Local Gay Catholics Respond to Sex Abuse Report

by Jason Prokowiew

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday May 27, 2011

A report released earlier this month that examined the causes and context of the clergy sexual abuse crisis in the U.S. Catholic Church has certainly caught the attention of gay Catholics in the Commonwealth and beyond.

Researchers at John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York concluded there is no data to support the conclusion that "homosexual identity and/or preordination same-sex sexual behavior are significant risk factors for the sexual abuse of minors."

The report, the third commissioned by the nation's Roman Catholic bishops since the sexual abuse crisis came to light in the Boston archdiocese in 2002, concluded that there was "no single cause of sexual abuse by Catholic priests," with situational factors and opportunity to abuse playing a significant role in the onset and continuation of abusive acts.

"The increased frequency of abuse in the 1960s and 1970s was consistent with the patterns of increased deviance of society during that time," said Dr. Karen Terry, a principal investigator for the report. "Social influences intersected with vulnerabilities of individual priests whose preparation for a life of celibacy was inadequate at that time."

Organizations dedicated to the inclusiveness of LGBT Catholics have praised the report's findings that homosexuality did not cause the abuse.

"The report does faithful Catholics good service by discrediting the ungrounded, homophobic accusations that the Church's clergy sex abuse scandal was caused by gay priests," said Jim FitzGerald of Equally Blessed, a coalition comprised of Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, and New Ways Ministry.

Phil Attey, executive director of Catholics for Equality, also welcomed the report.

"That our bishops are looking at this as an institutional and systemic problem in our church is a step in the right direction," he said. "That the study found no link between the sexual orientation of the priests and the sexual abuse crisis leads us to believe the Vatican and our bishops will stop trying to scapegoat this problem on gay priests, but whether they're ready to address the institutional lack of transparency that allowed this problem to continue is not yet clear."

While pleased with the report's take on homosexuality, FitzGerald had misgivings about other aspects. "We are dumbfounded by the decision to define children ages 10-13 as pubescent," Fitzgerald said on the New Ways Ministry Web site May 19. "This classification, which should alarm parents with common sense regardless of theological persuasion, has the effect of making clergy abuse scandal look less sinister because fewer 'children' were involved. This is an insult to many survivors of abuse."

Equally Blessed and Catholics for Equality used the report to call on Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League, to apologize for using the sexual abuse scandal to demonize gays and lesbians. In a full-page ad the "New York Times" published last month, Donahue claimed that gay priests were the root of the sexual abuse scandal. The ad coincided with efforts to secure passage of a marriage equality bill in the New York State Legislature.

"Now that research commissioned by the bishops themselves has shown Donohue's rhetoric to be based in prejudice rather than in fact," said FitzGerald. "We call on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to speak out on the side of truth when Donohue and his allies perpetrate homophobic slurs in the name of Catholicism."

Church Simply "Doesn't Get It"
Jeffrey Howard, a 31-year old gay male living in Boston who attends Mass in Cambridge said he's long felt that the Church simply "doesn't get it." He also asked EDGE not to disclose the specific parish.

"They still don't get that it was their inactions in taking priests that were abusing children, and it was their responsibility to protect the children," he lamented.

He felt the report was a step in the right direction; but he also credited the Church with the idea that gay priests caused the abuse. "I don't think many people think that," added Howard. "I believe the Church was trying to push that, but I don't run into people who think it was gay men. I think they now need to come out with a much more strongly stated statement saying 'homosexuality didn't cause it.'"

The full report is available at www.usccb.org/mr/causes-and-context-of-sexual-abuse-of-minors-by-catholic-priests-in-the-united-states-1950-2010.pdf.