Gay priests the solution, not the problem

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That’s the big news out of the John Jay College Final Report on the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests, due out at 2 p.m. today, according to David Gibson’s scoop for RNS last night (followed swiftly by NYT’s Laurie Goodstein, who also scored a copy). To wit:

[T]he researchers found no statistical evidence that gay priests were
more likely than straight priests to abuse minors–a finding that
undermines a favorite talking point of many conservative Catholics. The
disproportionate number of adolescent male victims was about
opportunity, not preference or pathology, the report states.

What’s more, researchers note that the rise in the number of gay priests
from the late 1970s onward actually corresponded with “a decreased incidence of abuse–not an increased incidence of abuse.”

Over at In All Things, Jim Martin rings the changes on why this will come as a surprise to many, pointing specifically to the shortage of “‘public’ models of healthy, mature, loving celibate homosexual priests.” (Mychal Judge, the Franciscan father who died at Ground Zero on 9/11 while serving as chaplain to the FDNY, is a rare exception.) Martin declines, however, to point to the role of those conservative Catholic talkers in fingering gay priests as the problem–above all the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue.

Here, for example, is Donohue back in 2006, arguing on behalf of the Vatican’s decision to keep men with “deeply rooted homosexual tendencies” (whatever that means) out of seminaries:

As I have said many times before, most homosexual priests are not molesters,
but most of the molesters are gay. The John Jay [interim] Report made this clear: 81
percent of the victims are male and almost as many are postpubescent. This is
not called pedophilia–it is called homosexuality.

But the final report demonstrates (through reliance on diocesan records and live interviews) that just because the victims were boys doesn’t mean that the molesters were gay–any more than the fact that most prison rapes involve male victims doesn’t mean that most prison rapists are gay. For priests, boys were the most readily available targets of sexual opportunity.

Donohue will no doubt embrace the final report’s finding that most offenders were not pedophiles in the strict sense (one of his favorite talking points); the large majority of cases involve boys over the age of 10. But the punchline to the point is that the way to prevent child abuse by priests is to keep gays out of the priesthood. And that, the final report makes clear, is just not true.

Update: Donohue sticks to his guns: “A homosexual is defined by his actions, not his identity.”

  • The church hierarchy just keeps spending more and more of their loyal parishioners’ hard earned contributions to keep themselves out of jail. The covering up of sex crimes committed by clergy is starting to cost a lot in legal defense fees; much more than what the church is spending to help the victims of these clergy. Thousands upon thousands of innocent children ( all ages ) have been harmed so badly that some do not make it.
    Church officials can never be trusted to have the kids best interest at heart. They just do not care.
    There is only one way to get these men stopped. Outside law enforcement and prosecutors need to take heed and investigate every single catholic diocese in the world. There is no other way to get this life long harmful abuse stopped.
    Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, 636-433-2511
    “Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests”