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Homosexuality among Catholic clergy.

In December, 2001, the National Post devoted a third of a page to a 79-year-old Irish priest living in Toronto accused of molesting boys in Ireland some thirty years earlier. Because there is no extradition treaty between Canada and Ireland, the priest cannot be forced to return there to face charges. The next day the paper devoted another article to the same subject.

On January 18 and 19, 2002, the same paper presented first the case, and then the initial conviction, of John Geoghan, 66, a "defrocked priest" in Boston. The first article's main focus was Boston's Archbishop Cardinal Bernard Law, who admitted that he had known of Geoghan's predilection for boys since 1984 but had simply warned him and moved him from parish to parish, thinking that would end it. Today Geoghan and the Archdiocese faces 3 criminal cases and 84 civil lawsuits, with 130 men claiming homosexual molestation or rape.

As the trial continues, news coverage revealed other surprises. The Archdiocese was discovered having quietly settled child sex abuse claims against at least 70 priests in the last ten years. This became public when the diocese handed law officials the names of all priests who have been accused over the past four decades of sexually abusing young boys. In all cases the diocese fought hard to keep the settlements secret, extracting confidentiality agreements from many claimants (N. Post, Feb. 1, 2002). This put everyone to sleep with respect to the enormity and frequency of the crimes.

Our first reaction is to say that this simply cannot be true. But alas, it is. Reports from all over, many printed in the American Catholic weekly The Wanderer, demonstrate that priestly pedophilia is widespread. One such priest in Dallas, Texas, cost the diocese there $120 million in settlements. The John Geoghan case in Boston may well surpass this.

Catholic Insight readers should be aware of what is going on. Bishops are still moving pedophile priests, even convicted ones, from one diocese to another without telling anyone what is going on. Even as I write, the Calgary diocese has appointed a priest convicted of sexual abuse to a parish without telling the parishioners (Calgary Herald, Feb. 1 and 3, 2002; N. Post, Tor. Star).

The following article has some suggestions of what truly repentant priests can do to halt this ever growing scandal.


Kansas City Star

Over the last 15 years, many stories have been published about clerical sexual abuse. Should we speak of a crisis? Certainly the Kansas City daily paper the Star thought so when in January 2000 it created a stir by claiming that priests were dying of AIDS at four times the rate of the general population.(1) Some Catholics, probably rightly, denied the statistic, which was based on a narrow survey. The truth of the matter is that there shouldn't be any priests dying of AIDS, and the newspaper article should have caused widespread concern. But almost the opposite seems to have taken place.

One paper, concerning the Kansas story, interviewed Auxiliary Bishop Gumbleton of Detroit who is known for his support for homosexuals; on the Kansas story, he stated (what every priest knows to be false) that in the seminary, priests are not taught how to be chaste. The comment of Bishop Boland of Kansas City was not helpful either. He pointed out that priests are human like anyone else, as if to say that sexual sins by priests are not much to worry about, or that they are par for the course. He added that priests who have contracted AIDS are good priests. How he knows that is another puzzle. Certainly with him, false compassion triumphed over truth. It proved that he does not think there is much to worry about.

Yet Catholics continue to read of priests sentenced to prison for sexually abusing boys, and even of bishops involved in homosexual scandals. Two years ago, we were told of an international internet connection of homosexual clergy (priests and at least one auxiliary bishop in South Africa) discussing in obscene, irreligious language what one critic says is only "me, me, me, and sex, sex, sex." Yet this man's fellow bishops have not distanced themselves from him.

It should be made clear that we dealing here only with Catholic clerical homosexuality and, at this point, primarily with sexually active clerical homosexuals (whom we will refer to as "gay" Since that seems to be the current meaning of this previously innocent word). We know that a number of Catholics who are homosexual are not "gay".

