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Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Clergy

February 15, 2013

In response to the scandal over sexual misconduct with persons under 18 by members of the Catholic clergy, the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops commissioned the John Jay College of Criminal Justice to conduct a comprehensive study of the problem. The study The Nature and Scope of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States 1950-2002, was released in 2004 (JJR I)[1]. This was followed up by a Supplementary Data Analysis in 2006 (JJR II)[2].

In discussing childhood sexual abuse (CSA), it is necessary to remember that while people feel reassured when they receive a statistic to two decimal points, statistics are like snapshots, taken at a particular time in a particular place, from a particular point of view. In order to know how reliable statistics taken from a published study are, it is necessary to know how the group studied and any comparison groups were assembled, what questions were asked, and how were they asked. Can the statistics presented in a particular study be generalized or are they only relevant to that particular group at that particular place and moment time? Do the results agree with the results from a number of other well designed studies? The JJR study is well designed and provided a unique opportunity to look at the problem of CSA.

According to JJR I,  4,392 clerics were accused of CSA. This represents about 4% of clerics in active ministry during that period. While the number of alleged victims of clergy abuse in the JJR is unacceptable high (10,667 total allegations), the publicity generated by the coverage of the scandal, and the fact that the Church was offering financial settlements may have encouraged those who had not previously revealed their abuse to come forward. Some of those who did reported abuse that had occurred decades earlier. This added the fact that the Church as a hierarchical institution was able to give the researchers’ access to records, means that JJR is probably one of the more comprehensive studies of CSA.

When the JJR is compared to other studies of CSA the differences are striking, since other studies reported female victims of CSA out number males. For example in an oft referenced study by Finkelhor and associates, 27% of women and 16% of men reported childhood sexual abuse.[3] In contrast, the JJR found that 81% of the alleged victims of clergy abuse were male.

Before the revelation of the extent of CSA among Catholic clergy, male victims were extremely unlikely to report abuse. It is possible that studies, which found that female victims of CSA outnumber male, may have missed a significant population of male victims, namely those who refused to admit abuse. In which case a significant amount of CSA in the general population which is homosexual in nature may have been underreported.

While there have been a flood of reports of CSA since the scandal broke, many of the incidents reported took place years early. The incidents increased in the 1960, peaked around 1980 and have been declining since.[4] This is consistent with of a general 40% decline CSA from 1992 to 2000.[5] This could because publicity about the scandal, has lead to the institution of guidelines to eliminate opportunity for potential offenders to be alone with children, and to increased vigilance by parents. Aggressive activity by the criminal justice system has lead to increased incarceration of offenders and others or increased incarceration of offenders. In 1986 19,900 offenders were in prison, by 1997 the number had increased to 60,700.[6] The JJR noted a similar dramatic decline in recent reports of CSA.

Pedophilia

Pedophilia is defined as an attraction to pre-pubescent children, however, 77.4% of victims of clergy abuse were 11 years of age or older. The JJR findings led some to conclude that the problem was not classic pedophilia, but offenses by ‘gay’ priests against adolescent boys. However, when Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone mentioned a relationship between homosexuality and problem, he was immediately condemned. Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican Press office, clarified the statement by saying that “it obviously refers to the problem of abuse by priests and not in the population in general.”[7]

Fr. Marcus Stock, the General Secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, insisted that: “To the best of my knowledge, there is no empirical data which concludes that sexual orientation is connected to child sexual abuse…The consensus among researchers is that the sexual abuse of children is not a question of sexual ‘orientation,’ whether heterosexual or homosexual, but of a disordered attraction or ‘fixation,’[8]

When William Donohue of the Catholic League described the sex abuse scandal as a “homosexual crisis,” Margaret Smith, a JohnJayCollege criminologist who worked on the JJR, said that Donohue had drawn an unwarranted conclusion. She insisted that though: “The majority of abusive acts were homosexual in nature. The participation in homosexual acts is not the same as sexual identity as a gay men.”

The problem is partially one of definitions. The word homosexual is used to refer to any person who is sexually interested in persons of the same sex. It is an imprecise term, which combines overlapping categories:

  • Men with same-sex attraction (SSA) – whether or not they act on it.
  • Men who have sex with men (MSM) – whether or not they also have sex with women or are also attracted to women.
  • Gay men –Men with SSA, who have sex with men, and self-identify with the gay community values.

Those who insist that pedophilia cannot be associated with gay men, defined pedophile as a primary and exclusive sexual attraction is to pre-puberty children. Although the majority of pedophiles prefer one sex or the other, for those who define pedophilia in this way, the sex of child is viewed as irrelevant. They insist that what matters to a true pedophile is the age of the child not the sex. Some of the clergy offenders were, by this definition, pedophiles. However, because so many of the victims of clergy abuse were post-pubescent boys, another category has been used to describe these offenders: ephebophiles – men whose primary and exclusive sexual attraction is to post-puberty boys. While some offenders may fall into this category, many gay men who have sex with other adult men are also attracted to adolescent boys, just as there are many adult men who have sexual relations with adult women, are also attracted to post pubescent girls. There are sections of major cities where adolescent boy prostitutes are available to male clients who want this service. Gay pornography industry feeds this attraction.

