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Can we talk about homosexuality?

In my commentary on Peter Steinfels' article below, I was quick to dismiss the (mostly) conservative suggestion that the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church could be attributed, in part, to the ordination of homosexual men to the priesthood. While I still think it is problematic to let such a claim stand, the most recent installment of The Immanent Frame series on "Sex Abuse in the Catholic Church" raises some important questions concerning the place of homosexuality in a complete analysis of cases of Catholic sexual abuse.Kent Brintnall looks at the case of Paul Richard Shanley, who "is one of the most notorious abusive priests from the Boston archdiocese." Before this, however, Brintnall describes Shanley's success in the 60's and 70's at building ministries for homeless and gay youth in the city, and his popular advocacy of gay rights, which made him "celebrated as a charismatic, hardworking, radical priest." As Steinfels points out, the fact that an abuser would be a charismatic and productive member of his community is not necessarily surprising. For Brintnall, however, Shanley's concern for and identification with those who were struggling to understand their own sexuality in a culture that would have preferred them to remain silent, and the real pastoral relief that Shanley was able to provide, even in the context of clearly abusive relationships, makes his case particularly confounding.

Brintnall writes:

Accounts of Shanleys abuse include reports that he told young men that homosexuality was not a sin and that having sex with either men or women was okay. While these statements are usually presented as a sexual predators sinister machinations, some auditors surely experienced a sense of relief and hope hearing these pronouncements. [...] A July 2002 cover story on Shanley from The Advocatea glossy, mainstream gay magazine with a national circulationbears the headline Paul Shanleys compassion was just part of a scheme to abuse vulnerable boys and young men. The story tells of William McLean, who met Shanley in 1973, when he was a 20-year-old college junior, by responding to an ad in the Boston Phoenix that read, Gay? Bi? Confused? Need someone to talk to? Although McLean found Shanleys willingness to have sex confusing, given the priestly vow of celibacy, he found his time with Shanley incredibly helpful, and observed that Shanley was the first person to tell him it was okay to be gay.

There is much in Brintnall's piece and in his descriptions of Shanley's actions that will cause the average Catholic reader, even one who (like me) considers himself progressive on the issue of homosexuality, to feel uneasy. But I found the essay important for precisely this reason. My knee-jerk reaction to Steinfels suggestion that we ought to take seriously the role that homosexuality played in the sex abuse crisis was driven by my (not completely unfounded) assumption that any attempt to do so would tend in the direction of blaming the crisis on the admittance of "intrinsically disordered" individuals into the clergy, but this assumption of prejudice on my part is just as much a refusal to talk about the difficulties of working out one's sexual orientation as conservative scapegoating would be. Brintnall's essay helps us to bracket the question of whether homosexuality is "good" or "bad," and asks whether we are really willing to talk about (homo)sexuality and the complexities involved in growing into sexually mature adults.It is clear that a culture of silence surrounding this process only contributes to the perpetuation of potentially harmful relationships. In reading Brintnall's piece, I was reminded of a series of articles in the Notre Dame Observer last year discussing the experience of gay and lesbian students on campus. Because of the University's official non-recognition of homosexuality, which is presumably informed by official Church teaching, many of the students interviewed said that the dating life of gay and lesbian students has been pushed "underground" and is ruled by "secrecy," especially among male students. One student underscored the problems with this saying, "It makes relationships be the extreme. It's either a one night stand, maybe twice, or monogamy is going to start happening to where it is serious after a week. There is no room to date' because the underground culture just perpetuates easy access, convenience and no strings attached."Brintnall insists, and I would concur, that none of this is meant to exonerate Shanley or, in the case of the Notre Dame article, tacitly endorse a collegiate "hook-up" subculture, but unless we are able to suspend our judgment long enough to talk about the real challenges faced by those trying to form a mature sexual identity, whether it be heterosexual or homosexual, active or celibate, we are going to be ill-equipped to assess the causes, meanings, effects, and remedies when things go wrong. In the end, though, I wonder if the Church is ready to take up the task that Brintnall sets out in his conclusion:

I would like to find a way to speak about Shanley asboth a sexually abusive priest worthy of disdainand a pioneering voice for gay rights worthy of admiration. I would also like to develop a sufficiently broad understanding of social context and an adequately nuanced account of individual motivation to explain the Catholic sex abuse cases, their causes, their meaning, their effects, their remedy. Most importantly, however, I want a history of homosexuality and Christianity in America that can place Shanleyand the Catholic sex abuse cases generallysquarely in the center. Because, in the final analysis, to understand these casesor homosexuality, or Christianitywe must keep in mind the complex embroilment of Christianity, homosexuality, power, desire, and human frailty, as well as the on-going contest between radical queer voices and palatable gay visions.

Given the Church's teaching on homosexuality and the public stance of the hierarchy on gay rights, are we conceptually equipped to think of Shanley as anything other than, at best, a pitiable and confused sexual deviant, and at worst, a monster? In short, can we even talk about homosexuality?


Commenting Guidelines

"In short, can we even talk about homosexuality?"Most likely not very well. For way too many people who post here, there is a significant "yuck" factor associated with being gay and lesbian. People are categorized based on the degree of "toleration" or "yuckiness" that the categorizer exhibits.Until and unless lesbians and gay men are, first and foremost, viewed as individual human beings encompassing and including a variety of factors other than their sexual orientation, then attempting to "talk about homosexuality" will be a boring waste of time. Try talking about "heterosexuality" and see how far you get.

