Two prominent church officials have rejected the myth that there is a link between homosexuality and child abuse, and they criticized right wing groups that advance such falsehoods.
Fr. Jordi Bertomeu Farnós of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) challenged the idea that being gay makes a priest more likely to abuse a child. Novena News reported that the priest, named by Pope Francis to be a special investigator into the sexual abuse crisis that rocked the church in Chile, wrote an article about his conclusions derived from a study of 6,000 cases of priests abusing children that have been handled by the CDF since 2001.
In the Spanish journal Palabra, Bertomeu addressed data, which he described as “still very partial and scientifically weak,” that a disproportionate number of children abused by priests were male. Some quarters have used this to argue being gay makes one more likely to abuse, but the CDF official refutes such claims:
“In this regard, given some interested positions and strongly marked by a certain ultraconservative ideological position, it must be said that there is no direct relationship between homosexuality and pedophilia or between the latter and a ‘progressive style’ of clergy. . .affirming the direct connection of homosexuality with pedophilia from the data outlined above, not only involves the commission of a great injustice, but also the criminalization of a certain sexual identity.
“Rather, it is only possible to affirm that a certain homosexual subculture typical of some clerical groups and present in certain seminaries or novitiates, with the consequent tolerance towards active homosexual behaviors, can lead to pedophilia. These are situations that deserve greater attention from the pastors, who have the pastoral and disciplinary means to invite by example, the word and even coercion to a chaste life that does not pose a danger or scandal for the priest himself and for the Church.”
Also recently condemning any correlation between homosexuality and child abuse is theologian Fr. Ansgar Wucherpfennig of Frankfurt. He offered comments on the issue during a lecture to the Faculty of Catholic Theology in Vienna. Katholisch.de reported:
“Wucherpfennig turned against the common thesis in ‘right wing Catholic’ circles and in the Vatican that the homosexual orientation of priests was significantly responsible for church abuse cases. Rather, he pointed to an intra-church pressure that the priest deny their sexuality and thus leave them immature in this area. In the Catholic clergy, many who had agreed “not to be themselves” become “terrifyingly dark and impersonal.” If they came into positions of responsibility, they would do anything to uphold traditional Catholic sexual morality. Pedophiliac-exercised power was disproportionately common among such persons.”
The theologian, who serves as rector of the Jesuit Sankt-Georgen Graduate School of Philosophy and Theology in Frankfurt, also called for the church to rethink its approach to LGBTQ issues taking into account modern sciences. Novena News reported:
“Wucherpfenning insisted it is a mistake to quote the Bible to condemn homosexuality.
“That’s because the Sacred Scriptures only contain a few ambiguous references to same-sex activity and, in any case, don’t establish by any means a link between any particular sexual orientation and sexualised violence, the Jesuit said.
“The Bible can only be read in any age in dialogue with lived reality, the academic added, urging the Church to a revision of its sexual morality in the light of both the modern human sciences and the experiences of the faithful.”
Earlier this year, Wucherpfennig joined a letter signed by top German Catholics calling for a “new start on sexual morality” that includes a rethinking of the Catholic approach to homosexuality. But the priest’s outspokenness has not been trouble-free. In 2018, Wucherpfennig was temporarily sanctioned by the Vatican for his outspoken views on LGBTQ topics when he was denied a credential needed to be Sankt-Georgen’s rector. That denial was reversed after widespread support for the priest was voiced by bishops, his religious provincial, fellow academics, and Sankt-Georgen’s alumni and donors.
For Bondings 2.0’s full coverage of gay men and priesthood, click here.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, December 13, 2019