Those who study CSA have further divided the offenders against children into two categories, which were assumed to be mutually exclusive: regressed and fixated. According to this theory, regressed offenders were in relationships with adult women and under stress retreated to relationships with children, most often daughters or step-daughters. Fixated offenders rarely have relations with adults, but are attracted exclusively to children, often of a particular age. The claim is made that while heterosexual men under stress regress from relations with adult women to minors, gay men never regress and homosexual acts with minors are committed by fixated pedophiles or ephebophiles

According to JJR II, 96 of the clergy offenders were classified as pedophiles, 474 as ephebophiles, and 143 as perpetrators of ‘unusual acts’ (paraphilias), a total of 613 out of 4,329. They also found that 3.5% of the clergy offenders were responsible for approximately 26% of all allegations…”[9]  Fixated offenders with multiple victims posed the greatest threat to children.

On the other hand, 55% of the clergy offenders had only one formal allegation of abuse. The victims of this group were 66.7% male and 45% were age 15-17. How can one assume that none of these clergy offenders are men who regressed from same-sex relationships or fantasy to adolescent boys? Did those clergy with one accusation repent and live chaste celibacy or recognizing the risk of sexual relations with an adolescent choose adult male partners?

The JJR found that cases of clergy, who preyed on pre-pubescent children, increased somewhat through the 1960s and 1970s. However, during the same period, there was a dramatic increase in the number of male victims over 11.

The older the victims were, the more likely the minor was male. The following chart is taken from the JJR:

Alleged Victims of Sexual Abuse Incidents, grouped by gender and age[10]

Age in years          1-7              8-10             11-14           15-17

Male

Number                 203              992              4,282           2,892

Percent                  41.7%          71.4%          85.4%          85.2%

Female

Number                 284              398              734              502

Percent                  58.3%          28.6%          14.6%          14.8%

These statistics show that the scandal involved homosexual acts. The question is: Were that the offenders against males over 11 fixated ephebophiles or men with SSA involved with adolescent boys?

Those who insist that homosexuality and pedophilia are mutually exclusive categories frequently cite two studies are to support their claim.

In a 1978 study, Nicholas Groth and Jean Birnbaum, surveyed a sample of 175 males convicted of sexual assault against children and concluded that “homosexuality and homosexual pedophilia may be mutually exclusive.”[11] Groth divided his subjects between those “fixated exclusively on children” and those who had regressed from peer relationships. They noted that while the regressed offenders showed a preference for girls, the fixated offenders show slight preference for boys and most were “either complete strangers or only casually acquainted” with their victims. None of the convicted offenders against children self-identified to the researchers as gay.

A 1988 study of child molesters produced strikingly different results. In this study, “86% of the offenders against males described themselves as homosexual or bisexual.”[12] There are also those who challenge the “fixated-regressed dichotomy having found a continuum between the two among offenders.[13]

A 1994 study by Carole Jenny and associates reviewed the medical records of children evaluated for CSA at a child abuse clinic and the emergency room of a children’s hospital. The mean age of the victims 6.1 years; 206 were female, 42 male. Only one of the abusers was identified as a minister and his victim was female. Two of the offenders were assumed to be homosexual.[14] This sample reflects what could be anticipated from a sample of children, whose abuse was discovered relatively soon after the event and who were taken for evaluation: the victims would be predominantly young girls abused by someone they knew. It is not relevant to the problem of clergy abuse, since very few of the victims of clergy abuse told anyone what happened for years. Of reports in the JJR made in 2002 after the scandal broke, the average delay in reporting was 30 years.[15]

Boy victims are less likely to report abuse immediately and therefore aren’t taken to emergency rooms and would never end up in the Jenny study. If they never tell anyone about the abuse, the offenders would not be convicted and jailed, and therefore not end up in the Groth study. In addition, in the past, when offenses against children were committed by those in authority – clergy, teachers, etc… — and were reported to adults, the crimes were often covered up. The excuse was given that a trial would be traumatic for the victim, but often the real reason was to protect the institution – the very problem that lead to the scandal. The difference between the Groth study and the Erickson study may be a change in public attitudes between 1978 and 1988, making it easier for offenders to admit their same-sex preferences.