Good question. Here is why we often cannot talk about it.

Until and unless lesbians and gay men are, first and foremost, viewed as individual human beings encompassing and including a variety of factors other than their sexual orientation . . ._____________You do realize that in that sentence, you did exactly what you condemn -- you have reduced them to their sexuality, you have labeled and defined such persons precisely by their "sexual orientation" as if it were lesbian and gay first, and human persons second.Gay is not a state of being, it is not ontological. Rather, a person with a same-sex attraction is either (1) a male human person, or (2) a female human person. That is it. The state of being of a gay person is emphasis on person and not on gay. As a human person, with or without a same-sex attraction, we are made by love for love. We are made to love and be loved in truth. Even so-called gay people are made to love and be loved in truth. And those of us who are not same-sex attracted should love those who are, in truth.

It's hard to determine whether the numbers of gay vs. straight clergy are any different for the church than it is for the general population. I suspect that the incidence of gay priests is probably somewhat higher than the general population because in some ways our church environment is a cover for them. It's certainly not a topic that is easily discussed in the church, because any discussion of sex is not a topic the church prefers. I actually think that the ChicFilet incident where the abounding success of the "kudos to ChicFilet" night was a run away success points to the fact that the general public is getting tired of the tyranny of the minority. Yes, homosexuality exists and these people should be respected, but that's it. What else can be said about it? And of course the church is going to even say less.

Eric, thanks for calling attention to these essays. You can tell that I've found repugnant elements in a couple of them. This one was challenging, too, but not so bad :-).Just a few disjointed/miscellaneous comments on this piece:* I don't have a problem acknowledging that Shanley was, simultaneously, an extraordinarily twisted and abusive criminal, and also a talented pastoral minister who made a genuine contribution, even innovations, in pastoral care. Such dual acknowledgements, istm, can be made about virtually all priests who are credibly accused of the sexual abuse of minors. It's the simplest explanation, I think, for the frequent phenomenon in which accused priests are defended by their parishioners - the majority of whom, of course, have personally experienced only the pastoral side.* Shanley's case is surely one of the prime, perhaps the prime, example that has fed the conservative narrative that the sex-abuse problem is a homosexual-priest problem. * Very much related to my previous point: what is curious about Brintnall's piece is that he doesn't mention that the first John Jay study has, in my view and the view of a number of other folks, pretty much discredited that conservative narrative.* I'd suggest that there are twin silences regarding homosexuality in the church. From the right, there is the silence of denial and prejudice - denial that homosexuals are human persons who have been created in God's image, are loved by God, and are to be accorded the full range of human rights. From the left, there is a silence that arises from solidarity. This silence, in my view, excuses unacceptable sinful behavior by some homosexual priests - behavior that has the unfortunate effect of feeding the Right's narrative that links homosexuality to sexual abuse. * There are certain difficult areas of contemporary religious life in which, undeniably, the laity who are living real lives are ahead of the magisterium. For example, the real-life ecumenism of mixed marriages and neighborly relations is far ahead of official ecumenical relations between denominations. I'd suggest that another area in which real people are in the lead is in relationships with homosexuals, in their families and in at least some cases, in workplaces. (I can't comment on schools; back in the day when I was in school, it was pretty bad in my schools). I think that, if church authorities wanted to talk about homosexuality, they'd find that huge sectors of the laity are not only ready, they've been there and have been doing that for years/decades already.

I think there is some complicated link between homosexuality - or at least immature, unhealthy homosexuality - and sexual abuse of minors. I realize that not all abuse of high-school males by clergymen is necessarily done by homsexually oriented priests, but much or most of it probably is.I regret that 'progressives' have been so leery of entertaining this possibility, out of fear of feeding into gay-bashing and homophobia. It ought to be possible to hold that abuse isn't done by homosexuals, but by troubled homosexuals. It ought to be possible to make that distinction, and begin discussing the differences between healthy, mature, happily chaste homosexuals and troubled, immature homosexuals. (I know, some interpretations of Church teaching make it difficult to maintain the distinction.)I would be surprised if some homosexuals, in the clergy and elsewhere, have not been immature and maladjusted and unable to live chastity joyfully - not because this is intrinsic to homosexual orientation, but because society and church have made it difficult for homosexuals to grow up and mature.It seems illogical to me - but fairly widespread among Catholic progressives, near as I can tell - to rail against homophobia, but also claim that homophobia has wrought no negative consequences upon the psychological and moral development of gay men. You can't have it both ways. Social evils have consequences.The problem with Pope Benedict's ban on homosexuals in seminary - and the reason why all five invited eperts at that Vatican symposium argued earlier against it - is that it could force homosexuals to stunt their development by pretending not to be homosexual. Let us hope that the policy does not bear bitter fruits in its consequences upon the development of our future priests.Fr. Anthony Ruff, OSB

"The problem with Pope Benedicts ban on homosexuals in seminary "I wonder to what extent this ban has been honored.

Uh...I think it's probably safe to say at this point that, no, you guys can't talk about homosexuality.

Experts in the filed have said over and over that there is no link between pedophilia and gayness ..."Who are the perpetrators of child sexual abuse?Studies on who commits child sexual abuse vary in their findings, but the most common finding is that the majority of sexual offenders are family members or are otherwise known to the child. Sexual abuse by strangers is not nearly as common as sexual abuse by family members. Research further shows that men perpetrate most instances of sexual abuse, but there are cases in which women are the offenders. Despite a common myth, homosexual men are not more likely to sexually abuse children than heterosexual men are." - the APA ... don't think gay priests are more likely to be child abusers - what seems probable to me is that the abuse of children by priests is a result of the clerical culture.- Facts About Homosexuality and Child Molestation ... - Homosexuality and Pedophilia: The False link ...

