Catholic Defenders: ’Blame the Gays’ for Widespread Abuse

by Kilian Melloy
Wednesday Mar 31, 2010

As a fresh global crisis mounts for the Catholic church, with questions being raised about pedophile priests abusing victims in Germany and Wisconsin--where one cleric reportedly abused deaf children--and whether Pope Benedict XVI, a Cardinal at the time, responded appropriately, anti-gay religious organization the Catholic League has seemingly renewed attempts to scapegoat gays, say GLBT equality advocates.

In a March 24 article titled, "Vatican Declined to Defrock U.S. Priest Who Abused Boys," the New York Times reported that the pope--at the time known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, in charge of enforcing doctrine for the Vatican--did not respond to two letters from Milwaukee archbishop Rembert G. Weakland about the pattern of molestation allegedly demonstrated between 1950 and 1974 by Fr. Lawrence C. Murphy, who is suspected of having abused up to 200 boys who attended a Wisconsin school for the deaf. An investigation was begun internally at the behest of Ratzinger's second-in-command, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

However, the article said, Ratzinger put a stop to the process after receiving a letter from Fr. Murphy, at that point near the end of his life. "I simply want to live out the time that I have left in the dignity of my priesthood," wrote Murphy. "I ask your kind assistance in this matter."

The Catholic League took out a full-page advertisement in the New York Times on March 30, lambasting the paper for its coverage of the crisis and declaring that, "The Times continues to editorialize about the 'pedophilia crisis,' when all along it's been a homosexual crisis." The ad continues, "Eighty percent of the victims of priestly sexual abuse are male and most of them are post-pubescent. While homosexuality does not cause predatory behavior, and most gay priests are not molesters, most of the molesters have been gay."

The ad drew condemnation from GLBT advocacy group Truth Wins Out, which said in a March 30 posting at its web site that the Catholic League had "served as an enabler for sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and sought to deflect blame for the crisis by smearing the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.

"The offensive ad sought to exonerate the Pope and other priests of blame who are ensnared in a widening sexual abuse scandal that reaches across the globe," the posting continued. "Instead of offering an apology for sinful behavior, the Catholic League served as apologists and used the ad to try to deflect the crisis by attacking gay priests."

The posting quoted Truth Wins Out founder and executive director Wayne Besen as saying, "Clearly, the Catholic League is more interested in finding scapegoats than solutions." Added Besen, "We should remind Donohue that there is no child sexual abuse crisis in gay community centers, neighborhoods, churches or social organizations. This nightmare has to do with Catholic pedophile priests and those who served as their enablers. The Catholic League thinks it is mounting a defense, but it is only exacerbating the pain felt by the defenseless who were taken advantage of by authority figures in the church."

The Buck Stops... Where?

Syndicated columnist Maureen Dowd also responded to the ad, writing in a March 30 op-ed that in the ad, which was written as a letter and signed by him, the president of the Catholic League, Bill Donohue, was "still talking about the problem as an indiscretion rather than a crime. If it mostly involves men and boys, that's partly because priests for many years had unquestioned access to boys."

Donohue's ad also pointed out that although accused priest Lawrence Murphy seemingly began to molest his victims in the 1950s, it was not until twenty years later that the families of his victims spoke out--which Donohue said was a case of "Blame the victims."

Donohue appeared on CNN's The Larry King Show as part of a panel to discuss the crisis, along with musician Sinead O'Connor and pedophile priest victim Thomas Roberts. Two Catholic priests also appeared on the program, one of whom was the Rev. Edward Back, who pointed out that Pope Benedict XVI had "put in some of the strictest laws and legislation in the church around this issue of anyone previous to him," but added that, "the perception is, he's stonewalling." Beck said that the pope should "get out in front of it, about some of the wrongdoing, maybe talk a little about that case in Germany that kind of happened on his watch... people want to hear him say something."

The incident in Germany concerned a priest, referred to in a March 13 article in the U.K. newspaper The Times as H, who in 1980, was sent to Munich after being accused of assaulting an 11-year-old boy in Essen. Then-Cardinal Ratzinger gave the okay for the priest to stay in a rectory while he received therapy. The priest committed subsequent acts of child molestation, and was convicted of sexual assault in 1986. The priest in question, H, was suspended on March 16, following the story's appearance in the media.

The purported shifting of the German cleric from town to town mirrors the way American pedophile priests were moved from community to community by their superiors in the church hierarchy. Msgr. Gerhard Gruber took the blame for the priest's subsequent return to pastoral work, and told the media that Cardinal Ratzinger "could not deal with everything," given that there were more than one thousand priests in the diocese overseen by the Pope-to-be.