It seems impossible to find out with exactness what percentage of clergy is homosexual, not to speak of what percentage is "gay". Clergy who are themselves homosexual claim that both percentages are very high, but like homosexuals in general they tend to exaggerate their number. The often-quoted 10% of the general population is completely false. In reality their numbers today are between 1% and 2%, and that after three decades of propaganda. When 1%-2% of the general population is homosexual, a National Broadcasting System report that estimates the percentage of homosexual priests as ranging from 23 to 58% is incredible. (2)

Yet the Catholic homosexual clergy problem is so serious that on May 8, 2001, the Doctrinal Congregation of the Vatican wrote to bishops and heads of religious congregations that, from the end of 2001 on, they must inform the Congregation of all cases of priestly pedophilia.

Dr. Barry Coldrey

What appears to be a well-researched and even-handed book is Religious Life Without Integrity: The Sexual Abuse Crisis Within the Catholic Church, by the Australian Brother Dr. Barry Coldrey. Coldrey was assigned the task of producing a report on his own community, the Christian Brothers in Australia, concerning sex scandals. He deals also with other English-speaking countries. He speaks of a crisis, but what constitutes a crisis has not been defined. He estimates that 12-15% of United States clergy indulge in homosexual acts, that 5-7% are pedophiles, and that at least 20% of seminarians report that they have "experienced" homosexual activity in their seminary. Dr. Coldrey reports also that priests have experienced advances from bishops, and have been quietly discriminated against when they rebuffed them. (3)

Monsignor Timothy Dolan, while he was rector of the North American College in Rome, just before he was named Auxiliary Bishop in St. Louis, Missouri, questioned the frequently stated high percentage of homosexual or "gay" clergy, saying that it was probably the same as the percentage for men in society generally, but this was simply his own conviction. (4)

A Survey

Over ten years ago I reviewed a book called Gay Priests. (5) It reported on a survey of 101 homosexual priests, over half of whom belonged to religious congregations, and who were approached through sacerdotal homosexual networks. 73% of them said that they were sexually active either frequently or occasionally. Only 12% admitted that a vow or promise of celibacy means total sexual abstinence. 59% claimed that celibacy is an ideal, not a law that must be obeyed. Not one said that homosexual activity is against the will of God.

These priests justified homosexual activity because it is "demanded" by love of others and helps to overcome stress: "There is no guilt; the Church is wrong." "I don't think I can survive as a human without a lover." Why single men and women can live their celibacy but not persons who are homosexual is a question that didn't seem to have occurred to these "gay" priests.

The priests often claimed that their homosexuality is a "gift". They do not look on chastity as a gift, however; it is a burden imposed on them not by Christ but by an uncaring Church, a "commitment to an institution rather than an individual spouse," as one put it.

They admitted that their dissenting views are passed on to their parishioners and penitents. Only 9% said that they advise the faithful to follow the teaching of the Church in sexual matters. As well, these priests are also much more troubled than other priests. They experience three times as much difficulty with loneliness, with relationships with superiors, with the value of priestly work, and with personal fulfillment; and twice as much difficulty with the teaching authority of the Church.

The purpose of the book was to advocate the acceptance of "gay" clerical sexual activity. The book insisted that "gay" priests can be good priests, even though the evidence from their own words contradicted that claim.

Fr. Paul Shaughnessy

In a lengthy article in the November 2000 issue of the The Catholic World Report, published in San Francisco, Father Paul Shaughnessy says that, "in a sociological sense, any institution that has lost the capacity to mend itself on its own initiative and by its own resources, an institution that is unable to uncover and expel its own miscreants," is corrupt. (6) Shaughnessy then accuses the episcopacy in the United States, and the majority of religious orders, of being corrupt as defined sociologically.

He mentions an example of seven priests ordained in one group; one is now openly homosexual and approves of sodomy; and three have died of AIDS; nothing pertinent is known of the other three. And he says that homosexuals boast that there are clergy nights in homosexual bars and clergy hideouts in homosexual resorts; that in certain places the diocesan apparatus is controlled entirely by homosexuals; and that they can blackmail bishops by threatening to "out" those who are homosexual.

Shaughnessy claims also that bishops have not taken leadership in dealing with the crisis. Indeed, almost always it has been the police and the media who have sounded the alarm. This has been followed by the bishops' attempt to protect themselves from critics and to hand over the problem to "experts" rather than act themselves.