A 1985 study, Robert Johnson and Diane Shrier surveyed the 40 adolescent males attending a health clinic who during the intake interview reported sexual victimization. Although half of those treated at the clinic were under 15 years of age, no boy under 15 reported sexual abuse; this in spite of the fact that of the 40 who admitted being abused, 30 said the incident occurred before age 9. Only 6 of the 40 had ever told anyone before being asked the clinic. It is also interesting to note that of the 40 reporting sexual abuse, 57.5% said they were currently either homosexual or bisexual. Did the abuse cause confusion about sexual identity? Were boys who already had gender identity problems more likely to be targeted by molesters? Were heterosexual boys even less likely to admit abuse?

The JJR considers only victims 18 and younger, in spite of the fact that sexual relations between a priest and any person of either sex or any age is an abuse of a relationship of trust.  The researchers examined the files of accused clergy and found that the records of 1,400 of the clergy offenders contain reports of other problems.  For example, 5.8% of the files contained a report of a problem of “sex with adult women” and 7.3% (164 offenders) “sex with adult men.” That means that of the sexual offenses that came to the attention of superiors 40% were with females and 60% with males. There is no way to know if these proportions are representative of the activities of offending clergy. However, since the proportion of men with other sex attraction to men with SSA in the general public is 97% to 3%, this would suggest that clergy offenders are disproportionately same-sex attracted and that at least 164 of the offenders had been involved sexually with adult men.

This is suspicion is confirmed by Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, who has experience in the area:

“… every priest whom I treated who was involved with children sexually had previously been involved in adult homosexual relationships.”[16]

It is reasonable to assume that the majority of Catholic clergy who self-identified as ‘gay’ would not openly advertise their SSA, although there are some exceptions. The notorious Paul Shanley, a defrocked priest convicted of abusing children, openly identified with the gay community, publicly rejecting church teaching on homosexuality. [17] He and another priest opened a bed-and-breakfast that catered to gay men in Palm Springs.

It is also true that the members of the gay community are more likely to have a positive view of sexual relations between adult and adolescent males. The following quote from Larry Kramer, gay author and activist, reveals an attitude common in the gay community:

In those instances where children do have sex with their homosexual elders, be they teachers or anyone else, I submit that often, very often, the child desires the activity, and perhaps even solicits it, either because of a natural curiosity that will or will not develop along these lines, or because he or she is homosexual and innately knows it. This is far from “recruitment.” Obviously, there are instances in which the child is unwilling, and is a victim of sexual abuse, homo- or heterosexual. But, as with straight children anxious for the experience with someone of the opposite sex, these are kids who seek solicit, and consent willingly to sex with someone of the same sex. And unlike girls or women forced into rape and traumatized, most gay men have warm memories of their earliest and early sexual encounters; when we share these stories with each other, they are invariably positive ones. [18]

Given this attitude among gay men, while a ‘gay’ priest might not abuse adolescents himself, he might be more tolerant of this behavior among others. It seems, therefore disingenuous to argue that the clergy with SSA were not a significant part of the problem, yet the researchers from John Jay would have us believe that sexual orientation of the offender is irrelevant. Karen Terry, a researcher who worked on the JRR, suggested that factors such as greater access to boys could explain the skewed ratio.[19] Priests do not persevere in their commitment to vows of chastity, because they lack opportunity. If these offending clergy had been sexually attracted to women, it is a tragic reality that they would have no difficulty finding women willing to engage in sexual relations with them.

Fitzgibbons found that the offending clergy and seminarians he counseled suffered psychological and spiritual problems:

In treating priests who have engaged in pedophilia and ephebophilia we have observed that these men almost without exception suffered from a denial of sin in their lives. They were unwilling to admit and address the profound emotional pain they experienced in childhood of loneliness, often in the father relationship, peer rejection, lack of male confidence, poor body image, sadness, and anger. This anger, which originated most often from disappointments and hurts with their peers and/or fathers, was often directed toward the Church, the Holy Father, and the religious authorities. Rejecting the Church’s teachings on sexual morality, these men for the most part adopted the utilitarian sexual ethic which the Holy Father so brilliantly critiqued in his book, Love and Responsibility. They came to see their own pleasure as the highest end and used others — including adolescents and children — as sexual objects. They consistently refused to examine their consciences, to accept the Church’s teachings on moral issues as a guide for their personal actions, or regularly avail themselves of the sacrament of penance. These priests either refused to seek spiritual direction or choose a spiritual director or confessor who openly rebelled against Church teachings on sexuality. Tragically, these mistakes allowed these men to justify their behaviors.[20]

According to the JJR, many of the records of clergy against accused of sexual abuse of a youth under 18 contained evidence of a history of substance abuse, questions about fitness for ministry or behavioral problems.[21] It has been argued that the offenders were not ‘gay priests” but troubled men and that healthy, mature gay men do not molest children.

The argument proceeds along the following lines:

  1. Healthy, mature gay priests don’t molest teenage boys.
  2. Those priests who seduce teenage boys are immature and have other problems.
  3. They are tempted by the availability of teenage boys.
  4. Therefore, the crisis is no reason to exclude gay men from the priesthood.[22]

The question is not: Are immature and troubled men more likely to take advantage of adolescent boys? They are. But: Are men who self-identify as ‘gay” more likely to be immature and troubled and take advantage of available adolescent boys?

