Sexual Abuse in the Churches

At the moment the public spotlight is on the Catholic Church, with revelations of what has transpired in Pennsylvania. In this latest case some 300 priests are said to have abused some 1,000 children over many decades. Before looking at the details, let me say a few necessary things first. All child sex abuse is evil, end of story.

And when it happens in churches, it is even more evil. Child sexual abuse of course can and does happen in non-religious places, such as schools, etc., so we are amiss to single out the church. And Protestants have had their fair share of cases of this as well, so we are amiss to single out the Catholic Church.

I will not engage in any excuse-making here. I hate to see the name of Christ tarnished, regardless of where it is happening, be it Orthodox, Protestant or Catholic. Here I want to let a number of others speak, most of them Catholics, but a few Protestants as well.

Obviously Catholics who are involved in defending their church full time will want to offer their own take on the Pennsylvania situation. And some already have. Whether they were right to be so quick to speak to the situation is already a moot point, with Catholics on both sides of the issue.

For example, one key defender of Catholicism in the public arena is Bill Donahue. He came out rather quickly with a column seeking to debunk some myths here. Yes, given his role, he would be expected to do this I suppose, and he was right to point out a few truths, such as the fact that no one has been found guilty as yet.

But of course the media was quick to selectively pick up on things he said which seemed helpful, such as “Most of the alleged victims were not raped: they were groped or otherwise abused, but not penetrated, which is what the word ‘rape’ means.”

Sure, the MSM did not quote his very next line: “This is not a defense—it is meant to set the record straight and debunk the worst case scenarios attributed to the offenders.” But in such a hostile climate, no matter what one says in seeking to offer a different point of view, it may in fact cause real damage nonetheless.

And I am not here speaking as a Protestant attacking Catholics. I actually have some of Donahue’s books and have quoted him at various times over the years. And his piece is worth reading to see how the media is often twisting and distorting things. But consider what another Catholic has just said about him. On her social media page Jennifer Roback Morse of the Ruth Institute said this:

I will eventually read Bill Donahue’s statements about the PA Grand Jury Report, but I must say this before I do. Even if I turn out to agree completely with his analysis, he is completely wrong to be talking about this at this moment. Here is why: This is the Catholic moment to face facts, take our lumps, and make amends. We can talk about other people’s mistakes and problems after that.

Nearly 40 years of marriage has convinced me of this. If my husband tells me I did something that hurt him, that is exactly NOT the moment to start talking about all the times he has hurt me, all his flaws, etc. To do so, is to change the subject. At that moment, the subject is me and what I did and how I can make amends. If I don’t listen to him, precisely at that terribly uncomfortable moment, I am setting us up for tit-for-tat, back and forth recriminations and vendetta.

There will be another time to talk about what he does that I don’t like. At that moment, my responsibility is to listen to him, take him and his concerns seriously. Not to put too fine a point on it, that is the moment for me to suck it up. That is, assuming I want to remain in relationship with him. And I most emphatically do want to remain in relationship with the culture around me, including the Attorney General of PA and the members of the Grand Jury and the media and all the rest. I will listen to what Bill Donohue has to say, some other time, once I feel sure that I have exhausted my capacity for making things right within the Body of Christ.

I think she is taking a wise and helpful approach here. Even if only a fraction of the allegations are true, it is still horrific, still indefensible, and still must be completely rooted out and repented of. And of course many Catholics have themselves pointed out that there is a real problem with homosexuality in the Catholic Church.

But of course it is not PC to say so. Most of these assaults by male clergy have been on males. That may or may not be paedophilia, depending on the age, but it is certainly homosexual in nature. Many have pointed this out over many years, and Catholics are saying the same about the Pennsylvania situation. Just recently attorney and child rights advocate Liz Yore, along with Brad Miner, editor of The Catholic Thing, made these points.

They refer to a 2004 report on sexual abuse by Catholic leaders in the US known as the John Jay Report. As Yore said: “Largely it’s not a pedophile crisis. We know from the John Jay report, 81-percent of the victims were males, mostly teens. And we know because our subclass of predators are all male, this is a male-on-male crime, and primarily with teens between the ages of 14 to 17. Those are the victims.”

