clergy abuse crisis sexuality

Are gay priests to blame for the clergy abuse crisis?

The clergy abuse crisis is far from over.

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.

A note:

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.

6 comments on “Are gay priests to blame for the clergy abuse crisis?

  1. “it’s clear that the majority of sex scandals in the Church involve clergy abusing other men and even young boys.”

    It’s also fairly clear the majority of *priests* in the American Church are gay, or at least were during a certain generation. If you have more priests of a particular demographic, you’re bound to have proportionally more abuse from that demographic, just ’cause statistics. In other words, I suspect that, if we had an all-straight clergy, we would see a lot less abuse of altar boys and seminarians and a lot more abuse of altar girls and nuns… but I don’t expect the overall abuse rate would actually go down.

    Of course, the “lavender mafia” people talk about is very real and wields immense power to obscure the sexual escapades of (mostly gay) priests, which creates an umbrella for child abusers that they exploit to the utmost. But, again, root out all the gay priests, wait a generation, and you’ll have a similar network but for straight people. (The “blue mafia”? What’s the official color for straight men?) And, indeed, we have already seen straight priests take advantage of the lavender mafia network, and, in turn, become indebted to it. It’s not about orientation; it’s about clericalism, structural weaknesses in the Church’s post-Tridentine governance model, heterodoxy, and chastity, in that order.

    I’ve been trying to make this case, but with only modest success. “Blame the gay priests” confirms a lot of people’s priors, which makes it a lot easier than “Blame the broken structure of the College of Cardinals and the Congregation for Bishops.”


  2. Pingback: Catholic Young Adults Discuss: Cardinal McCarrick – A Blog by Chris Damian

  3. If it’s a matter of easier access to males than females, does this mean that majority of heterosexual abusers will go after teenage boys? The priests are horny gay men who are no different from heterosexuals who go after students. Why no one can admit that there are gay men who lack impulse control…that’s the question to ask. They keep calling them pedophiles when they are not. They vast majority of the offenders (80%) went for male adolescents 12-18. interesting that this is the age where males are supposedly at their peak of sexuality (at least I’ve been told) also Pedophiles are exclusively attracted to pre-puberty little kids under age 10 – that’s why they’re called pedophiles. The cases of priests getting caught in gay clubs HAVING CASUAL SEX (with film footage to prove it) and others caught with male prostitutes pretty much proves that. Italy and Chile are where the journalists keep catching priests (one was a set-up) doing these things. One priest actually put on his cassock and danced around and was having sex in the club. It was all caught on video.


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  5. Pingback: I, too am responsible: reflections on the abuse crisis – A Blog by Chris Damian

  6. Pingback: Homosexuality and the clergy abuse crisis: an overview – Chris Damian

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