Most Catholics I know were appalled at the sex abuse.They were livid about the transfer of these individuals by the bishops and the coverup that occurred.And no, I don't think that true conservative Catholics can talk rationally about homosexuals.It appears to me that the Catholic church has done a 360 and is heading back to the old days of the Inquisition.

Jim P: Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I agree that most of the abusers were likely also pastorally effective priests, and this is certainly supported by the loyalty they received from their congregations even after their crimes came to light. This is why I titled my post on Msgr. Lynn, "Eichmann in Philly," because the evil we are talking about here is what Hannah Arendt would call "banal" insofar as it involves reasonable people doing terrible things because the internal logic of the institution makes those things seem ok. I also agree with you about the "twin silences." We must be able to find some middle ground between homophobic condemnation and uncritical solidarity to be able to talk about the real difficulties of being gay in the Church, but I'm afraid that the Church's current stance on homosexuality and the public witness of the current hierarchy makes this kind of dispassionate and honest conversation almost impossible. This brings us to last point, though, which is that the laity are certainly having these conversations. I know that is true of the students at Notre Dame, in spite of the University's official silence on the matter. I also know, though, that these students are desperate for the safety that an official sanction would give them to continue to the conversation beyond the hushed tones of the dorm or the often harsh rhetoric of the public square.Anthony: I think you also point to Jim's "twin silences," but your mention of Benedict's position underscores the progressive intuition that the stronger silence is being imposed from the top, and it seems to me that this silence is only getting louder. This brings me to James Martin's piece, which is, as always, excellent. However, I would have liked to see a stronger acknowledgment that the "challenges" faced by gay priests and their sometimes problematic self-ghettoization is causally linked to the Church's official position on homosexuality. I would think that it is nearly impossible to develop a mature sexuality, while being spiritually formed by an institution whose official position on your sexual orientation is that it is "intrinsically disordered," and I think that those priests who do must also possess a level of heroic virtue worthy of canonization.

It is of course wrong to condemn gay folks out of hand. They suffer from an unnatural compulsion that most heterosexual folks find disgusting, and that (and more) makes life for gay folks an ongoing challenge. Indeed few parents would want their son to grow up and be gay, but if they do, decent parents would love them still.Like the addict then, gay folks are to be pitied, even respected. The people who earn my wrath are those who encourage such behavior, those who encourage those with homosexual tendencies to give into their self-destructive tendencies. In my opinion, folks who advocate that sort of approach - like giving dope to the addict or booze to the alcoholic - are much more to blame.

And to dismiss the ordination of gay men to the priesthood that occurred back in the 60s and into the 70s, to dismiss that out of hand claiming it was not a factor in the abuse scandal is a mistake. Of course it was not the only factor in the abuse scandal - a multi-faceted scandal indeed - but to stand around saying that it had no effect whatever and to bash those who take it into consideration seems to be ignoring an elephant in the room maybe not a big elephant, but an elephant all the same. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain comes to mind.

From the article Eric recommends: "Let me be clear: sexual relationships between adults and teenagers, especially between those with institutional authority (teachers, therapists, priests) and those over whom they have authority, are rife with the possibility of subtleand egregiousforms of coercion, abuses of power, and violations of trust. They may be so fraught with damaging possibilities that we must insist on bright-line rules, even though we know such prohibitions are, in the final analysis, over-broad. But when assessing what transpired between Shanley and his accusers, when telling the tale of a closeted priest who went to seminary at the height of the McCarthy era and then developed a successful youth ministry at the height of the sexual revolution in a social and religious context where homosexuality was being both celebrated and vilified, we must exercise a finely tuned sensitivity to contextual detail."God save us from academics who consider themselves the only clear-eyed observers in the room. There is nothing earth-shattering about recognizing that people who do bad things can also do good things. Did Shanley have a "successful" ministry? Apparently he thought so. It netted him plenty of victims. What about the admitted pedophile Daniel McCormack? He too had a "successful" ministry to struggling kids. He too molested some of them. And Sandusky's "outreach" to orphans? How "successful" was that? Here's some nuance for you: Determined sexual abusers know how to find victims. They create opportunities to abuse. Can any of us say for sure whether Shanley or McCormack or Sandusky chose their "ministries" in order to serve their sexual appetites? No. But the idea is awfully hard to resist. Incidentally, what institution's internal logic made Sandusky believe the abuse he carried out was A-OK? In fact, we know that his psychology was much more complicated than that reductive description allows. He told the mother of one of this victims that he hated himself. He wanted her forgiveness but knew it would never come.