Last month Catholic blogger Matt Walsh also repeated this fact:

As Rod Dreher has been reporting, and liberal publications agree, homosexuality runs rampant in the modern priesthood. Sexual activity between priests, and between priests and seminarians, is not uncommon. I think it is rather difficult to separate these facts from the fact that teen boys were so often sexually victimized. Is it just a coincidence that gay priests exist in such large numbers, protected by gay cabals within the Church, and at the same time there happen to be a bunch of priests molesting pubescent boys? Are these two realities entirely separate from one another?

He continues:

80% of the victims in the Church have been males. Is it difficult to see how thousands of boys may have been spared this experience if there had not been so many homosexuals in the priesthood? Or are we going to pretend that even a heterosexual may attempt to get his thrills by molesting a 15 year old boy? If so, I have no idea what the words heterosexual and homosexual mean anymore.

Speaking of Dreher, the Orthodox commentator has been resisted by some Catholic leaders, including Austin Ruse, for highlighting such abuse. But just recently he has come out saying that Dreher was right and he was wrong. See here:

Fr. Paul Sullins, also of the Ruth Institute, has spoken of the homosexual subculture within the Catholic church as well:

Is the current Catholic sex abuse scandal related to homosexuality?
Yes. The current scandal includes mostly revelations about male on male sexual abuse of seminarians, where the victims are adults. These kinds of cases were not even considered in the responses to the 2002 scandal, which was about the criminal abuse of minors.

Was the 2002 scandal also related to homosexuality?
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops commissioned two reports, one in 2004 and in 2011, by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice to study the reported cases of clerical sex abuse from 1950 through 2002 and 2010 respectively. Both reports found that over 80% of the victims were neither girls, nor pre-pubescent children (true pedophilia), but pre-teen and teenage boys. These results clearly indicate that the problem was male on male predation by priests against under-aged boys.

Is there a “homosexual subculture” which exists within certain Catholic institutions?
Yes. In a 2002 survey of a national sample of 1,852 Catholic priests by the Los Angeles Times, 44% responded “yes” when asked if there was a “homosexual subculture in your diocese or religious institute”. To the question, “In the seminary you attended, was there a homosexual subculture at the time?” 53% of recently-ordained priests responded “Yes” (reported in Hoge and Wenger, Evolving Visions of the Priesthood, p. 102. Their own concurrent survey yielded 55% “Yes” to the identical question.)

Donahue of course has also made this point, as have others. Protestant commentator Michael Brown has taken this view in his brand-new article. In it he asks, “Does the Catholic Church Have a Homosexual Problem?”

And some candid Catholics are saying much the same. In the Catholic journal First Things a same-sex attracted man says people like him should NOT be made priests:

I am the sort of man the Catholic Church says shouldn’t be a priest. I experience what the Vatican calls “deep-seated homosexual tendencies,” which, according to the Church, make me an unsuitable candidate for the priesthood. The 2005 Vatican instruction on the question of homosexuality and the priesthood states this clearly: “The Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practise homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called ‘gay culture.’” This teaching wasn’t new. In 1961, the Vatican declared that men with homosexual inclinations couldn’t be ordained. Seminarians who “sinned gravely against the sixth commandment with a person of the same or opposite sex” were to be “dismissed immediately.”

I take no offense at this teaching. In fact, I agree with it. I’m convinced that if the Church had heeded its own counsel from 1961 and 2005, we wouldn’t be reeling from the shocking headlines of today

Protestant commentator Rob Gagnon suggested that “the way forward for the RCC to address the scandal of clerical sexual misconduct, particularly the persistent homosexual subculture network, [would be] for the Pope to appoint a commission,” consisting of people like Robert George, Andrew Comiskey, Paul McHugh, Paul Sullins, Ryan Anderson, Jennifer Roback Morse, Francis Beckwith, Joseph Sciambra, and others “who have taken the strongest public stance supporting Catholic sexual ethics”.

A newer piece by Matt Walsh calls for the need of some radical reform:

The good priests and bishops must come out and rebuke with righteous fury. Statements of “sadness” and “grief” will not do. Cardinal Wuerl’s limp-wristed lament about the “tragedy” of sexual abuse is insufficient. It is not just a tragedy. It is wickedness straight from the pit of Hell. That is what needs to be said. We don’t want to hear about tragedies anymore. We want to hear the wrath of God called down upon the heads of the perpetrators. We want you to show us that you are disgusted and enraged, or else we will suspect that you don’t care — or worse.