"The repeated employment of H in pastoral duties was a serious mistake," Gruber added. "I deeply regret that this decision led to offences against youths. I apologize to all those who were harmed."

But Thomas Roberts said on The Larry King Show that the pope is, in essence, the church's "manager." Said Roberts, "Bottom line, the buck stops with him." Roberts then went on to say that he would ask Donohue, who had earlier in the show slammed reportage of the crisis, "why the Catholic League doesn't use its vast resources... to stand up for the victims and stop shielding Pope Benedict or anybody else that is accused of these crimes, because we know they exist."

Panelist Sinead O'Connor, who claims also to have been abused by a priest, weighed in as well. O'Connor is remembered for an October 3, 1992 Saturday Night Live appearance during which O'Connor ripped a photo of Pope John Paul II in two while singing a version of Bob Marley's song "War," in which lyrics about racial prejudice were replaced with the words "child abuse." O'Connor told King that the Pope should instruct "any cleric who was involved to... go to the police, turn themselves in for prosecution as accessories to the crime." O'Connor also said that "if the pope has been wronged and been wronged about, then we all need to stand up and defend [him]."

Responding to O'Connor, Donohue said, "I'm not quote sure what to make of that one."

The Catholic League describes itself as non-partisan, but Donohue has made provocative remarks about gays over the years. Discussing the movie The Passion of the Christ, Donohue--who defended the film and its director, Mel Gibson--claimed that critics of the movie were "saying it's fascistic queer-bashing." Added Donohue, "I'm pretty good about picking out who queers are, and I didn't see any in the movie."

The Catholic League ad echoes claims made by Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, who has said that the perpetrators in the crisis are "ephebophiles" rather than pedophiles, the distinction being that ephebophiles are drawn to adolescents rather than to pre-pubescent children. However, Tomasi basis this on the claim he makes that most of the victims were boys aged 11 and older; a Wikipedia article notes that ephebophiles are attracted principally to adolescents (or either gender) between ages 15-19, whereas those preferring younger adolescents are actually hebephiles. Pedophiles and ephebophiles alike fail to fit into any stereotypical niche, according to an ezine articles essay. Moreover, the overwhelming majority of sexual abusers (greater than 90%) identify themselves as heterosexual.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


  • , 2010-03-31 14:25:13

    I have no problem with gays or gay priests so long as they are celebate like the rest of non married catholics are expected to be, but the CL ad is actually correct. Most of this abuse has involved teenage boys, many of them high school students, not small children and the CL ad is very clear that " Most gay priests are not molesters and homosexuality does not cause someone to be a molester but... most of the sex abuse being discussed in the church involves gay men. That is just a fact and the only reason it is mentioned is because the church has introduced new policies to restrict non celibate homosexuals from the priesthood.

  • , 2010-03-31 14:29:43

    It is absolutely true that 90% of sexual abuse is committed by heterosexuals infact is probably more like 95% since gays are only about 2% of the population ( the 10% gay figure was based on 1950s studied conducted in prisons) However in this case 80% of the abuse involves priests and young males, usually teenage boys. Nuns were just as numerous as priests in the 1950s and 1960s when most of this abuse occurred but you don’t hear as much about sex abuse by nuns.

  • , 2010-03-31 15:23:43

    The simple reason why more boys were abused was because priests had more access to boys. These weren’t "gay" priests; these were child abusers. If you don’t know, an abuser is an equal-opportunity pervert. Has nothing to do with homosexuality, despite what the church wants you to believe. Nothing at all.

  • , 2010-03-31 15:54:39

    Homosexuality is a long tradition in the Catholic Church. There is not a clergyman today that can claim he had no knowledge of homosexuals in the church since his/her very first day in seminary. The church always looked the other way and seriously rebuked complaints within. Reckless sexuality is the hall mark of a large majority of the popes. Our latest was a flagellant and Pius12 had a long term lover that left him at his death, never to be seen again. Murder, rape, pillaging, assasinations, torture, child abuse, gluttony, lust pride, avarice...all a part of Catholic historical identity.

  • patroy, 2010-03-31 16:42:33

    Remember all you narly knuckled finger pointers - when you point your finger at someone else, THREE are pointing back at you! Clean out and ce out of your own closet first, before you try to get into my closet!!!

  • , 2010-03-31 16:51:36

    How can a church with such a history of gay activitity have such an outrageous stand against the gay society and yet still maintain a clergy still abusing children. When I was a child our priest (based in Africa) was no picture of innocence, how do I know, you figure it out, my point, I am gay, how I got there - who cares. Yet now I am shunned by the very people who want me to have faith. Sounds way too hypocritical to me

  • , 2010-03-31 16:54:28

    I had a friend in college who was confused about his sexuality (read: in the closet). He went the devout Catholic route. Decided to become a monk. Entered an abbey. Well, THAT brought him out - he said it was like a bathhouse.

