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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?

About the Author

Eric Bugyis teaches Religious StudiesĀ at the University of Washington Tacoma.



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"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?

Jim - if fault finding is our objective, then I think barrier 2 is where the abuser is at fault. Finkelhor's model is careful to be agnostic about whether this as a mental illness. It merely says that some people, for whatever reason, are motivated to do this and that some large portion of those people recognize that acting on that motivation would be destructive. A lot of people get a thrill from starting fires and blowing things up - you only have to watch a few episodes of "Mythbusters" to realize that. Having an attraction to fire does not exonerate you if you turn to arson.

Arrrgh. Several things keep getting tangled up in these discussions. Let me make an attempt to untangle a few things.Not all sex abuse of minors is pedophilia, in fact only a small portion of it is. So claims about pedophilia (et. it's a disease, it can't be cured) may be true, but these claims wouldn't apply to the majority of abuse cases in the Catholic Church.Pedophile abuse of a male child does not necessarily indicate the male abuser is homosexual. Pedophila seems to happen outside our usual assumptions about sexual attraction.There is no proven link between homosexual orientation and pedophilia.Non-pedophile abuse of a male adolescent does not necessarily indicate that the male abuser is homosexual, but it seems rather likely. I don't believe we have data on the sexual orientation of clergy abusers; I've only seen data on the gender of victims.The possible link between homosexuality and clergy abuse of male adolescents remains a gray area, near as I can tell. The John Jay study failed to shed much light on this. At the USCCB meeting, the presenter made a brief reponse to the bishop who claimed a link by saying that there is no proven connection between homosexuality and child abuse. But importing that general insight into the unique situation of celibate all-male clergy should be done with caution. We don't know yet whether there are connections between unhealthy dynamics of clerical culture (having to do with power, authority, submission, repression, psychosexual development, etc.) and abuse of male adolescents.I sure wish we could explore those possible connections - not to beat up on gays, but to make some progress in the necessary reform of the all-male clericalized, celibate hierarchical system.One last comment about John Jay: What a shame it only studied data reported by the Church. That's important, but incomplete. Why couldn't there be an attempt to find out how much as-yet-unreported abuse happened in the 1940s and 1950s, so we could learn more about what the problems in the clerical system are?Fr. Anthony Ruff, OSB

"Jim if fault finding is our objective, then I think barrier 2 is where the abuser is at fault."Surely barriers 2, 3 and 4 is where the abuser is at fault.And I do think that finding fault is a necessary objective. Justice and truth demand it.

"Surely barriers 2, 3 and 4 is where the abuser is at fault."Absolutely - the perpetrator is continuing to perpetrate destruction.But it is not until barriers 3 and 4 that people of good will, and the institutions that represent them, can exercise demonstrable and useful control. Good programs of procedures for interacting with children, and good programs educating and strengthening children are very effective. They may not stamp out the evil in the heart of the abuser, but it can greatly reduce the number of victims who wind up suffering from this evil.If an institution fails to act in this regard - it does not force the perpetrator to act, it does not diffuse the abusers guilt, but that institution has its own guilt in not preventing an evil from occurring.

