Gays Wary of Catholic Sex Scandal Reports

By Eric Johnston [United States]
Downloaded March 1, 2004

Gay activists fear a pair of reports on sexual abuse by Catholic priests will lead to "scapegoating" of gay priests and "sensational" anti-gay reporting by the media.

One of the documents, issued Friday by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, gave statistical analysis of the number of sexual abuse incidents involving Catholic priests. It found 4,392 priests had been accused of sexually abusing 10,667 minors between 1950 and 2002.

The other report, focusing on the causes of the abuse, was written by a panel of prominent Roman Catholics known as the National Review Board. It berated the nation's Catholic bishops for covering up abuse cases and failing to deal properly with abusive priests.

But the report also unfairly implicated gay clergy, according to Matthew Gallagher, executive director of DignityUSA, an advocacy and support group for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics.

"It's becoming very scary for gay men who feel they are called to serve God in our church," he told the Network on Monday.

According to Gallagher, the report stated that gay men are less able to control their sexual activity than heterosexual men, and because of that, it recommended a higher level of scrutiny for gay men entering the seminary.

He said the statistical analysis was also misleading because, while it noted that 81 percent of the abuse was committed with boys, it did not point out that most of the abuse cases happened during the 1950s and 1960s, at a time when the Catholic Church had only altar boys, and no girls.

Gallagher said the report's "unproven theories" give bishops "the opportunity to scapegoat gay priests."

Another concern was how the news media was handling the priest abuse crisis, according to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), an organization dedicated to fair, accurate and inclusive media coverage for GLBT people.

"Unfortunately -- yet predictably -- some initial media coverage of the sex abuse scandal was unfair and sensationalistic," GLAAD media director Cathy Renna said in a statement.

"Homosexuality remains a titillating subject for most Americans," said Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, another group that serves GLBT Catholics. "So homosexuality is played up more than is necessary, particularly because of the national discussion we're having about gay marriage."

However, Renna added that some articles have done a good job of debunking long-held misconceptions about homosexuality and gay Catholics. She mentioned articles in USA Today and The Boston Globe, which she said showed "the overwhelming evidence that demonstrates that there is no connection between a healthy adult sexual orientation and pedophilia."

DeBernardo said he was disturbed by a statement from Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, president of the bishops' conference, declaring the priest sexual abuse crisis was over.

"It's far from over because the issues of accountability haven't been addressed," said DeBernardo. "Church leaders need to learn how to be more accountable to people in the Church. The crisis has brought up in the Catholic Church the need for an honest and open discussion about sexuality, and that hasn't happened. And until that happens, I don't think the crisis will be over."


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