Are men who self-identify as ‘gay’ committed to a chaste celibacy or do they think it is sufficient to restrict their sexual activity to masturbation and relations with males over 18? Do they recognize that their same-sex attraction is intrinsically disordered, support the church teachings on sexuality, and use all the spiritual psychological tools available to overcome temptations in thought and deed? Or do they believe that their gay identity is a “gift” from God and that the Church’s teachings should and will change?

Others argue that is SSA is intrinsically disordered and while not all ‘gay’ priests offend against minors, a significant percentage have problems which could make them less able to resist the temptation to take advantage of the availability of teenage boys. Furthermore, clergy who self-identify as ‘gay’ are more likely to reject church teachings on sexuality and this can lead to a permissive attitude toward sexual offenses by fellow clergy.

Objective Disorder

In order to be a truly healthy and mature priest – a man who is Father to everyone – it is necessary to achieve an interior psychological order. Numerous well designed studies have found that gay men are more likely to suffer from psychological disorders.

To understand why this is so, it helps to understand how the process by which men develop a healthy psychological foundation? At birth a baby needs to attach to his mother. In the first months of his life, she must be available to appropriately meet his needs, to smile on him, to delight in his smiles. He learns to trust mother-love. Then as her son matures, she must allow separation and encourage competence. The baby crawls away from the mother and then looks back, checking for her presence, her approval. At some point in the first two years of life the baby realizes that there are two sexes and to which he naturally belongs. He identifies with his father. The mother must not stand in the way of his relationship with the father. The father must be available for identification.

Joseph Nicolosi speaks of the importance of shared delight, moments when father and son engage in an activity that is mutually pleasurable.[23] For example, the father tosses his son up in the air. At first the boy is a little frightened, but then realizes that he is safe and this is fun and wants the activity repeated again and again. The mother may object “Be careful.” But the father ignores her. It is in moments like this that the boy takes the first steps on his journey to manhood.

The next stage involves in interaction with brothers and male age peers. A boy on the way to manhood enjoys engaging in games and rough-and tumble play. By successfully negotiating the stages of being a son and  brother, the boy experiences what it means to be a man, and will, as he matures, naturally develop sexual attraction toward women. A priest super naturalizes his love, taking God as his father, Mary as his mother, Jesus as his brother, and the Church as his spouse.

While each man with same-sex attraction has his own unique personal history, in general men with same-sex attraction follow a different path. Often there are difficulties in the attachment period. Mothers of men with SSA are more likely to be troubled. Some are narcissistic and not able to respond appropriately to their babies’ needs; instead they expect their baby to meet their needs. Some are fearful of masculinity. Boys, who are particularly sensitive to maternal affect, can become anxious and fearful. Zucker and Bradley, experts in Gender Identity Disorder, which is often a precursor of SSA, noted that of 10 consecutive boys brought to their GID clinic for evaluation in every case the mother was suffering from some problem which made attachment to her son problematic.[24]

According to Susan Bradley:

… boys with GID appear to believe that they will be more valued by their families or that they will get in less trouble as girls than as boys. These beliefs are related to parents’ experiences within their families of origin especially tendencies on the part of mothers to be frightened by male aggression or to be in need of nurturing, which they perceive as a female characteristic[25]

Mothers may block separation, frowning when their sons display typically masculine behaviors, not smiling at their sons’ growing independence, and interfering with the father/son relationship. If the father tries to toss the son up in the air or engage in other rough-and-tumble play, the mother may grab the boy out of his father’s hands. The boy receives the message that his father is dangerous. In other cases, the father is cold or unavailable to the son. In their book, Gender Identity and Psychosexual Problems in Children and Adolescents, Zucker and Bradley posit that:

The boy, who is highly sensitive to ma­ternal signals, perceives the mother’s feelings of depression and anger. Be­cause of his own insecurity, he is all the more threatened by his mother’s anger or hostility, which he perceives as di­rected at him. His worry about the loss of his mother intensifies his conflict over his own anger, resulting in high levels of arousal or anxiety. The father’s own difficulty with affect regulation and inner sense of inadequacy usually pro­duces withdrawal rather than approach.

The parents have difficulty resolving the conflicts they experience in their own marital relations, and fail to provide support to each other. This produces an intensified sense of conflict and hostil­ity.

