Linking Abuse, Dissent Is Faulty: Crisis, Gay Subculture in Seminaries Grew under John Paul II's Watch. (Column)

By McBrien, Richard P. | National Catholic Reporter, October 4, 2002 | Go to article overview

Linking Abuse, Dissent Is Faulty: Crisis, Gay Subculture in Seminaries Grew under John Paul II's Watch. (Column)


McBrien, Richard P., National Catholic Reporter


The word on the conservative street is that the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic church was caused by a lack of fidelity to the church's teachings on human sexuality--the underlying assumption being that only "dissenters" fell from grace and, in the process, caused the biggest scandal that the church has faced in modern times.

A second assumption is that all of the offenders were homosexuals and that they were encouraged in their perverse course of behavior in the 1960s by liberal (read: dissenting) seminary faculty members, who implicitly disparaged the requirements of clerical celibacy.

According to this view, a gay subculture developed in seminaries during that "permissive" decade that marginalized and disheartened orthodox, heterosexual seminarians, who then abandoned their quest of the priesthood.

This is the line taken in Michael Rose's book, Goodbye, Good Men: How Liberals Brought Corruption into the Catholic Church, and in George Weigel's forthcoming book, The Courage to Be Catholic: Crisis, Reform, and the Future of the Church, judging by his recent interview with the Web site Beliefnet.

It is also the position taken in various articles, press interviews and television appearances by Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, editor of First Things magazine, who has insisted that there are just three words to describe the solution to this whole crisis: fidelity, fidelity, fidelity.

The assumption is that no priest or bishop would have engaged in the sexual abuse of minors, or in any other kind of immoral sexual behavior, for that matter, if they had been faithful to the commandments of God and their ordination vows.

Which is a bit like saying that we wouldn't have any wars if countries acted peacefully, or that we wouldn't have any robberies and thefts if people obeyed the commandment "Thou shalt not steal" or that we wouldn't have any murders if individuals didn't use deadly force against one another. Such analysis is tautological and, therefore, without value.

Medical professionals would not agree that clerical pedophilia (sexual abuse of pre-pubescent children) and ephebophilia (sexual abuse of post-pubescent minors) would stop if only potential perpetrators were faithful to the teachings of the Catholic church. The problem goes much deeper than a failure to obey moral rules. We are dealing here with compulsive and addictive behavior, and, more profoundly, with the mystery of evil itself.

If active dissent against divine law, as embodied in the teachings of the church, were the real cause of such depravity, why is it that "orthodox" priests and bishops have also engaged in it? …

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