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Growing up in Mumbai, I had the joy of living within walking distance of the Catholic seminary of St Pius X. The seminary was an oasis of tranquillity amidst the city’s cacophony. I remember with gratitude the welcome, hospitality and nurture I received from the faculty and seminarians.

Candidates aspiring to join the seminary were invariably asked one definitive question: “Do you like girls?” Young men aspiring to be celibate priests found the question a tad embarrassing in what was then socially conservative India.

Occasionally a red-blooded male teeming with testosterone would reply “No! I don’t like girls”. He was promptly cast out into outer darkness. He would later realize that the Archdiocese of Bombay expected you to like girls because if you liked boys you’d be more often in the shower rooms than in the classrooms of a seminary filled exclusively with boys and men.

Unlike the Archdiocese of Bombay, the majority of dioceses in the US adopted the reverse policy. If a young man displayed an inclination towards members of the same sex, the Lavender Mafia welcomed him into the gay club. Much of the horrendous sexual abuse in this week’s Grand Jury’s report is part of a pattern of homosexual predation in the US Catholic Church beginning in seminaries and culminating in the College of Cardinals.

The Grand Jury’s opening statement would be grandly Dickensian if it were not so gravely tragic.

“There have been other reports about child sex abuse within the Catholic Church. But never on this scale. For many of us, those earlier stories happened someplace else, someplace away. Now we know the truth: it happened everywhere.”

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At least 300 predator priests are named in the report, committing horrific sexual abuse over seven decades. The number of victims is estimated at 1,000 at least, but it may actually run into thousands. The harrowing 887-page document is the result of a two-year Grand Jury investigation into “widespread sexual abuse of children within six dioceses of the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania”.

There is one word that is ambiguous to the point of being inaccurate. What has dynamited the Catholic Church is not “child” abuse. First, most victims were males. Second, the victims had reached puberty. They were not pre-pubescent children. In most non-Western cultures—African, Indian, Hispanic and Jewish—boys mark their “coming of age” in different rituals around the age of 12 or 13. We in the West may call them “minors” but biologically they are “adults”.

The guilty priests weren’t pedophiles, as the media and the church’s hierarchy are disingenuously suggesting or mindlessly parroting. The delinquent clergy were homosexual predators preying on adolescent or young adult males. Their victims were frequently altar boys or seminarians.

The Grand Jury’s report could be using generic language to cover a minority of cases that did involve the abuse of children. “Priests were raping little boys and girls,” says the report. For instance, Fr Giella abused five of the eight girls in one family. Another priest raped a 7-year-old girl while visiting her in the hospital after she got her tonsils out.

But most of the cases in the report involve homosexual predation.

  • Fr Dennis Chludzinski, a school chaplain, had sexual contact with an 18-year-old boy in his senior year involving masturbation and oral sex. Later, Chludzinski became sexually involved with a 14-year-old boy who said that the priest introduced him to his “homosexual lifestyle”.
  • Fr Joseph Jerge fondled a sophomore in high school and regularly molested another male victim when he was between the age of 13 and 18.
  • Fr Gerard Krebs “expressed acceptance of his homosexuality” during psychological evaluations.
  • Another priest (details are redacted in the report) encouraged his victim “to engage in perverse and unnatural homosexual acts” and exposed his victim to the “consecration of a homosexual marriage”.
  • Fr Mauro Cautela fondled three young boys and used church donations to further some of his relationships with young boys as well as to purchase “homosexual pornography” on church computers. Cautela exposed a victim to “homosexual pornography”. Cautela’s rectory computer was overflowing with “homosexual pornography”.
  • Fr Joseph Karabin was not a pedophile but had a “homosexual interest in boys 15-18”.
  • Fr Francis Pucci with other predator priests indulged in “homosexual acts” in a barn, church basement, parked car and at a mountain resort.
  • Fr Paul Spisak possessed “homosexual and sadomasochistic” pornography and images of him having sex with two boys around 15-years-old.

I am most emphatically not saying that all homosexuals are predators with an appetite for young males (just as I would never claim that if only the church selected heterosexual males who said they “liked girls” there would be no problem with priests having affairs with women). Yet, there is irrefutable evidence of a specific pattern of homosexual behavior in the so-called clerical “child abuse” that must be named if the Church is going to address and correct it.

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The pattern is too specific to be covered by the generic blanket of pedophilia. The pattern has been surfacing elsewhere particularly in seminaries.

In Honduras, 48 seminarians at Tegucigalpa’s major seminary wrote to the bishops in July protesting a “homosexual epidemic” in the seminary. This followed months of allegations involving homosexual abuse of seminarians by Auxiliary Bishop Juan Jose Pineda.
In Chile, all 34 bishops were summoned to Rome after revelations of a gay priest sex ring. There were “serious accusations against some bishops or superiors who sent priests suspected of active homosexuality to these educational institutions.”

Theodore McCarrick, retired Cardinal Archbishop of Washington DC, was forced to step down after seminarians and priests accused him of decades of homosexual predation. McCarrick called those under his charge “nephews” and asked them to call him “Uncle Ted”.

The church’s hierarchy has been painfully slow to acknowledge the problem as homosexual predation even after the John Jay College of Criminal Justice studied the crisis of priestly sex abuse in the US in 2002 and produced its report in 2004. “80 percent of the abuse at issue was of a homosexual nature”, the John Jay report said. Only 96 of the 4,329 priest offenders were classified by John Jay report as true pedophiles.

Further studies in 2011 and 2015 confirmed earlier findings. The US bishops even admitted that “an understanding of the crisis is not possible” without speaking of “the presence of homosexually oriented priests”. Criminologist Margaret Smith, who worked on the John Jay report, insisted that: “The majority of abusive acts were homosexual in nature.”

Even Newsweek with its liberal defense of homosexual clergy agreed that the “great majority of cases now before the Church involve not pedophilia but ‘ephebophilia’, an attraction to post-pubescent youths”. However, the John Jay report categorized only 474 of the priest offenders as ephebophiles. How is ephebophilia related to homosexuality?

According to a journal article by Richard Fitzgibbons, M.D., and Dale O’Leary:

“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 and are also attracted to post-pubescent girls.”

Worryingly, Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, who has psychiatrically treated large numbers of priests over 34 years said: “every priest whom I treated who was involved with children sexually had previously been involved in adult homosexual relationships.”

Fitzgibbons and O’Leary also found that members of the gay community are more likely to have a positive view of sexual relations between adult and adolescent males. This could be one explanation for the industrial scale tolerance and/or cover-up by bishops who were themselves gay and hence condoned such activity among their clergy.

Social and sexual problems have theological roots. Eminent Catholic blogger Fr Dwight Longenecker asks if the crisis is “only a problem in the trouser department or is it also a problem in the theology department?” Fitzgibbons answers this question with devastating precision:

“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.” These priests rejected the Church’s teachings on sexual morality and adopted a “utilitarian sexual ethic”.

Above all, 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”.

Fr Longenecker is bang on target. The Church’s deadly cancer began in the theology department long before it reached the trouser department. It must be corrected in the trouser department and it might be a good idea to ask candidates: “Do you like girls?” But it must first be corrected in the theology department and it is imperative to ask candidates the most decisive question of all:

“Do you love Jesus?”

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Jules Gomes

by Jules Gomes

The Rev’d Dr Jules Gomes, BA, BD, MTh, PhD (Cantab) is a journalist and academic.

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