vast majority of victims are post-pubescent males" is extraordinarily misleading. From what I can make out, the John Jay report redefined paedophilia as the sexual abuse of victims 10 years old or younger ... whereas the DSM defines paedophilia as the sexual abuse of victims 13 years old or younger (i.e. the cut-off for pre-pubescence is set to age 13).

A useful source is https://mirandaceleste.net/2011/05/24/a-worthless-and-dangerous-report/ :
"Next, let’s look at two of the major problems of and flaws in the report’s methodology and conclusions:

1. One of the most egregious aspects of this report is that the researchers arbitrarily redefine “pedophilia” as sexual abuse of victims that were ten years old or younger at the time, despite the fact that the DSM sets the cutoff age at thirteen. Defining it as “ten years old or younger” allows the researchers to make claims like:

'Less than 5 percent of the priests with allegations of abuse exhibited behavior consistent with a diagnosis of pedophilia (a psychiatric disorder that is characterized by recurrent fantasies, urges, and behaviors about prepubescent children). Thus, it is inaccurate to refer to abusers as “pedophile priests” (3).'


'It is worth noting that while the media has consistently referred to priest-abusers as “pedophile priests,” pedophilia is defined as the sexual attraction to prepubescent children. Yet, the data on priests show that 22 percent of victims were age ten and under, while the majority of victims were pubescent or postpubescent (10).'

… whereas if they had stuck to the DSM‘s guidelines (age thirteen or younger), most of the priest-abusers could legitimately be called “pedophiles”, as “[m]ost sexual abuse victims of priests (51 percent) were between the ages of eleven and fourteen, while 27 percent were fifteen to seventeen, 16 percent were eight to ten, and nearly 6 percent were under age seven” (10). In other words, if the researchers had used the DSM‘s guidelines, the percentage would jump from 22% to almost 73%.

Arbitrarily changing the age from thirteen to ten was a very sleazy and duplicitous move, and, unfortunately, many media outlets will most likely report the “5%” and “22%” figures without explaining the study’s authors’ arbitrary redefinition of “pedophilia” (see this CNN story for an example). “Pedophilia” is a word that evokes strong feelings in many people, and, without this explanation, most media consumers will be left with the impression that the Church’s sex abuse crisis isn’t nearly as horrible or widespread as they had previously thought.

Frustratingly, the researchers do not explain why they chose to redefine “pedophilia”, saying only that: “[f]or the purpose of this comparison, a pedophile is defined as a priest who had more than one victim, with all victims being age eleven or younger at the time of the offense” (34)."

Even more egregious, though, is the researchers’ attack on any media outlet or individual who accepts the standard definition of “pedophile”:

'Media reports about Catholic priests who sexually abused minors often mistakenly have referred to priests as pedophiles. According to the DSM IV-TR, pedophilia is characterized by fantasies, urges, or behaviors about sexual activity with a prepubescent child that occurs for a significant period of time. Yet, the Nature and Scope data indicated that nearly four out of five minors abused were at least eleven years old at the time of the abuse. Though development happens at varying ages for children, the literature generally refers to eleven and older as an age of pubescence or postpubescence (53).'

I’m both horrified and perplexed by the researchers’ arbitrary and unexplained redefinition of their study’s primary topic. Remember: their redefinition of “pedophile” allows them to claim that only 22% of priest-abusers were “pedophiles”, whereas, if they had used the DSM‘s definition, that percentage would jump to almost 73%. Media consumers who hear the figure of 22% reported without context will, most likely, assume that it is based upon the standard (DSM) definition, and, as a result, will develop a highly inaccurate understanding of the realities of the Catholic sex abuse crisis. Because of this, I don’t think it’s uncharitable or unreasonable to call into question both the credibility of and the integrity of the researchers."

