In 2004 the Catholic bishops of the United States ordered a study be made of the problem of sexual abuse by clergy in America. Since this John Jay College of Criminal Justice study on "The Nature and Scope of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States from 1950–2002," much has happened to shed light on this problem in the Catholic Church in the United States. For one thing, we now know that the study overlooked bishops in the "nature and scope" of the problem. With this new information about bishops, we, in fact, now know both the problem and solution.
Since Part 4.2 of the study revealed that more than 80 percent of the clergy accused of sexual abuse were abusing teenage boys or young men, the initial report of the study concluded that the problem involved homosexuality. Dr. Paul McHugh, a former psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital and a member of the National Review Board, stated in an August 25, 2006 National Catholic Register editorial that the John Jay study had revealed a crisis of "homosexual predation on American Catholic youth."
But, even though the initial report concluded that homosexuality among "priests and deacons" was a significant factor in the problem of clergy sexual abuse, the final report left a different overall impression. By focusing on a technical definition of children which included pre-pubescent children along with post-pubescent young men in their teens, the final report left the overall impression that the more serious problem had to do with clergy sexually abusing pre-pubescent children and not young men. In other words, the final interpretation of the problem appeared as a problem of pedophilia among clergy and not a problem of homosexuality.
Since that time, however, new information about bishops sexually abusing young men has come to light. For example, while the Church failed to warn the public about the sexual abuse of seminarians by nine bishops in the United States, it was the "civil justice system" that finally stepped in and exposed them. This revealed that there was not only a serious problem of "homosexual predation on American Catholic youth" by priests and deacons but also, and especially, by bishops. And these nine bishops represent only the bishops with this problem that got caught.
Further evidence of this massive problem of "homosexual predation of American youth" by bishops came from a priest of the Albany diocese, who experienced a network of homosexual seminarians when this priest was a seminarian in the Archdiocese of Newark under the recently debarred Cdl. Theodore McCarrick. And this problem is not confined to the United States. "Nearly 50 seminarians in Honduras have protested against what they say is a widespread and entrenched pattern of homosexual practice in Tegucigalpa's major seminary." There is now clear evidence that this "homosexual predation" on young men by bishops, priests, and deacons has become an epidemic throughout the Catholic Church.
Today, with this new sad information about the homosexual predation on youth by bishops, it is clear that certain members of the John Jay Study were incorrect when they reinterpreted the final report to say that the problem of homosexuality among the clergy was primarily and fundamentally a problem of pedophilia among clergy. This also led to a misdirection of the solution to the problem. Schools and parishes began to advise that children should not be left alone with clergy without some adult chaperone. This focus on protecting pre-pubescent children enabled the problem of homosexuality among bishops to escape the notice of the Catholic Church almost entirely.
The presence of homosexual activity among bishops and seminarians was so widespread and connected especially in seminaries that it is impossible to believe that it was not known to many, if not most, of the bishops in the United States — especially to high-ranking prelates who deal with the daily affairs of the Church, like problems in seminaries. Consequently, many are saying that the bishops who knew about this "homosexual predation" upon seminarians — and did nothing to stop it — should resign.
However, in my opinion, it would be better to come up with concrete solutions to this problem now that we all clearly know about it and have to admit that the problem is truly homosexuality among the clergy, including bishops. To this point I would like to offer some concrete recommendations which would bring about a true solution to the problem.
First of all, every Catholic must be aware that the media will not help resolve this problem of "homosexual predation of American youth" by bishops if the victims are young men and not children. In fact, bishops who are practicing homosexuals themselves, or others who favor groups like the LGBT, will be protected from transparency by the media, since these bishops are the darlings of the media. The media will be reluctant to report any homosexual relationship of bishops with seminarians or any other young man. Why? Because the media is in favor of freedom for everyone to have homosexual relationships. They think that any Church acceptance of the practice of homosexuality is a step forward in justice and equality.
So, (1) if this problem of rampant homosexuality among the clergy and seminarians is going to be resolved, it will be done by the good bishops speaking up. Bishops, together in their June and November gatherings, but also, and perhaps more importantly, individually in their own dioceses, must clearly condemn "sodomy," whether in the form of same-sex unions or same-sex marriage. After all, it is not "union" or "marriage" which offends God, but "sodomy" masquerading under any name. The bishops must leave no doubt among the faithful of God's teaching that sodomy or exchanging "natural (sexual) relations for unnatural" will bring down the "wrath of God" upon society and lead people to eternal punishment (Rom. 1:18–27, 1 Cor. 6:9). If the bishops are not willing to do this, then they should resign.