Three points to add:1. My understanding is that sexual abuse of post-pubescent children does tend to track with sexual orientation, though access to victims is a factor. A large proportion of the reported abuse in the church was of teen boys. However, blaming homosexuality for sexual abuse of teens is a logical error. Here's a parallel logical error to compare: the vast majority of rapists are men. But that does not in any way mean that all men should be considered dangerous rapists--the vast majority of men are good guys. Similarly, even while a large proportion of teen sex abuse was homosexual, that doesn't mean that homosexual priests are dangerous abusers--the vast majority are good guys. Some might say, "Well, if we kept all them homosexual men out of the priesthood, that'd eliminate that problem." That's a baby-with-the-bathwater error. You might as easily conclude, "since the vast majority of sex abusers are men, we should bar all men from priesthood." Absurd. Plus it seems to be the case that if the hierarchy were really serious about eliminating homosexual men from the priesthood, the institution would be crippled (even further than it is already) from a shortage of clergy, including bishops and other high-ranking types. Estimates of the percentage of homosexual men in the priesthood run from 30-70%, higher among the young. The fact that the % of homosexual men is 4-10 times higher in the priesthood than in society generally is itself a complex phenomenon, and one which the hierarchy seems unwilling to explore. Those condemnations of homosexual priests are immediately "spun" into irrelevance and in fact ignored in most dioceses. 2. As far as I know, there is no good data on the percentage of pedophiles, (people attracted to pre-pubescent children,) in society. The John Jay study reported something like 4% among priests, then asserted (if I remember correctly) that this paralleled the general incidence of pedophilia, but I'm not sure the data supports this. 4% seems like a lot. Absent good data that the societal incidence is that high, we really can't say whether there are more priest-pedophiles than in the population at large. Here again, access is a big issue--priesthood until recently meant easy access to kids, with next to no institutional accountability for preying on them (as we see from the behavior of bishops who enabled them to abuse over and over and over...) 3. In order to have a discussion about homosexuality, we'd first need to have a discussion about sexuality in terms that include but reach beyond matters of biological reproduction. But sexuality is a third rail in the church today--viz. the unjust attack on Margaret Farley. If we can't talk about sexuality in ways that engage and reflect people's experience (the good and the bad,) as well as other sources of theological insight, (scripture, tradition, reason broadly construed,) then no discussion of homosexuality is possible.

Fr. Anthony --Thank you for your very clear post. But there is one factor in all of this that has hardly been addressed.\ I mean the problem of the unhealthy repression by some bishops of their own sexuality. If Sipe is right, a huge proportion of the bishops is homosexual. If they are repressing that fact, then they are incapable of meeting problem of clerical sexuality head on because they don't realize there is a problem(s). In other words, their own repression is in fact a strong barrier to the solution.I'm not even sure the psychiatrists know what to do about such repression unless, of course, the bishops with problems went into therapy voluntarily. But for that they'd need to *know* they need help, but they can't because they're repressing that need. It seems to be an insoluble problem. And if what I'm saying is true, it certainly would seem to make at least some of them less culpable. They *cannot* be objective.

rose-ellen --I'm very sorry I misread your post. Your fears aren't weird. I do believe that people have a natural fear of some deep, dark endless pit. The image and the fear are too common for it not to be part of our nature. But ISTM God's-not-existing isn't like an frightening endless pit. To me it's more a blank wall that conjures up a sort of existential disappointment. But these are questions for artists and theologians to answer, I think.

I don't think it's clear at all that priests who abuse male teens are not pedophiles but are instead homosexuals. Many abusers of teen boys also abuse girls and yonger boys too. Teen boys are more accessible to a priest and from what I've read, girls are less likely to report having been abused, so that may be part of the reason why more victims seem to ne teen boys. As creepy and distorting as clerical culture could be, I don't believe that it could turn a normal person (straight or gay) into a pedophile or into a rapist of teens. What seems more likely to me is that people who are already disturbed may be attracted to such a culture.

Fr. Anthony - allow me to correct my mis-statement: ".....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."The statement would be accurate if I deleted *true pedophiles* and inserted *confirmed sexual abusers* are running around 8-10%. Fr. Anthony's "aarghhhh....." is warranted completely. My study, behavioral health working experience, and formation experiences tell me that many (most?) of the *confirmed* legal cases and trial judgments are about celibate priests who have acted out criminally (per current US legal codes - although these can vary by state, locale, etc.). Psychologically, professionals make a distinction between abusers who target children (pedophiles) and those who target older teens (epephobiles). The legal and criminal code makes other types of distinctions - age of majority not the pysch nuances. What we seem to be trying to do is to drill down and ascertain why they acted out? Is it because they are pedophiles? Analysis would suggest that there are very few *true* pedophiles among the thousands of confirmed priest abuser cases. But, it leaves us with questions because there are hundreds of confirmed abusers whose victims are children, young teens. Some of us would suggest that this is acting out behaviors vs. pedophilia. The focus is the motivations, impulses, personalities that chose to act out - why? Is it part of the formation process, part of the environment of current ministry? is it part of the celibate diocesan lifestyle? All of these variables and more suggest that one can not just knee jerk to a simple solution that because the victims was male or child than it was because of a homosexual orientation or that they were a pedophile. (Crystal's last comment - "...What seems more likely to me is that people who are already disturbed may be attracted to such a culture.")Bruce - you stated: "I 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."Actually, you are correct but it fits into what I am saying. The starting point is a developmental process that has gone haywire resulting in activity that is maladjusted e.g. abusing children; rape; etc. Often, this is a mixture of power, sexual urges, etc. Sorry, looking at this from a rational, scientific, behavioral standpoint - trying to insert the concept of *sin* only confuses things. They need to be separated which any good catholic moral theology system would do.

