noun, the most important part of a thing, the essence; from the
Latin cor, meaning heart.
This Views Column
April 8, 2002
Wolves in Shepherds Clothing
Perfidious Priests and What Must Be Done About Them
Are unbelievers more numerous
among us today than believers? Perhaps faith is dead and has been covered with
a layer of secular daily habit, or even denial and contempt.... Can it be that
beneath unbelief there is downright sin, the inveterate sin which evolved
people will not call by its name, so that mankind shall not call it by that
name, and not seek remission?... Let man name sin by its name; he is not called
upon to falsify it in himself, because the Church has received the power from
Christ to exert over sin, for the good of the human conscience. (Pope John Paul II,
April 13, 1980)
The Damage Done
The damage done to the Catholic Church in the USA, and to individual Catholics,
by the decades-long botched-up handling of cases of priestly immorality is incalculable.
Ironically, the bishops surely made matters worse by trying to keep them under
wraps; as indicated in a National Review Online column
by Rob Dreher, Mar. 28:
The ire of the Catholic laity may rob the Church hierarchy
of the kind of political protection it has formerly enjoyed. As a Roman
Catholic, it disgusts me to have to talk about this, fumes former U.S.
Attorney Joseph di Genova, who says that the Church is in more serious jeopardy,
legally and otherwise, than its top leaders seem to understand. If
men like Cardinal Law and Cardinal Egan dont quit looking at this as
primarily a canonical and legal matter, but one of civic duty and civic responsibility,
the pain is going to be prolonged, he says.
Di Genova, who is now in private practice in northern Virginia,
says the success Church lawyers have had in keeping clergy sex scandals quiet
over recent decades has, ironically, become a Trojan horse. If all of
this had been made public over the past 30 to 40 years, the problem would
have been dealt with, the bad priests would have been removed, and it all
would have been taken care of, he says.
But the problem was not dealt with, bad priests were not removed, and much
has been taken care of as badly as could be imagined. Individuals have been
hurt, sometimes (it seems) irreparably; the good name of the Catholic Church,
and of individual Catholics (especially, but not exclusively, priests), has
been besmirched as seldom before; and, many good and faithful priests feel that
they have been put in a no-win situation.
The secular press has been eager to report, with salacious and sometimes,
I could swear, almost pornographic detail, how innocent youngsters (mostly
boys in their teens) were seduced, and their families betrayed, by wicked priests.
Usually, their mental health was wounded, and their spiritual lives damaged;
sometimes, their faith was lost. Often, the same results were inflicted on their
relatives and friends who tried, unsuccessfully, to get the hierarchy to hold
abusive priests accountable. These are broken souls for whom Jesus Christ, the
Lord of Heaven and Earth, died a shameful death on the Cross; He Himself, with
words that could not be more frightening, has said how much they mean to Him:
Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me
to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round
his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world for temptations
to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the man by whom
the temptation comes! (Matthew
Bishops, and their defenders, have often claimed recently that they had adopted
a forgive-and-lets-get-on-with-life attitude towards these immoral priests,
and that such an approach is eminently Christian: after all, they say, we are
all sinners, we are all in need of forgiveness, and we are all called to forgive.
Of course. But it seems to me that the Sacred Scriptures show us that St. Paul
the Apostle would have taken a much different approach. Look at what he told
the first-century Christians of Corinth to do with a man who was consorting
with his step-mother:
It is actually reported that there is immorality among you,
and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with
his fathers wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn?
Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in
body I am present in spirit, and as if present, I have already pronounced
judgment in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing.
When you are assembled, and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord
Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh,
that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your boasting is
not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse
out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened.
For Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us, therefore, celebrate
the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but
with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. I wrote to you in my letter
not to associate with immoral men; not at all meaning the immoral of this
world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since then you would need
to go out of the world. But rather I wrote to you not to associate with any
one who bears the name of brother [that is, a fellow Christian] if he is guilty
of immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber
not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders?
Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those
outside. Drive out the wicked person from among you. (1 Corinthians 5
Remove him from your midst! Hand him over to Satan! Do not even eat with him!
Drive out the wicked one from among you! So did St. Paul command the Corinthians
to deal with a notorious sinner in their midst: surely, our bishops, and their
defenders, cannot claim to be better Christians than was the Apostle.
