Exclusive Interview: Dr. Paul McHugh

by Anita Carey  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  August 21, 2018   

'This is obviously homosexual predation on Catholic youth'

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BALTIMORE, Md. (ChurchMilitant.com) - One of the original members of the bishops' commission on sexual abuse highlighted the systemic homosexual predation of young Catholics in an exclusive interview with Church Militant.

Dr. Paul McHugh is a psychiatrist and a charter member of the U.S. Bishops' National Review Board that worked to create the John Jay Report released in 2004. Church Militant talked with Dr. McHugh about the current crisis in the Church and what they learned during that study.

He was disappointed in the outcome of the study. He noted that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) "who appointed us, who chose us, to be their advisors about the nature and scope of the child abuse problem that had come to light ... did not do a full and revealing interaction with us in a way that would allow us to get a true sense of what could be behind this."

McHugh noted that the team of highly skilled professionals saw all of the bishops' records and worked with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice to determine the scope and nature of the abuse problem and to study the causes of it.

He said the scope of the problem was immense. They found in the 1970s, 10 percent of the priests ordained were credibly accused of molesting a child.

The team worked with the presumption that the bishops worked in good faith to provide them with truthful answers. They noted celibacy, a male-only environment and disappointment over Humanae Vitae preceded the surge in instances of abuse.

"They couldn't be the causes," Dr. McHugh explained.

"We were left with the idea that somehow the Church had a problem, a systemic problem of a kind we were unable to explain," he said. The discovery that senior members of the Church — like Cdl. McCarrick and seminary leadership — "were actively seducing young seminarians at a vital time in their life when they were themselves struggling with the issues of their sexuality and celibacy, this is a very revealing thing," he said.

He said the systemic sexual abuse wasn't because "we had bad apples as seminarians, it was because these young men were being corrupted during a vital period of their time and that probably explains the extent of it."

"This is obviously homosexual predation on Catholic youth," Dr. McHugh added.

While The Boston Globe's 2002 investigation also noted the link between homosexuality and priestly sex abuse, the Church continued to deny the connection. The follow-up John Jay report in 2011, "The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors," cited stress, psychological difficulties and "unguarded access to minors" as the reasons for the high incidence of abuse of males.

The USCCB didn't contradict this conclusion and the continued actions of the bishops in dioceses all across America to protect and move around predatory priests continues to wreak damage to the Church and countless souls marred by the abuse.

The Pennsylvania grand jury report released last week infuriated Catholics after it exposed that Cdl. Donald Wuerl protected predatory priests and even paid off one abusive priest to avoid scandal. In California, court cases from 2005 in both the archdiocese of Los Angeles and diocese of Orange exposed the extent of the cover-up by prelates like Cdl. Roger Mahony, Bps. William Johnson, Emilio Berlie, Michael Driscoll and Jaime Soto.

"Every time these things come out, it's going to make it worse for everybody," Dr. McHugh noted. The loss of trust Americans Catholics have in their leaders, both bishops and in institutions, is going to continue to be eroded every time a new allegation is made.

"They really are going to believe that you are trying to hurt the Church, that you're trying to corrupt some aspect of it," he said.

It is not a flourishing life to be preoccupied with sexual urges of this sort.

"There is no absolution unless there is an admission of guilt, admission of sin," he explained. He said there's plenty of evidence of that sin "in the burden that young people that were abused as children have in their later life and the corruption of the course of a seminarian into the priesthood and life afterward."

"It is not a flourishing life to be preoccupied with sexual urges of this sort," he said.

While Dr. McHugh is certain that children are now safer because of the Dallas Charter and the work they did, he said these new scandals have rocked the Church "in part, because everybody knows that, in 2002, they were telling us they were going to make this good faith effort to really be transparent in this matter."

Catholics are angry and have lost trust in the bishops because the bishops themselves are actively involved in covering up the abuse, like in the case of ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was actively preying on and abusing young seminarians.

"I think they should now completely come clean," Dr. McHugh said. He explained without a root-cause analysis it is difficult to prescribe a therapy. We need to find out "what did you know, when did you know it, how did you know it and what did you do about it?"

He explained the bishops need another investigation like the John Jay Report, "but they need it for themselves."

"My recommendation to them is that they call the charter members of this board back," he said. "Let's find out the truth ... you've had long enough to hide from the light."

He added, "I think the real problem is that the bishops —and perhaps many other people — thought that we could put this behind us."

"This cannot be put behind us," he noted. "The whole church has something to answer for," he said. "This terrible abuse of these young people, the seminarians that were corrupted — they're all victims of this, somehow or another, we have to do penance for that, for ourselves."

He suggested that Catholics take up an annual march in sackcloth and ashes, to ask for God's forgiveness for the sins of the Church.

"Only through penance will you take on the commitment to not sin again," he said.


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