Secondly (2), now that everyone must admit that the real problem of clergy sexual abuse is homosexuality and has witnessed the impotency of the Church's past regulation concerning homosexuals entering seminaries and religious life, the Church must update the past regulations regarding these matters.
According to the Congregation for Catholic Education's November 2005 Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in view of their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders:
it necessary to state clearly that the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called "gay culture."
This directive is good, but it does not go far enough. Ruling out "deep-seated homosexual tendencies" is not sufficient to protect our young men from clergy sexual abuse. The past epidemic of clergy homosexual predation on the young is evidence of this.
A person's sexuality lies at the center of their identity and is, therefore, always "deeply" related to the person. So, in reality, there is really no such thing as a "shallow-seated homosexual tendency" or a so-called slight homosexual tendency or one not so "deeply seated." Every homosexual tendency is "deeply seated" and a danger to the young. Even though a priest may think that he has overcome not so "deeply seated homosexual past tendencies," these tendencies can be fanned into flames in an instant when a priest and young man are together in a private and secluded place, like a confessional, discussing the young man's problems with masturbation or some other sexual difficulty.
Is it really necessary to put these young men at risk just to satisfy the politically correct notion that we must consider homosexuals for the priesthood for the sake of justice? Aren't there enough healthy heterosexual men who want to study for the priesthood? There needs to be a regulation that anyone, who has knowingly and willfully engaged in even one homosexual act, must not enter the seminary (I am not speaking of cases when a person has been raped or sexually abused by someone — but even here one must be careful).
Finally (3), we come to the most important requirement of all to finally put to rest this evil of homosexual abuse by the clergy. Jesus taught that "anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Mt. 5:28). Is it really necessary to explain to Catholics why it is also true to say that, if a man lust after another man, he has already committed "sodomy" with him in his heart?
The Church has always taught that masturbation is "an intrinsically and gravely disordered action" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2352). Similarly, as Jesus said, entertaining impure thoughts (adultery in the heart) is a violation of the Ten Commandments which bind always and everywhere (Catechism, 2072). So, both entertaining impure thoughts and masturbation are intrinsically evil acts. This is the constant teaching of the Church.
Now, obviously, a man does not engage in homosexual activity or sodomy without impure thoughts and masturbation. So how does it happen that men who are studying the Scriptures and the teachings of the Catholic Church in a seminary are not convinced of this? Is it possible that these seminarians are not being taught that entertaining impure thoughts and masturbation are mortal sins if done knowingly and willingly? Or worse yet, is it possible that they are being taught just the opposite: that knowingly and willingly entertaining impure thoughts and masturbation are not mortal sins or maybe just venial sins or no sin at all? Considering this epidemic of homosexuality among bishops and seminarians, both are probably the case. Early in seminary life these young men engage in sexual fantasies and masturbation, then after they're ordained, they are so weakened spiritually that they cannot resist temptations of impurity when they arise in ministry.
So, here is a final recommendation for solving the clergy sexual abuse crisis in the Church. And this recommendation applies to heterosexual men in relation to women as it does to homosexual men in relation to other men. No seminarian or religious should be admitted into a seminary, religious life, vows or ordination who cannot refrain from entertaining impure thoughts and masturbation for at least one year.
Yes, we may know men in the past who went on to be ordained or take religious vows even though they still occasionally knowingly and willfully masturbated or entertained impure thoughts. But we do not really know how much these men are conflicted daily and how these men turned out spiritually or will turn out spiritually. You can be sure that, if these men are now pure and happy, they have ceased masturbating and entertaining impure thoughts. Today we are living in a post-sexual revolution era when the priest must be stronger in the area of chastity to defend his purity. This regulation should be absolute.
There are those who will say that this regulation is too strict and unfair to homosexual and heterosexual young men who want to study for the priesthood. But, if I am going to err, I would rather err by protecting young men and women from weak clergy, rather than risking their spiritual and psychological safety by being too lenient and wrapped up in consideration of political correctness and the so-called rights of homosexual and heterosexual weak priestly candidates. No one has a right to be a priest or religious. The Church must choose candidates for the priesthood and religious life based on what is best for the people — not the desires or aspirations of the candidate.
Republished with permission from Fr. Regis Scanlon.