The Catholic Church and the Sex Abuse Crisis
by Pravin Thevathasan
The ex-Cardinal McCarrick scandal has once again highlighted the sex abuse crisis in the Church. When the first wave hit back in 2002, there was anger both within and outside the Church. Anti-Catholics made use of the crisis for their own reasons and, like many others, I tried to defend the Church. My CTS booklet on sex abuse is now dated and, to a certain extent, it was a defence of Pope Benedict and I still believe that he did as much as he could to rid the Church of this "filth". Most seminaries are much healthier than they used to be. Seminarians want to be priests because they want to serve the Church. Most of the abuse allegations are historical.
And yet, if anything, there is more anger now than before. How did McCarrick get away with it for so long? How is it possible that none of the bishops knew about "Uncle Ted" and his predilections for young men? How many souls lost their faith due to his scandalous behaviour? Are there others like him? Admittedly, McCarrick was a media-savvy liberal who was much liked by the secular media. He famously felt uncomfortable denying Holy Communion to pro-abortion "Catholic" politicians. We can now comprehend his who am I to judge position.
In an interview with Carl Olson published in The National Catholic Register (August 17, 2018), the veteran conservative Catholic journalist Philip Lawler argues that the sex abuse crisis is a three-part scandal. Firstly, some priests abused young people. Second, the revelations gave ample evidence of widespread homosexuality within the clergy. Third, the scandal showed that bishops covered-up evidence of abuses. With The Dallas Charter, the American bishops addressed the first part of the scandal. The second and third parts have not been addressed to date. Lawler goes on to say that the Vatican has not as yet established clear standards for holding bishops accountable for their handling of the issue.
The liberal journalist Robert Mickens appears to agree with Lawler to a certain extent. Writing in The Washington Post (July 23, 2018), he states: "There is no denying that homosexuality is a key component to the clergy sex abuse crisis." He notes that almost all US victims are male, whether they are adolescents, post-pubescent teens or young men. Predictably, he suggests that gay clergy need to be affirmed.
McCarick has the common profile of a clergy abuser. His ultimate downfall, according to Lawler, was an encounter with an under-age boy. Lawler asks: "Doesn't it stand to reason that someone who would chase 19-20 year olds would be a danger to 16-17 year olds? For that matter, wasn't his desire for young men-of legal age or not-enough to disqualify him from higher office?"
Another high-profile case was that of Canadian Bishop Raymond Lahey. He was sent to prison on child pornography charges. The psychiatrist who assessed him concluded that he was not a paedophile but had an interest in gay sado-masochistic fantasies. Writing in the Canadian Catholic Register (December 23, 2011), Deborah Gyapond reported that Lahey had "engaged in a number of homosexual one night stands before settling into a ten year relationship with a man."
In my booklet, I was keen not to focus unduly on the issue of homosexuality. After all, the majority of homosexuals show no sexual interest in children and most children abused in the wider society are female. However, it must be admitted that there is a specific problem in the Church. Also, in the light of recent scandals in Maynooth, Honduras, Chile, the United States and elsewhere, there is surely an on-going need for vigilance. Not to mention drug-fueled gay orgies in the Vatican.
In an important article in the Catholic World Report (August3, 2018), Father Vincent Twomey argues that widespread dissent from the Church's teachings on sexual ethics was a contributory factor. After the Second Vatican Council, large chunks of the Church's moral teachings were ignored. I might add that it became fashionable to borrow indiscriminately from popular psychological theories about being non-judgmental, value-neutral, affirming etc. A misplaced idea of empathy surely led some bishops to effectively turn a blind eye to sinful behaviour among clergy. There was also an undue reliance on counselling and moral guilt was minimized if not ignored.
Father Twomey cites the example of the book The Sexual Celibate by Dominican theologian Donald Goergen which was published in 1974. In it, it is asserted that "when affectionate and genital feelings enter homosexual friendship, one should recognize and accept their presence. This does not mean the relationship is unhealthy." The book became the reference book on sexuality in seminaries in the seventies. Much worse was Father Anthony Kosnik's book Sexuality: New Directions in Catholic Thought. This came out in 1977 and made excuses for masturbation, cohabitation, swinging, adultery, homosexuality and even bestiality. Amazingly enough, Kosnik remained a priest for a few more decades before finally leaving. The book also claims that "the objective moral evaluation of a person's action must take into consideration the context of the person's moral stance, the circumstances of the action and the effects that issue from it." If this is what is meant by accompaniment and discernment, it might mean many things but it is not Catholic.
After the Second Vatican Council, the Church opened her windows. What was often allowed in was not fresh but filthy. Those great Gothic architects knew a thing or two when they made beautiful, soaring stained glass windows that let in the light of heaven while keeping the pollution at bay. Apologies and letters are well and good but not enough. What is needed is action. A great Carmelite priest once summed up the message of Fatima in three words: reparation, reparation and reparation.