Bender: thank you so much for educating me on what it is to be either a gay male or a lesbian. How would I have ever know?At least you didn't pity me!

I probably shouyldn't say anymore, but just a couple more thoughts ...If it were the training and lifestyle of the priesthood that created pedophiles and rapists, why are only a small percentage of priests pedophiles and rapisrs? If it's true, and I don't believe it is, that gays are more psychologically vulnerable to becoming sex abusers, why isn't the percentage of abusive priests higher, given the high percentage of gays in ministry?And finally, I don't think it's quite fair to characterize the sex abuse of teen boys as simply "acting out". I've read some of the accounts given by victims and they are pretty horrific.

This research article might help in this discussion - from Richard Sipe: A significantly larger proportion of Catholic clergy has a homosexual orientation than does the general population.6. This has always been the case, with many saints among them; this is due in part to natural sexual biodiversity [homosexual orientation is a natural variant], a high genetic correlation between homosexual orientation and altruistic drive, and a culture dependent on control and external conformity [Absolute obedience is a cultural factor that can serve both the strong and the weak character.]By refusing to deal honestly with the reality of homosexuality in the clerical state (and in general), Catholic teaching fosters self-alienation, and psychosexual immaturity of its clergy and encourages and enables identity confusion, sexual acting out, and moral duplicity. Clerical culture is redolent with clergy living double lives.- The celibate/sexual system that surrounds clerical culture fosters and often rewards psychosexual immaturity. Conformists and even sociopaths have a greater chance of ecclesiastical advancement than more mature and healthy clerics.5. [This is one consequence of clerical culture.]- Seminary training still does not prepare clergy for celibate/sexual reality. Seminary training produces many psychosexually impaired and retarded priests whose level of adjustment is adolescent at best.4. This tends to create a psychic and moral field and situations in which immature liaisons with young children not only become more possible but are psychosexually over-determined because children are actually on a developmental par with these men.

"Seminary training still does not prepare clergy for celibate/sexual reality. Seminary training produces many psychosexually impaired and retarded priests whose level of adjustment is adolescent at best."This kind of generalization is unhelpful. The same can be said of many married men. Celibacy becomes a problem when a clergy or religious become mediocre rather than fervid in the faith. Mediocrity is the problem. Not celibacy. Contrary to most men priests are given courses in sexuality so they may have more knowledge about sex, albeit not personal.As far as priests are concerned we draw such a negative picture of them in these pages that we forget that some of the most engaging, healthy and lovable men are priests. A lot of my friends are priests practicing and former. My problem is with the leaders who foster a mediocre life among priests which prevents them from fulfilling their potential.

Thanks, Crystal, for FINALLY adding the important fact: GIRLS, too, were abused by priests---perhaps not in the same numbers and/or perhaps their cases were not as "interesting" as the abuse of boys and so not garnering as much press (maybe it's a "given" that girls are sort of "there" for abuse???), but let's not forget the female survivors! (Just an aside: credible source quoted a crusty old Boston cardinal/Archbishop as saying to his priests, "If you're going to have sex, make sure it's with women!")Anthony's comments are also right on: in order to have a substantive conversation that can actually heal and strengthen the church, we need to disentangle several key issues: the fact of homosexuality, the presence in the RC presbyterate/episcopacy of a large number of homosexuals, the vast difference in development and quality between a pedophile and a celibate homosexual priest (and I might add, between a pedophile and a homosexual priest who is in a sexual relationship of equal power and mutual consent with another homosexual), and the relative health/dysfunction of the clerical culture. It seems to me that this last area is the one we are actually LEAST able to talk about maturely and openly, at least at the level of institutional authority, as there is a profound and reflexive denial that the "new" model of "John paul II" priesthood being encouraged presently is nothing but health, wellness and holiness all around. We are not allowed to have an honest discussion of the state and quality of the RC priesthood, period. Two areas of profound importance to the sexual health of the priesthood and the whole church are simply OFF the table: the ordination of women and the ordination of the married. There are also many issues regarding the theology of priesthood that are also deeply connected (especially as they relate to power and authority over others---the core of every abusive relationship) but God forbid we talk about those, either. The culture of clericalism is sick, but the ban on conversation is evil. And so we get exactly what we deserve.

