In spite of the well-deserved acclaim received by the film "Spotlight," which highlights the Boston Globe's investigative work exposing the massive sex abuse cover-up in Boston under Cdl. Bernard Law, the film is not perfect. Namely, it exhibits a distinct discomfort in pointing fingers at homosexuality — the same discomfort exhibited in large part by the Church hierarchy, which, in spite of tough measures implemented after the sex abuse crisis, fails to look at the root cause: homosexual priests, and the gay-friendly bishops who protect them.
"Spotlight" deflects from the issue, one of its characters insisting in one scene, "This has nothing to do with homosexuality." The character claims the abuse happened to both boys and girls — and to drive home the point, "Spotlight" ends on a scene with a couple little girls waiting in a law firm conference room while their attorney, Mitchell Garabedian (played by Stanley Tucci), makes clear they are yet more abuse victims in need of help.
Statistically, though, girls are only a fraction of the victims in the Church sex abuse scandal. After the crisis revealed itself to be much bigger than Catholics ever knew, stretching far beyond Boston — to date at least 11 dioceses have declared bankruptcy within the past decade as a result of lawsuits (Duluth being the latest), with settlements totaling hundreds of millions of dollars — the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002 commissioned a study to examine the root causes of the crisis.
The National Review Board, recruiting a research team from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, released its initial report in 2004. The results were conclusive: This was not a "pedophile" scandal, but a homosexual scandal. Eighty percent of the alleged victims were male, and nearly 90 percent were post-pubescent, with "only a small percentage of priests receiving allegations of abusing young children." An updated report, issued in 2011, revealed similar numbers: 81 percent of sex abuse victims were boys, and 78 percent were post-pubescent.
Both findings put the lie to the oft-spoken claim that this was a "pedophile priest" scandal.
Pedophilia proper involves children under age 11; but the 2011 John Jay study showed the majority of abuse victims were adolescents and teens between ages 11 and 17 — a pathology more properly termed "ephebophilia." Even Newsweek acknowledged the distinction in 2002: "The great majority of cases now before the Church involve not pedophilia but 'ephebophilia,' an attraction to post-pubescent youths."
Not all are buying the phraseology, though. Author Mary Eberstadt, for instance, calls it a "pseudo-scientific distinction" that is "useless" in categorizing offenders. Some of the priestly sex abusers abused both young children and adolescents, and may also have had relations with adults. There was crossover — most notably in the case of Fr. Paul Shanley, one of the most notorious names in the Boston sex abuse cover-up. According to Eberstadt, Shanley was not a pedophile, but "a sexually active gay man with a taste for children and adolescents." Not only was he an active member of the gay community, often giving talks to Dignity USA as well as speaking on homosexuality in various seminaries, he and a gay priest co-owned a gay resort. Shanley was a homosexual before he was a pedophile.
The homosexual subculture has always involved sexual attraction to youths, and is a well-accepted part of the gay lifestyle. (The term "twink" denotes an adolescent sex partner, a common occurrence among active homosexuals.) And evidence shows homosexuals abuse children at far higher rates than heterosexuals. According to one study, "homosexual men molest boys at rates grossly disproportionate to the rates at which heterosexual men molest girls." This bears out: Although homosexuals comprise only 1–3 percent of the entire population, they are committing up to 33 percent of all sex crimes against children.
The Boston Globe's 2003 findings corroborate the link between homosexuality and priestly sex abuse. "Of the clergy sex abuse cases referred to prosecutors in Eastern Massachusetts, more than 90 percent involve male victims, and the most prominent Boston lawyers for alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse have said that about 95 percent of their clients are male."
But the establishment Church continues in its denial. The 2011 John Jay report itself refused to make the connection, writing off the high incidence of male abuse as no more than a matter of easy access; these priests simply "had opportunities to abuse (for example, unguarded access to minors)." Without addressing the real issue — homosexual priests — no real reform in the Church will ever take place.
The Boston sex abuse scandal could not have happened without homosexual priests, a number of them fostered in its own archdiocese. It's a fact that a disproportionate number of sex abusers in Boston came from St. John's Seminary, a hotbed of gay activity. According to a Boston Herald report, "One student described an atmosphere of frequent experimentation. Gay students quickly identified each other ... and established networks that would last in some fashion until years after graduation and ordination into the priesthood."
A number of those same gay students went on to abuse boys in the archdiocese.
The USCCB initially acknowledged the problem of gay priests. In 2004, it declared that "80 percent of the abuse at issue was of a homosexual nature" and went on to affirm that "an understanding of the crisis is not possible" without referring to "the presence of homosexually oriented priests." Dr. Paul McHugh of Johns Hopkins, a member of the National Review Board, confirmed that the priestly sex abuse scandal was "homosexual predation on American Catholic youth."
But, as Fr. Regis Scanlon notes, "that warning soon disappeared from the public perception. The John Jay conclusions began to be explained as an 'environment' problem. This new interpretation was made official in a 2011 John Jay report, 'Causes and Context.'" That 2011 report characterized the problem not in terms of homosexuality, but rather as a result of stress, psychological difficulties, and greater access to boys. And the USCCB has apparently never contradicted this conclusion.
The problem is not simply homosexual priests — it's the bishops who protect and promote them, or at the very least tolerate them. Just a few examples suffice.
The case of Cdl. Bernard Law shows how one single bishop can be the cause of massive damage — to thousands of souls, and to the Church's credibility. Law spent decades shuffling around hundreds of predator priests in Boston, resulting in thousands of victims; it strains credulity to think he was unaware of those priests' sexual orientation, or that he was unfamiliar with the reputation of his seminary, which was churning out a number of these sex-abusing men to serve his diocese.
Over in Pittsburgh, we know then-Bishop Donald Wuerl allowed pro-gay Dignity Masses to continue for eight years under his watch (in not one but two parishes in his diocese). And in 1991 he allowed dissident New Ways Ministry (whose founder has since been censured by the Vatican) to offer a homosexual presentation on diocesan property. New Ways itself came into town carrying letters of recommendation from bishops in dioceses stretching from New York to California.
And in Detroit, Dignity flourished for 22 years under the protection of the archdiocese, whose priests took turns offering the gay liturgies. Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton was supportive of the group (whose support continues to this day), while then-head of the archdiocese Cdl. Edmund Szoka did nothing to stop the gay Masses. His successor, Cdl. Adam Maida, denied the existence of Dignity Masses, but was forced to finally acknowledge them and put an end to them once they became a national scandal. Even so, Dignity continues its sacrilegious Masses in the archdiocese weekly at an independent Catholic college — all with the full knowledge of the current archbishop.
It was Cdl. John Dearden, though, who laid the groundwork for all of this. He headed the Detroit archdiocese from 1958–1980, and used those two decades to implement his progressive reforms. It was Cdl. Dearden who spearheaded the dissident Call to Action conference in 1976, which promoted female ordination and questioned clerical celibacy. And it was under Dearden's watch that the local seminary — called "The Hothouse" for its rampant homosexuality — showed gay porn to seminarians. The administrator who sponsored the porn program, Kenneth Untener, went on to become bishop of the Saginaw diocese — with Dearden's support.
It was gay-friendly, dissident Dearden who became the first president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, now the USCCB — which to this day remains invested in maintaining the narrative that the sex abuse crisis had little to do with gay clergy and everything to do with a handful of deviant, child-molesting perverts unconnected to homosexuality.
Facts show that the reality is far different.
To learn more about the impact of homosexuality on the Church and society, watch "Faith-Based Investigations: Homosexuality."