Report Details Gay High Life Among Catholic Clerics

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday August 2, 2011

A new report suggests that a Catholic Archbishop presided over a gay clerical culture during his tenure in Miami, according to a July 28 Gawker article title "The Catholic Church's Secret Gay Cabal."

The report, titled "Miami Vice: A Preliminary Report on the Financial, Spiritual, and Sexual Improprieties of the Clergy of the Miami Archdiocese," was put together by a Catholic group called Christifidelis and obtained by Gawker, which offered a summary of the group's findings.

Among other accusations, the Christifidelis report accused Archbishop John C. Favalora of fostering a "homosexual superculture" that included bringing gay men into the clerical fold and then allowing them to indulge in sexual practices in violation of their vows, as well as unsavory conduct such as embezzlement, drug use, and the bullying of outsiders, including fellow priests.

"Wanton hedonistic gay sex is of course unobjectionable -- even encouraged! -- among those not in thrall to the idea that God hates your penis," the Gawker story said. "But for the 500-or-so priests and deacons charged by The Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI with ensuring the spiritual integrity of 1.3 million of God's children in Southern Florida, it's... unorthodox."

Gawker called one seminary in particular, St. John Vianney College Seminary, a "Gay Hogwarts," and noted that even before Favalora came onto the scene, "the Archdiocese was a hotbed of sodomy".

Added Gawker, "Seminaries are traditionally gay places -- Papist wits refer to Notre Dame seminary as 'Notre Flame,' Theological College as 'Theological Closet,' Mundelein as 'Pink Palace,' and so on. But St. John Vianney was special."

The seminary was allegedly overseen by at least one superior who exhibited inappropriate interest in young seminarians. Those who studied at the seminary, too, were reportedly drawn to the all-male, and purportedly sexually charged, environment; said one former seminarian, "I probably entered [the seminary] partially because I was attracted to the idea of being in a gay environment."

That young man later left the seminary, settled down and is happily married to his husband in Washington, D.C., reported Gawker, which quoted him as saying that life in seminary is "a sick culture. The worst of religion and the worst of malformed human sexuality, jammed together in one place. The people who make it through to the priesthood have had to sublimate so much of themselves, have ignored so much. And then they're supposed to minister to people?"

But the hijinks were not confined to the seminary's gym (where at least one of the clerics in charge reportedly snapped photos of young men) or to furtive encounters after lights out. Gawker reported that there were instances of embezzlement, with tabs for fine dining coming out of the seminary's "slush fund."

Other clerics reportedly owned "luxury" properties.

The article's recounts a sprawling tale of improprieties sexual, administrative, and fiscal, and traces the comings and goings of a number of purportedly gay priests, at least one of them embroiled in allegations of child sexual abuse. In the midst of the maelstrom, according to the Gawker depiction, stood one priest of integrity -- and he was fired from his post.

That, Gawker reported, sparked the formation of Christifidelis and the start of its investigation in 2005. But the investigation, Gawker reported, was not intended to expose the church to scandal or sensationalize the alleged misdeeds it chronicled.

"We're defending the Church," one of the report's contributors told Gawker. "It's essential to remember -- the last thing we wanted was to hurt her."

But though the group's probe may have prompted Archbishop Favalora to retire, opening the way for the appointment of the current Archbishop, Thomas Wenski, Favarola's successor -- while reputedly a cleric of integrity himself -- is unable to take drastic action, one member of the group suggests, lest he unleash a fresh "scandal."

Nor does the Church seem eager to carry out an in-depth and detailed investigation of its own, at least not one for public consumption.

Since the eruption of the global scandal over pedophile priests, the Church has come under criticism for having enabled predators among the clergy in the first place and then, once the sordid accusations became known, seemingly attempting to gloss the scandal over, obstruct investigations, and stonewall victims. Laity groups that have challenged the church hierarchy have faced hostility from the Church. One lay Catholic group in Boston, Voice of the Faithful, saw a number of churches shuttered in the name of paring back, and was denied use of Catholic churches that remained in operation. Voice of the Faithful itself was branded as "heterodox" and "heretical" by conservative Catholic groups.

Christifidelis may have encountered similar institutional disinterest; the Gawker article noted that the group had met with a Church official who promised to investigate their concerns, only for no public trace of an investigation to appear. As for the report put together by Christifidelis, its allegations are numerous and wide ranging, Gawker said, noting "33 Miami priests (and one nun) accused of criminal sexual abuse....

"It's unlikely that all of these allegations are true, and of the ones that are, it's unlikely that all are symptomatic of corruption or moral depravity," Gawker added.

At any rate, the article added, Wenski has shaken up the archdiocese. "Of the 35 priests accused by name in the [report], seven had retired" by the time Wenski took over. "Of those remaining, most have been reassigned."

Wenski has reportedly begun monitoring the priests under his supervision closely. Even so, Gawker said, "Big questions remain in the Archdiocese. Arguably the worst pedophile priest ever arrested in the United States, Neil Doherty, is a St. John Vianney alum who spent most of his career in Florida. He served as the seminary's vocational director under Robert Lynch. For thirty years, Doherty raped child after child, drugging them with alcohol and Quaaludes and sodomizing them until they bled."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. 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.