The Catholic Church has been damaged, too, as surely as have the individual
victims. We are all in this together. We share a faith, a heritage, a tradition,
a life that have come down to us across the centuries. And our reputation
that of the Church, of its priests, of its faith and life has been wounded
immeasurably. Catholic author Mark
Shea put it this way in an e-mail, Mar. 12:
I dont fly off the handle over every accusation of
ecclesial malfeasance in the media. I know those guys hate the Church. Thats
why it drives me nuts that the Church leaders and its media seem to be deliberately
choosing a course guaranteed to give the Churchs enemies a stockpile
of weapons-grade uranium for years, perhaps centuries, to come. Dont
think I exaggerate: look at the everlasting nature of slanders based on the
Inquisition and the Crusades.
Indeed, those guys in mainstream media do hate the Church.
I cannot help but imagine the glee with which the editors of newspapers like
the Boston Globe and the New York Times find another juicy tidbit of Catholic
scandal to set before their readers. I cannot imagine that they are motivated
by concern for victims or by a passion for justice: they are motivated, mostly,
by a concern to sell papers, but also by a deep long-held animus against the
No matter. They do us a favor by exposing the misdeeds of priests and their
superiors. As St. Thomas More reflected during
his imprisonment in the Tower of London almost five centuries ago:
Give me Thy grace, good Lord, to set the world at nought.... To think my most enemies my best friends; for the brethren of Joseph could never have done him so much good with their love and favor as they did him with their malice and hatred.
But blameless priests are being affected by the bad press; as Rod Dreher reported
in a column,
There are many good priests, men who would never harm a child,
who suffer terribly from loss of morale. They feel that others look upon them
with suspicion. They are terrified of leaving themselves open to a false accusation,
which could end their priesthood. Father D., a young priest who
serves in the Southwest, tells NRO the abuse cases have affected relationships
within his own family. On a visit home a few years ago, his sister suggested
that her six-year-old son share the bed with Father D., because hes
a great cuddler. When the sister saw the horrified expression on her
priest brothers face, she understood that her innocent suggestion could
have been a career-killer for Father D. If the children had told anybody that
the boy had shared a bed with a priest, Father D. could have been thrown out
of the priesthood. I act around my nieces and nephews the same way I
act in the parish: I am never alone with a child, period, end of story,
he says. False accusations are a reality, and these horrify me as well.
The only thing I can do is what Ive done: Set up barriers and protections,
and pray for protection.
of the American Clergy
As indicated many, many times through the course of this essay beginning
with a general overview of the situation from Philip Jenkins book Pedophiles
and Priests in Part
One, right through a critique of bias in media reporting by David
Stolinsky in Part
Four the real nature of the crimes being committed by priests
against Catholic youth has been consistently disguised in the mainstream media:
true pedophile priests, who prey on young children, form an exceedingly
small number of the perpetrators; the overwhelming majority of them are homosexuals
preying upon older boys.
As far as I know, Boston Herald columnist Joe Fitzgerald was one of the earliest
writers in mainstream media to broach the reality in relation to the current
scandals engulfing the Catholic Church in the USA; he reported his conversation
with a priest, in a column,
Thanks for returning my call, he said. I
have a take on whats happening now, something no one else seems anxious
to get into, including the people in your business whom Im angry at, too.
The papers keep talking about pedophilia. Thats the wrong word. The
real issue here is homosexuality. Its usually heterosexuals who are
pedophiles, which is a psychological disorder that has something to do with
arrested development, sending them back to an age where they last felt comfortable,
identifying with someone who reminds them of themselves.
Where are you getting this from? he was asked.
From friends who are psychologists. John Geoghan? Sure,
he was a pedophile. But of all the guys whose names were reading now,
no more than a couple were pedophiles, a percentage probably consistent with
the general population. The majority of these victims were not prepubescent;
they were young teens, so it had nothing to do with pedophilia. Its
technically called ephebophilia, which is almost exclusively homosexual, and
it isnt about comfort; its about sex. The media dont like
talking about this because, by and large, they have come down on the side
of gay rights, the advancement of the gay agenda, so there would be an uncomfortability
because, again and again, gays are saying, Were no threat to children;
thats why we should be Boy Scout leaders, why we should be teachers,
why we should be able to adopt. Thats always their justification
for interactions with young people.
Father, he was assured, youll be
branded a hater.
I know, so please make sure Im well-disguised,
though if I said all of this in a homily I think people in this parish would
be pretty cool with it.
