|Accused sexual predator Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.|
Even as far right Catholic sites such as Church Militant - ironically edited by a self-loathing closet gay man - continue to blame the Church's seemingly never ending sex abuse scandal that is finally creeping up into the ranks of the Church hierarchy on "gay priests," Commonweal, yet another legitimate site is pointing the finger at the Church hierarchy and the Church's insane doctrine on human sexuality. A derelict, if not actively involved, Church hierarchy abetted and/or covered up sexual abuse. Adding to the problem was the Church's desperate recruitment of psychologically unfit individuals as it struggled to fill ballooning shortages of candidates for the priesthood. None of this was unknown to the highest levels at the Vatican as the scandal surrounding Cardinal Theodore McCarrick continues to unfold. Here are excerpts from Commonweal:
Emerging details about the scope and duration of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s sexually abusive behavior once more underscore the fact that an institutional sickness afflicts the Catholic Church. A predator priest can ascend to princely rank only if the clerical culture around him enables those who are complicit by their silence and failure to act.The behavior of “Uncle Ted,” as the cardinal insisted he be called by his preferred victims, was something of an open secret at elite levels of the church. As the New YorkTimes noted, multiple reports about McCarrick’s sexual encounters with seminary students were made between 1994 and 2008—to American bishops, to the pope’s representative in Washington, and even to Pope Benedict XVI. . . . . He even played a prominent role as a spokesperson for the church’s “zero-tolerance” policy on sexual abuse.
The causes of clerical abuse are complex and multilayered. Some Catholic conservatives and others on the right seem not to take this sufficiently into account. [*] First Thingssenior editor Matthew Schmitz recently tweeted: “It will be impossible to address sexual abuse in the Church if bishops and priests do not clearly affirm the Church’s teaching on sex, including same-sex activity.
A 300-page report, prepared by researchers at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the request of the U.S. bishops seven years ago, found no statistical evidence that gay priests were more likely to abuse minors. What’s more, researchers found that the uptick in the number of gay priests from the late 1970s corresponded with “a decreased incidence of abuse-not an increased incidence of abuse.” The disproportionate number of adolescent male victims, according to the report, was linked to opportunity, not to preference or pathology.
A witch-hunt mentality demonizes the vast majority of celibate gay men who are faithful to their vows, serve the church, and are as horrified as anyone at the abuses committed.
If the church removed all gay priests from ministry today, it would suffer for that loss. Nor would it bring an end to the abuse crisis. The problem is with those bishops, and others with influence in the church, who at best are asleep at the wheel and at worst willing to excuse predatory behavior. Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley this week acknowledged a “major gap” in procedures for how the church deals with a bishop or cardinal accused of abuse, and called for specific new steps. “
There were plenty of red flags about McCarrick, more than enough to stop his ascent into the College of Cardinals. That it was nevertheless allowed to proceed is an institutional failure on a massive scale. No scapegoating will make this mess go away.
And no single step—ending celibacy requirements or allowing priest to marry—will serve as a panacea. The significant spike in abuse cases in the 1960s and 1970s, the John Jay researchers found, had much to do with psychologically unhealthy priests who were not properly screened, and who became clergy at a time when seminary education lacked a focus on psychological-emotional development. Improved seminary training and education in the 1980s, according to the report, contributed to a “sharp and sustained decline” in abuse cases since then.
More important is changing a clerical culture that prizes secrecy and loyalty over truth and transparency. That will be tedious, challenging and essential work. In the ongoing wake of the McCarrick scandal, it’s time to take up that task with greater urgency than ever.