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The recent conviction of Argentine bishop Gustavo Zanchetta for sexually abusing seminarians is just one more blow to a Church struggling with rampant homosexual predation.
Research suggests that, in many countries, the percentage of gay Catholic bishops, priests and seminarians may exceed the percentage of those who are straight. While some homosexual priests lead celibate lives (unlike Zanchetta or ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick), countless cases of clerics engaging in trysts with bishops, fellow clerics, seminarians, prostitutes and strangers have come to light.
The late psychotherapist, researcher and former priest Richard Sipe wrote about how such men "pass the tradition on" of corrupting seminarians and turning them into predators. When young boys enter high school seminaries, gay faculty members often groom them and, gradually, introduce them to gay sex.
Instead of realizing the abusers are using them for their own pleasure, impressionable teens are programmed to view the priests as older friends and to interpret physical intimacy as an expression of closeness.
In many seminaries and dioceses, seminarians who allow themselves to be corrupted are affirmed by being advanced to ordination and, ultimately, to higher office — even, eventually, to bishop. In contrast, seminarians who turn down the advances of superiors are often punished, defamed and forced to give up their vocations. This dynamic continues to this day in various seminaries in South America, the United States and Europe.
Seminarians introduced to gay sex and befriended by homosexually oriented priests and bishops have the chance to lead comfortable lives — and continue to climb up the ecclesiastical ladder. Alternatively (as in the case of Bp. Zanchetta), they may find themselves behind bars when they try to "pass the tradition on." Doing Satan's work is a dangerous game to play.
Yet for clerics able to conceal their predatory behavior and climb high in the ranks, lavish lifestyles similar to those of the secular elite are not beyond their grasp — not to mention the ability to retire in opulence. Even a priest who is reported for abuse may find himself protected by his bishop, who quietly moves him to another parish.
In most cases, Catholic laymen never learn of the predator's record, owing to chancery officials who discard reports and intimidate victims — tactics that discourage costly lawsuits and allow internal investigations to label accusations as "unsubstantiated."
Owing to the large number of new-generation priests who either have ties to or were ordained by predator prelates, one should not be surprised by bishops who behave like Zanchetta. Nor should it be surprising when a seminary vice rector (like Washington, D.C. priest Fr. Adam Park) is accused in a lawsuit of preying on seminarians. (He has since resigned.)
According to the suit, Park's behavior was covered up by outgoing North American College rector Fr. Peter Harman. As a priest from Springfield, Illinois, Harman himself was accused of graphic sexual activities in the presence of seminarians with his former bishop — who is now the archbishop of Omaha. Zanchetta, Park (who was ordained by ex-cardinal McCarrick) and Harman (ordained by accused predator Bp. Daniel Ryan) all face allegations in court that were confirmed by multiple witnesses and found credible by a former FBI special agent in charge.
An important question not being asked by the media regarding Zanchetta's conviction is, Who groomed or recruited Zanchetta? Like Fr. Julio César Grassi, whose 15-year sentence Pope Francis attempted to get overturned when Francis was archbishop of Buenos Aires, Zanchetta will probably never reveal the truth. Most incarcerated predator priests don't want to discuss how they were introduced to gay sex because the priest or bishop who groomed them is likely still a close friend possibly holding a high position in the hierarchy — perhaps even someone who could help them to avoid more serious consequences.
The two abused (former) seminarian plaintiffs in the Zanchetta case provide hope that, even if the pope himself covers for a homosexual predator, justice can be served — although victims' reports sent to the Vatican may be doomed to oblivion.
Victims' advocates believe secular courts have become the answer. It remains to be seen whether the criminal trial against McCarrick in Massachusetts will reach a similar verdict as that against Zanchetta. It likewise is uncertain whether a New York state court will hold Cdl. Timothy Dolan and North American College (NAC) seminary officials accountable for allegedly enabling the cover-up of serial sexual predation against vulnerable seminarians.
Gene Thomas Gomulka is a retired Navy (O6) captain and chaplain. He is also an author, screenwriter and abuse victims' advocate. Ordained a priest for the Altoona-Johnstown diocese, Gomulka was later made a prelate of honor (monsignor) by Pope John Paul II.