I dont know if the priest would be branded a hater. But one
can gather from Fitzgeralds follow-up column,
Mar. 11, that he himself certainly was:
The torrent of invective unleashed by that column would be
difficult to describe; suffice to say, it was a truth a lot of people did
not want to hear.
But that backlash was wonderfully balanced by the number
of other priests who called to concur, including one who personally experienced
such wrath when he challenged the gay agenda from his pulpit. Check
the Merck Manual, he suggested. Every nurse and doctor is familiar
with it; I have a copy. It defines pedophilia as repetitive sexual activity
with pre-pubescent children and usually involves heterosexuals whove
had psychological and emotional disorders from youth. Look at the ages of
the victims were reading about here, like those waiters
who were brought to that camp in New Hampshire. They were 13, 14, so were
not talking pedophilia; thats intentionally misnaming it. Homosexual
molestation is where you seek after kids whove reached puberty, and
almost all of these victims were reading about were adolescents or young
teens, so how can you possibly call that pedophilia? Call it what it is.
Whats needed here is a little bit of honesty, though
you can be sure it will be vehemently assailed as hatred. Isnt it ironic
that those who clamor for tolerance have none for anyone else? Theres
a lot of anger among them, this priest agreed. Remember how they
protested the churchs teachings a few years ago by throwing condoms
at newly ordained priests outside Holy Cross Cathedral? Theres obviously
a lot of immaturity there, too, but most of all its an anger against
authority. No one seems to want to say it, but the only answer to these problems
is the Vaticans view that weve got to get this element out of
What is it? Molestation or seduction of adolescent boys by homosexual adults.
(You had better check that Merck Manual right quick: if it becomes widely known
that Merck is being used to clarify our perception of reality in this particular
way, I have a hunch there will be powerful behind-the-scenes pressure to minimize
the distinction between pedophilia and homosexual molestation/seduction of teenagers
in succeeding editions.)
The few amusing moments in this whole mess have come, for me, from watching
the reaction when reasonable people point out that nearly all of these cases
of priestly sexual immorality involve adolescent boys: thus, by definition,
these offenses are being committed by homosexual men.
Mary Louise Cervone appeared on two TV programs, Mar. 28, representing
the Catholic homosexual organization called Dignity.
On The OReilly Factor (FNC) and on Making Sense with
Alan Keyes (MSNBC), Cervone frantically tried to deny, over and over
again, any distinction whatever between pedophiles who prey on young children
and homosexuals who target adolescents. She offered no evidence for her assertion,
of course, but spent most of her time wresting the conversation back to it.
I almost felt sorry almost for somebody forcing herself to look
so willfully stupid for a national audience.
And, when NRO columnist Rod Dreher appeared on CNNs The Point,
Mar. 15, he used the word homosexual instead of the word pedophile
to refer to our sexually immoral priests: though Dreher has the data on his
side, both the host and the other guest paused for an uncomfortable moment of
stunned silence. They reacted as if Dreher had used a racial epithet or a profanity.
It was great.
This afternoon, I thought yes, I actually let myself believe
that a mainstream journalist was going to use the H word. David
France, a Newsweek editor, was being interviewed by Lester Holt on MSNBC. During
the brief segment called Can the Church Survive? Holt
actually pointed out to France that pedophilia may be not the right
word to describe most of the deeds. He asked France to comment, in a manner
that invited clarification. At that point, I thought we were really, actually,
frankly going to hear the H word. Alas, all the honesty France could
muster was to note that, yes indeedy, most of the victims have been teenagers.
Not teenaged boys, mind you. Just teenagers.
Given this atmosphere, I doubt that the following story will get much play;
it comes from an article
in the Boston Herald, Apr. 7:
A priest accused of raping a Newton altar boy and an unknown
number of other youths over three decades used writings from Nambla
a much-assailed group that advocates sex between men and boys to entice
naive teens into having sex with him, an alleged victim of the priest said
yesterday. The accuser, a gay man in his 40s who works in the service industry
and requested anonymity, said he was introduced to the Rev. Paul R. Shanley
in 1974, at age 16, by an ex-Dorchester man who co-founded Nambla, or North
American Man-Boy Love Association, and goes by the name Socrates.
He says Shanley was a strong proponent of Namblas philosophy,
which holds in part that older men should introduce pubescent boys to the
mysteries of sexuality, and routinely collected and showed teens Nambla materials.