Sushil YD
4 years 1 month ago

check here: https://www.hsslive.co.in/

mary ann Steppke
4 years 1 month ago

Since sexual abuse of minors has been part of the culture of the catholic church for centuries, why are we not understanding the root cause of this sin? Why are we not openly asking for the laity to seek this knowledge? Repressed sexual needs I believe is the cause of this abuse. I also believe that the homosexual acceptance in the clergy has produced a large percentage today. But the question is are they a non-active sexual clergy ? Let the truth be known NOW !!!!!Lets please stay with the clergy only now so we can end the abuse.Let us organize lay groups trained at the diocese for the local parishes to oversee the priests and the bishops. I would suggest professional social workers,psychologists ,etc to work also with the lay participation.

Phillip Stone
4 years 1 month ago

Human beings need water, so too do they need food and air to breathe as well
They do not NEED sex, full stop. Centuries of witness by celibate consecrated religious gives ample witness.
God wills sexual intercourse to continue the human race until He calls a halt.

It is a lie to say that sexual abuse of minors is part of Catholic culture, just plain idiocy.
The parents of children and the carers of the vulnerable are responsible for keeping them out of the reach of anyone who could do them harm. Never leave them alone with any person you have not gone to lengths to ascertain is actually trustworthy rather than act in blind trust - this new buzz word clericalism has been practised by the people of God in elevating the clergy, otherwise it would have no legs.

Ellen B
4 years 1 month ago

You are ignoring that the individuals who helped cover up the sexual abuse for DECADES are still in the same roles in the church. You are ignoring that priests (bishops & cardinals) who abused their parishioners are still out there & their identities were never revealed. In many cases, the statute of limitations on their crimes has passed & non-disclosure agreements signed by the abused have helped to hide the extent of the abuse. First, reveal the extent of the abuse & then weed out the guilty.

Homosexuality and pedophilia are two different things.

4 years 1 month ago

Not a word in this article about the what should be the inescapable fact that some 80% of offenses in the national study and the same percentage in the Pennsylvania study were man/boy. To the extent that clericalism is involved, there is no evident reason why it should impact homosexual priests so much more than heterosexual priests. And assuming it to be true that in general homosexuals are no more likely than heterosexuals to abuse sexually, it is also seems evident that homosexual priests are. The question that should be examined is why that is so. It seems likely that it is linked to seminaries. If that is true, the next question is what can be done about it. The obvious answer -- not necessarily the only one -- is to enforce the existing ban against ordaining men with "deep-seated homosexual tendencies" -- a ban affirmed as recently as 2016. For bishops and the Pope to ignore this "elephant in the room" is a disgraceful failure to deal with the sexual abuse problem and instead engage in duplicitous evasion. No wonder confidence in both Pope and bishops is fast eroding.

Lisa M
4 years 1 month ago

William- I think the elephant in the room was addressed. Indifference. That is what has lead to the number of sexually abused children. This conference was about protecting and caring for the victims, not about the perpetrators. It is the bishops that needed to acknowledge their role in covering up and ignoring the cries of our children. The cause of the abuse is a different topic. Homosexuality in the context of not being celibate, sexual activity in the seminaries, and most likely pornography need to be examined, BUT they are separate, and I'm glad Pope Francis recognized that.

Frank Elliott, Jr.
4 years ago

Catholic high schools were sexually segregated for most of the history of Catholic education. Boys were educated by priests and girls by nuns. Heterosexual perverts to want bald beaver raise their own victims.

Sue Harvey
4 years 1 month ago

Let’s think about staying “ in our own lane” Church can deal with spiritual issue, let police handle the crime investigation aspect. Yes, it’s a crime. Business has grappled with employee issues that impact their productivity, reputation. Employee assistance programs paid time in treatment programs but zero tolerance if there is not changed attitude, behaviors. I see that the Church may wish to minister to their “employee” but past practice of secrecy, pretending that changing location will remove “ the occasion of sin”. Victim blaming for sure. Not believing that disordered sexuality, predatory behavior could exist or knowing but enabling that’s been the scandal.