In this situation, the boy be­comes increasingly unsure about his own self-value because of the mother’s withdrawal or anger and the father’s failure to intercede. This anxiety and in­security intensify, as does his an­ger[26]

Irving Bieber and collaborators, who conducted a comprehensive study of homosexual men in therapy concluded:

… that a constructive, supportive, warmly related father precludes the possibility of a homosexual son; he acts as a neutraliz­ing protective agent should the mother make seductive or close-binding at­tempts.”[27]

When the boy is old enough to engage in play with other boys, such mothers may restrict his access, nag him about getting dirty, or implant fears that he will be hurt. A boy’s fear rough-and-tumble play cuts him off from his peers. Such a boy grows up feeling different from other males. He may or may not identify with females, but he longs for male attention and affection and in adolescence this need becomes sexualized and he begins to fantasize about relationships with a males. Eventually, he may engage in sexual activity with other males. Fighting the inner sense that he is not sufficiently masculine – not a real man – he is attracted to their masculinity and sexual activity is a means to incorporate some of that masculinity into himself.

He may also harbor significant anger toward his father, whom he sees as failing him, and his male peers, who rejected him. This can lead to ambivalent feelings to men, to authority in general and male authority in particular.

A priest is Father to everyone, all are his children. A father is man who protects and provides. A father’s love is constant, but he is also a just disciplinarian and judge. His duty is to serve. He should never to use his children as objects for his own pleasure. Any sexualization of father/child relationship is a form of incest. This may be one of the reasons why the sexual acts of priests are universally viewed as scandals, whereas similar acts by school teachers and ministers of other denominations while perhaps just as common do not result in the same level of public outrage.[28] Charol Shakeshaft, who has done extensive research on the problem of sexual abuse of students by teachers, recognize the difficulty of collecting solid data on sexual abuse, but using available studies she estimates that “the physical sexual abuse of students in schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests.”[29] According to Shakeshaft’s research, even when abuse was reported to school officials the offenders were not reported to the police. In her study of 225 cases in New York, “none of the abusers were reported authorities and only 1 percent lost their license to teach.”[30] An article in the New York Times document abuse, including sexual abuse of the developmentally disabled in group homes. Perpetrators were allowed to continue working at other facilities.[31]

In taking the title Father, the Catholic priest, stands as an image of natural fathers and of God, the Father, and therefore sexual improprieties of any kind are rightly viewed as incestuous and blasphemous.  In order to be a healthy and mature a priest must understand fully what it means to be a son, a brother, a man, and a father. He must have successfully navigated the stages of psychosexual development or where deficits occurred experienced healing.

Contrary to public opinion and a campaign of misinformation, SSA is not genetically predetermined. There is no evidence of a ‘gay’ gene. If SSA were genetic, identical twins would virtually always have the same sexual orientation, but a study of Australian twins, found that in only 11% of the twin pair, where one twin had SSA so did the other.[32] This is not to say that inherited characteristics, such as temperament, play no part in the development of SSA. Men with SSA usually have suffered a combination of negative events, which synergistically block healthy psychosexual development.

If same sex attraction arises from unmet needs, it is disordered in its origin. Without a strong psychological foundation, men with SSA are more likely than the general public to have psychological disorders, substance abuse problems, and suicidal ideation. Those who continue to claim that men with SSA are no more likely than other men to have psychological disorders frequently quote a 1957 study by Evelyn Hooker[33] of 30 carefully selected gay men, which even when it was published was recognized as not projectable. Since then a number of large, well designed studies have found the opposite.

Fergusson and associates looked at data from the birth cohort study done in Christchurch NZ and concluded:

Findings support recent evidence suggesting that gay, lesbian, and bisexual young people are at increased risk of mental health problems, with these associations being particularly evident for measures of suicidal behavior and multiple disorders. [34]

Another study using the same birth cohort found higher rates of self-harm.[35] A study done in the Netherlands found that “people with same-sex sexual behavior are at greater risk for psychiatric disorders. [36]A follow up study conducted concluded that: “Gay/lesbian participants reported more acute mental health symptoms than heterosexual people and their general mental health was poorer.”[37] A study done in the U.S by Cochran, Mays and Sullivan found that: “…gay-bisexual men evidenced higher prevalence of depression, panic attacks, and psychological distress than heterosexual men…[38] In this study 39.8% of the gay/bisexual men were positive for at least one disorder. Still another study found that:

Homosexual orientation defined as having same-sex sexual partners, is associated with a general elevation of risk for anxiety, mood, and substance use disorders, and for suicidal thoughts and plans.[39]

A study done in England in 2004 found that:

Of the 1285 gay, lesbian and bisexual respondents who took part, 556 (43%) had mental disorder as defined by the revised Clinical Interview Schedule (CIS-R) … Out of the whole sample 361 (31%) had attempted suicide.[40]

A meta-analysis of articles on the mental health of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people found that:

LGB people are at higher risk of mental disorder, suicidal ideation, substance misuse, and deliberate self harm than heterosexual people.[41]

Given the multitude of studies, gay advocates have been forced to admit: “… that LGBT people suffer higher rates of anxiety, depression and depression-related illnesses and behaviors like alcohol and drug abuse that the general population.”[42] They blame these differences by arguing that: “…stress of being a member of a minority group in an often-hostile society – and not LGBT identity itself – that accounts for the higher levels of mental illness and drug use.”[43] However in a study from the Netherlands, the authors concluded:

This study suggests that even in a country with a comparatively tolerant climate regarding homosexuality, homosexual men were at much higher risk for suicidality than heterosexual men.[44]

In addition gay men are far more likely to engage in behavior which puts them at risk for infection with STDs including HIV. They are 44 times more likely to become HIV positive and 46 times more likely to contract syphilis.[45] This suggests that gay men are more likely to engage in high risk sexual behavior without duly considering the consequences.