Excellent insights by Jim and Fr. Ruff. Allow me to add from past experience:- First, would take a step back and start with the overall context that abuse occurs because of folks that are sexually/emotionally maladjusted. This gets us away from a starting point of gay or straight;- Second, we know from psychological testing and experience that everyone matures and grows via experiences with others emotionally, sexually, relationally. When you implement policies that restrict or forbid normal development; when you insist that seminarians (at whatever age) must obey and abide by rules as if they are already celibate, ordained men; then, psychologists call this *premature closure*. Individuals (thinking this is a positive step and they are following correct seminary procedures) shut down a phase of development. We now know that everyone has to go through various stages of development - sexual, relational - and, thus, individuals will act out years later to finish their development. Results - a 35 yr. old priest feeling stable and comfortable and free enough chooses to pick up and finish his development at the age he stopped it - so, victims who are 16, 18, or 20 (some of this is criminal behavior).- From a gay seminarian perspective and given current Vatican rules, the task for a gay seminarian to develop is even more difficult because he is confronting a complete, institutional shut down of his ability to choose to develop (dating; learning about your sexuality through normal relationships; trying to love; etc. These are forced underground, secret, and thus warped. (To Jim's point, not many US bishops or seminaries follow these Vatican rules). But, this places even more constraints and obstacles to a gay man's development. And seminary staff's who are winking at Vatican rules, do not want gay candidates to be highlighted.- In terms of the current debates, remember in the 1980's that the Detroit major seminary did a study on homosexual behaviors. Given the time period and bias, it indicated that homosexual orientation resulted in an inability to form stable relationships; that it increased multiple parties, and that it prevented any ability to make a permanent, celibate promise. We know now that this study started with a bias and that the same conclusions could be made about heterosexual candidates.- So, as the above commenter states - from a technical, psychological perspective, sexual abuse is no more skewed to homosexuals than to heterosexuals. But (there is always a but), we do need to look at the seminary formation process, Vatican regs, and its impact on the priesthood and sexual behaviors. If the observations above are correct, we penalize or make development more difficult for gay candidates - we can project that this does increase potentially more difficulties and acting out by gay priests. (not because of homosexuality but because of the process and development). If you look at the J. Jay study and ages for victims, etc., you see a higher number of male victims in the late teens (thus, the distincition between pedophile and ephophilia). This would co-relate with men trying to complete their psycho-sexual development (but you have a celibate in his 30-40s and a teen who is 16, 17, 18 - criminal behavior). Other studies also insert variables such as availability and access to victims (in many cases, easier access to male teens than to females); so many current cases are historical from 20 years ago (in a time when there was even less access to females) and these cases were often priests who started seminary at the age of 14-15; thus, development was even more delayed or restricted. So, not really a question of orientation but that they never developed sexually, period!- True pedophiles (whether gay, straight, or bisexual) appear to be running around 8-10% of the ordained clergy. We need to separate this population from the efforts to drill down and understand acting out behaviors by celibate men. Would also suggest that we need to separate the markers of the typical US male population and abuse (usually a family member, etc.) from the specific study of priests. What is in common is that most abusers engrained themselves into families so that they behaved and became just like a family member.

Grant: I don't think that Brintnall ever meant to imply that he was "the only clear-eyed observer in the room," just that he had an informed perspective that might be helpful. I'm also confused that you think that the claim that certain institutional logics can lend credibility to terrible acts, which might dovetail in complex ways with the perpetrator's own conscience and inclination, is a "reductive description," but your picture of a self-loathing predator is more nuanced. I also think that my point about "institutional logic" might just be another way of stating your point about "opportunities to abuse" from the other direction. It can't just be that abusers "create" opportunities, but they also find opportunities in contexts that allow for them. So, I don't think that it is "reductive" to ask whether the theology or institutional structure of the Church unwittingly leaves opportunities open for abusive patterns of thought and relationships to develop.

Ken speaks of "the ordination of gay men to the priesthood that occurred back in the 60s and into the 70s."Two problems with this. First, it didn't start in the 60s and the 70s. Though the evidence is sketchy and incomplete, it is clear that homosexuals were ordained long before then, and some of them abused high-school males - long before Vatican II.Second, Ken is ignoring the point I made - did those gays ordained in the 60s and 70s abuse because they're gay, or because their development was stunted by the anti-gay church environment? This is a very important question if we're going to get to the root of the problem.I note also that questions of psychological health and what is psychologically normal involve, of course, the enlightenment of Christian faith and the Catholic understanding of the human person. But not only that. It is also a matter of learning from the social sciences. I hope that no one thinks these complicated questions can be approached exclusively from the "traditional faith" standpoint, as if that gives license to ignore modern science. That would be contrary to the typically Catholic interplay between "fides et ratio" as I understand it.Fr. Anthony Ruff, OSB

Interesting book review on the front page of the NYT today:

Fr. Ruff makes good points and so does Ken. I believe that wrath does go out to those who encourage homosexual behavior by sanctioning it publicly; especially vulnerable are teens and young adults. When news commentators come out as gay because they think they "have" to, I'm not impressed. On the other hand, there is an interplay of science and religion here, and I'm not an expert who can draw a line between these two as concerns homosexuality. However, I do think there is an elephant in the room if homosexuality in the priesthood is not considered as a large part of the sex abuse scandals of the church.

