Will Rome Tell U.S. Bishops to Stop?
By Paul Likoudis
The Wanderer [United States]
Downloaded March 20, 2004
Beginning this month, and throughout 2004, the U.S. bishops will be traveling to Rome for their five-year ad limina visits with the Holy Father and his curial officials. Reportedly, the agenda will contain three major concerns for discussion: marriage and family life, war and peace, and the clergy sex abuse scandal.
According to one bishop The Wanderer spoke with, neither the Holy See nor the U.S. bishops’ conference has indicated that a long-anticipated and long-delayed document of the Congregation for Catholic Education barring the ordaining of homosexuals — in the works since at least 1998 — will be on the table for discussion.
The document in question, it was widely reported in December 2002 at the height of an international debate on whether or not homosexuals should be ordained, was slated to be released "in a few months."
The accusations against Albany Bishop Howard Hubbard for allegedly paying young men for sex, the recent resignation of Springfield, Mass., Bishop Thomas Dupre for alleged pederasty, and other well-known episcopal resignations following a scandal — such as G. Patrick Ziemann of Santa Rosa, Calif. — should leave little doubt of the wisdom and urgent necessity for such a ban — long overdue.
And yet, both in the Church and in the major organs of the regnant media and in many so-called Catholic publications, there is a drum roll of dire warnings of what will befall the Catholic Church should it show the temerity to oppose homosexual influence in the Church through its schools, seminaries, clergy, and parishes.
With so many homosexual priests already ordained, and seminarians in the pipeline, not-too-veiled threats have been floated that any effort by the Vatican, or the American bishops, to counteract this would result in internal rebellion, causing the Church to be deprived of a significant proportion of its pastoral clergy staff. That is, Catholics would be deprived of their "right to the Eucharist" if homosexual priests (and bishops) came out of the closet and went on strike.
Two recent, widely circulated, warnings — one by Chicago priest Andrew Greeley in The Chicago Sun Times, and the other by ex-Paulist James Carroll in The Boston Globe — starkly illustrate this phenomenon.
In a March 12 column for the Sun Times, Greeley lashes out at the so-called Catholic right, which "wants to blame everything on homosexuals. The sexual abuse crisis resulted from the ordination of large numbers of homosexuals from the easygoing seminaries after the Vatican Council. Homosexuals ran and may still run seminaries. Homosexuals do not preach the traditional Catholic sexual ethic. They are the ones who are demoralizing the Church."
Then he offers a statistical analysis; ironically, these statistics, if accurate, present a problem more severe than any spokesman of the Catholic "right" has ever claimed: "My own research (reported in Priests: A Calling in Crisis, published recently by the University of Chicago Press) shows that some 16% of priests are gay and three-fifths of them have lived celibate lives (as opposed to four-fifths of heterosexual priests). Mature gay men seek sexual partners among other mature gay men. Immature gays go after junior high school boys. Blaming homosexuals for the sex abuse crisis is part of a larger syndrome in which a certain proportion of American society (and of American Catholics) display their deep-seated hatred for gay men and women."
Greeley’s claims — which most Catholics would deny — would mean that about one-sixth of American priests are homosexual, and 40% of homosexual priests are sexually active. In other words, 6.4% of American priests are supposedly active homosexuals. And by admitting that only the immature gay priests go after "junior high school boys" leaves open the reality — as indicated by high-profile lawsuits such as those filed against Jesuit high schools — that homosexual priests have a propensity to seek out young men in educational institutions.
"Scapegoating gays for the problems of the Church (and society)," writes Greeley, "is a sickness not unlike racism and anti-Semitism and anti-Catholic Nativism, and appeals to the same kind of
twisted personalities as these other prejudices."
The Globe’s in-house ex-priest, James Carroll, took the opportunity after the release of the John Jay College report on clerical sexual abuse to sidestep the homosexual issue and condemn and ridicule the Church’s moral teachings.
