Church Guilty of Double Standard in Scandal

Republican [Springfield MA]
February 29, 2004

Almost no one should be surprised by our Page 1 report today that some Catholic priests in the Springfield Diocese are gay, but we expect some readers to be distressed by revelations of a double standard created by some church leaders.

The vast majority of priests are horrified and saddened by what has happened. They feel the good work they do for the church and the people is tarnished because of the sins of a few priests. Those priests who have sexually abused boys are more likely to be homosexual than heterosexual. They entered the priesthood as homosexuals and turned to boys in the church for sexual gratification because they could wield extraordinary power over them.

A few priests, as our story notes, decided to make public their homosexuality and have never been charged with any crime. But others attempted to keep the burning light of their sexuality under a basket.

Today's story is yet another example of the tightrope we walk in reporting on the church scandal story. We are beyond exposing the element of obvious hypocrisy by church leaders who condemned homosexuality and waged an all-out war against gay marriage, but we have not crossed the boundary line of "outing" someone who is gay but doesn't want the public - sometimes even their family - to know that.

(Note: In a story published yesterday, we for the first time noted that state Rep. Cheryl Rivera of Springfield is gay. We weren't "outing" her. While Rivera never sought to keep her sexual preference a secret, we had not included the information in stories about her because it was not germane until the gay marriage issue surfaced at the Statehouse.)

The line separating good from evil has been crossed, however, by priests, some of whom rise to higher positions in the church, and who satisfy sexual urges by luring boys into their beds.

Many gay priests, like heterosexual priests, maintain their vow of celibacy and are beloved by parishioners who couldn't imagine their sexual orientation. Many nationwide were steered toward the priesthood at such a young age they were not even fully aware of their orientation.

One of the biggest heroes and one of the casualties of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack was, in fact, a gay priest who was also a Fire Department chaplain loved by many. Others, however, like some of their heterosexual counterparts, have used their position of authority to prey on innocents.

Some of the clergy abuse cases locally and nationwide involve very young children, or victims of pedophiles, who satisfy their abhorrent desires with children. The great majority of pedophiles nationwide are heterosexual men, not gay priests.

But the majority of clergy abuse victims, locally and nationwide, are pubescent or post-pubescent boys, preyed upon by a small number of homosexual priests who are using the cloth as a cover for both their sexuality and their crimes.

For the newspaper, the overarching issue is to maintain high standards when deciding what is fit or fair to publish. We have proven in recent years those standards can be maintained while we are aggressively uncovering and exposing local problems. We also know that the high road we have taken is not the easiest one to travel.

When Bishop Thomas L. Dupre resigned and left the city overnight, he did so because we were asking him questions no one else was asking, and he knew we weren't going to be dismissed with a wave of the hand. We soon received anonymous tips that he had gone to St. Luke Institute in Silver Spring, Md., a facility known for treating pedophiles, but that didn't appear in our newspaper until our Washington correspondent, Jo-Ann Moriarty, went to the hospital and actually saw Dupre.

Managing Editor Marie P. Grady said Moriarty had made a request through an intercom to speak to a hospital administrator. When a nun stepped outside of the locked, glass-enclosed foyer, Moriarty identified herself as a reporter for The Republican and said she also wanted to speak to Dupre. The nun said she could not confirm Dupre was there under Maryland law, at which point Moriarty persisted, saying she knew Dupre because she was herself the niece of a bishop and wanted him to know people needed to hear from him.

As she reached into her purse for her business card, she heard the rustle of clothing and looked up to see that the nun was looking in the direction of a man Moriarty recognized as Dupre. Moriarty believes the nun had motioned to Dupre not to come that way. He quickly turned around and disappeared behind a door.

One of Dupre's accusers said he was moved to make the allegations public only after reading that Dupre was on a mission against gay marriage in Massachusetts. The man, who is gay, said he was angered by the bishop's hypocrisy.

That is one of the reasons we decided to report on the incidence of homosexuality in the priesthood. Some inside and outside the church are saying that it is homosexuality itself that is to blame for the current church crisis. We hope readers take away from our story something more than that limited view.

We hope the story will cause readers to reflect upon the institution itself, and how it screens candidates for the priesthood - and how it reacts when one is accused of abusing his power.


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