The former Vatican nuncio to the United States, who caused an uproar at the end of August by accusing Pope Francis of ignoring and covering up abuse cases, has doubled down on his accusations against leading church officials, as well as laying the blame for the clergy sex abuse crisis on gay priests. But meanwhile, a leading U.S. prelate has firmly rejected any suggestion that gay priests have been a cause of clergy sexual abuse, joining a growing number of other Catholics who have refused to let such homophobic narratives go unchecked.
Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò released a long statement on the blog of a right-wing journalist, claiming that his warnings to Pope Francis about abuse by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick were ignored. The National Catholic Reporter noted Viganò’s statement included “an extended diatribe against alleged homosexuality in the Catholic priesthood, calling it ‘the principle cause’ of the clergy abuse crisis.”
Additionally, Viganò said that a Cardinal Marc Ouelett’s response to his original accusations in August did not mention
“. . . the role of homosexuality in the corruption of the priesthood and of the hierarchy.
“This very grave crisis cannot be confronted and resolved correctly as long as we do not call things by their true names. It is not an exaggeration to say that homosexuality has become a scourge in the clergy and that it can be annihilated only with spiritual weapons.”
Meanwhile, last week, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago remarked on gay priests during an interview with the National Catholic Reporter while he is in Rome for the Synod on Youth:
“On the question of gay priests, Cupich said: ‘We have to make sure that everybody in the church lives an authentic, chaste life. That’s without question.’
“‘But the research has shown that the abuse crisis, the abuse of minors, was in fact due to other factors beyond somebody being gay,’ he said. ‘That’s very clear. The research showed this. This is not my opinion.’
“‘I think we take our eye off the ball if we don’t deal with the business of privilege, power and protection of a clerical culture,’ he said. ‘Those three elements have to be eradicated from the life of the church. Everything else is a sideshow if we do not get at that.'”
Similarly, Bishop Robert McElroy made it clear during a parish listening session that gay men were welcomed to the priesthood if they remained celibate because, the bishop said, ” I want LGBT people to feel welcome in our churches.” McElroy explained that though a majority of victims abused by clergy were male, such abuse is about power and not sexuality rendering sexual orientation a non-factor, reported the Times of San Diego.
Lay Catholics have voiced their objections to such homophobic thinking, too. Andrew Sullivan, a gay Catholic, offered a nuanced commentary in New York Magazine about the relationship between homosexuality and abuse. He was clear that gay priests are not a cause of abuse, but like Vatican journalist Robert Mickens, did suggest that homophobia in the church could be a contributing factor :
“Homophobia may also have increased the proportion of priests over the centuries who have been gay, because the priesthood has always been a reliable cover for not dating women. And these closeted, [expletive deleted] gays are the ones who may well have internalized many of the slurs against gays in the past, hated themselves, never come to terms with themselves, and seen no real difference between sexual abuse and sex. So gay priests may well have covered this stuff up for aeons, or formed cliques that perpetuated it, or developed personae that could create some campy subculture to make the awful contradictions and cruelties of sexual repression and self-loathing bearable. When no form of sex is allowed, all forms of sex can seem equally immoral. And if your celibacy has ever slipped, you sure don’t want to snitch on someone else, do you?
“It’s a vicious, destructive, evil circle. Which is why, it seems to me, that the clerical closet has to end. Secrecy and shame abet sexual dysfunction. Openness and self-respect are the cure. If a priest is celibate and openly gay, he is in no way disqualified for the priesthood — the church teaches that being gay is in itself no sin — so why can’t he be out? The stricture against this kind of honesty and transparency has only compounded the fucked-upness of it all.”
J.D. Long-Garcia wrote in America that the clergy sexual abuse crisis should not be an excuse to let anti-gay ideas flourish. His pastor, at a parish where two of the last four priests were removed for sexual misconduct, said in a homily that “predatory homosexuality” was a cause of abuse. Long-Garcia explained that, after Mass, he spoke with his 11-year-old child about the incident to clarify what the priest had done wrong and the church’s commitment to love LGBT people. He concluded the column tying protection of children from abuse to protecting LGBT youth:
“There are some Catholics, like our pastor, who would like to exploit the sexual abuse crisis to promote anti-L.G.B.T. agendas. We cannot stand for it. We cannot regress to this.
“We must protect our children from predators. The sexual abuse crisis has made that clear. But we must also protect our children from those who demonize people because of their sexual orientation. In all things, we must strive to be like Jesus Christ. Our children will learn from our example.”
Cardinal Cupich and these other Catholics identify the two key points when it comes to gay priests and sexual abuse. The first is the clearly proven truth that homosexuality is not a cause of abuse and that the scapegoating of gay priests is wrong. Second, blaming gay priests and disordered understandings of sex and sexuality keeps the church from addressing real causes of abuse, which may include homophobia, and thereby keeps them from protecting children and vulnerable adults.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, October ??, 2018