The accuser says Shanley openly courted and engaged in sex with numerous boys
in the 14 to 17 age range while the longtime Boston priest, who is now 71
and living in San Diego, ran a small Catholic ministry for sexual minorities
from the early 1970s into the 1980s.
The Boston Globe ran an article
the same day, about the same priest, referring always to Shanley as a child
molester and without mentioning NAMBLA:
Despite three decades of complaints that the Rev. Paul R.
Shanley had sexually abused children, the Boston Archdiocese transferred the
onetime street priest to a California parish where officials were
never told of the molestation allegations.... A church adviser told the Globe
that the documents will include a 1977 record of a statement by Shanley in
which Shanley said he did not believe that pedophilia was deviant or immoral.
Pedophilia is the term for sexual urges or activity toward prepubescent children
by adults. The adviser could not say to whom Shanley made the statement....
Shanley, who was known as Bostons street priest
in the 1960s and 70s, was ordained in 1960 and held parish assignments
at St. Patricks in Stoneham, St. Francis of Assisi in Braintree, and
St. Johns in Newton during his three decades in Massachusetts. He was
also chaplain at Boston State College in 1969, the same year he established
Rivendell, a retreat house for youth workers on a 95-acre farm
in Weston, Vt. In 1970, Shanley launched his ministry to alienated youth,
based at St. Philips in Roxbury, for runaways, drug abusers, drifters,
and teenagers struggling with their sexual identity. He ran the ministry for
eight years, attracting wide public attention for embracing ostracized minorities
and challenging the churchs position on homosexuality. In 1979, Cardinal
Humberto Medeiros reassigned Shanley to the Newton parish, even though in
1974, according to one of Shanleys victims, the cardinal had been notified
of Shanleys abuse by the victims mother. Shanley said publicly
at the time that he was removed from the youth ministry because he differed
with Medeiros over the churchs outreach to homosexuals....
Church directories indicate Shanley is now a senior
priest assigned to the clergy personnel office at archdiocesan headquarters
in Brighton. But he has been living in San Diego working as a police volunteer
in an organization that finger-printed children at county fairs. He was dismissed
last week, according to San Diego police. Shanleys alleged victims in
the Boston Archdiocese included a 42-year-old South Shore man who received
a $40,000 settlement from the archdiocese in 1991 after notifying church officials
that he had repeatedly been anally raped by Shanley in about 1972, when he
was 12 or 13. The alleged victim, who asked that his name not be used, said
he met Shanley after responding to a newspaper advertisement the priest had
placed encouraging troubled teenagers to contact him for counseling.
(Of course, in Shanley-speak, outreach to homosexuals means approval
of homosexual behavior.)
Today, the Boston Globe published an article
with more disturbing details of the career of Shanley, but it still begins by
referring to his criminal past in the Boston area as that of a child
The Archdiocese of Boston arranged the transfer of a known
child molester, the Rev. Paul R. Shanley, to a California parish in 1990 with
a top-level written assurance that Shanley had no problems in his past, according
to a spokesman for the San Bernardino diocese. The letter, which cleared the
way for Shanley to work for three years at St. Annes in San Bernardino,
without restriction on his contact with children, was written by Bishop Robert
J. Banks, who was then the top deputy to Cardinal Bernard F. Law....
During most of the time Shanley was at St. Annes, he
and another priest from Boston owned and operated a bed-and-breakfast for
gay customers 50 miles away in Palm Springs, according to interviews and property
records reviewed by the Globe. Shanley and the Rev. John J. White, his co-owner
of the B&B, were both technically on sick leave from the archdiocese
and were being paid by the Boston Chancery. It was unclear last night whether
Law or his aides were aware of the two mens business interest....
In January, when the Globe reported Shanleys long history
of allegedly molesting teenage boys, White denied that he owned property with
Shanley until the Globe confronted him with property records.
(How about that, Boston Catholics? Two homosexual priests were are?
on your payroll while they were running a B&B
for homosexuals in California. Yes. How about that?)