@ Lisa Fullam: 4% of US priests are pedophiles??? That staggers the imagination. [Discussions of the differences between pedophiles and those who assault teenagers is maddening its all abuse and exploitation.]If you do the math (approx. 41,000 US priests X .04 = 1640 child abusers; for each acknowledged victim Bishop Accountability numbers at least 5600 - there are estimates of 6-7 survivors who have yet to come forward; Andrew Greely in 1993 study put the number at 100,000 survivors), anyway you calculate it: That is an astonishing number![From the perspective of public health, whenever you have infection or contagion rates between 1-2% youre talking endemic. 4% is a pandemic in public mental health.]@ Anthony Ruff: The John Jay Study was (is) little more than a public relations fig leaf for the hierarchs- a very small one at that. [Ratzingers CDF ordered changes in the charter draft in order to better protect hierarchs from accountability and limit the purview of review boards.] The JJ study allows hierarchs to posture in public that they are in compliance with the Dallas Charter defending innocent children. The Vatican doesnt have to endure an independent examination of their retrograde political ideology underlying Catholic same-sex priesthood.It would be helpful if among your brethren you could advocate for adoption of a Code of Conduct and professional standards for Catholic priests as we have for physicians, lawyers, therapists really anyone who has a license to practice with the public. [I tried to convince Cardinal Levada of such a regimen, but had he endorse such an idea Im sure hed never be cardinal today.] Simple, basic things to include in such a code of priestly conduct: no intimate relationships with someone currently in the same parish in which you serve; never remove clothing when alone with people; never sleep in the same bed with anyone elses children; no touching or bodily contact with parishioners unless in public and mutually consensual; etc. - there is more for sure! [Dont laugh. Ive had priests tell me they couldnt report to either church or civil authorities their brother priest for doing just these very things because [they] had NOT broken any rules. I wish I were making this up.]Please, dont tell us about how that is what canon law is for. Canon law doesnt work for us serfs in the pews it just wont cut it. Canon law is nothing more than a protections racket for priests in the churchs feudal oligarchy. In all my experience on the review board, canon law was more an obstacle to overcome than a help in bringing justice or affecting need change and protections. I suppose even still today vassal parish pastors/knights need some protection from marauding aristocratic hierarchs.Finally, I dont believe that the Catholic Church (hierarchs, priests, people) today is even capable of having a lucid, rational discussion about human sexuality. [Others on this blog stream have noted how Sr. Farley has been so badly treated by the Vatican.]A few years ago I was contracted to provide mediation consultation for a mens religious community where one of their priest had engaged in unwanted sexual advances toward a woman - totally inappropriate behavior. What confounded me is that I discovered in the course of the consultation that the religious community was divided along very strange gender political lines where straight priests contended with gay priests for control within the community. It wasnt hard to figure out that the gay superior was taking too much pleasure from the serious troubles of the straight priest because of the ripple effects through the community. Such is the state of life within the Catholic priestly caste in the early 21st century.Catholics need to remain attentive to the struggles of priest and hierarchs, but we cant get sucked-up into their messes. Leave them go. As I stated earlier on this blog stream, Catholics should focus on an agenda for the future after the hegemony of the feudal oligarchy that presently dominates the church has died off.

Bill deH said: "- Seminary training still does not prepare clergy for celibate/sexual reality. Seminary training produces many psychosexually impaired and retarded priests whose level of adjustment is adolescent at best.4. This tends to create a psychic and moral field and situations in which immature liaisons with young children not only become more possible but are psychosexually over-determined because children are actually on a developmental par with these men."That fits in with this definition that I read somewhere recently (here?):Seminarism: trying to make a priest out of a man by dressing him like a girl and treating him like a boy.

Ann Olivier: That's a might big "if" ("If Sipe is correct").How could Sipe possibly know how many bishops are repressing their homosexuality?By definition, repression would mean that the bishops themselves don't know it.So how could Sipe know it?