The coverup of clergy sexual abuse is not so shocking considering that today-when someone goes out and commits premeditated murder-the default position is that the person is mentally ill. In the past -[when homosexuality was not acceptable even in the culture at large] acts of pedophelia, whether homo or hetero-were considered treatable disorders[like Lochner and other who get "treated" today after they murder people].The hierarchy sincerely believed that abusers could be treated and "cured" and well we're all sinners.Our insights into sexuality , psychology are not today what they were when cover ups were happening. Just like the Constitution could be written while George Washington owned slaves, comes to mind as an analogy of imposing todays knowlege or ethical insights with those of the past.But yes as Huxley once said-religion and sex go well together.[The architecture of the churches with their light and shadows, nooks and crannies, the all black garb of the celibate priests-reminding us of the awesomness of death[God] but also evoking the awesomness of eroticsm.[the little death? And as my husband says when I asked him once if he likes the name Chastity-which I found boring and prudish-that he thought it was the opposite of prudish-it was sexy because as soon as you hear the word chastity you think of it's opposite. ] The pagans cerrtainly understood the affinity of religion awith sex and the priest abusers whether consciously or not exploited that.The culture at large was sexually repressed[at least in the US] ,homosexuality was a shameful perversion and an all male clergy might be attractive as a haven for some gays.Whether peophelia is innate or a result of pyshological disorder-i don't know-i suspect for many it is innate[though i don't consider someone in their 20's having sex with a teenager real pedophia.] and the mystique of the celibate priesthood was in full effect. The cover up was not simply about protecting the church from scandal or even protecting priests for crimes -but first and foremost was in keeping with the norms of the day-that once treated the priest could go to another parish as cured of a disorder. That comes across as too banal an explanation for the coverup which resulted in the victimization of so many innocent children. People want to bring more malice on the part of the clergy who covered up to satisfy the need to make them fully responsible criminals.

Proud to be the recipient of the wrath of people like Ken and Denise.

However, I do think there is an elephant in the room if homosexuality in the priesthood is not considered as a large part of the sex abuse scandals of the church.The John Jay report is available on the USCCB website. Here is a summary ofsome of its findings:

.The researchers conclude that there is no causative relationship between either celibacy or homosexuality and the sexual victimization of children in the Church. Therefore, being celibate or being gay did not increase the risk of violating children. So, blaming the clergy abuse crisis in the Catholic Church on gay men or celibacy is unfounded.Overall, the profile presented by the John Jay researchers (who, by the way, are non-Catholics working in a secular state run university) of the typical clergy sex offender in the Catholic Church is certainly quite different than the stereotype typically presented in the press during the past decade.Continuing to blame homosexual men, celibacy, and believing that the frequency of clergy abuse found in the past (especially committed in the 1960's through the early 1980's) will continue now and in the future is clearly misguided based on these conclusive research findings.

Ken, Pity yourself.Speaking only for myself, I neither need it nor want it. And I find it condescending.

John--Thank you for enlightening me on the John Jay report. I do believe that the church unwittingly aids and abets these abuses by its very environment, and I think that is what Eric is alluding to. As I said at the beginning, I believe a more open environment of men, women, and married clergy could discourage a climate for abuse. We have a wonderful church and a wonderful heritage, but some changes are needed.

As one among the first Catholic seminarians from our diocese to be sent out state for a diaconal experience and anxious to be challenged by a commitment to the poor, I chose to work at Morgan Memorial (Goodwill Industries) in CPE in Boston in the summer of 1972. I lived in 4th floor walk-up room just off the "combat zone." It was an eye opening and challenging experience on all levels. One wonderful man, Jim R., was a worker there also who had a unique background knowing more Catholic theology than I did and supposedly having worked in and become disilluioned with the CIA and he now threw himself into care of street persons and many marginalized. He took me to an"underground Mass" (sic) with a "wonderful street priest," who, I believe, was Paul Shanley, who was a guru to many youth and seemed to embody so much of the reform energies of Vatican II. While I was taken with the "ministry" and Jim's admiration of him, I thought little about it til yerars later and how charismatic and "radically" caring it all seemed... I wonder about some of the homeless youth I got to know in those months and what message or exploitation happened with them as I thought hhat I could never be charismatic as that priest...and I remember that Jim took me to the still the fanciest French restaurant I've ever been to and ordered mer "Coquilles St. Jacques" which I loved, but have never eaten since... he never once made me think he had any "designs" on me and I hope, in the mystery of God, that we would somehow know one another again...and, who knows, share abottle of wine and another French delicacy... strange memories at 40 years later whenever I hear of the notorious Paul Shanley...

Anthony Ruff asks the right question(s) concerning homosexuality and the sex abuse crisis: "Did those gays ordained in the 60s and 70s abuse because theyre gay, or because their development was stunted by the anti-gay church environment?" The John Jay findings, modern biology and psychology, and (one hopes) commonsense, all are clear that the answer to the first part of the question is unequivocally "No." The second part of the question is more complicated and goes beyond the John Jay study. This is where Brintnall's analysis of the Shanley case is helpful, and I think it rightly and unsurprisingly points toward a connection between silence about sexuality, driven by shame and fear, and dysfunctional sexual relationships that lead, in some cases, to abuse.It also should be noted that in the case of Shanley, we are not strictly/only talking about pedophilia, given that many of his "victims" were in their late teens and early 20's.

Eric Bugyis @1:42 pm. I'm trying to follow your last two sentences.You are discussing the Paul Shanley case.You direct our attention to "silence about sexuality, driven by shame and fear." Are you referring to silence about sexuality in Shanley's life and in his training for the priesthood?I've read that oftentimes people who commit sexual abuse were themselves abused as children and/or teenagers.Do we know if Shanley was sexually abused as a child or a teenager? If he was, do we know about the circumstances involved in his sexual abuse?

...start with the overall context that abuse occurs because of folks that are sexually/emotionally maladjusted...BillI disagree with your premise. For instance, rape is purported to be about power and it is sexual abuse. Why do people sin? I think there are reasons well beyond maladjustment.

Can someone please point me to the reputable scientific journal that equates homosexuality with pedophilia? I think there are a lot of assumptions here that need to be tested.

