Monday 18th November 2019

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Is Homosexuality Irrelevant To Clerical Sex Abuse?

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The ugly and shameful topic of clerical sexual abuse has once again hit the headlines over the last year, prompting renewed questions about its causes. The authoritative John Jay College of Criminal Justice study (1) found that about 81 percent of clerically abused minors between 1950 and 2002 were males. Indeed, if we focus only on the older (pubescent and post-pubescent) victims, the male majority is even more overwhelming: in both the 11-14 years and 15-17 years age groups the proportion of boy to girl victims was 85 percent to 15 percent. (2)
Yet many of our most prominent clerics, such as Cardinals Blase Cupich and Joseph Tobin, and Fr. James Martin, SJ, insist that it’s “unscientific” to blame homosexuality for the abuse problem. Curiously, in view of the above statistics, they can plausibly appeal to the John Jay report itself; for in spite of their finding that the vast majority of adolescent abuse victims were male, the report’s researchers managed to draw the counterintuitive conclusion that homosexual clergy were no more likely than others to be abusers.
However, we need to remember that the John Jay team were secular establishment scholars, and, therefore, were under strong peer-group and media pressure not to draw any conclusions that might offend the hallowed “LGBTQ community” or reflect badly on “gays” and their lifestyle. And it shows.
For instance, even though the civil war between a homosexual’s mind and body is obviously disordered — after all, that individual’s same-sex longings clash starkly with the plainly heterosexual function of his/her genital organs — the John Jay researchers have dutifully followed the politically correct orthodoxy which, aided by heavy-duty social and political pressure, succeeded in getting same-sex attraction deleted in 1973 from the official American list of psychiatric disorders. (3)
The researchers’ main exculpatory argument is that men who committed homosexual acts before or during their seminary days were not statistically more likely than others to abuse minors after Ordination. (4) But this is really quite “soft” evidence — evasive, incomplete, and inconclusive.
First of all, the question that most interests us is not whether those who were actively homosexual before Ordination were more likely than others to become abusers, but whether those with same-sex attraction were more likely to become abusers. Secondly, it can’t be assumed that all priests who told an interviewer they didn’t engage in sodomy before Ordination were being truthful. Thirdly, even among those were truthful in telling the interviewer that, some were very likely just biding their time prior to Ordination, that is, remaining continent in seminary because of limited access to minors and/or fear of discovery and expulsion, but eventually becoming abusers after Ordination.
Finally, only a small sampling of all the thousands of priests under survey could have been interviewed. (Many were already deceased.)
Now, let’s compare this with the “hard” evidence. First, all the abuser priests whose 11-17-year-old victims were male were, by definition, same-sex attracted (either homosexual or bisexual). And, remember, these boys made up 85 percent of all victims in this age group. It follows from this that since John Jay found about 3.5 percent of all U.S. priests from 1950 to 2002 abused minors in that age group, about 3 percent of all U.S. priests abused boys in that age group. And about what percentage of all same-sex attracted priests did that represent?
In the only serious statistical survey that I have seen from that period — a 2002 Los Angeles Times questionnaire returned (anonymously) by over a thousand U.S. priests — 21 percent of respondents said they were same-sex attracted: either homosexual (14 percent) or bisexual (7 percent). (5) On that basis, a reasonable estimate would be that the homosexually abusive 3 percent constituted roughly one-seventh (14 percent) of all American same-sex attracted priests during the period under study. Now, if we assume that all the 0.5 percent of U.S. priests who abused girls aged 11-17 were among the 79 percent who described themselves as heterosexual, (6) that means roughly 0.63 percent of all heterosexual priests — only about 1 in 160 — abused girls in that age-group.
In short, the hard evidence shows that a massively higher proportion of same-sex attracted priests than heterosexual priests were abusers of minors aged between 11 and 17: about 1 in 7 of the former group compared with 1 in 160 of the latter. In other words, priests with homosexual or bisexual inclinations were about 23 times more likely than heterosexual priests to abuse pubescent and post-pubescent minors.
Objection 1: “But the above statistics still show that the overwhelming majority (86 percent) of same-sex attracted priests were not abusers.” Sure, and the overwhelming majority of DWI drivers (driving with illegally high levels of alcohol) do not cause lethal road accidents. But given the high percentage of lethal road accidents that do involve DWI drivers, nobody would be crazy enough to say that DWI is simply irrelevant to that problem.
Likewise, given that the vast majority of clerical acts abusing adolescents have been committed by homosexual or bisexual priests, isn’t it crazy to suggest that their sexual predilections have been simply irrelevant to the abuse problem?
Objection 2: “The principal cause of the abuse crisis has been clericalism.” (That’s what Pope Francis and some other prelates tell us.) The word, in this context, means an attitude of aloofness or superiority on the part of those priests and bishops who don’t take the rights and concerns of the laity seriously enough. It may well have been a significant cause of ignoring or covering up abuse allegations.
But where’s the evidence that it’s a leading cause of sexual abuse itself? Clericalism, like the poor, we always have with us: It’s a problem that’s been around for centuries. And no one has offered any evidence that clericalism surged suddenly in the same decades after Vatican II when abuse of minors soared to epidemic proportions.
Objection 3: “The much higher percentage of boys than girls who were abused was due mainly to the greater availability of boys before altar girls became common in the mid-’90s. The John Jay researchers found that from 1995 to 2002 female abuse victims rose from 17 percent of the total in the preceding decade to 38 percent, while male victims dropped from 83 percent to 62 percent.” (7)
Yes, but remember: The whole purpose of the “availability” argument is to convince us that if boys and girls are equally accessible to Catholic clergy, priests with same-sex-attraction are no more likely than their “straight” colleagues to abuse adolescents. But these figures actually refute that argument. For if it were valid, we’d expect to find that, given “equal access,” only about 21 percent of all teenage abuse victims would be male, because (as we noted above) that’s the approximate percentage of same-sex attracted U.S. priests during that period. But the real percentage of male victims was about three times higher than that.
Clerical sexual abuse of minors in the U.S. has declined dramatically over the last two decades, thanks largely to the much stricter surveillance introduced by the 2002 Dallas Charter. But the evidence shows that when that abuse happens, same-sex attraction has a lot to do with it.
Moreover, Dallas not only left bishops largely unaccountable; it left young adults such as seminarians vulnerable to homosexual harassment by superiors such as Theodore McCarrick, and signally failed to address the scandal of “consensual” adult sodomy among Catholic clergy. That disgraceful vice is clearly still rampant from the Vatican on down. Widespread clerical homosexuality must be recognized and dealt by our leaders as the grave problem it is.


1. Report of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, “The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010” (published in 2011, referred to hereafter as “JJ report”).
2. JJ report, p. 11, Figure 1:4, “Victims by age and gender.”
3. Cf. JJ report, pp. 69-74. For a detailed account of how the militant homosexual movement overturned the American Psychiatric Association’s longstanding position by a combination of inside manipulation and outside intimidation, see William Dannemeyer, Shadow in the Land: Homosexuality in America (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989), pp. 24-39, “The Storming of the APA.”
4. Cf. JJ report, p. 62.
5. See the present writer’s commentary on this survey in: “The Clergy and the Culture Wars,” Culture Wars, volume 22, n. 3, February 2003, pp. 6-19.
6. In reality, some of these girls were probably victims of bisexual priests.
7. JJ report, p. 10, Figure 1.3

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