Seminaries and Scandals


You almost can't blame them for crying “witch hunt.”

Critics are complaining that for bishops to focus on homosexuals in seminaries is a misreading of the sex-abuse crisis. But that's because discussions of the scandals have perpetuated misunderstandings about seminary life and misunderstandings about the abuse itself.

A Jan. 12, 2003, New York Times article distilled the misunderstandings as only The New York Times can. It was like a template for countless stories that aired or ran elsewhere. The article is a good touchstone to use to examine the common misconceptions about the scandals.

The story suggested that Catholic seminaries are harsh places that teach strict, outdated doctrines, applying repressive discipline destined to create socially backward, culturally warped men. Priests “emerged from their near-cloistered seminaries and stood blinking at a world changing around them,” it said.

But its own survey didn't back up its “more-modern-than-thou” attitude. Most of the abuse, it reported, was committed by priests who were ordained in the 1970s and 1980s. That's when seminaries were on the cutting edge of progressive theological fads and were casting off the discipline of the past.

Seminarians in those days were usually either men of great determination who would stick to their vocations no matter what or they were, well, odd. As the Times itself put it: “Those who stayed in the priesthood in the 1970s were likely to be theologically conservative, gay or maladjusted.”

If the Times’ assumptions about seminary life included serious misunderstandings, that wasn't the worst of it. The story's reporters had gathered a staggering amount of data, and had come to this shocking conclusion: “Since the Roman Catholic Church became embroiled in a sex abuse scandal a year ago, more than 1,200 priests in nearly every diocese in America have been accused of sexually abusing children.”

The problem: No part of the conclusion was supported by its survey.

The 1,205 accusations it cited weren't from the past year, but from “the past six decades.” And the priests weren't accused of sexually abusing “children”; most were accused of abusing teenagers.

The distinction is important. Pedophilia has nothing to do with homosexuality. It's a monstrous sexual pathology that exists quite apart from sexual orientation. Its perpetrators are sexually truncated sociopaths who are adept at working their way into places — or positions — where they will have easy access to their victims.

Priests who sexually abuse teenage boys are not pedophiles, they are homosexual predators. Most of the accusations cited by the Times were of homosexual acts with teens. That should come as no surprise. From the song “YMCA” to the Showtime program “Queer as Folk,” homosexuals have long celebrated sex with teenagers. In The Gay Report, by homosexual researchers Karla Jay and Allen Young, the authors report data showing that 73% of homosexuals surveyed had at some time had sex with boys 16 to 19 years of age or younger.

The Times survey didn't show that there was a pedophile crisis in the priesthood. It simply showed that there was a homosexual culture in the priesthood.

Nonetheless, the Times story became another piece of “evidence” of a pedophile crisis in a media feeding frenzy. Every accusation against a priest is now likely to lead the local news, with dark allusions to an “ever-widening pedophile-priest crisis.”

Catholics, understandably humiliated, disgusted and filled with remorse over the behavior of some priests, have been in a penitential mode throughout the crisis. It can seem like adding insult to injury to point out that the statistics show no pedophile-priest crisis at all. And in our day, it is considered rude and unsophisticated to mention the homosexuality that is evident in priest-abuse statistics.

So Catholics have mostly just agreed with the critics and apologized with the bishops. Then the Church underwent a painful, thorough investigation by John Jay College of Criminal Justice experts. The exhaustive John Jay study found once again that what the Church was facing was a crisis of abuse of teen boys, not attacks on children — and that 81% of the abuse was homosexual.

Homosexuals are not necessarily abusers, no. But the study shows that most abusers in the priesthood are homosexuals. The seminary visitations are facing this issue squarely.

To end these scandals, they must.