According to Shaughnessy, bishops have appointed "gay" priests to minister to the "gay" and lesbian community in their diocese. They have appointed "gay" priests as vocation directors and seminary rectors. They have appointed "gay" priest therapists to counsel "gay" priests. Now that the [American] National Association of Catholic Diocesan Lesbian and Gay Ministries is pushing to have homosexuals conduct "safe school" programs, "tolerance" education, and "stop the hate" campaigns, which teach acceptance of the homosexual life-style, we find bishops and priests helping its representatives to get into Catholic schools where they teach that homosexuals are specially blessed by God, where they say that they have a commission from God to tell the Church the truth about homosexuality, and where they tell parents of homosexual and lesbian youth how blessed they are. How widespread is all this? Shaughnessy doesn't say. However, the number of court cases of sex abuse, and the fines dioceses and religious congregation s have paid and are paying, suggest that it occurs throughout the American continent.

Shaughnessy also reports that certain bishops have said that "gay" priests can do good in their Church assignment, but these bishops do not admit that, in addition to a deviant compulsion, these men suffer from immaturity, hostility, and irresponsibility, all of which lead them to sacrifice the common good to their own agenda.

How to face the crisis?

Shaughnessy offers suggestions for facing the crisis. As for Rome, he says, it should appoint a bishop, or promote a bishop, only if he has previously demonstrated leadership in attacking abuses. As for bishops, they should not admit homosexuals into the seminary; they should require homosexual priests to seek reparative therapy or else leave the priesthood; and they should encourage their priests to lead a simple life in order to avoid self-indulgence. As for laymen, they should send an encouraging note to clergy who have stood up for what is right. And they should divert contributions from scandalous organizations to good ones.

Shaughnessy thinks that, in the short term, things will get worse. Bishops don't want to admit that there is a crisis. Instead of "bishoping," they take out their anger at the message by attacking the messenger.

Fr. Paul Mankowski, S.J., has also offered a suggestion to bishops: "At the very least, bishops whose priests have confessed to sexual abuse would require... testimonials and make known to their clergy and seminarians, honest accounts by the offenders of their degradation and the cause-and-effect relationships as they understand them.

"Think of the warnings a disgraced priest could offer: 'Here is how I first went wrong; here is the bad advice I got in the seminary; here was the priest who put me on to the game; here was the cowardly pastor who looked the other way; here was the way our little clique formed; here was the way we diverted suspicion; here is the way we cut the legs out from under fellow priests who complained or who had guessed what was happening; this is how we lied to our parishioners and saw that the complainers were frozen out; this is how we rigged things at the chancery; this was the workshop that helped me rationalize my behaviour; this is the theologian who took away my faith; this is the first moral teaching I abandoned; here's how the first forfeiture led to other denials; this is the television program that I used to feed on; these are the magazines I started to read and the videos I started to rent; this was the first year I stopped saying the breviary; here I stopped saying Mass when I wasn't on rotation; here I stopped going to Confession; this is a family I cultivated as an ally; these are the stories I fed them about being the victim of hate mail and rumours; these are the bars I started to go to; here is the dirt I found on so-and-so to blackmail him into going to bat for me when I needed it.....' And so on.

"Fifty or sixty of these personal histories in circulation around rectories and seminaries would make a considerable difference in the life of the Church."(7)

Fr. Donald Cozzens

The recent American book The Changing Face of the Priesthood by Donald Cozzens, a priest rector and professor at the diocesan seminary in Cleveland, discusses in part the question of homosexual clergy. Cozzens says that very few of these clergy have been pedophiles; that is, those who abuse young people under the age of puberty (about 13-14); the vast majority of the 600 named in abuse cases were ephebophiles; that is, abusers of young men (between 13-14 and 18). 90% of clerical abuse was with boys. And typically, he says, the abusers had little or no remorse for their actions. These 600 men have cost the Church in the United States about a billion dollars injury awards, settlements, legal fees, and therapy for abused and abuser.

Dr. Judith Reisman, using 1992 statistics, has calculated that, per capita, homosexual men abuse boys fifty times as frequently as other men abuse girls.(8)

Cozzens is quite concerned about the problem which he considers a crisis, but is unsure of what to do about it even though he is a seminary rector. For that reason, we should consider a remedy that Shaughnessy recommends; that is, that no homosexual men be ordained to the priesthood.