Bugyis question: Can we even talk about homosexuality?In any social deconstruction, it is always essential to establish the speakers locus or perspective, I presume when Bugyis writes [we] he is talking about Catholics, and Catholic priests specifically.If I indeed properly situate Bugyis question, then my answer to Bugyis would be emphatically NO at least probably not in this century for sure. The Catholic Church hierarchy and priesthood espouses such a confused sexual ideology that it will probably require the dismantling of the entirety of the present clerical cadre and its institutional priestly subculture to accomplish that feat of political, intellectual, psychological and emotional jujitsu.My investigations of priest sexual predators, like the cited deviant Paul Richard Shanley, have always left me fascinated with the question of [How did these perpetrators choose their victims?]The overwhelming evidence from the clinical record indicates that opportunity and availability are the essential key factors for perpetrators in singling out victims. [I would assert that the homosexuality or heterosexuality of priest choice of victims essentially reflects the representation in the priest population of those sexual orientations.]Add to this enabling factor a highly developed skill at cultivating the optimal social and physical environments that minimize detection and discovery, Catholic perpetrator priests were able to assault their victims, mostly children or young adolescents, with impunity.Many of the priest perpetrators that I investigated SEEMED to prefer victims at the approximate age the priest perpetrator was when he first was sexually assaulted himself, or when he entered the Catholic celibate subculture essentially truncating any normative sexual development. [This is just anecdotal, only a IMPRESSION or THEORY Ive entertained. Just speculating.] Nave and simple-minded discussions about sexual predators being both a sexually abusive priest and a pioneering voice for gay rights, are offensive on so many levels. Lets not go there!Sociopathic criminal sexual predators, like Shanley, if anything, are extremely intelligent. The enormity of his crimes is only magnified because he was oblivious to his perversion and corruption of his priesthood.And to the everlasting shame for Catholics, our supposed shepherd bishops, blinded by personal and institutional lust for power, were all too frequently complicit in the rape and sodomy of our children. I would re-frame Bugyis question: Where should Catholics begin if they are to redeem the moral integrity they have lost? Heres my bucket list:1.REIMAGE God free of patriarchy and embrace a human sexuality that reflects all the expressions of the feminine and masculine.2.REFORM and RENEW the priesthood from parish to pope.3.Separate the MONEY from the MINISTRY.4.LET THE PEOPLE DECIDE! That should keep us Catholics busy for a century or two, at least. Until such time, Catholics have an obligation to discourage our children, especially our sons, from priestly vocations. Better to advance the time when the clerical feudal priesthood has vanished from the earth. No more human sacrifice on the altar of clericalism!

Bill deH. --If older homosexual priests who entered the seminary at ages-14-15 act out later because of arrested development, why don't straight priests who entered the seminary at 14-15 also begin to act out later with girls? Or do they?

". . . the all black garb of the celibate priests-reminding us of the awesomness of death[God]"rose-ellen --You have some of the weirdest ideas I've ever seen. God = death?????? You must live in terror of HIm.

Agree with Jim Jenkind.What is this discussion really about? Studies all show, and even the Jay report shows, that there's no intrinsic link between homosexuality and pedophilia, so it seems like the post is really about the belief that gay prists are somehow less emotionally mature than heterosexual priests. I've seen nothing here that would lead me to believe that to be true.

Thomas: To your first question, based on Brintnall's essay, the silence about sexuality would seem to apply to both life as a gay man in the 60's and 70's and priestly formation at that time (and now?). I don't know the answers to your last two questions.Jim J: To clarify, "we"="Catholics." I sincerely hope that we can talk about it, and as Jim Pauwels says, I am confident that some us are. But it is a difficult conversation, and I think it is made harder by the lack of pastoral and theological sensitivity on the part of the current leadership.Crystal: In no way did I intend this post to be about whether "gay prists are somehow less emotionally mature than heterosexual priests," and I apologize if that is the impression you (or anyone) have taken away. At the most basic level, I meant it as a sincere question raised by Brintnall's essay and my own reaction to Steinfels. Given the deep emotions, misinformation, mutual suspicion, and theological fuzziness surrounding homosexuality in the Church, can we have the kind of honest conversation that Brintnall is encouraging?

I find it offensive to consider Shanley as "a pioneering voice for gay rights worthy of admiration." I would argue that this was merely his "angle" to gain access to susceptible victims. If these young people had been nurtured in a society which was open about and accepting of their feelings about sexuality, they would not have so easily fallen prey to the manipulations of a molester.I would argue that the Church's prohibitions about homosexuality created an environment that allowed Shanley to prosper in his evil.

Maybe a discussion about gayness in the church isn't helped by beginning with the example of a pedophile .... it gives the impression that there's no discussing gay priests without discussing sex abuse or inappropriate sexual behavior. I was just reading in the news about Fernando Lugo - there's a heterosexual example of a priest who was praised for his liberation theology work but who also lead a really disreputable sexual life. Would he be the example we would choose to begin a discussion of heterosexuality in the church?It would help the discussion too if some gay priests would comment.

@ Ann Olivier:That's a false equivalency.I was speculating that regardless of sexual orientation (i.e., hetero- or homosexual) there may be a relationship between age of victim and the perpetrator's age when he experienced some trauma/assault to his sexual development.One factor (just ONE) at play here is that there are fewer heterosexual priest predators than homosexual priest predators may be sourced to the fact that there are more homosexual priests in the priest cadre due to initial attraction to the life style. Also, many former priests who are heterosexual report that a contributing factor in their decisions to leave was their inability to identify (maybe a better word is, contend) with the dominant homosexual culture of the priesthood.The net effect is that the Catholic priesthood as it is now constituted does not reflect the sexual identity profile of the vast majority of Catholics.