The authors of the JJR seem to suggest that clergy abusers aren’t gay men, but maladjusted men, with other problems. Given the high rate of psychological disorders, substance abuse problems, suicidal ideation, and sexual risk taking among men with SSA, it is more likely that the two categories are not mutually exclusive.

The Victims Perspective

Childhood sexual abuse presents an entirely different challenge for a boy with a confident masculine identity, than it does for one on the path toward identifying as ‘gay.” The boy who was progressing toward a healthy masculine identity is more likely to feel ashamed, to question his identity, and to be angry, while a boy already feeling some same-sex attraction may view the abuse quite differently.

An anthology of autobiographical accounts of the religious struggles of gay men entitled Wrestling with Angel contains a chapter by Kevin Killian, in which he tells the story of his sexual relations with a number of friars and priests.  Kevin had recognized his SSA and engaged in sexual activity with peers before being sent to a Catholic school where he became the willing partner of one of the friars. He was flattered. He was assured that he was special, but when the friar was transferred, he was “traded” to another friar and then another, and then to a priest. Finally, he began to realize that he wasn’t so special after all.

Disillusioned, dejected, I began to read the whims of these men not as isolated quirks, but as signs of a larger system, one in which pleasure, desire endlessly fulfilled is given more value. [46]

When the scandal broke, he didn’t pursue his case, but thinking about his experience he recognized that although he had been a willing participant at the time, he had been taken advantage of:

Oh how I envied them their privilege, their unflappable ease, the queers of the Church. If they were as lonely as they claimed, weren’t there enough of them. If their love lives were dangerous, surely they would always be protected by the hierarchy that enfolded them. I remember one monk who had been sent away years before to a special retreat in Taos and he said, I didn’t want to have to come back and see any boys. But then I wanted to come back, it must have been to meet you, Kevin.[47]

 

While homosexual men are more likely to view CSA as a positive experience,[48] CSA has been linked to a high risk of a number of negative outcomes, include HIV infection among MSM.[49]

Narcissism

The gay community is founded on an ethic of absolute sexual liberation which is antithetical to Christian morality. While Christianity teaches abstinence from all sexual activity outside a faithful, permanent, exclusive marriage between a man and a woman, the gay male community promotes the freedom to engage in sexual relations with multiple partners, with strangers, even if one is in committed relationship.[50] The gay community defends the sexual excesses at circuit parties and bathhouses, use of “party drugs,[51] pornography, and prostitution. They support lowering the age of consent.

Gay men are more likely to be self indulgent, both sexually and in other ways. For example, the frequency of masturbation clearly differentiates men with SSA from other men. A study by Saghir and Robbins which compared homosexual to heterosexual men found that while 100% of homosexual men aged 15-19 masturbated, only 90% of heterosexual men in the same age group did and 46% of the homosexual men did so more than 4 times a week, while only 5% of the heterosexual men had the same frequency. In the older age groups, the differences were even more striking. At age 20-29, 97% of homosexual men were masturbating 31% of these more than 4 times a week, while 31% of heterosexual men had stopped the practice and none of those who continued to do so did so more than 4 times a week.[52] An older priest who had taught in a seminary pointed out that in the past the spiritual directors were required to make sure that each candidate had overcome the temptation to masturbate. If they were not able to do this within the first year, they were not allowed to continue.

The psychological disorders associated with SSA are not restricted to sexual activity. Men with SSA often have many talents and competences, but the developmental deficits which produce SSA can also produce narcissism, self-indulgence, and self-pity. Not having one’s needs properly met during childhood can create a situation in which a person believes he must meet his own needs. Such persons may see themselves as abused or neglected. A priest shared a personal experience that he thought was instructive. He was asked to supervise a priests’ residence. Before he embarked on this assignment he warned that a number of the resident priests were ‘gay.’ Before he could address this problem, he was forced to confront the budgetary crisis. Although the year was not half over, the residents had spent the entire food budget on Perrier water and take-out food. The priest immediately initiated an austerity program, sharply restricting the menu. The priests who were gay could not accept this and left the priesthood.