Fr. James Martin

There have been a number of articles lately on this topic of whether they should be ordained. One is by Father James Martin, S.J., an associate editor of the Jesuit periodical America, who presented the question in September, 2000.(9) He claims to have read the available literature on the subject and also interviewed homosexual priests from across the United States.

On the one hand, he says that men with homosexual inclinations are bothered by the problem of accepting their homosexuality, which the Church says is "objectively disordered." And also that homosexual clergy are attracted to other homosexual clergy. They can form cliques which often exclude, either consciously or unconsciously, other clergy, which is a deadly thing in parishes, religious communities, or seminaries.

On the other hand, he claims that, since "gays" suffer because of their sexual attraction, they are more appreciative of the sufferings of Christ and can sympathize more readily with the marginalized in society. And he considers it an asset that they are more attracted to the fine arts and performing arts.

Another writer on the subject of the ordination of homosexual men, Fr. Cozzens mentioned above, believes that homosexual priests are sensitive and nurturing, and adds that they are gifted at preaching and at celebrating liturgy. But he agrees with Martin that they have a need to be with other homosexual clergy and often form a sub-culture in the seminary and turn off other seminarians. Besides, sexuality occupies their minds more than is the case with others, and they are always afraid of being found out, and in the seminary they have to deal with the problems of sexual attraction and jealousy.

Neither Martin nor Cozzens offers a clear answer to the question whether homosexual persons should be ordained. Martin seems to think they should be since, he says, "one can state that God has called, and is continuing to call, homosexuals to serve as priests in the Church and that the Church confirms this call through ordination. The question, then, is not whether God is calling homosexual men to the priesthood, but why. Theologically, how might one understand these 'signs of the times"'? Martin does not consider that no one can say that someone is called to the priesthood until a bishop makes a final decision.

Fr. James P.Colligan

A very decisive view about ordaining homosexual men is held by Father James P. Colligan, M.M. In the discussion of this question, he says, often "the political, social, and moral implications for other priests and for the Christian community are downplayed, denied, or ignored. The political aspect of homosexuality manifests itself in religious communities in the formation of cliques, in election of homosexual superiors, in prejudice and favoritism in appointments, in the manipulation of existing legislation to effect desired ends, in policy-making and community practices that serve homosexual preferences, and in suppression of information and open debate in and out of the organization. If the defence of homosexuality necessitates rejecting advisories from higher ecclesiastical authority, that too will be done.

"I am suggesting that even many non-"gay" homosexual priests are insecure in their male community unless and until homosexual representation has the complete sympathy of the authorities. Social traditions and Church teaching underlie this insecurity.

"I am suggesting that straight priests, even in the majority, suffer what might be termed reverse discrimination in matters of lifestyle, career, and reputation, if not something akin to sexual harassment. I would warn straight candidates away from such religious societies ....

"I am inclined to believe that we have today an inordinately high percentage of homosexuals in the priesthood, a minority who can and, I believe, do politically dominate some dioceses and religious organizations."

Father Colligan goes on to ask: "How then will the laity perceive celibates? Most likely as a group of homosexuals who, since they are attracted to men rather than to women, band together on the pretext of a supposedly sacrificial foregoing of wife, children, and erotic sexual activity, who in fact get their kicks in being together. An odd bunch that you wouldn't want your son to join....

"I pray for legislation that will exclude homosexuals from the ordained priesthood to which they have no claim as a right."(10)


Early in 2001 Michael Rose, the editor of the St. Catherine's Review in Cincinnati, announced that he was writing a book about seminarians. (11) He had conducted interviews with 75 of them and was ready to draw some conclusions, especially concerning sexual and liturgical aspects of seminaries. Concerning the sexual aspects, he asks, "What if the young man is not ready to accept homosexuality?" He answers that the situation is so bad that, if he accepts Church teaching against sodomy, "the [seminary-hired] psychologist is liable to report that the applicant has an 'unhealthy sexuality,' is 'sexually immature,' or has sexual hang-ups.' The applicant who is 'open-minded on the question of homosexuality,' on the other hand, is deemed healthy and mature with an 'integrated sexuality."'