And names must be named. For every priest who raped a boy, there could well be at least one more priest who knew about it and remained silent. And those priests are almost as guilty as the rapist. Cowardice is a moral evil. And there has been quite a lot of that kind of evil — and many other kinds of evil — infecting the hierarchy of the Church. So all of the evildoers must be purged. Exposed. Shamed. Thrown out. Imprisoned. All of them. That is the only way forward now. There is no other way. And every Catholic who loves God and truth and justice must demand it.

One Protestant critic replied to this saying that a massive reform already did take place – it is called the Reformation. While there may be something to this, this is not the place for such a mega-debate. Nor is the long-standing issue of whether clergy should be able to marry to be resolved here.

And as a reminder: my longstanding policy still stands: no sectarian bashing thanks. Catholics who want to attack Protestants, or Protestants who want to attack Catholics, are advised to do it to their heart’s content, but elsewhere please.

Suffice it to say that anyone who names the name of Christ must be held to the highest of standards – and especially its leadership. Whenever such horrific acts take place, it does tremendous damage of course to the victims, but also to the cause of Christ.

Regardless of who is doing it, and in what denomination, radical and heart-felt repentance is the main way forward, along with some other much-needed reforms.

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13 Replies to “Sexual Abuse in the Churches”

  1. Priests are asked to give up their normal lives and they willingly do this, but we are all human and don’t always behave as we should. I don’t know if they are given instruction on curbing sexual feelings but they do their best. I’m not condoning anything, but know I made mistakes when young, and now I regret. I don’t condone these mistakes but think that the opportunities should be less easier for them to succumb to.

  2. This is from the team from Catholic Answers as they give their opinions in a article “Discussing the Scandal: Do’s and Don’ts”

    Here are some of them:

    Don’t allow yourself to react emotionally. Reason usually takes a hit when the emotions run high.
    Don’t compromise the truth. Though it may be painful at times, it will indeed “make you free” in the end.
    Do ask yourself, “How can I truly help in this situation?” Sometimes the most help you can give is to pray. Sometimes it involves activism. But all the time it should be about helping others rather than yourself.
    Jimmy Akin, Senior Apologist

    Don’t water down or minimize the evils that have been committed. Frankly acknowledge that they are sins against man and God and cry out for justice.
    Do point out that God will ultimately provide justice for the victims and the perpetrators, in this life and the next, and that he can bring good out of even the gravest evils—as he did with the death of his own Son, which brought about the salvation of the world. As the Catechism says, “The fact that God permits physical and even moral evil is a mystery that God illuminates by his Son Jesus Christ who died and rose to vanquish evil. Faith gives us the certainty that God would not permit an evil if he did not cause a good to come from that very evil, by ways that we shall fully know only in eternal life” (324).
    Cy Kellett, Host, Catholic Answers Live

    Don’t carry the burden of fixing this yourself. Each of us is very small and can only do so much. Let people know that you are firm in trusting Jesus even though this is very hard to bear.
    Do share the Good News in season and out. Believe in the sacraments. Draw close to Jesus, and love others with patience and perseverance. Nobody gets to the end of his life and thinks, “Gee, given everything that’s gone on, I wish I had been less joyful about the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
    Fr. Hugh Barbour, Chaplain

    Do give people (including yourself!) emotional space to vent their anger and frustration. St. Paul said, “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Eph. 4:26). It’s okay to have righteous indignation; it’s just not okay to let anger fester and become a vindictive disdain for Christ’s Church.
    Don’t immediately make arguments about how the misdeeds of some clerics do not invalidate the truth of the Church’s teachings or its divine foundation. These arguments are valid and need to be shared, but only when people are ready to receive them. One way to do this is to ask gentle questions like, “I know this whole thing is awful, but do you think it proves Jesus was wrong and that the gates of hell have prevailed against the Church (Matt. 16:18)?”
    Christopher Check, President

  3. I agree with Matt Walsh ‘It is wickedness straight from the pit of Hell.’ I also agree with the stamping out of the homosexual culture.
    I am a practicing Catholic but believe the biggest percentage of offending priests joined the Priesthood just to be in the position of power and have access to these young men. They are not following the Teachings of Jesus so they should not be trusted to lead His Flock.
    Homosexual tendencies is not in itself a sin – it is the practice of homosexual activities that is the sin; all human beings must avoid the temptations of sin – where ever our weaknesses lie.
    I pray that the reign of Satan will soon end and Christ’s Teachings will fill the hearts and minds and souls of all people.
    Right now though people should understand that Christians are followers of Christ – not followers of any person – be they a Priest or anyone else.