It is not homosexual priests who cause the problems; rather it is the "climate of dishonesty that pollutes the Church’s teachings about sex; [by] not making an issue, for example, of the absurd birth control prohibition, we were shoring up, in Garry Wills’ phrase, the ‘structures of deceit’ on which abusive priests depended. When we declined to hold bishops accountable for their excessively autocratic exercise of authority in small matters (forbidding girls from serving at Mass) and large (closing parish schools without consultation), we supported the power system that bishops were protecting in protecting abusers. When we failed to make an issue of the unjust discrimination against women embodied in the male-only priesthood, we were part of what allowed patriarchal clericalism to reach its present state of calcified corruption.
"When we passively accepted the hierarchy’s refusal to implement the Vatican II reforms aimed at empowering the laity, we gave the abusive priests a place to hide and their sponsoring bishops a way to keep them hidden. . . .
"Meanwhile," Carroll continues in his florid, fervid prose, "on subjects ranging from gay marriage to the closings of parishes, bishops have resumed their old autocratic habit of giving orders from on high. In all of this the bishops show every sign not only of wanting a return to ‘normal’ but of thinking it is possible.
"But what if ‘normal’ is the problem? Are Catholics going to enable this refusal to deal with the Church’s real crisis? Are Catholics going to pretend that deep questions of moral teaching, lay empowerment, homophobia, and sexism have not been raised? Are Catholics actually going to allow the avoidance of consequences by the particular bishops who enabled abusers to continue their crime sprees?. . . The issue now squarely belongs to the Catholic people.
"What are we going to do?"
A recent report by Religion News Service writer Kevin Eckstrom, following the John Jay College report on clerical sex abuse, highlighted the growing fears in the "gay" Catholic community that homosexual seminarians and priests would be "scapegoated," but also indicated that some important prelates do not favor barring homosexuals from the priesthood.
"Gay Catholic groups are nervous that the [National Review] Board’s report," wrote Eckstrom, "will spark a ‘witch hunt’ of gay priests. Some estimates have said that between one-quarter and one-half of Catholic priests are gay. The board noted the presence of a ‘gay subculture’ in many seminaries.
" ‘This is a great way for the bishops to step back from their responsibility of being shepherds,’ said Matthew Gallagher, executive director of the gay Catholic group Dignity/USA. ‘They blame the crisis on the gay priests, and now they’re going to blame the witch hunt on’ the review board.
"Some Catholic leaders, however, cautioned against a rush to blame gay men for the problem. ‘Homosexuals are normally, I’m told, attracted to homosexual men. So it’s unfair to homosexuals, to the gay community, to scapegoat them,’ Chicago Cardinal Francis George said.
"Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the gay issue is just one of many that needs to be considered.
" ‘We do not wish to disparage or in any way to denigrate the very generous and faithful service of any of our priests who may be homosexually oriented but have been absolutely faithful to the promises they made,’ he said."
Eckstrom also reported that some bishops favor the "Bevilacqua model," after former Philadelphia archbishop Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua, who prohibited the admission of homosexuals to his seminary.
The top three officers of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Gregory, Bishop William Skylstad, and Bishop Joseph Galante are all opposed to the ban, which sets them in opposition to John Paul II and most of the prefects of major Vatican congregations.
Opposing the admission of homosexuals to seminaries, and the ordination of homosexuals currently in training, are such priests as a professor in Rome (featured in this week’s From the Mail column) who warns in part:
"I believe SSA (Same Sex Attraction) is both a psychological disorder in itself as well as a symptom of some other disorder or disorders. I.e., not only is the attraction to males perverse, but it comes about because of some deeper problem that makes the man less capable than others of overcoming stress, disappointments, loneliness, hostility and the challenges of celibate life with reasonable equanimity. I believe homosexuals have a harder time than normal men not only remaining chaste, but in resisting any temptation qua temptation (sloth, covetousness, envy, mendacity, you name it). . . .
"Second, and related to the first, homosexuals are almost universally prey to an exaggerated self-pity by which they overdramatize the hardship of their predicament both to others and to themselves. This makes them natural subversives; they are constitutionally predisposed to be sympathetic to any line of argument that presents the Church’s sexual teaching as too demanding."
