Opinion by John Zmirak: Here’s How to Save the American Catholic Church from ItselfAugust 11, 2018
Benedict XVI: ProphetAugust 11, 2018
By Lisa Bourne, LifeSiteNews, August 7, 2018
The allegations of sexual misconduct made public in June against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick finally brought the decades-old open secret of the disgraced former cardinal’s sexually abusive behavior out in the open – also raising the question of the extent of the abuse, and how it was enabled and covered up by other U.S. prelates.
At the same time the exposure of “Uncle Ted” and his impressive rise in the Church – all while he apparently targeted young boys, seminarians and priests – bared as well the phenomenon of gay networks within the clergy of the Catholic Church.
Professor Janet Smith, a moral theologian at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, addressed the subject of homosexual networks in the Church on Facebook this week, saying that doing away with them is necessary to restore the priesthood.
“Many people think the sexual scandal in the Church is that bishops knew about McCarrick and did nothing about it,” Smith said. “And too many clerics and laity think if a few heads roll, and some mechanism for reporting vicious bishops is put in place, we can move beyond this.”
“WRONG!” the theologian said. “The deeper problem is the presence of homosexual networks in the Church — likely in dioceses all over the world and certainly in the Curia.”
Active homosexuality is not the only sinful conduct priests partake in, Smith said, but it is fundamental to addressing all clerical depravity.
“Yes, there are lots of other immoral behaviors – adultery, greed, luxuriousness, clericalism and substance abuse, for instance, that need to be addressed,” she stated, “but first things first.”
“Eradicating the homosexual networks from the Church would do a lot to purging the Church of immoral priests,” said Smith, “and doing so should help us get at the other problems.”
McCarrick allegations helped to shed light on the crisis
It wasn’t until McCarrick’s “time’s up” moment that broader light has been shown on the matter.
McCarrick was removed from public ministry June 20 over a credible allegation he molested an altar boy 50 years ago when he was a priest in the Archdiocese of New York.
The Diocese of Metuchen and the Archdiocese of Newark, both in New Jersey, had gotten three allegations of sexual misconduct by McCarrick with adults decades ago.
Two of the allegations resulted in settlements.
Additional allegations against McCarrick have since surfaced. And numerous bishops and cardinals with ties to McCarrick have rushed to deny all knowledge of his abuse.
Numerous statements about the McCarrick scandal and the larger sex abuse crisis in the Church from individual bishops and their collective legislative body, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, have yet to allay resulting questions, concerns, anger and frustration among Catholic laity.
Smith told LifeSiteNews the reason that homosexual networks must be addressed before any other corrupt conduct is that the networks do more to impede the work of the Church than priests involved in other kinds of immoral behavior.
“They tend to protect each other and advance each other,” Smith said. “That can mean that sometimes the best priests and talents are prevented from assuming positions of responsibility.”
“We are receiving reports of seminarians and young priests who have been preyed upon by active homosexual priests and who have received no help from their bishops and have sometimes been silenced,” she continued. “How many good young men have not survived seminary or the priesthood for these reasons? How many young men won’t even consider the priesthood for fear of entering such an environment?”
It’s not about pedophilia
The Catholic Church sexual abuse crisis has by and large been mislabeled by the media and mistaken in the perceptions of many Catholics as an issue of pedophilia – the psychiatric disorder where an adult or older adolescent has sexual attraction to prepubescent children.
The Church’s own statistics on the abuse crisis indicate a vast prevalence of homosexual abuse of teenage boys.
The John Jay College of Criminal Justice study of sex-abuse complaints commissioned by the USCCB in 2004 found that in more than 5,000 incidents, 81 percent involved priests with young male victims, and of the young male victims, 90 percent were teenage boys.
The report said as well that, “A very small percentage of the priests who had allegations of abuse were motivated by pathological disorders such as pedophilia.”
The USCCB’s National Review Board had also stated at the time that although the sex abuse crisis had no single cause, “an understanding of the crisis is not possible” without reference to “the presence of homosexually oriented priests.” The board had cited the data that “eighty percent of the abuse at issue was of a homosexual nature.”
Dr. Paul McHugh, a former psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital and a member of the National Review Board, stated clearly what the problem was in an August 25, 2006 National Catholic Register editorial.