Rose says that there is overwhelming evidence that most of the psychologists retained by dioceses are "very supportive of the homosexual lifestyle and put prospective seminarians through a very rigorous process. The orthodox seminarians get the psychological screws put to them . . . . They are told they must have counselling. Some seminarians are only accepted provisionally, and are required to remain in ongoing therapy with a psychologist throughout their seminary training . . . . For example, a seminarian who says he agrees with Church teaching on masturbation is just setting himself up for a long period of treatment."

Rose adds: "Seminarians who accept the Church's teaching on sexual morality have also been threatened by classmates and faculty who have warned them that if they did not submit to homosexuality--at least to defend the morality of homosexual acts, if not actively take part in them -- their priestly careers would be in jeopardy . . . ." Rose identifies the seminaries he is talking about, and adds that "those dioceses which have consistently promoted orthodoxy both in their parishes and in their seminaries have been affected little, if at all, by any 'vocational crisis' or shortage of priests."

The well-known Father Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R., of New York, commenting unfavourably on Cozzens' work, wrote in a letter to the editor: "I have been working full time with priests as a spiritual director and psychologist for 30 years, and it is my profound conviction that this crisis has been caused by substituting secular values and shaky psychological theories for the teaching of the Gospel and the traditions of the Catholic Church." (12)


My own opinion about admitting homosexuals to the seminary is as follows. Weighing the advantages of admittance against the disadvantages, I believe that the climate for dealing with this question is totally different from what it was, say, fifty years ago. At that time few young men with homosexual tendencies entered the priesthood, and they didn't go public about their sexual inclination. They also remained chaste.

Today, however, society's moral code has changed very much for the worse. Contraception, abortion, pornography, and homosexual activity are no longer restrained by the force of law. Homosexual activists for the most part regard these lapses as victories and advances in culture and society. They demand more; they now seek complete equality under the law. They claim that homosexual activity is perfectly normal, acceptable, even beneficial. Young men with homosexual inclinations are bound to be influenced adversely.

Besides, homosexuals have now changed the nature of several seminaries. They have also gained power in many key offices in dioceses, and their sexual bias has often resulted in biased decisions. In the general society, homosexuals have become aggressive and intolerant, and this has affected the conscious or subconscious attitudes of homosexual clergy.

There need be no general statement that homosexuals will not be admitted to the seminary. Bishops should simply not accept their applications. Perhaps bishops might be afraid that such a policy would result in more priestless parishes for them, but this would not be the case in the long run, since more non-homosexuals would be attracted to the priesthood, as Colligan points out. Even Cozzens agrees with him, saying that "the disproportionate number of homosexually oriented priests and seminarians may well be a significant factor" in the present low number of candidates for our seminaries. (13+)

Leonard Kennedy, PH.D., C.S.B., is a priest of the Congregation of St. Basil, and a retired professor of philosophy. He taught in Toronto, Windsor, and London On., Saskatoon, SK, and Houston, TX.


(1.) The Toronto Star, Jan. 31, 2000, p. A2. See also The Wanderer, Nov. 16, 2000, pp. 1, 8.

(2.) See note 9.

(3.) The Wanderer, May 31, 2001, pp. 1, 7.

(4.) Zenit (an International News Agency), June 25, 2001,

(5.) J. G. Wolf, ed., 1991. See the review in Crisis, Mar., 1991, pp. 49-50.

(6.) "The Gay Priest Problem," The Catholic World Report, Nov., 2000, pp. 52-58.

(7.) Catholic World Report, Oct., 1995, p. 48.

(8.) Lifesite, Nov. 15, 2001.

(9.) "The Church and the Homosexual Priest," America, Nov. 4, 2000, pp. 11-15.

(10.) A letter to the editor of Crisis, Jan., 1992, p. 12.

(11.) The Wanderer, Feb. 15, 2001, pp. 1, 9.

(12.) America, Dec. 2, 2000, p. 21.

(13.) The Tablet, Aug. 5, 2000, p. 1044. Fr.
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Author:Kennedy, Leonard A.
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Date:Mar 1, 2002
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