Ann - not ignoring you. Think that both Eric and Jim Jenkins answered your question. Key area would be access and availability.To your second question - this is a complex and complicated issue. Would suggest that you don't see as many female victims because many heterosexual priests who chose to act out had female partners who were 18 years old or more. Per Richard Sipe's studies, only 30% of celibates are keeping their vow at any one time. Also, the *arrested development* can determine at what age a celibate chooses a victim and some above outline how a gay candidate or priest may have had their sexual development *closed* at an earlier age than a heterosexual given church rules, seminary administration, cultural rules, etc. Can remember times in the 80's seminary where heterosexual dating would have been complimented but not any type of homosexual behaviors.Keep in mind also that all of this data is limited by experts who acknowledge and project that 30-50% of all victims never come forward; the John Jay Study is predicated upon bishops' self-report (so, how honest or reliable); so, it is difficult to establish a baseline foundation. Would support Grant's statement - "There is nothing earth-shattering about recognizing that people who do bad things can also do good things. Did Shanley have a successful ministry? Apparently he thought so. It netted him plenty of victims. What about the admitted pedophile Daniel McCormack? He too had a successful ministry to struggling kids." Per the DSM IV definition, a key marker is the abuser's ability to ingratiate himself to a victim and family/institution. Can add to the list - John Powell, SJ at Loyola University; Rev. Thomas Kane of House of Affirmation; Rev. Bruce Ritter of Covenant House. Powell abused college co-eds. Unfortunately, some of the highlighted criminal cases are male victims; where many of the female victim cases are not criminal in nature but civil - destroying a marriage; impregnating a woman; having multiple affairs with women in a parish or college staff. These do not usually make the headlines nor is there a comparable SNAP organization tracking these types of violations.

@Jim Jenkins, you said: "there are fewer heterosexual priest predators than homosexual priest predators".How do you know this? The gender of the victim is not indicative of the perpetrator's sexual identity. Many (most? nearly all?) adult male abusers of male children are in committed heterosexual relationships.

Andy - you state: "Many (most? nearly all?) adult male abusers of male children are in committed heterosexual relationships."You are quoting from total US male and pedophilia stats. What we know now is that the celibate priesthood and pedophilia is a different type of subset. Thus, we need to examine what has happened in terms of celibate priests - whether gay or straight or bisexual in orientation.Would agree that Mr. Jenkins' statement is based upon second hand reports - have heard and experienced what he states but not sure that you can then draw the same conclusions or make a generalization based upon this. But, as Mr. Jenkins says, this is only one variable in a complex situation.

Bill deH. ==Thanks, you answered my questions. The availability notion makes sense. That correlation held across both the pedophiles and the other abusers.(ONe point that some here don't seem to realize: homosexuals are drawn to same-sex partners, while pedophiles are drawn to children. Because the children available to priests are more often boys, it might seem that those who abuse them must be homosexuals, but it does not follow necessarily. The two categories are often confused.)

Robert Mickens:Thanks for your reply to Ken. It was shorter, more succinct and infinitely more polite than I was composing.I, like you, do not want his or anyone's "pity" because pity is not a sick emotion that anyone who is lesbian/gay wants or deserves.

@ Andy Kowalczyk:I think that Bill deHaas has addressed your question(s) and concern(s) quite well.While I consider the John Jay Study of the church's reaction to the sexual abuse scandal to be seriously flawed both on reliability and validity grounds, their description of the abusing priest population does support the contention that most priest predators have either a homosexual orientation or their victims of choice tend to be the same-sex as the perpetrator.For example, I think that what you suggest about perpetrator-sexual-identity is certainly true of incarcerated male populations in the US. Incarcerated female populations share some of these characteristics, but their are huge differences. [Although, I would not subscribe to descriptions of these men as in "committed heterosexual relationships." When dealing with coercive environments like prisons, the boundaries of normative sexual behavior are fluid.] Furthermore, Catholic priests are not subject to the same environmental pressures and constraints as incarcerated individuals. Indeed, Catholic priest were [and are] situated in positions of prestige and privilege - from which perpetrator priests drew much of their exploitive power to commit sexual assaults on mainly children.The John Jay Study was contrived by the bishops to avoid addressing this very issue that you raise because of what we must assume is their own internal political and ideological agenda. In other words, Catholic hierarchs do not want a public discussion and debate about the make-up of the men in their priestly caste.Personally, I have often speculated that there is a huge population out there of female survivors of sexual abuse and exploitation by priests that has yet to come forward with their stories of abuse and assault. Many, if not most, of these women survivors, I would speculate, were [and are] of majority age at the time of their assault which makes legal and criminal prosecution, and redress of grievances problematic given social mores and statute of limitation(s) restrictions in most jurisdictions.Because of the abysmal leadership failure, and indeed complicity, by Catholic hierarchs - supported by their powerful and monied allies among Catholic elites, Catholics will be dealing the residual fallout of the greatest tragedy to befall the church since the Crusades and the Inquisition for many, many decades to come.

