Monday, December 12, 2005
New Rule For Priests Avoids Facing Problem
New Rule For Priests Avoids Facing Problem
By William Butte
South Florida Sun - December 12, 2005
Is the Catholic Church ready to endure a persistent pedophilia problem?
That seems the obvious question to ask in light of the Vatican's new, long-anticipated "instruction," which bans men who "practice homosexuality or present profoundly deeply-rooted homosexual tendencies or support the so-called `gay culture' " from seminaries and religious orders. The new policy allows for men whose "homosexual tendencies must be overcome at least three years," as well as accepting current gay clergy.
But what the directive fails to address are men who have a deeply rooted sexual fixation toward children.
When the church's child abuse scandal erupted in 2002, the hierarchy initially dismissed the young abuse victims as unrepentant liars. But as the scope of the scandal quickly grew, and the church's own complicity in covering it up was exposed, the episcopate, seeking a new victim to blame, embraced an old stereotype and pointed its collective finger at the church's multitude of gay priests.
And when a study of the scandal commissioned by the U.S. Bishops Conference showed about 80 percent of the abused victims were adolescent boys 11 to 17 years old, the episcopate and other conservative Catholics felt vindicated in their finger-pointing.
But the study doesn't answer one vital question: Were the clergymen who abused adolescent boys gay men?
To the sexually unsophisticated this is a ridiculous question, since men who have sex with boys obviously must be homosexual. However, Roland Summit, a psychiatrist at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center specializing in child sexual abuse since 1975, says the habitual molester of adolescent boys is rarely attracted to adult males, and the vast majority of men who molest boys identify themselves as heterosexual and (aside from Roman Catholic clergy) are in adult heterosexual relationships.
Why would heterosexual men sexually abuse adolescent boys? As with men who rape women, pedophilia usually has less to do with sexual attraction than relieving feelings of personal inadequacy by dominating a victim. And from the 1960s through 1980s, when the majority of the abuse accusations occurred, priests had more access to boys than girls with the traditional use of altar boys for Mass and sex-segregated Catholic schools.
It's also reasonable to think that there have been numerous younger religious Catholic men who, realizing their sexual attraction to children, tried to avoid it by turning to the celibacy of the priesthood in an effort to seek spiritual redemption. The new Vatican policy won't change these attempts at atonement.
But if the pope truly believes gay priests endanger children, why didn't he ban already ordained gay clergy? Could it be Benedict realizes with their prevalence the church couldn't function without them, and has hypocritically put the church's needs above Catholic children's safety?
Or maybe he's less concerned with priests molesting children than with "the increasing numbers of homosexual men being ordained changing the culture of the priesthood," as the Rev. Anthony Figueiredo, who has assisted the pope, put it.
The new instruction acknowledges men desiring the priesthood are "responding to the call of God," though the policy asserts the church's supremacy over God's calling by noting "there is no right to receive ordination" as well as asserting the church's power "to discern the qualification" of future seminary candidates to see if they are "in possession of the requisite qualities."
As one priest has pointed out, a document that tells God who God can and can't choose commits the sin of pride.
But one question remains: Does God call gay men to the priesthood? That would seem to be the case. Despite Scripture claiming homosexuality comes from rejecting God, an estimated 25 to 50 percent of priests are gay men who have embraced God. And despite Scripture's claims to the contrary, while interviewing gay priests for his landmark book, The Changing Face of the Priesthood, the Rev. Donald Cozzens discovered many men who only realized their homosexuality after their ordination.
The Vatican's new homophobic policy also besmirches the memory of the Rev. Mychal Judge, the beloved New York City Fire Department chaplain recognized as the first victim of 9-11. Though he lived a celibate life, he was an openly gay man who prayed with AIDS patients and was a member of Dignity, the gay Catholic organization.
Today there is a budding grass-roots effort to have "Father Mike" canonized for sainthood, after three families, who either prayed to him or with him saw their seriously ill children seemingly miraculously recover.
Perhaps we should all pray to Father Mike to keep all Catholic children out of harm's way.