A Response to Bishop Robert Barron’s ‘Letter to a Suffering Church’

News: Commentary
by Gene Thomas Gomulka  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  July 9, 2019   

Barron does not address the primary cause of sex abuse

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"Why stay Catholic with so much scandals?" asks Bp. Robert Barron in his book Letter to a Suffering Church. The main thesis of the small book is that Catholics, scandalized by the sex abuse scandal, should not abandon the Church which historically has gone through equally trying times.

Barron provides readers encouragement grounded in Scripture and Church history. He urges the laity to "fight" by "raising your voice in protest … writing a letter of complaint … insisting that protocols be followed … reporting offenders … pursuing the guilty … refusing to be mollified by pathetic excuses." While this all sounds very good, the problem is that these steps have already been taken with little to no effect.

As the founder of Word on Fire Catholic ministries and an auxiliary bishop for the archdiocese of Los Angeles, Barron tries to lead readers to believe that the worst is over.

He writes that "the reporting of new cases is down to a trickle." The fact is, however, that reporting doubled between July 1, 2017, and June 30, 2018. Even though he laments the abuse and cover-ups, he fails to address the fact that it is the Catholic Church — and not simply predator priests and corrupt bishops — that is responsible for the abuse problem. Why should one want to blame the problem on the "Catholic Church?"

Part of the problem dates back to when the Church established minor (high school) seminaries, like St. Anthony's Seminary in Santa Barbara, in which faculty members and upperclassmen preyed upon thousands of young boys during their period of psychosexual development.

Many of these innocent boys were turned into homosexual predators who later, as priests, sexually preyed upon altar boys and other young men who were as old as they were when they had their first sexual experience in the seminary.

Many of these innocent boys were turned into homosexual predators who later, as priests, sexually preyed upon altar boys and other young men who were as old as they were when they had their first sexual experience in the seminary.

Without revealing their identities, there were two priests who were ordained together. One attended a co-ed Catholic high school while the other one was enrolled in a minor seminary. While one was going to school dances and proms, the other one was being "befriended" by homosexual faculty members.

After their ordination, one related to the boys and young men in his parish like a mentor and loving father, while the other one was later accused of sexually abusing teenage parishioners. Ever though the sexually abusive priest is at fault, is the "Catholic Church" not more at fault for allowing innocent boys to have been preyed upon and turned into sexual predators?

If the number of sex abuse cases is going down (despite the reporting of past cases going up), is it because of safeguards put into place by the Dallas Charter, or — more so — because most minor seminaries have been closed, thereby reducing the number of priests who prey upon young people as they themselves were preyed upon?

Minor seminaries were designed to attract high school boys to become priests before they discovered girls. Even if one argues that most were not ordained until they were around 25 or 26, it was expected they were not to date as seminarians. Many of those who retained their heterosexual orientation and were not turned into homosexual predators did in time discover women, which helps explain why studies show that at any given time no more than 50 percent of priests practice celibacy.

How many priests today were appraised of this statistic before they were asked to promise celibacy? How many heterosexual seminarians today — as few as there may be — are told that only half of all priests at any given time are practicing celibacy?

While research shows that 28% of men and 15% of women in the United States admit to having been unfaithful during their marriages, the late Richard Sipe, a leading expert in the field of priestly sexuality, maintained that only 2–10% of vowed clergy have never broken their vow of celibacy following their ordination.


When Abp. Robert Carlson took up a second collection on Easter Sunday for retired priests, how many priests of the archdiocese of St. Louis are retired after reaching 70–75 years of age verses priests removed from ministry because of having been credibly accused or found guilty of having sexually abused minors, seminarians, or adults?

If many diocesan priest retirement homes are filled to capacity, is it because bishops have no other place to put abusive priests? The fact that a number of predator priests were themselves victims of sex abuse undertaken by people employed by the Church only makes it right and just that the Church provide for them without misleading Catholics to believe their special "retirement" contributions are being used exclusively for priests who served faithfully until reaching retirement age.

Unfortunately, Bp. Barron does not address in depth the primary cause of the sex abuse crisis which Fr. Paul Sullins shared in his report entitled "Report: Clergy Sex Abuse" that was distributed to all the U.S. bishops at a meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

According to Fr. Sullins' research, as the percentage of homosexuals in the episcopacy, priesthood and seminaries increased beginning in the '60s, so too was there a direct proportionate increase in the number of sex abuse cases. This makes total sense when one considers that, unlike in U.S. society where 80% of sex abuse victims are teenage girls, some 80% of the victims of clerical sexual abuse in the Catholic Church are teenage boys.

Pope Francis, Cdl. Blase Cupich and others can try to blame the abuse crisis on "clericalism," but past and present lay members of the National Review Board would agree with Fr. Sullins' findings and say otherwise.

Interestingly, the Vatican and the USCCB are covering up the results of the Sullins report just as they did the 1985 sex abuse report "The Problem of Sexual Molestation by Roman Catholic Clergy: Meeting the Problem in a Comprehensive and Responsible Manner" co-authored by Dominican Fr. Thomas Doyle.

If some 300 priests from six Pennsylvania dioceses abused over 1,000 minors, one can postulate that, with 150 predator chaplains, there were not two, but at least 500 abuse victims — or some 498 never reported by O'Brien.

Had Church leaders not covered up the findings and the recommendations found in this report, how many abuse victims could have been saved over the past some 35 years? How many seminarians and young men will continue to be at risk of being abused as a result of the U.S. bishops failure to act upon the Sullins report that is supported by "Sex Abuse of Minors by Catholic Clergy" authored by Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons and Dale O'Leary?

