Because Bondings 2.0 focuses on Catholic LGBTQ issues, you could be forgiven if, based on our reporting this week, you think that LGBTQ issues are the predominant controversy at the World Meeting of Families here in Dublin. They’re not.
While LGBTQ issues do feature prominently in the discussions about the WMF, the primary focus of concern is clearly the clerical sex abuse crisis, an issue which has so profoundly and negatively impacted the Irish nation and church.
Yesterday, the dots between the two issues were connected. A press briefing was held at midday featuring four lay people who are experts on the topic of clerical sex abuse: Marie Collins, survivor of abuse and a former member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors; Baroness Sheila Hollins, another former member of the Pontifical Commission, from England; Professor Gabriel Dy-Liacco, a current member of the Commission, from the Philippines; and Barbara Thorp, a social worker who is former head of the Office for Pastoral Support and Child Protection, Archdiocese of Boston, U.S.A.
Earlier in the morning, the four experts formed a WMF panel presentation about the clergy sex abuse crisis. Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston was scheduled to be the panel moderator, but he had to back out of his duties before the
I helped to connect the dots by asking the panel a question during the press briefing:
“In the U.S. there is a growing chorus of people, including church leaders, who claim that the abuse crisis is caused by gay men in the priesthood. I’d like to know if you agree with that theory, and if you don’t, how do you counter it?”
Two of the panelists answered the questions during the press briefing. Collins said that the claim that gay priests are the cause is a “red herring.” She said that “when it comes to child abuse, it may suit some people to think that, and they may want to think that,” but that it is not a cause.
Professor Dy-Liaco said: “Sexual orientation is not the issue here and it is not a cause. Many scientific studies have shown this already.
Same-sex activity may occur during child abuse, he said, “but this is a sexual crime that arises out of a disordered use of power and affection.” Even where abuse has involved adolescent or adult males, Dy-Liaco said “is a crime of opportunity. In my own clinical practice, I find this to be true.”
He agreed with Collins that the gay priests’ causal theory is a red herring. “It focuses people on something which is not the issue and we really need to focus our energies on the root causes of the problem. It is a multi-faceted problem which requires a multi-faceted approach.”
Dy-Liaco said that forensic experts agree that child abuse does not have a single cause, and that focusing on one cause has allowed abuse to happen. He said that focusing on homosexuality in this area “is wrong” because “it is a form, but not the cause” of clerical sex abuse.
After the press briefing ended, I individually asked the other two panelists if they agreed with Collins and Dy-Liaco. Thorp responded enthusiastically: “Absolutely, yes!”
When asked if she agreed that the cause was not gay priests, Baroness Hollins responded:
“Yes, I do.the point is simply that it’s more about sexual immaturity. Often the people I’ve worked with who have been abusers were themselves abused as children and didn’t know how to deal with it. Whether you are heterosexual or homosexual, if you are sexually immature and hurt, there is a chance that your own difficulties will spill over into your relationships with other people and for some people that becomes abuse. It’s not to do with whether you’re homosexual or heterosexual, its about whether or not you have developed into a fully integrated human being, and that includes sexuality.”
These answers, from Catholics with strong personal professional credentials and who have been appointed to a Vatican Council or Archdiocesan office clearly, disprove the terrible notion brought up by some terribly misinformed church leaders such as Cardinal Raymond Burke and Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin.
It is reassuring to know that at least the lay church leaders who have been consulted on clergy sex abuse roundly decry the theories opposed by those who are out to scapegoat gay priests.
—Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, August 25, 2018