One of the reasons it is hard to talk about homosexuality in the Catholic Church is that part of the community thinks the condition is aberrant and that acting upon it is immoral and another part thinks it's immoral of the first group to even think that way much less to act as if such judgments were true. So whenever anyone says anything on either side, there are people ready to jump -- and relegate the other into the bin of sin and offense against human dignity and God's law. Not a good place from which to have a discussion. This is not to say that there are not real points to be made or arguments to be advanced. But the tendency toward indignation (on either side) quickly kills the prospects for fruitful discussion. People are labeled. Their views are reviled before they are explored or understood. The possibility of nuance is dismissed. There is a great defensiveness. I understand why all this is happening, but I've got to say, it isn't pretty.

@Jim JenkinsYour notice of "abysmal leadership failure" is on the money. The introduction of the "were the perpetrators homosexual or heterosexual" debate is just a dodge, when the real problem is a failure of the institutional structure. My real concern is with protecting children. If we look at Prof. David Finkelhor's precondition model for sexual abuse we see four things: 1) Only some individuals have strong motivation to become sexually involved with children. 2) Of those that do, only some overcome their internal inhibitions to act on these motives. 3) Of those who overcome their internal inhibitions, only some overcome external inhibitions4) overcoming the childs resistance.Looking for answers to 1 and 2 is in the realm of the psychiatrist. And even if that puzzle became clear - what good would it do you. You would try to predict who was going to be an abuser and then what? Incarcerate them? Blacklist them? When they have not done anything yet? What we DO have control over - and what the institutional Church failed at - was addressing points 3 and 4.Point 3 is all the practices that most youth focused organizations now practice. No one-on-ones with children. No closed rooms. Rules about touching. Multiple adults always present. Etc.Point 4 is the training we give children about the 3 Rs - Recognize, Resist, Report.Again Finkelhor tells us about point 4:"three things can happen;(1) Any particular child may resist either directly or indirectly, for example by running away or having a confident, assertive, or invulnerable demeanor, and in such a way avoid abuse. (2) Any particular child may fail to resist and be abused. (3) Any particular child may resist but may have his or her resistance overcome through coercion."As I said before, a child who is experiencing "natural" feelings about same sex attraction, is shamed into vulnerable silence when the Church is hostile even to the notion of homosexuality.

The church has problems with its teaching on sex. But to categorically blame it for causing priests and religious to commit pedophilia seems a stretch to me. Further if pedophilia is an incurable disease, which most believe, are we saying that the church caused the disease. Makes no sense. Secondly if the percentage of abusers are the same as the general population then why is the church blamed more. Further, is there no responsibility taken. What about those who are tempted and did not act? Another thing is that threads like this go all over the place and just seems to reap mass confusion. At least we should distinguish. We can talk about homosexuality if we consider those who are healthy and those who are not as we do with heterosexuals.

I see some people on this thread commenting that regretably they don't think we can talk about homosexuality, because of this, that, or the other reason -- but if that's the case, then why are we all talking about it right now on this blog of a magazine in the Catholic world? It seems like it's talked about all the time in the Catholic blogosphere, both on the left and the right, whether one agrees or disagrees with what's being said.

Eric Bgiys wrote:"real challenges faced by those trying to form a mature sexual identity, whether it be heterosexual or homosexual"please take no offence, but this sentence alone carries a lot of philosophical assumptions that reflect the dominant social understanding of sexuality, which you do not seem interested in analyzing and criticizing in the light of a Catholic understanding. First of all, the very notion of "sexual identity" is very dubious. From a Catholic perspective a human being is first of all made for a relationship with God. All other relationships are healthy and fulfill their potential to the extent that they integrate in the framework of such personal relationship. If you grant that, the whole Freudian-Reichian notion of an autonomous sexual sphere that can become "mature" on is own terms quickly goes out the window. Ditto for the equation "whether heterosexual or homosexual" since clearly from a Catholic persepective sexual relationships can truly flourish inasmuch they reflect an uncreated order and a divine call. And no, that's not a call to love "spiritually" in the contemporary sense, which does not accept the necessity of sacrifice and implies an essentially gnostic understanding of the relation ship between body and soul.

"If we look at Prof. David Finkelhors precondition model for sexual abuse we see four things:1) Only some individuals have strong motivation to become sexually involved with children.2) Of those that do, only some overcome their internal inhibitions to act on these motives.3) Of those who overcome their internal inhibitions, only some overcome external inhibitions4) overcoming the childs resistance.Looking for answers to 1 and 2 is in the realm of the psychiatrist. And even if that puzzle became clear what good would it do you. You would try to predict who was going to be an abuser and then what? Incarcerate them? Blacklist them? When they have not done anything yet? What we DO have control over and what the institutional Church failed at was addressing points 3 and 4."Andy - this is what someone might take away from your explanation: * If barriers 1 and 2 are overcome, it is nobody's fault, because the abuser is mentally ill, and even if the illness has been diagnosed, psychologists are powerless to do anything about it.* If barriers 3 and 4 are overcome, it is partly the victim's fault for not being knowledgeable in the ways of sexual abusers, or for being knowledgeable but failing to be sufficiently intrepid in a crisis that s/he may or may not recognize is happening, and partly the institutional church's fault for not teaching children, 30 or 40 or 50 years ago, of the ways of sexual abusers.The only party not at fault, it seems, is the abuser. Or is there room for the abuser's culpability for sin and crime in this framework?

I'm not afraid of God-I'm afraid of death and the possibility that God does not exist.The depth of death ,the depth of opaque black is connected-in my mind.Sex can also be deep.Is that really so weird?