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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

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!