Recent revelations about Cardinal McCarrick reveal that the clergy abuse crisis is far from over. It’s ongoing. And clearly many bishops and priests are content to let it silently occur in their dioceses.
Especially as the laity struggle to make sense of and prevent abuse within our Church, we want to know why this happens and how to prevent it. Some blame the requirement of celibacy. Some blame an institutional culture which claws and prestige and power. Some blame the fact that we have gay priests.
I’d like to address the final point. Although gay priests are not the only clerical perpetuators or abuse, it’s clear that the majority of sex scandals in the Church involve clergy abusing other men and even young boys. That’s just where the statistics seem to fall at this time.
So yes, the problem is gay priests, insofar as there are gay priests abusing. But then there are additional questions of why such priests abuse. Is it something intrinsic to their sexuality? Or is it something going on culturally and socially? There’s no doubt that racial minorities have less socio-economic mobility than racial majorities. But only racists would say that black people are less economically productive because they are black.
An opinion piece in The Washington Post suggests one answer here.
After discussing this issue some more with some friends who work in the mental health profession, I think I would be more hesitant to say that “the problem is gay priests, insofar as there are gay priests abusing.” For abusers, the selection has less to do with orientation and more to do with access. So those who abuse in prisons are not necessarily attracted to people of the same sex; they simply abuse those who are available to them, in an exercise of power and control.
Likewise, it makes sense that clergy predisposed to abuse would abuse men and boys: women, as a general matter, are not as available to them. Parents have been much more likely to leave their sons than their daughters alone to spend time with priests, and certainly those who abuse in seminaries have access to seminarians. So the issue is not necessarily related to orientation, but rather to access. The John Jay study supports this view as well.