And notice how the Associated Press casually confuses the issues in an article
in the Tampa Tribune, also published today:
Irelands Roman Catholic bishops were holding crisis
talks Monday over the churchs handling of cases of sexual abuse involving
pedophile priests. The meeting comes a week after the Bishop of Ferns,
Brendan Comiskey, resigned after admitting he had not done enough to prevent
sexual abuse by priests, particularly the Rev. Sean Fortune, who was facing
66 counts of molesting and raping teen-age boys
when he committed suicide in 1999. (emphasis added)
(Will the resignation of the Bishop of Ferns after admitting he had not
done enough to prevent sexual abuse by priests become a precedent for
I may be wrong: the Shanley story is getting some play, perhaps because of
the deceit of one diocese by another. What low-down chicanery! What unconscionable
effrontery! The bishops semi-annual meeting in June is really shaping
up to be all the more explosive.
But Fitzgerald writes
again today, noting how the misleading reporting crosses the line from disingenuous
Its one thing to be disingenuous and quite another
to be dishonest, a line too easily blurred when those who report the news
attempt to choreograph it, too, which is exactly what many in this business
are doing by perpetuating the myth that pedophilia is the cancer now infesting
the Catholic Church. It is not pedophilia that has brought the Boston archdiocese
to this dark moment; in most of the instances where abuse has been alleged,
its homosexuality that has caused such pain and disgrace....
Pedophilia is a red herring, providing safe cover for irresponsible
critics, allowing them to swing from the heels, recklessly impugning reputations,
carelessly making blanket indictments, secure in the knowledge they incur
no risk because everyone agrees that hurting a child is reprehensible. Criticizing
homosexual aggression, however, would invite the rage of advocates who, refusing
to acknowledge the elements of depravity that exist within their community,
bitterly assail anyone else who dares to address it, labeling them homophobes,
which is just one more example of what you can do with words. It may be unpopular,
but in a scandal of this magnitude its certainly not hateful to identify
the problem by its right name; indeed, it beats deceit, especially if the
only reason to mislead is fear of incurring the wrath of militants. Believe
this: If homosexuality replaced pedophilia in the
language used to cover this interminably miserable story, we would see a lot
more restraint, resulting in a lot more fairness to everyone affected by it,
especially legitimate victims and innocent priests.
The latest round of clerical suspensions for sexual immorality, and the anecdotal
evidence of the likes of Shanley and White, are not the only evidence of the
homosexualization of American clergy. According to a new book, the
Jesuits in the USA have been overrun by homosexuals. As Garry Wills says in
a New York Times Book Review article,
The authors report a general agreement among present and
former Jesuits that a gay subculture flourishes in the Society. Outsiders
became aware of this subculture in 2000, when it was reported that Jesuits
by the dozens were suffering from or dying of AIDS. From one novitiate alone
in fact, the one I entered in 1951 five men who were novices
in the 1960s were dead of AIDS by the 1990s. There were attempts to hide this
rate when Thom Savage, the popular former president of Rockhurst College
in Kansas City, died in 1999, it was said that he died of respiratory problems,
but a reporter for The Kansas City Star found only one cause
of death, AIDS, listed on his death certificate.
It is not surprising that the numbers of heterosexuals have
declined, as many left to marry and others were deterred by the celibacy requirement
from entering. The remaining or arriving gays have formed protective networks
the authors call it a lavender Mafia to provide
the sense of community otherwise so hard to come by in the order. Of course,
this works against a larger sense of community, since some of those Jesuits
interviewed express resentment at being excluded by the gays. A straight young
Jesuit says: I feel quite alone when Jesuits of my generation talk about
sex and sexuality. Straights complain about being in the minority in the younger
Society and about being held to stricter norms of conduct. Gays want
shoulders to cry on as they struggle with coming out and are unduly sensitive
to any detail of a response which they can interpret as nonacceptance.
A man in his thirties teaching in a high school also feels stranded: Several
of my former Jesuit friends would mention the large number of gay Jesuits
and the impact that had on community life as being a big reason they left.
As a relatively young Jesuit who is heterosexual, I believe I am in the minority,
and that raises questions. A priest in his sixties is less tolerant
of the younger men: I get annoyed with those gays who seem stuck on
one note anger. This man seeks escape from the community room
by spending time with women friends outside his institution.
As George Neumayr notes
at TheAmericanProwler, Mar. 13:
Were Ignatius of Loyola alive today, the Jesuit order he
founded wouldnt ordain him. His once-formidable society is now a corrupt
club for homosexual dilettantes and anti-papal dissenters. Real Catholics
need no longer apply.
