Gay Priests Not Part of Pedophilia Problem: Official's Statement Suggests Rome Clings to Deceit That No Valid Priest Abused a Child. (Column)

Article excerpt

There are many adverse effects of the current pedophilia crisis: the demoralization of clergy and laity, the damage done to the reputation of the Catholic church and its hierarchy, the high costs of out-of-court settlements and their impact on the funding of the church's social and educational ministries, the further decline in vocations to the priesthood, and, most serious of all, the grave, long-term harm done to its innocent victims and their families.

In recent weeks a new item seems to have been added to the list: increased expressions of antipathy toward gay priests, of whom there are surely thousands in the United States alone. What is remarkable but not surprising -- is that these criticisms are coming from both sides of the ecclesiastical spectrum: from progressives who view the inordinately high percentage of gays in the priesthood as lessening the pressure for a change in the law of obligatory celibacy, and from homophobes who look upon gays as disreputable souls held in the grip of the worst sort of moral perversion.

Even though prominent psychiatrists and psychologists have been reminding us on television and in news interviews that there is no necessary link between homosexuality and pedophilia, the popular view to the contrary still holds sway in many parts of the church and in society at large. In such precincts the solution is easy: Get rid of gay priests and we'll finally be rid of this horrible problem of sexual abuse of children.

Surprisingly, the starkest expression of this view emanates from one of the highest sources in the central administration of the Catholic church: Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the pope's official liaison with the media and a psychiatrist by training.

The Vatican spokesman has questioned whether homosexuals can validly be ordained, comparing the situation of a gay priest who may not realize he is gay to that of a gay man who marries a woman while also unaware of his sexual orientation. Navarro-Valls pointed out that just as such a marriage can be annulled on the grounds that it was invalid from the start, so, too, the ordination of a gay man might similarly be declared invalid.

A few priests have privately observed that, if this were actually to happen, the Roman Catholic church might lose two-thirds of its priests under the age of 45 and some bishops as well. At the same time, many of its seminaries could be emptied of all but a handful of students. …