The abuse statistics in a subsequent John Jay report affirmed the same.
Dodging the problem
Despite the data, the U.S. Church has failed to actively identify or address the issue of homosexual clergy, let alone power networks comprised of them.
The USCCB’s Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, produced at the Bishops’ semi-annual meeting in Dallas in 2002 after the sex abuse scandal first broke, focuses entirely on sexual abuse of minors and priests as perpetrators.
It does not address sexual misconduct with anyone over the age of 18, nor that of a priest carrying out sexual activity, non-consensual or not, with another man. And it does not contain provisions for bishops who either abuse or cover for abusers.
Various documents from the Vatican, along with Popes Benedict and Francis and other high-ranking prelates have all affirmed over several years the Church’s prohibition of individuals with homosexual tendencies being admitted to the seminary or to receiving holy orders.
“The crisis was characterized by homosexual behavior”
“Even if homosexual priests are no more likely than heterosexuals to violate their vows, however, it stands to reason that if and when they do engage in sexual activity, their partners are more likely to be male,” Lawler wrote. “Thus the sex-abuse scandal had serious implications for the debate on homosexuality.”
“Yet the National Review Board, in its first major report on the crisis, did not shrink from the obvious conclusion,” he added. “That 815 of the reported victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy were boys shows that the crisis was characterized by homosexual behavior.”
“No place” in Church for those who call out “failure of the bishops”
Joseph Sciambra researches and writes extensively about homosexuality in the Church, and performs regular outreach for active homosexuals at Pride events.
After reporting abuse he witnessed at a religious community in California where he lived and worked before the scandal broke in 2002 he said he was treated like a liar by the local ordinary.
Subpoenaed to testify later when someone else sued the community, details about Sciambra’s past that would have only been known from his confessions with the priests were revealed in court.
“I have tried in all earnestness and charity to have a discussion with several bishops about the issue of gay-affirmative ministries within their dioceses,” Sciambra wrote in May – before the McCarrick scandal broke widely. “The universal reaction has been similar to what I experienced when I tried to report sex abuse – they throw up the shield, get a glazed look on their face and treat you like the enemy.”
“There is no place in the Catholic Church for someone who won’t be silent about the failure of the bishops to address this issue,” he said.
“Many people still don’t (I believe most priests still don’t) understand just how evil the active homosexual or homosexual activist … priests and bishops are,” Father Edwin Palka wrote regarding the sex abuse crisis in a recent parish bulletin. Palka, pastor of Tampa, Florida’s Epiphany of Our Lord Catholic Church, followed up in more detail about his comments in another article the following week.
“I would rather err by protecting young men and women from weak clergy”
Fr. Regis Scanlon, O.F.M.Cap., spiritual director and chaplain for Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s Missionaries of Charity in Denver, said the incorrect interpretation of the John Jay study to say the Church’s sex abuse crisis was one of pedophilia made the focus on protecting pre-pubescent children, enabling “the problem of homosexuality among bishops to escape the notice of the Catholic Church almost entirely.”
Good bishops must speak up, he said in a recent blog post. Further, individuals who have been at all homosexually active must not be admitted to seminary, and seminarians must be able to refrain from impure thoughts or masturbation for at least a year before advancing to holy orders or religious life.
“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,” Scanlon wrote. “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,” said Scanlon. “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.”
“We are sending seminarians into a corrupt Church”
Smith told LifeSiteNews she knows of many people with ideas on how the homosexual networks can be addressed, and that some sort of lay effort in response should soon coalesce.
“Laity will be putting pressure on bishops to eradicate any homosexual network in their dioceses,” she said, “and eventually to work on eradicating other problems such as adulterous priests or substance abusers.”
She clarified that “eradicate” does not in all instances mean asking for retirement, resignations, or laicizations. It may mean some of those things, she said, but if some priests sincerely repent and are willing to seek help and live true chastity, accommodations may be made.
Smith added that there is great consolation that many seminaries are now addressing questions of achieving true chastity and forming seminarians with a love for Adoration and other devotions.
“Most seminaries have come a long way in the last 15 years but we are sending them into a corrupt Church,” she said. “One thing we will need to work on is forming seminarians to be bold and not to be afraid to challenge those who behave immorally, even those above them.”