Bishop Accountability
  Andrew Sullivan’s Gay Problem
And mine.

By Rod Dreher
National Review
March 13, 2002

Andrew Sullivan is a brilliant journalist whose work I treasure, but he is wrong on the gay-priests issue. He attacks me today for having a "gay problem" when it comes to homosexuality and the Church. He's right; I do. So does he. And it's on this dispute that the future of the Catholic Church in America rests.

Sullivan is angry that in my comments in The Corner, I've often connected the homosexuality of priests accused of pederasty with their alleged crimes. He resents my comments about the "lavender mafia" running much of the institutional Church (the phrase is Fr. Andrew Greeley's, and he's hardly a Catholic conservative). He disdains my remarks about how some gay priests in control of seminaries and chanceries use their power to persecute orthodox, heterosexual priests and seminarians, and he resents my remarks about some seminaries being not much better than "gay brothels."

I draw those dire conclusions not on "hearsay," as Sullivan says, but on reporting and years of conversations with priests, who have told me more than I wish I knew about what it was really like in their seminaries. It will be interesting to see how Sullivan will react to author Michael S. Rose's forthcoming Goodbye! Good Men, which is the first book I'm aware of to systematically compile these stories from the seminaries, and to name names.

I've just finished an early copy, and what it documents is absolutely astonishing, and cannot be ignored except by those who do not want to see. This bombshell book reveals a seminary underworld in which homosexual promiscuity and sexual harassment is rampant, in which straight men are marginalized and demoralized, and seminarians who support the Church's teaching on sexuality and the priesthood are persecuted, even to the point of being sent off, Soviet-style for psychological evaluations. Many of these guys are rejected from entering the seminaries, expelled, or driven by depression to leave.

The book was substantially written before the Boston scandal broke, and it contains damning information about the homosexual domination of St. John's Seminary in Boston during the time that many of the priests accused in the current scandal there were ordained. How can you blame people for wondering if there's a connection between the outlaw homosexual culture of that seminary, and the outlaw homosexual culture that some 80 priests in Boston participated in?

Even seminary rector the Rev. Donald Cozzens, in his much-praised book The Changing Face of the Priesthood, writes that the increasing presence of homosexuals in the priesthood causes particular problems for straight seminarians, and not for the usual bugbears of "homophobia." The Catholic laity have a right to know if their Church's priesthood is becoming heavily gay, and what that means. Fr. Greeley writes, "The laity, I suspect, would say it is one thing to accept a homosexual priest and quite another to accept a substantially homosexual clergy, many of who are blatantly part of the gay subculture." What's more, I have been told by a number of sources, including psychiatrist Richard Sipe — no Church conservative he — that there does in fact exist a network of gay priests who support each other, sometimes through sinister ways (e.g., blackmailing bishops and others who threaten their activities).

I have connected the homosexuality of those priests who have been publicly exposed as pederasts to their alleged actions for one main reason: The media will strain to avoid making the connection, for fear of being accused of homophobia. But this scandal cannot be understood and honestly dealt with in its absence. We hear over and over again that "pedophiles are mostly straight men." That may be true, but what we're seeing with priests is not pedophilia, which is a deep-seated psychological illness. What we're seeing is gay men who cannot or will not keep their pants up around teenage boys. Not teenage girls. Teenage boys.

You cannot blame people for asking if there's something about the culture of homosexuality in the Catholic priesthood that fosters this phenomenon, if it's something more than a few bad apples, but a systemic problem. Maybe it's not. But it is not homophobic to ask, and the questions do not go away because Andrew Sullivan doesn't want to face them, for fear of what the answers might be.

One reason this matters goes beyond the safety of teenage males, to the theological integrity of the Church. It doesn't take a sociologist or an investigative journalist to determine that people will go to great lengths to believe things that will justify their sex lives. It's very human; most of us have done it at one point in our lives. We've seen gay priests and theologians, aligned with feminist nuns and other dissenters (including heterosexuals, to be sure), working to change the substance of the Catholic faith, particularly on issues of sexual morality. And they're succeeding. In my experience, the only time most Catholics ever hear anything orthodox said about sexual morality from the clergy is when the Vatican says something. You can just as effectively change the belief of the people by not teaching the truth as you can by teaching falsehood.

No serious Catholic could object to a homosexually oriented priest who is both chaste and openly supportive of the Church's teaching. We're not talking about these brave and faithful men. Does Andrew Sullivan believe gay priests should have a special dispensation giving them the right to be sexually active (as he apparently believes about himself as a Catholic)? Does he believe they don't have an obligation to live by authoritative Church teaching? Does he believe that good works and heroism in other aspects of their priesthood exempts them from fidelity and integrity in others (e.g., does Fr. Judge's bravery at Ground Zero earn him a pass on the fact that he was unfaithful to the Church on sexuality?)

Or is it more important to Andrew Sullivan to be sexually active gay man than a faithful Catholic? You cannot have it both ways. Hence Andrew Sullivan's gay problem. Hence my own. Hence this painful discussion, which will soon occupy center stage in the public square as the scandal unfolds, and American Catholics are forced to deal with the homosexualization of the Catholic priesthood in America.

The materials on are offered solely for educational purposes. Should any reader wish to quote or reproduce for sale any documents to which other persons or institutions hold the rights, the original publisher should be contacted and permission requested. If any original publisher objects to our maintaining a cache of their documents for safekeeping, we will gladly take down our cache of those documents and offer links to the original publisher's posted versions instead.


Original material copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.