Sexual abuse and the gay clergy subculture
This is a massively important book that provides a compelling overview of the sexual abuse crisis in the USA over the last fifty years. In fact, in his careful and well-reasoned analysis, Donohue distinguishes two separate but evidently linked crises, Crisis One being the crimes of priests against children and young adults, Crisis Two being the inept and often apparently collusional reaction of the bishops towards offending clergy.
Donohue is a sociologist by profession and has taught for many years in the Catholic School system in the USA. He has therefore witnessed at first hand the ideological germ warfare that has been quietly raging in the area of sexuality as taught by the magisterium of the Church and the wholesale opposition to it marshalled within academic and other institutional circles since the 1960’s and particularly since the promulgation of Humanae Vitae in 1968.
He sets out his approach to understanding Crisis One by situating it in comparison to the discovery of similar child protection issues in other cognate organisations alongside the Catholic Church, notably other churches, youth organisations, the film and entertainment industry, professional sports etc. His fundamental thesis is that the Catholic Church ‘does not own this problem’ and that the media bias in obsessing with the obvious moral failures in the Catholic Church is born of a distinct animus (odium ecclesiae). He demonstrates this with multiple examples of the failure of other bodies to safeguard children, while at the same time
deploring the fact that any children should have been harmed within the care of the Catholic Church. His survey is thorough and depressingly convincing.
Young homosexual priests abusing teenage boys
Probably the most controversial aspect of his analysis will be the fact that he presents clear evidence that most of the incidents of sexual abuse have been between young homosexual priests and younger teenage boys who were in their care. This is known as ‘ephebophilia’, but Donohue is scathing about this neologism as it seeks to disguise the fact that Crisis One is/was mainly caused by openly homosexual priests.
He speculates why this increase in gay men entering seminary and making it through to ordination, while being unapologetically sexually active, should have happened.
He sees it as being a combination of the sexual revolution and a collapse in the traditional moral theology supporting the teaching of the church on the meaning of human sexuality in all of its aspects.
In his analysis of Crisis One he provides clear statistical evidence that the Dallas Reforms of 2002 have been effective in curbing the headline rates of clergy offending, but I am not so sure that this means that the deeply rooted structures that gave rise to it have been addressed and corrected.
He summarises the John Jay Research into sexuality and Catholic clergy but does not agree with their conclusions. At various points in his coverage he alludes to the institutional tolerance of a homosexual subculture, and this leads to his attempt to define and understand Crisis Two, i.e. the reaction of bishops, both as individuals and collectively, to the offending clerics under their care. It will be evident from the references to the huge scandals caused by the offences of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick that he was the tip of an iceberg and that there are and have been other homosexual bishops, or at least bishops so compromised by the predominance of gay clergy within their dioceses that they are paralysed into inaction except for dealing with the most serious cases. Another aspect of this situation in the USA that he may not be aware of, but hardly surprised by, is the number of canonists ideologically committed to the best canonical representation of homosexual clergy or Sisters if their bishops or superiors try to discipline them for external violations of church law.
Within the Vatican
Perhaps the most disturbing and yet still unsurprising area of his survey is that of the response of the Vatican to these huge moral crises.
He shows that he is aware of the magnum opus by Frederic Martel, In the Closet of the Vatican, which is a spectacular exposé of the homosexual subculture within the Vatican, which if only half-true is still an uncomfortable indictment of an institutional moral infection that is in need of treatment. However, it is a shame that he is not aware of the enormous strides made by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in the establishment of the ‘Apostolic Tribunal’ to adjudicate in cases of clerics accused of crimes against children. He also has a couple of shots at Archbishop Charles Scicluna who has in fact done more than anyone else to bring offending clergy to justice and impose laicisation in the majority of cases presented to this jurisdiction.
Seminaries and sexually immature young men
While I truly wish that Crisis One has truly ‘gone away’ as Donohue seems to suggest, I fear that it has merely slipped under the surface and that the institutional weaknesses that facilitated it have not been remedied. The significant demographic shifts (from hetero to homosexual) within the presbyteria of dioceses and religious orders that took place in the last three decades of the 20 th century have not been reversed; and the chronic problems of emotional and psychosexual immaturity among candidates for ordination may have had a sticking plaster or three applied, but the true nature of the intellectual cancer that is at the root of this syndrome has yet to be faced down.
My own suggestion would be that members of Formation Teams in seminaries that have recommended men for ordination could become part of the process when these same men have ‘crashed and burned’ within a few years of ordination. If they were then faced with the testimony of their victims, this might give them a chance to reflect on the nature of the risks in ordaining such sexually immature young men.
As an ecclesial sociologist and diagnostician Bill Donohue has performed for the church a great service, and I believe that anyone who wishes to discuss this crisis intelligently must now read this well-crafted book to understand its full parameters. I just wish that he would both acknowledge the need for, and perhaps help plan, a truly therapeutic response to the chronic intellectual infection that lies deep within the heart and mind of Holy Mother Church.