  • BB, 2010-03-31 18:11:00

    Eventually, the Church will forego priestly celibacy. It’s a silly business whose lack thereof has not harmed the Eastern rite in the least. All that is needed is a papal bull and out it goes. Young men cannot live abstinent lives without psychological damage and the proof is here for all to see. If the Church abjures homosexual priests, what better than to only admit those that are married to pious women! Oh, sure a few twinkies will still slip through, but honestly how many men want to be priests so badly they would take on a beard in order to live in poverty and have to sit for hours in phone booths listening to the tedious confessions of drunks and masturbators?

  • fernsky, 2010-04-01 10:45:52

    I remember the 50’s and in these days till about the late 70’s anything sexual was swept under the rug, it’s not only the Roman Catholic Church it was everyone vicious enough who could get away with it who did it and not one of them thought that 40 years later it would come back to haunt them. Of course it’s spicier when do gooders are caught red handed.

  • , 2010-04-01 11:41:41

    Mr. Donohue and the Catholic League...shame on you. To actually make an argument based on the face the these CHILDREN that were abused were actually teenagers, and to imply that perhaps these criminal acts were not perpetrated by pedophiles is shameful! A good number of these children were born into families where the parish priest was in a position of absolute authority. These men clearly abused this position in the community, in order to carry out there own twisted fantasies of sexual contact with UNDER AGE children. The Catholic League, needs to get on board, and start working towards ensuring this NEVER happens again. Stop wasting your efforts and resources, splitting hairs over a childs age at the time of the offence. Bottom line, this happened and those who are responsible directly or indirectly need to be held accountable for there actions and decisions. The survivors of this horrible time in the Catholic Churches history, want to be heard, and heard they will can be part of a solution or you can watch the church you love so dearly fall apart in front of your own eyes. In my opinion you are a poor representation of Catholics all over the world. Get real, Catholic priests are not above the laws of the nation they serve in, and justice will be done for the survivors. You see its not just catholic people that are outraged by this, it is all Christians and people who, fell there is an ethical and moral responsibility for a community to protect its most vulnerable citizens. The Catholic Church failed, and now the world watches as this all comes to light.

  • , 2010-04-01 13:51:02

    That’s right - turn the focus of these filthy child rapist priests on gays. Lets turn our focus on everyone EXCEPT the catholic church leadership and the filthy priests they protected. They purposely moved their filthy priests from church to church KNOWING that they would continue to rape our most innocent. These pervert beasts will have sex with any child, male or female. Their perversions have nothing to do with being gay. Hell fire judgment awaits these demons clothed in angel garb.

  • , 2010-04-01 13:52:54

    That’s right - turn the focus of these filthy child rapist priests on gays. Lets turn our focus on everyone EXCEPT the catholic church leadership and the filthy priests they protected. They purposely moved their filthy priests from church to church KNOWING that they would continue to rape our most innocent. These pervert beasts will have sex with any child, male or female. Their perversions have nothing to do with being gay. Hell fire judgment awaits these demons clothed in angel garb.

  • , 2010-04-06 14:40:30

    The article states some nonsense about some stupid term "ephebophiles" being attracted to 15-19 year olds. Why should anyone who’s attracted to someone who’s legally an adult (18+) be labelled with such a term? Why are 18&19 year olds in this bracket? I don’t think that’s appropriate. Also, millions of women in their twenties and thirties think the 16/17 year old Taylor Lautner was attractive in that dumb movie. Does that mean they should be labelled with such a term? Yes, sometimes straight or gay adults may look at someone who’s slightly under age and find them attractive, but they don’t engage those feelings because they understand that it’s considered inappropriate. But especially with 18 and 19 year olds, I don’t think people need to be labelled with a derogatory term because they find them attractive.

  • , 2010-04-09 10:50:42

    The ’blame the gays,’ ’blame the victims,’ and ’blame the Jews,’ stuff I keep hearing isn’t helping their case at all. Almost all the outrage has not primarily stemmed from the abuse, which happens elsewhere in similar numbers, but the history of coverup ... which they keep continuing with all this crap. Even if the abuse was more of a ’gay pedophile’ than ’straight pedophile’ problem, the church is still guilty of covering up a pedophilia problem. PS: I just find it odd that an endlessly homophobic institution feels they can blaim homosexuals for an internal problem that outside groups composed ENTIRELY of openly gay males experience FAR less. If it was a gay problem, then one would think that gays would have this problem, but they don’t. That married gay couple across the street is easily one of the least likely couples in the nation to sexually, or otherwise, abuse yours, theirs, or anyone elses kids.

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