Gail Sockwell-Thompson
4 years 1 month ago

Men protecting men. Crimes against minors should be handled in criminal court. Minister the flock from behind bars if it comes to that.

Tim O'Leary
4 years 1 month ago

The argument being pushed by the politically correct clerics is that homosexual acts have nothing to do with homosexuality.

Colin Jory
4 years 1 month ago

So Jeremy Cruz "rejects attempts by some Catholics to pin the abuse crisis on gay priests" and declares, “That is just a fallacy". Talk about a Freudian slip!

Colin Jory
4 years 1 month ago

So Jeremy Cruz "rejects attempts by some Catholics to pin the abuse crisis on gay priests" and declares, “That is just a fallacy". Talk about a Freudian slip!

Tim O'Leary
4 years 1 month ago

I see Andrew Sullivan has sort of endorsed the Martel book. By giving any credence of these ridiculous groundless, catty claims by Frederic Martel, he is doing a great disservice to gays and further justifying the canon law that tries to keep them out. Martel claims that a majority of clerics in the Vatican are homosexual (he quotes 80%), and they are the worst type of Catholic. One half consists of deeply repressed celibate clerics whose repression causes them to lash out at homosexuals and distorts doctrine. The other half care nothing about their vows and Church teaching and instead lead highly promiscuous sex lives, hiring male prostitutes, engaging in orgies and enabling. They are addicted to pornography. They can’t even be interviewed by an aging journalist without propositioning him. The high number implies they weren’t “born that way,” but learned it in adult life, when it became fashionable and helped careers in the Church. So, the obvious conclusion of Martel's claims is that no homosexual can lead a healthy celibate life. They will be either repressed hypocrites or flagrant fornicators. And these are just the adult abusers. No wonder Martel titles the book Sodom in some languages. Archbishop Vigano's charges are very mild by comparison.

Maybe, there is a lavender mafia controlling the levers of power in the Vatican, covering for abusers of young men and minors, enabling the rise of gay abusers like McCarrick, and keeping the homosexual abuse of teens and adults out of the meeting (focusing only on pre-pubertal abuse), but Martel exaggerates its size and influence, distorts their collective motives and describes all of them as enslaved to sex.

Jeb Barrett
4 years 1 month ago

The laity have been aware for centuries of the hierarchy's discomfort with all matters of human sexuality, resulting in denial, suppression, repression and obsession. The creation of homosocial cultures of priests, monks and nuns has provided a haven for those who do not wish to marry. Deprived of true human intimacy, that need and mayoral drive is bound to express itself in different ways, healthy and unhealthy. In my view, that is the fault of the inhumane teachings and denial of human sexuality.

Frank T
4 years 1 month ago

Thank you Jeb. People looking for a witch hunt are missing the big picture. Abuse is endemic because the system is based on repression. People want to go back to a time that never actually existed.

Aiden Kerem
4 years 1 month ago

Unbelievable! All holy books mention Sodom and Gomorrah and yet, we discuss keeping 'gay currents in Church'.

Phillip Stone
4 years 1 month ago

Do I see another bit of nonsense creeping into the free-for-all?

Repression is to blame. Please can we leave Freud in his grave, he stank before he was buried and still does.

4 years 1 month ago

80% of the cases involve post-pubescent BOYS and priests (MEN). Same sex, No, obviously no homosexual nexus there--move on, nothing to see here.

Yes, the Pope's enforcers kept the message on script, pretending this was about minors. But what blew the lid off this stinking pot was the exposure of Teddy Bear McCarrick, not just for what he did to a minor in St. Patrick's Cathedral before Christmas Midnight Mass, but what he regularly did with seminarians. But, of course, we didn't speak about the seminarians. And McCarrick was the 800-pound Teddy Bear in the room.

Now, we'll all come back from Rome and announce that Rome's stage show has set us on the "path" of resolving this problem, and undoubtedly Jesuits will show a greater Ultramontanism than they have in the last four papacies.