Celibacy is Not the
As naturally as flies gather on rotting meat, many people usually liberals,
even (or especially) Catholics, in mainstream media are blaming clerical
celibacy for this problem, and recommend making it optional as a solution.
Let us quote again from one Michael Kramer, who was shown last
time to have no idea what hes talking about when it comes to
the historical development of mandatory celibacy. From his same article,
The best guess from secular analysts is that celibacy doesnt
itself produce the twisted personality that causes some very few priests to
prey on children and young adolescents although the problem of arrested
sexual development needs further study, since many would-be priests enter
seminaries as teenagers.
But even if celibacy doesnt cause such deplorable behavior,
theres ample reason to view it as bad policy anyway. First, says Marquette
University Theology Prof. Michael Fahey, married priests would emancipate
the church because they would be better connected to normal life. Unmarried
priests are simply less sensitized to the needs of children. And
second, says Fahey, optional celibacy would rejuvenate the clergy because
the church is facing a manpower crisis.
During the past 30 years, as the number of Catholics has
grown by about 30%, the number of priests has declined by about 10%. There
are 62.4 million U.S. Catholics and more than 2,500 parishes are without a
resident priest, in part because roughly 20,000 American priests have left
the clergy to marry during the past 25 years. The available pool of men willing
to become priests would increase if they could marry, and their quality would
likely improve as well.
The lid is being blown off that little deception (of which Kramer is likely
a victim rather than merely a perpetuator). Celibacy has been blamed for nearly
40 years as one of the chief, if not the chief, cause of the decline in priestly
vocations; and, that decline has then been used as an argument to end mandatory
celibacy. A soon-to-be-published book, by Michael S. Rose, argues instead that
good, solid, orthodox Catholic men, willing to embrace celibacy and to devote
their lives to the service of God and the Catholic Church, have been turned
away if not actually driven away from Catholic seminaries
in the USA. In droves. For decades.
It is beyond the scope of this essay to delve into this affair in detail. But
here is some of the table
of contents from Roses
book, Goodbye! Good Men: How Catholic Seminaries Turned
Away Two Generations of Vocations From the Priesthood.
Chapter 1: A Manmade Crisis: Why Archbishop Curtiss said the priest shortage is artificial and contrived
Chapter 2: Stifling the Call: How for some men the road to ordination is cut short before it really begins
Chapter 3: The Gatekeeper Phenomenon: How good men are unjustly screened out during the seminary application process
Chapter 4: The Gay Subculture: How homosexual politics discriminates against healthy, heterosexual seminarians
Chapter 5: The Heterodoxy Downer: How false teaching demoralizes and discourages the aspiring priest
Chapter 6: Pooh-poohing Piety: How traditional expressions of the faith often disqualify the orthodox seminarian
Chapter 7: Go See the Shrink! How psychological counseling is used to expel the good man from his seminary
Chapter 8: The Vocational Inquisition: How the orthodox seminarian is identified and persecuted
Chapter 9: Confronting the Obstacles: One good man traces his tortuous route to ordination
Chapter 10: Heads in the Sand: How complaints about the poor state of seminaries have gone unanswered
Chapter 11: A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: How a death-wish for the male, celibate priesthood created an artificial priest shortage
Chapter 12: The Right Stuff: How to live up to the Churchs expectations for seminary life
Chapter 13: Where the Men Are: Why orthodoxy begets vocations (or, how to learn from successful dioceses
Archbishop Curtiss is the Elden Curtiss mentioned previously, in Part
Three and Part
Four. I had alluded to his analysis
of the current vocations crisis, from which I now quote:
I personally think the vocation crisis in this
country is more artificial and contrived than many people realize. When dioceses
and religious communities are unambiguous about ordained priesthood and vowed
religious life as the Church defines these calls; when there is strong support
for vocations, and a minimum of dissent about the male celibate priesthood
and religious life loyal to the magisterium; when bishop, priests, Religious
and lay people are united in vocation ministry then there are documented
increases in the numbers of candidates who respond to the call.
It seems to me that the vocation crisis is precipitated
and continued by people who want to change the Churchs agenda, by people
who do not support orthodox candidates loyal to the magisterial teaching of
the Pope and bishops, and by people who actually discourage viable candidates
from seeking priesthood and vowed religious life as the Church defines the
I am personally aware of certain vocation directors, vocation
teams and evaluation boards who turn away candidates who do not support the
possibility of ordaining women or who defend the Churchs teaching about
artificial birth control, or who exhibit a strong piety toward certain devotions,
such as the Rosary.
