One of the requirements of teaching CCD in the Diocese of Scranton is attendance at a diocesan-sponsored training course on sexual abuse. So in November I attended one and watched the video Protecting God's Children at the local Catholic school.
Protecting God's Children, produced by The National Catholic Risk Retention Group, Inc., achieves its main objective: raising the awareness of diocesan volunteers and employees about the widespread problem of sexual abuse of minors in our society. What troubles me, though, about Protecting God's Children is that it misses the mark by diverting attention away from the root cause of the clergy sex abuse scandal, which was the catalyst for this course in the first place.
Arguably, the intention of the training course is not to find the exact coordinates of the scandal's epicenter, but rather to give Church workers a set of tools to identify and prevent sexual predators from causing harm to children. I think the course does this. However effective the course might be, I would argue that Protecting God's Children will fail to stop clergy sexual abuse. In order to solve a problem, one must understand its root cause. Knowing the root cause, one can then take corrective action that goes to the root of the problem. The best approach to problem-resolution is usually the most direct approach, the one that aims at the target and hits it. Using a hunting analogy, if I am hunting for a spring gobbler, I would not take aim at a hen. As I sat through the two-hour training course that night, I could not help thinking that the Church had shot the hen.
What is the root cause of the clergy sexual abuse scandal? Reading Michael Rose's Goodbye Good Men reinforced my growing realization about the nature of clergy sexual abuse: It was the work of homosexual predators in the priesthood. Were there cases of priests molesting girls? Yes. Were there cases of lay employees molesting young people? Yes. But the reason some 50 Church workers in my Diocese were attending a training course that night was because of homosexual priests.
As I watched the video recounting the stories of four abuse victims (two girls and two boys), I recalled one glaring statistic from the John Jay study, provided for the Church: 81 percent. Eighty-one percent of the victims in the Church's sexual abuse scandal were boys molested or raped by clergy. The following is a quote from the National Review Board's report onh the crisis: "That 81 percent of the reported victims of child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy were boys shows that the crisis wa characterized by homosexual behavior."
Of the four victims interviewed in the video, only one was abused by a priest, and the victim was a girl. It was not at all representative of the overwhelming majority of cases of clergy sexual abuse, which involved priests preying on boys. The two male victims interviewed were molested by men who were not priests. The other female victim was abused by a female teacher.
The problem with Protecting God's Children is that zero percent of the abuse cases it portrays were representative of the scandal in the Church. Each one missed the target. Given that 81 percent of the victims were male, the video presentation we saw that night gave an entirely different impression of the crisis. I thought I should be looking over my shoulder at the dad sitting next to me or the old woman in the back for the tell-tale signs of a sexual offender, instead of focusing on what went overwhelmingly wrong in our Church and how to prevent its recurrence. The more I reflected on the video, the more I believed it was part of a great big charade by the bishops to divert attention away from the real crisis. That is a conclusion I still don't want to believe.
I have read recently that as many as 30 to 50 percent of priests in service today are homosexuals. I have also read estimates as low as two percent and as high as 70 percent. A close friend of mine, an ex-seminarian, says that based on his recent seminary experience, he believes the actual figure is closer to 50 percent. My friend says the solution to the problem of sexual abuse by homosexual priests is not to admit or ordain homosexuals. He says the homosexual subculture at the seminaries he attends is cause for continued concern about the future of the Church in America.
To stop clerical sexual abuse of the kind documented in the John Jay study, we need to stop ordaining homosexuals to the priesthood. There needs to be a massive overhaul of the seminaries in our country. We should train admissions staff to weed out candidates to the priesthood who are attracted to other men. It's crazy to put men with same-sex attractions into an all-male environment. It doesn't get any simpler than that.
A short time ago, another friend of mine called me, alarmed at something he had read. He read that inside the U.S. Catholic hierarchy there are a number of bishops, and chancery and seminary oficials, who were referred to as the "Lavender Mafia" because of their homosexual lifestyles, their tight control over vocations, and the power they wield in the American Church. The term "Lavender Mafia" was not new to me, but I was shocked that this well-read, orthodox friend of mine had only recently stumbled over the term. It just does to show that Catholics are not as well informed as they ought to be about the problems in the Church. Films such as Protecting God's Children, which is being implemented by a number of bishops, presents a grossly skewed picture of the crisis and serves to indulge our ignorance.
The problem is largely with the episcopacy. Some of our bishops seems to have purposely or naively concealed the homosexual crisis in the Church. Others are in denial.
Since returning to the Church eight years ago, I ahve struggled to learn the Faith. I've had no formal training in theology. Yet I am able to clearly see the root cause of the Church sexual abuse scandal--and many of our bishops cannot. There seems to be an ingrained institutional blindness in the hierarchy, perhaps a willful blindness. Where is the love of God and the Church? Are these bishops so immobilized by fear that they just sin on their hands in the chancery offices waiting for a cultural shift? Don't they know they are the ones who must create the shift? I give credit to our local ordinary, the Most Reverend Joseph F. Martino. His recent pastoral letter on chastity is a great piece of work and is evidence of the small but growing number of bishops who exhibit the courage to take on the sexual revolution.
As for the rest of them, the Church needs to find a way to send them into early retirement.
[Ken Skuba and his wife, Susan, and their five children reside in Sugarloaf, Pennsylvania. This article was originally published as a Guest Column in NEW OXFORD REVIEW (April 2005), pp. 45-47. Reprinted with permission from NEW OXFORD REVIEW, 1069 Kains Ave., Berkeley CA 94706, U.S.A.]