A similar case was made in September 2002 by Fr. Andrew Baker, an American priest from the Allentown, Pa., Diocese working in the Congregation for Bishops, in America magazine — where he was opposed by Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton.
Baker pointed out: "First and foremost among [these problems] is the possible simultaneous manifestation of other serious problems such as substance abuse, sexual addiction, and depression."
Homosexual men, he said, "may be more familiar with certain patterns and techniques of deception and repression, either conscious or subconscious, which were learned in trying to deal with their tendencies in a largely heterosexual environment."
At about the same time — also in September 2002 — the Holy Father told the Brazilian bishops: "It would be deplorable that, by a mistaken act of tolerance, [a bishop] would ordain young men who are immature or exhibit clear signs of affective disorders, who, as is sadly known, could cause serious confusion in the consciousness of the faithful with obvious harm for the whole Church" (L’Osservatore Romano, September 11, 2002).
After Baker’s essay was published, The National Catholic Reporter’s John Allen reported that Baker’s view "represents a climate of opinion that is fairly widely held inside the Vatican, and that has gained strength in the wake of the various sexual abuse scandals. Whether that climate will eventually result in an official statement on the inadmissibility of homosexuals remains to be seen."
But the mystery is: Why can’t the Vatican enforce its view?
As the homosexual auxiliary bishop of Cape Town, South Africa, Reginald Cawcutt, explained in a 1999 message on the St. Sebastian’s Internet web site for homosexual priests, he was aware of the proposed Vatican document forbidding the ordaining of homosexuals because of the opposition to it expressed by some bishops of California during their 1998 ad limina visit.
"When the Los Angeles bishops, et al., went to Rome for their official visit last fall," wrote Cawcutt, "they came back talking about that very letter. Apparently Ratz’s office was very proud of it, and was telling all those who were visiting that the next official letter would in fact ban gays from religious orders and the priesthood. When the LA crew mentioned the letter to the more sympathetic Pio Laghi, he told them not to worry, that the rest of the congregations would never allow such a letter to get through. So, in spite of Pio Laghi’s best intentions, it appears though the letter might have made it through."
In 2004, however, the California bishops, as well as most other American bishops, are in a very different situation, and Los Angeles’ Roger Cardinal Mahony is engaged in a struggle, as The Los Angeles Times’ William Lobdell and Jean Guccione reported March 14, "to maintain the secrecy of Church documents involving priests accused of molesting children...[and] has adopted a legal strategy more aggressive than that of any other bishop in the country, according to scholars and attorneys.
"At the center of the fight are thousands of pages from priest personnel files that Mahony has succeeded for more than a year and a half in keeping from prosecutors, lawyers for victims, and the public. . . .
"[T]he cardinal’s opponents say that if all the files became public, they would hobble his leadership of the largest Roman Catholic diocese in the United States."
What those documents might reveal, as Ron Russell reported for SF Weekly a year ago (March 19, 2003), is that Mahony not only protected pederast priests by shifting them from one parish to another, but that he was aware that resigned Bishop Ziemann of Santa Rosa, earlier a Los Angeles auxiliary, was long known to be a homosexual predator.
Indeed, as Russell earlier reported (June 2002), the documents that Cardinal Mahony is trying to keep secret could reveal information, not only on the internal workings of his inner circle, but also on a host of his colleagues and former classmates and what they knew about homosexual activity at St. John’s Seminary as they rose up the Church’s hierarchy.
To make your views known to the Roman Curia on the ordaining of homosexuals, write to:
Angelo Cardinal Sodano
Secretariat of State
Vatican City State
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Piazza del S. Uffizio, 11
Phone: 011.39.6.69.88.33.57; 011.39.6.69.88.34.13
Giovanni Battista Cardinal Re
Congregation for Bishops
Piazza Pio XII 10
Dario Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos
Congregation for Clergy
Piazza Pio XII 3
Zenon Cardinal Grocholewski
Congregation for Catholic Education
Piazza Pio XII 3
Francis Cardinal Arinze
Congregation for Divine Worship
10 Piazza Pio XII 10
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