Vincent Couling
4 years 1 month ago

John, this is simply not true. Puberty in boys ends around the ages 16-17. According to the John Jay report (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Jay_Report#Profile_of_the_victims for tabulated statistics), 22% of victims were under the age of 10 (is this where you get your 80% from?). But the process of puberty in boys only ***begins*** around ages 11 to 12! 60% of victims were age 13 or younger, 73.2% age 14 or younger, and 84.8% of victims age 15 or younger. Kindly refrain from peddling the LIE/FAKE NEWS that "80% of the cases involve post-pubescent BOYS"!

Lisa M
4 years 1 month ago

Vincent- thank you very much for the information! A second point, for those post-pubescent victims, it is still equally vile, an abuse of power, corruption of innocence, life changing and traumatizing, etc. Calling it anything other than what it is, is shameful, and an injustice to the victims.

Vincent Couling
4 years 1 month ago

Lisa, agreed 100%!!!

Incidentally, Fr James Alison, who is an openly gay priest, addresses the issue of gay priests in a fascinating article at http://jamesalison.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Welcome-to-my-world.pdf . He cuts to the very heart of the matter as only Jame Alison can! Many have come to regard James as one of the foremost contemporary theological minds in the English-speaking world.

Michael Barberi
4 years 1 month ago

Cardinal Scicluna's remarks are confusing

Michael Barberi
4 years 1 month ago

Cardinal Scicluna's remarks are confusing

Craig B. Mckee
4 years 1 month ago

"Frederic Martel said Inside the Closet of the Vatican does not imply that gay priests are more likely to be abusers. Speaking to America from Paris, Mr. Martel said, however, that he believes there is a link between the allegedly high number of gay men who work for the church and the culture of secrecy that has enabled the scandal to continue."

Dr. Martel also said:
"... a 300-page document that includes sources, notes and unpublished chapters would be made available online on the book’s publication day."

And now on the book's website we read:
In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy
(publisher: Bloomsbury Continuum, Feb. 2019).

– Sources and bibliography : to be added soon (March 2019)

– Team of researchers : to be added soon

Without these notes, the book remains a trashy work of fiction!

Vincent Couling
4 years 1 month ago

Martel's book is most certainly NOT a "trashy work of fiction". See Fr James Alison's extensive discussion at http://jamesalison.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Welcome-to-my-world.pdf .

Lisa M
4 years 1 month ago

Vincent- Martel did not provide any sources, and the fact he has postponed providing them indicates he did not use them. It is therefore fiction, even if some of his claims turn out to hold some truth. We are left no further ahead then we were before the book came out. I'll read your link on Fr. Allison, thanks.

Vincent Couling
4 years 1 month ago

Lisa, it could have to do with potential legal issues ... I'm sure his publishers and legal team have seen a great deal unfold in the brief time the book has been out for sale ... perhaps even some threats of litigation ... perhaps he's simply protecting his sources! For some deeply closeted prelates, this sort of book can be seen as provoking life-and-death scenarios ... who knows how they might react ...

Warren Patton
4 years 1 month ago

While I haven't read Martel's book everything I read about it says that its not credible, filled with gossip and hearsay as well as totally unfounded assumptions by the author. I'm not sure why he's being quoted as an authority here.

Vincent Couling
4 years 1 month ago

Then you haven't read Fr James Alison's reflection at http://jamesalison.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Welcome-to-my-world.pdf

He is an openly gay priest, and was one of Martel's few sources who was happy to be quoted using his own name! James is a man of immense integrity ... as revealed by his books and his retreats, one of which I was privileged to attend! My autographed copy of "Faith beyond resentment: fragments Catholic and gay" has pride of place on my bookshelf ;-)

Frank T
4 years ago

There will be not one iota of healing within the Roman Catholic Church until it addresses the issue of its homophobia by the blessing of gay monogamous unions.

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