Tom F. --In an Aug. 1, 2006 article, Sipe considers the *reputed* sexuality of American bishops. He says, "In posting the following names it must be clear that there is no accusation of sexual activity on the part of anyone named. Listed here are opinions of orientation. Each name has been closely vetted based on someusually publicfacts that can lead to a reasonable opinion." All of these claims might be disputed, of course. However, from what I've read by and about Sipe, he does not seem to be a gullible person and does at least try to be fair. He also says that, because a priest's vow of celibacy is made publicly that it is not a matter of only personal concern. I'm not sure he's right about that. On the other hand, ISTM the sexuality of a significant number of the bishops does seem to have been a silent factor in the whole bloody scandal.At any rate, of the more than 40 bishops whom he classifies, only 11 are said to be reputed heterosexuals. ISTM that because we humans are such gossips, it is quite likely that there has been *more* gossip about the gay bishops than about the straight ones. I conclude that 3:1 ratio of gay to straight on his listis probably quite skewed. Sipe himself doesn't comment on that possible/probable skewing.Neither does Sipe go into the proportion of them who are repressed gays. But given the extremely hight proportion who are probably gay, it would seem to me quite likely that a large group are in fact repressed gays, especially given their own professed principle that gay priests *ought* to remain in the closet. This is sad both for them and the priests whose spiritual "father" they are. It also makes it unlikely that there will be any dialogue among them soon about the general subject of clerical celibacy and sexuality. Inhibition, at any rate, seems to reign. What is perhaps saddest of all is that these days a majority of Catholics don't care what their sexual orientation is."Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive."

The Roman Catholic 11th Commandment: Thou shalt not talk about urgent questions without permission from Rome.

As to your last question (how could anyone know that a repressed bishops is gay), well, it's a very good question. My gay friends no doubt would say that they can tell by their "gaydar" -- their honed ability to pick up on clues of gayness. I'm not at all sure there is such a thing as gaydar. But who knows. I know that durring WWII there were people who were trained to identify enemy planes in the sky in 1/200 of a second -- not what I'd expect.Still, why wouldn't there be some indications of gayness that a person himself was not aware of. Commenters on the Vatican culture, for instance, often comment on the number of handsome assistants to certain clerics there. Such innocent inklings might add up. Or not. ISTM we just can't be really sure of any of this.

Jimmy Mac --I'd really like to hear from you about this.

Mr. Jenkins - in trying to clarify my terms and given the original topic of this post, IMO, there are confusing areas:- one, experts do not support the claim that homosexuality is the cause or is linked to sexual abuse. Rather, we need to look at the clerical system, seminary training, internal rutes, etc.- second, currently we have a tension between psychological terms and criminal statutues. Thus, it may be more correct to not label a confirmed clerical abuser a pedophile but we still have the reality that this abuser is criminally charged with abusing under age kids. DSM IV makes diagnosis and distinctions based upon the age of 13-14. Criminal statutues use majority (different by state, county). This creates issues in terms of talking about the original topic and how the church/society deals with clerical abusers.- third, Dallas Charter unfortunately laid down a fairly black and white policy to protect kids but it leaves little room for the psychological distinctions and results in a too easy application of the label, pedophile. OTOH, it may have increased the safety of kids. It also did nothing to address the biggest issue - episcopal malefesance and accountability which is linked to both the issue of gay priests and clerical culture.Not sure how to unbundle these thoughts? Agree that it would be helpful if the USCCB and US seminaries instituted professional credentialing like other career associations. It would support continued education (a long cited issue that receives little practical attention). One issue we know is that the best seminary formation/psych testing will not identify every future problem - there needs to be ongoing support systems and accountability. To our topic, this would also get us away from the gay-straight clerical hyperbole and focus on professional standards - not on whether victims are male/female; specific age groups, etc.

rephrase: "...reflexive denial ANYTHING but..." would that we could just leave it all aside, per Jim Jenkins. but we can't...they are everywhere; dying off, for sure, but not until the damage is utterly complete.