  4. All that you say Bill. However, there is one important element missing as far as I am concerned and that is the link between pedophilia and homosexuality.
    Any adult male that has sex with another male is an active homosexual and if the other male is a child then it is a double whammy in that now you have homosexuality and pedophilia.
    Thus, any so called priest who engages in homosexuality automatically loses the title priest and what was it that the Christ said about tying a rope around your neck and sinking to the deepest river rather than harm a little one?
    John Abbott

  5. Viva Le Reformation! The church of Christ is reforming all of the time and sin is increasing all over this fallen world as well as well as in the church, this is why we need to repent continually. Only in Christ, there is forgiveness knowable only to those who genuinely repent daily of our sins and sin no more. This is a matter of the heart which is evil beyond all else as well as our relationship to our Father in heaven and no amount of accounting practices can mend our broken fallen situation. In the first century circumcision was used to indicate whether a person was chosen and loved by God or not maybe we can go back to such measures.

    What I object to is that in this society based on the economy, governments and so-called not-for-profit organisations are cashing in on human failure and weaknesses through child safe/working with children, requiring of us more than just the payment of taxes. There is also the more pressing matter of abortion being “good for the economy” reported yesterday by LifeNews which is of way more importance than blaming the church for age old abuses of power. We are all powerless without Christ and his eternal transforming graces, we have a personal God who is personally involved in each of our lives, what more could we ask for? God is our only comfort and He will bare our burdens if only we give them to Him. Is this not correct Bill? Blessings and thanks

  6. Let’s look at this verse for a moment. The angle is about the one committing adultery in his heart by lust. Mat 5:28; KJV;
    “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” No one ever seems to look at it from the object’s perspective. The offender’s looks and/or comments make the recipient feel dirty, violated, and ashamed. They don’t have to actually commit full-on rape to mess up the victim’s head. So, these people who make out like non-penetration makes it somehow less traumatic are full of bologna.

  7. Let the Word speak:
    “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and DOCTRINES OF DEVILS; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a red hot iron; Forbidding to marry ….”
    (I Timothy 4:1-2).

    “This is a TRUE saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife . . . one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection”
    (I Timothy 3:1-4).

    An unmarried male in close proximity to young boys is like throwing oil on fire. Satan seeks to perpetuate his priesthood, and he will tempt the priest to molest the young boy. It this way, evil spirits of homosexuality are passed on and the boy grows up and wants to become a priest.

    Only the blood of Jesus can deliver from this great city (Rome) which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt (Rev. 11:8).

    “And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues”
    Rev. 18:4).

  8. Bring into the mix, the latest push to stop anyone getting any help if they have unwanted homosexual feelings and this is even more damaging. Many of these boys will have gone into adulthood confused about whether they are gay or not. Grooming of young men by older men is one of the key elements to people heading in this direction. But in a short time, no one will be allowed to counsel people to do anything other than act on their confusion or their feelings. Laws about to be enacted to stop even pastoral counseling, are dangerous, uninformed and unhelpful.

  9. Bill, Apologies for being a bit late with this reply. In 2002 Michael S Rose published a book titled “Goodbye, Good Men”.
    Dr Alice von Hildebrand was very clear in her support for this book which exposes the fact that homosexuality is rife in American seminaries. This book shows how the very institution charged with inculcating Catholic theology and discipline have come to prefer gay priest to straight ones, pop psychology to religious devotion and ‘Playboy’ to the Pope.
    What saddened me recently, while Pope Francis spoke about the sexual abuse of children by priests, bishops and cardinals he did not mention homosexuality. The article in First Things was excellent and so was Robert Royal in his statement. Unfortunately only the Pope can deal with the abuse by Bishops and Cardinals.
    Keep up the good work.

  10. Thanks Bill. I have not seen this topic mentioned before. Great summary Madge.

  11. I understand the point of this article. I, too, am vehemently opposed to the “homosexual” activities in the Church. I do not agree that it is as profuse as this article makes it appear. As I understand it, there are two key things not mentioned: infiltration of the Church started in WW2 and had increased over the next years; fewer men joining the priesthood meant relaxing the preliminary interviews and background checks (definitely NOT a good thing); Jesus said that Satan would try to destroy His Church.

    Yes, something definitely needs to be done and is being done. Even to volunteer at the parishes now requires a background check. It’s a start.

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