The evidence is overwhelming that self-identified ‘gay’ men are more likely to have psychological issues, substance abuse problems, and problems with authority. Are ‘gay’ priests any different? Are they are working to resolve childhood issues? Have they sought healing for childhood wounds?  Can they make the sacrifices necessary of a man called Father? Can they resist the temptation posed by the availability of adolescent boys?

There are, however, members of the clergy who, while having experienced SSA, have resisted temptations, sought healing through counseling and spiritual direction, and chosen to live as chaste priests, but such men would no longer identify themselves as ‘gay.’

While church leaders have probably overreacted to the scandal, demanding for example that a mother who wants to accompany adolescents on a field trip must attend a CSA awareness program and submit to fingerprinting and a background check, increased awareness of the need to protect children will reduce abuse. In addition to recognizing that “deep seated homosexual tendencies” are “objectively disordered,” the Church has made it clear that she “cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called “gay culture” [53] Implementing this policy should prevent future homosexual abuse of adolescents.

With Richard Fitzgibbons, in Linacre Quarterly 2012


[1] Karen Terry et al., The Nature and Scope of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States 1950-2002, John Jay College of Criminal Justice for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (Washington DC: USCCB, 2004) http://www.bishop-accountability.org/reports/2004_02_27_JohnJay/

[2] Karen Terry, Margaret Smith, The Nature and Scope of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States: Supplementary Data Analysis, (Washington DC: USCCB, 2006) http://www.nccbuscc.org/ocyp/JohnJayReport.pdf

[3] David Finkelhor et al., “Sexual abuse in a national survey of adult men and women: Prevalence, characteristics, and risk factors,” Child Abuse & Neglect, (1990) 14: pp. 20-21.

[4] JJR  2006, Figure 1.7 Incidents reported before 2002.

[5] David Finkelhor, Lisa Jones , “Explanations for the decline in child sexual abuse cases,´ Juvenile Justice Bulletin,  Jan. 2001.

[6] David Finkelhor, Lisa Jones, “Explanations for the decline in child sexual abuse cases,” Juvenile Justice Bulletin,  Jan. 2001.

[7] ____”Cardinal Bertone correct in linking clerical sex abuse and homosexuality, says psychiatrist,” Catholic News Agency (CNA) April, 22, 2010 http://www.catholicnewsagency.com.

[8] Ibid

[9] JJR II, p. 1

[10] JJR I, table 3.5.4. page 53.

[11] Nicholas Groth, Jean Birnbaum, “Adult sexual orientation and attraction to underage persons, Archives of Sexual Behavior,  (1978) 7 (3): p. 175

[12] W.D. Erickson, et al., “Behavior patterns of child molesters,” Archives of Sexual Behavior, (1988) 17 (1): p. 83

[13] Lenore Simon, et al., “Characteristics of Child Molesters: Implications for the Fixated-Regressed Dichotomy,” Journal of Interpersonal Violence (1992)  7 ( 2): pp. 211-225.

[14] Carol Jenny, Thomas Roesler, Kimberly Poyer, “Are Children at Risk for Sexual abuse by Homosexuals?” Pediatrics (1994) 94, no.1: 41-44.

[15] JJR II

[16] ___ “Cardinal Bertone correct in linking clerical sex abuse and homosexuality, says psychiatrist,” CAN (April 22, 2010)  http://www.catholicnewsagency.com.

[17]  ____Boston Diocese Protected Priest Long Linked to Abuse,”  New York Times, April 09, 2002 http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,49851,00.html

[18] Larry Kramer, Reports from the Holocaust (NY: St. Martin’s Press, 1981)

p. 234.

[19] Jeremy Schulman, “Expert: Donohue’s claim that most abusive priests are gay is ‘unwarranted.” Media Matters, (April 02, 2010)

[20] Richard Fitzgibbons, Peter Rudegeair, A Letter to the Catholic Bishops,” Homiletic and Pastoral Review, Nov. 2002: http://www.narth.com/docs/catholic.html

[21] JJR I, section 3.4

[22] David Gibson,  “New Catholic Sex abuse Findings: Gay Priests are not the Problem”  http://www.politicsdaily.com/2009/11/18/new-catholic-sex-abuse-findings-gay-priests-not-the-problem

[23] Joseph Nicolosi, “A Shared Delight,’ http://www.josephnicolosi.com/a-shared-delight/

[24] Kenneth Zucker et al., “Psychopathology in parents of boys with gender identity disorder,” Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry,  (2003) 42 (1): pp. 2-4.

[25] Susan Bradley, Affect Regulation and the Development of Psychopathology, (NY: Guilford Press, 2003) p. 201-202

[26] Kenneth Zucker, Susan Bradley Gender Identity and Psychosexual Problems in Children and Adolescents, (NY: Gilford, 1995), p.262.

[27] Irving Bieber et al., Homosexuality: A Psychoanalytical Study, (NY: Vintage Books, 1962) p. 311.

