Liberal Catholic Journalist Links Gay Network to Abuse, Cover-Up Crisis

by Stephen Wynne  •  •  November 1, 2018   

Kenneth Woodward concedes 'homosexuality has played a role'

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NEW YORK ( - A liberal Catholic journalist is linking the homosexual network in the Church to the crisis of clerical sex abuse and cover-up.

In an Oct. 26 article for Commonweal, Kenneth Woodward insisted that homosexuality is not the root cause of the abuse scandal, but noted that "it is true that eight out of ten reported abuses by priests over the past seventy years were cases of males abusing other males."

Woodward, religion editor at Newsweek for nearly 40 years, suggested these statistics stem from greater availability of male adolescents to priests in past decades as well as the possibility that "men who discover that they are sexually attracted to pre- or post-pubescent males are naturally drawn to occupations like the priesthood."

But, he added, "One cannot deny that homosexuality has played a role in the abuse scandals and their cover-up, and to dismiss this aspect as homophobia one would have to be either blind or dishonest."

Unlike most in the Catholic and secular press, Woodward spotlighted the distinction between pedophilia — the blanket term used to deflect attention away from the homosexual nature of the majority of clerical sex abuse — and ephebophilia:

McCarrick doesn't seem to fit the standard profile of a pedophile. In clinical terms, a pedophile is any adult who is sexually attracted to prepubescent children. According to the John Jay Report, only about 5 percent of cases of clerical sex abuse in the past seventy years involved prepubescent children. McCarrick's abuse of adolescent seminarians, dating back to a time when the church still maintained special seminaries for students of high-school age, does fit the clinical profile of an ephebophile — that is, someone who is sexually attracted to postpubescent minors, typically between the ages of twelve and eighteen. Here again, we are often dealing with sick, sexually maladjusted adults.

"This is one reason the McCarrick case is so important," he continued. "McCarrick's targets were young adults as well as adolescents, which fits the definition of homosexual abuse and rape."

Kenneth Woodward

Woodward faulted bishops for refusing to address what Abp. Carlo Maria Viganò called the "homosexual current" in the Church.

"[N]o one in the Catholic hierarchy seems eager to investigate ... the extent to which there are gay networks operating within the American priesthood, its seminaries and chanceries, and within the Vatican itself," he said.

Though suggesting the bishops' silence may spring from fear of "right-wing zealots who would like to use the McCarrick scandal as an excuse to out and purge all homosexual priests and bishops," he noted that "it wasn't just clericalism that allowed McCarrick to abuse seminarians and young priests for decades, even though his behavior was widely known within clerical circles."

"And it wasn't just his ecclesiastical clout that provided him protection," he added. "It was networks, too."

"By networks," he explained, "I mean groups of gay priests, diocesan and religious, who encourage the sexual grooming of seminarians and younger priests, and who themselves lead double lives — breaking their vows of chastity while ministering to the laity and staffing the various bureaucracies of the church."

The laity has a right to a greater degree of transparency in these matters.

In a telling reveal, Woodward said that in his experience, murmurs about the homosexual network stretch back to the 1960s: "During the nearly four decades I spent writing about religion for Newsweek, I heard numerous tales of 'lavender lobbies' in certain seminaries and chanceries, told mostly by straight men who had abandoned their priestly vocations after encountering them."

"At one time or another, the whispering centered on networks in Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Chicago, or Pittsburgh, among other dioceses," he noted. "One of the few priests to complain in public was the late Andrew Greeley, who spoke of gay circles operating in the administration of Chicago's Joseph Bernardin, a cherished friend of his."

Cdl. John J. Wright with protégé, Fr. Donald Wuerl, 1969

"As far back as 1968, I heard similar rumors about priests serving in the Roman Curia, mostly from Italians, who are generally more relaxed about homosexuality than Americans and unsurprised when those leading double lives are outed," he continued. "What concerns me, though, is not simply personal hypocrisy, but whether there are gay networks that protect members who are sexually active."

To illustrate his point, Woodward highlighted the career of Cdl. John J. Wright, bishop of Pittsburgh from 1959–1969. He noted that Wright, "like McCarrick, was the subject of numerous stories about his own sexuality."

"Again, these came mostly from former seminarians and priests of the Pittsburgh diocese, which had a reputation during Wright's decade there as a haven for actively gay clerics," he observed. "That was especially true of the Pittsburgh Oratory, which Wright founded in 1961 as a religious center ministering to Catholic students attending the city's secular universities."

Woodward recalled:

In 1969, at the age of sixty, Pope Paul VI chose Wright to head the Congregation for Priests in Rome and elevated him to cardinal. It was there, in the frenzied initial years of the post-council era, that I first heard stories of his leading a double life rather openly with a younger lover. What interests me now is not the private details of this double life, but whether it influenced how he ran the congregation overseeing the selection, training, and formation of the clergy.

He then shifted the spotlight to Wright's protégé, Cdl. Donald Wuerl:

Donald Wuerl, who recently resigned as archbishop of Washington D.C., would surely know the truth about Wright. Wuerl's first assignment after ordination at the age of thirty-one was as secretary to then Bishop Wright of Pittsburgh in 1966. The younger priest was said to be closer to the cardinal than the hair on his head. He became Wright's omnipresent full-time personal assistant when the latter moved to Rome, even sitting in for him during the papal conclave that elected John Paul II.

"The question of how networks relate to cases like McCarrick's is one that veterans in the hierarchy ought to summon the courage to air," Woodward concluded. "The laity has a right to a greater degree of transparency in these matters."


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