Re Bill de Haas and Dallas: it seems to me there are two basic groups among Catholics who bother to think about these issues and care about them: those who see the entire shameful, evil mess as limited to questions of homosexuality/pedophilia/ephebophilia and the "permissive 70's" (hahaha! as IF this really all started oly 30-40 years ago...right); and those who see it as the fruit of much deeper and pervasive roots, starting with the taproot of clericalism and all its related dysfunctions, starting with ideas of power and authority that have been sacralized and made to appear unquestionable (even despite of the Gospel's resolute witness to a form of discipleship/church that is utterly opposed to these). Kids might be safer, etc., but have we really gotten to the heart of the matter? Bishops like Geoff Robinson and Kevin Dowling have sounded the alarm, but the majority of the hierarchs think they have done a jolly great job and have "fixed" it. Situations like those at Penn State are merely fortuitous distractions for our guys: "See: it isn't just us; it isn't celibacy; it isn't, it isn't, it isn't..."

4.LET THE PEOPLE DECIDE!you could say, like Ward Cleaver, when loosly quoting St. Augustine: "Beaver, what's right is always right, even if no one is doing it, and what's wrong, is aways wrong, even if everyone is doing it!"

A couple reactions:Related questions that should be asked in addition to "Can We Talk About Homosexuality?":- "Do We Really Understand What Homosexuality Is? Do We See Only What We Wish To See? Are The Actions of Sexual Addicts/Compulsives On The Same Moral Plain As The Actions Of A Monagamous, Commited Couple?'- Can We Talk To Homosexuals ..... And Listen To What They Have To Say? Can We Believe Them?"- "Is Natural Law Truly Natural? Have We Unnaturally Sanctified An Abstraction and Condemned Those Who Don't Fit? What Does The Existence of Hermaphrodites Teach Us About Natural Law? Does God Violate His Own Laws?"My biases are probably showing with the last question, but I think the Natural Law question is of utmost importance in this discussion. I have my prejudices, I suppose, and one of them is that a lot of Very Important Thinkers love their abstractions much more than they love real people, and real people always suffer as a result.

Jim H: when I first learned about the intersexed (aka hermaphrodites), it blew me away and started my own rethinking of the entire realm of sexual ethics. Margaret Farley's book is excellent in raising questions and consciousness in tis same way...thanks for your points.

@ Bruce:Ward Cleaver? Really??? That's your spiritual and moral yardstick? Even the Beav could tell when his father was full of it.Well, for almost two millennia the boys in the pointy hats have been calling the shots. How's that working out for you, Bruce? I tend to think in LET[ting] THE PEOPLE DECIDE, Catholics would fair at least as well, if not better, then they have under the hegemony of the hierarchs. At least, the mistakes would be our own mistakes - which we could then fix on our own. It really comes down to how much self-agency and self-esteem you can stand? What are you up for, Bruce?As my sainted sixth-grade teacher, Sister Mary Adelaide, would say: "Christianity is not for sissies!"

@ Bill deHaas:You're absolutely correct that any examination of these issues is presently very confusing and not easily understood, needing a unifying theory and praxis. The culture is just now learning how to talk about and intervene in what many still consider taboo subjects like incest and child rape. Of course, the Catholic Church is so consumed by guilt and shame that sometimes I fear that the collective Catholic "frontal lobes" have atrophied. Too many priests, and especially bishops, are hopelessly alienated and irrelevant to the lives of the vast majority of Catholics.My own sense is that we are going to have trouble with the "seminary and ordination model" of priest education and training until individuals are restricted from entering training until they have received the "call" and approval of the community (read PEOPLE) that they will serve. Priests and bishops [whether male or female, gay or straight, married or celibate] need to be "elected" from AMONG the people - not separated and cut-off from the people. The priest needs to embody the community of believers, be their true servant and representative - accountable primarily to their community, not be the local legit of the diocesan and Vatican corporate oligarch. In other words, Catholics need to only ordain men and women for ministry as priests and bishops who have been chosen specifically to serve in that mission whether it be parish or diocese. I realize that it may take the Vatican a century or two to wrap their little chauvinistic minds around such an idea, but that shouldn't deter us. After they finish stomping their feet, wringing their hands and hurling insults and excommunications at us, in the long run, the hierarchs will come to the epiphany that THEY NEED US MORE THAN WE NEED THEM. That should have a sobering effect upon them in the long run!

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