[28] William Moyer, “Child sex abuse by protestant clergy difficult to document,” Binghamton Press (Aug. 27, 2007) http://stopbaptist predators.org/article07/child_sex_abuse-by_protestant-clery.html.

Charol Shakeshaft, Educator Sexual Misconduct: A Synthesis of Existing Literature, http://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/research/pubs/misconductreview/report.doc

American Association of University Women, Hostile Hallways, (Washington, DC : AAUW, 2001)

[29] Jon Dougherty, “Sex abuse by teachers said to worse than Catholic Church,” Newsmax, (Apr. 5, 2004)

[30] Charol Shakeshaft, “Educator Sexual Abuse,” www.hofstra.edu/pdf/aboutadministration…/hofhrz_503shakeshaft.pdf.

[31] Danny Hokim, “At state-run homes, abuse and impunity,” New York Times, March 20, 2011.

[32] J. Michael Bailey et al., “Genetic and environmental influences on sexual orientation and its correlates in an Australian twin sample,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, (2000 ) 78(3): pp.524-524.

[33] Evelyn Hooker, “The adjustment of the male overt homosexual,” Journal of Projective Techniques,  (1957) 21: pp. 1-31.

[34] David Fergusson, L. John Horwood, Annette Beautrais, “Is sexual orientation related to mental health problems and suicidality in young people?” Archives of General Psychiatry, (1999) 56 (10): pp. 876-80.

[35] Keren Skegg, et al, “Sexual Orientation and self-harm in men and women,” American Journal of Psychiatry, (2003) 160 (3): p. 541.

[36] Theo Sandfort et al., “Same-sex sexual behavior and psychiatric disorders: findings from the Netherlands Mental Health Survey and Incidence Study (NEMESIS). Archives of General Psychiatry, (2001) 58 (1): pp. 85-91.

[37] Theo Sandfort, et al, “Sexual orientation and mental and physical health status: Findings from a Dutch population survey, American Journal of Public Health, (2006) 96 (6):  p. 1119.

[38] Susan Cochran, Vickie Mays, J. Greer Sullivan, “Prevalence of mental disorders, psychological distress, and mental health services use among lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults in the United States,” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, (2003) 71(1): p. 53.

[39] Stephen Gilman, et al., “Risk of Psychiatric Disorders Among Individuals Reporting Same-sex Sexual Partners in a National Comorbidity Survey,” American Journal of Public Health, (2001) 91 (6):  p. 933.

[40] Jack Warner, et al, “Rates and predictors of mental illness in gay men, lesbians and bisexual men and women,” British Journal of Psychiatry, (2004) 185: p. 479.

[41] Michael King et al., “A systematic Review of Mental Disorder, Suicide, and Deliberate Self Harm in Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual People,” BMC Psychiatry, (2008)  8: p. 70.

[42] Sothern Poverty Law Center, “10 anti-gay myths debunked,” Intelligence Report, (Winter 2010) 140.

[43] Ibid.

[44] Ron de Graaf, Theo Sandfort, M. ten Have, “Sucidality and sexual orientation: Differences between men and women in a general population-based sample from the Netherlands,” Archives of Sexual Behavior (2006) 35 (3): p. 253.

[45] CDC, “HIV among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM),” (Sept. 2010)

[46] Kevin Killian, “Chain of Fools,” Wrestling with the Angel, (NY: Riverhead Books, 1995) p. 126.

[47] Ibid, p.127.

[48] Lynda Doll, et al., “Self-reported childhood and adolescent sexual abuse among adult homosexual and bisexual men,” Child Abuse & Neglect, (1993) 14: pp. 855-864.

[49] Colleen Dilorio, et al., “Childhood sexual abuse and risk behaviors among men at high risk for HIV infections,”  American Journal of Public Health,  (2002) 92 (2): pp. 214-219.

D. J. Brennan et al., “History of childhood sexual abuse and HIV risk behaviors in homosexual and bisexual men,” American Journal of Public Health, (2007) 97 (6): pp. 1107-12.

[50] Blake Spears, Lanz Lowen, Beyond Monogamy: Lessons from Long-Term Male Couples in Non-Monogamous Relationships (2010); http://thecouplesstudy.com/wp-content/uploads/BeyondMonogamy_1_01.pdf

[51] Milton Wainberg, Andrew Kolodny, Jack Drescher, ed., Crystal Meth and Men Who Have Sex with Men: What Mental Health Care Professionals Need to Know (BinghamtonNY: Haworth Medical Press, 2006).

[52] Marcel Saghir, Eli Robins, Male and Female Homosexuality: A Comprehensive Investigation, (Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins, 1973) p. 47-48.

[53]  Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies
in view of their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders, (Vatican: Congregation for Catholic Education, Nov. 4, 2005)

One Comment leave one →
  1. John Laws permalink
    February 16, 2013 2:09 am

    Reblogged this on Jonah in the Heart of Nineveh.

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