Not only are many U.S. bishops guilty of covering up and underreporting sex abuse, they themselves are guilty of "clericalism" by professing to be wiser than truly learned and experienced professionals in the field of clerical sex abuse like Paul Sullins, Thomas Doyle, Richard Fitzgibbons, the late Richard Sipe and others.

The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) reports that the average age of U.S. priests today is 67 and the number of priestly ordinations dropped in just one year by 27 percent from 590 in 2017 to 430 in 2018.

Screenshot of Cdl. Joseph Tobin's tweet

It is interesting that those bishops who are playing or have played an important role in vocations to the priesthood are believed to have a homosexual orientation. The current chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, Cdl. Joseph W. Tobin, housed a gay Italian movie star and tweeted, "Nighty-night, baby. I love you," just like Abp. Charles Scicluna, the Vatican's point man on sex abuse, "liked" a photo of two men at a LGBTQ parade in New York City on Twitter.

The official who was in charge of the most recent seminary investigation in the United States, "Two Faces" Cdl. Edwin O'Brien, was reported to have been recruiting candidates for the priesthood at Courage, a conference for men and women struggling with homosexuality. This was the same O'Brien who grossly underreported sexual abuse in the archdiocese for the military services before being made a cardinal by reporting only two abuse cases.

Bishop Accountability is currently in the process of updating its database to reveal that some 150 military and veterans affairs priests of the military archdiocese have been credibly accused or prosecuted for the sexual abuse of minors and young adults.

If some 300 priests from six Pennsylvania dioceses abused over 1,000 minors, one can postulate that, with 150 predator chaplains, there were not two, but at least 500 abuse victims — or some 498 never reported by O'Brien.

Given the fact that no more than 2% of the U.S. population is made up of homosexual males and about half of U.S. bishops are believed to have a homosexual orientation, one should not be surprised that fewer heterosexually oriented seminarians are being ordained and the number of priests in the U.S. has dropped from around 60,000 in 1970 to 35,000 today.

If Fr. Sullins found a direct correlation between an increase in the number of homosexual bishops, priests and seminarians with an increase in the number of sex abuse cases which mainly involved young men, then further research may reveal a direct correlation between an increase in homosexually oriented bishops with a decrease in the number of heterosexual priests and seminarians.

How much can truly change when the 'metropolitan' solution cooked up by Pope Francis and Cdl. Cupich has bishops policing other bishops without mandated lay involvement?

Despite the fact that Pope Francis and most U.S. prelates, including Cdls. Donald Wuerl and Kevin Farrell, along with Bp. Robert McElroy, were aware of Theodore McCarrick's sexual predations, especially with seminarians and young priests, they did nothing to report, address or curb his sexual appetites.

The even greater "elephant in the room" that neither the media nor the U.S. bishops — including Bp. Barron — want to expose is the amount of abuse that Pope Francis himself covered up in Buenos Aires prior to his papal election. How can the Pope discipline bishops for covering up or under-reporting sex abuse when most bishops know he himself covered-up innumerable abuse cases in his archdiocese with a population of 2.5 million Catholics?

Does one really believe the abuse victims who were interviewed in Buenos Aires were lying when they refuted the Pope's claim that "this never happened in my diocese"?

While the "good news" is that with the closure of minor seminaries there will be less homosexual predation of teenage boys, the "bad news" is that with the subsequent recruitment of large numbers of homosexuals in their 20s, 30s and early 40s who are using the priesthood to hide their homosexual orientation, one can now expect far more priests to prey either on heterosexual seminarians and vulnerable adults, or become sexually involved with other adult homosexuals — a problem that was intentionally not addressed at the February sex abuse summit in the Vatican.

When bishops like Arthur Serratelli of Patterson, Richard Malone of Buffalo and McElroy of San Diego allow priests and pastoral associates engaged in homosexual behavior with other priests or consenting adults to remain in ministry or be moved from one parish to another, can one conclude that bishops perceived to be gay cover up for their gay priests?

Just as heterosexual males are not inclined to go to gay bars, what devout heterosexual male would want to study for the priesthood in a diocese headed by a bishop perceived to be gay or associate with promiscuous gay clergy?

While one can applaud Bp. Barron for attempting to encourage Catholics not to lose faith in the institutional Church despite an inordinate number of bishops and priests who engage in, cover-up, or under-report sex abuse, how much can truly change when the "metropolitan" solution cooked up by Pope Francis and Cdl. Cupich has bishops policing other bishops without mandated lay involvement?

An excellent example of a major flaw in this system involves then-Abp. Edwin O'Brien who revoked Air Force chaplain Thomas Doyle's ecclesiastical endorsement after many bishops complained how his testimony at abuse trials was costing them millions of dollars.

When Fr. Doyle returned to the D.C. area from his Air Force base in Germany, it was the metropolitan, then-Cdl. Theodore McCarrick, who denied him faculties to celebrate Mass and the sacraments.

This reminds one of the many seminarians, including Kamil Jarzembowski, whose vocations were destroyed after local Church and high-ranking Vatican officials did nothing when these heterosexually oriented seminarians complained about being hit on by gay classmates, faculty members, rectors and even bishops.

As long as there are so, so many corrupt prelates in the highest positions of the Catholic hierarchy, can Bp. Barron really expect matters to improve no matter how hard Catholics "fight"?

Gene Thomas Gomulka is a retired Navy (captain) chaplain in Coronado, California, who was a priest (monsignor) of the Altoona-Johnstown diocese and who served on active duty at Marine Corps and Navy commands for over 24 years until his retirement in 2004.


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