When there is a determined effort to discourage orthodox
candidates from priesthood and religious life, then the vocation shortage
which results is caused not by a lack of vocations but by deliberate attitudes
and policies that deter certain viable candidates.
And the same people who precipitate a decline in vocations
by their negative actions call for the ordination of married men and women
to replace the vocations they have discouraged. They have a death wish for
ordained priesthood and vowed religious life as the Church defines them. They
undermine the vocation ministry they are supposed to champion.
Curtiss describes, and Rose documents, the nature, purpose, strategy, and some
of the effects of those whom I call subversive traitors.
Besides the red herring of decline in vocations, Kramer also claims that eliminating
mandatory celibacy would improve the lot of candidates for the priesthood.
Well, it is an idea.
And it is a slap in the face to hundreds of thousands of celibate clergy and
religious who have served God and the Catholic Church faithfully. Century after
century after century.
Alas and I am very sorry to have to say this married clergy is
no cure-all palladium. Witness, for instance, the report
of Bill Wineke, a member of the United Church of Christ, in the Wisconsin State
Journal, Apr. 5:
Lest you become comforted thinking only Catholic priests
can be clerical perverts, you might want to subscribe to Freethought
Today, the monthly publication of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
It runs a gleeful feature one that usually covers a couple of pages
called Black Collar Crime Blotter. The blotter picks up
newspaper clippings about problem pastors from around the country and the
result isnt pretty.
The April issue, for example, begins with an item announcing
the minister of the Edmond, Okla., Wesley Foundation Campus Ministry had been
charged with molesting two girls, aged 8 and 9, in the church recreation room.
Also listed are an Oklahoma City rabbi, the cantor of one of the worlds
largest Reform synagogues, an Assembly of God pastor charged with raping a
girl, and a Southern Baptist minister charged with sexually assaulting a 13-year-old
girl. From my own denomination, the United Church of Christ, came news that
one of our conference ministers the equivalent of an archbishop in
role, if not in status was convicted of standing in his house window
and exposing himself to neighbors.
Now, I admit that the news that Catholic priests arent
the only clerical deviates does not do much to make us feel better about the
church in general. But it should serve to keep those of us who arent
Catholic from getting too judgmental and it should call into question the
validity of the claim of many that celibacy and the male-only priesthood are
the causes of priest failures. Most of the non-Catholics listed in Black Collar
Crimes are married and most are in churches that ordain women.
Indeed, as Wineke notes, married clergy have a problem all their own:
A far more common problem in all our churches and synagogues
comes from clergy who succumb to the all-too-human temptation to fall in love
with persons other than their wives (or husbands). Such affairs are not illegal
and they dont make the papers. But they do result in broken families
and in heartbreak among disillusioned church members, many of whom end up
leaving the church quietly and never returning.
And this problem marital infidelity among clergy
is far more common, he says, than the sins against juveniles that
warrant attention because they are crimes. (Not to mention that our secular
milieu hardly considers marital infidelity worth mentioning as wrong-doing,
except perhaps in a divorce petition.)
Unless one believes that a homosexual can be cured by marriage,
one defies all reason to claim that a married clergy would have forestalled
the rash of homosexual abuse of teenaged boys by priests. Catholic columnist
Maggie Gallagher addressed
this very notion, Mar. 13:
As I sat in the pews last Sunday, obediently praying for
an increase in religious vocations, the thought occurred: If one of my sons
wanted to dedicate himself to a life of chastity, poverty and obedience, forsaking
marriage (and my grandchildren!) for Gods sake, would I trust my child
to the care of people now running American Catholic seminaries? Should I?
Should any mother?
This is the question raised in many staunch Catholic hearts
by the series of revelations of priestly sexual abuse of teen-agers. Teen-age
boys, to be exact. One of the big, obvious questions on everybodys mind
that nobody in the American church hierarchy seems to be willing to address
is this: Why, suddenly, is it only boys, boys, boys?
The same old church critics are using these scandals to target
clerical celibacy as the problem and married priests as the solution. Right.
As if wives are the answer to the sexual urges of men who get their kicks
from adolescent boys.
Celibacy as currently practiced in the Catholic Church in the USA does, however,
seem to me to be a problem. But I will address that issue, and others, as I
conclude this column next time in The View.