Gays and Clerical Abuse

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It’s all over the media except in the gay press. As if we are afraid that if we mention it the shit will hit the fan. “It’s those gay priests!” No, it is a few sick individuals who have used their positions of trust as clergy to abuse children.

Here in Wisconsin the news focuses on a priest who abused deaf children over a 25-year period from the 1950s into the 1970s. Why didn’t the local Church authorities alert the police? Why did they cover up the scandal? How many more cases of child abuse are still hidden in secret reports to the Vatican?

The answers to these questions are not as simple as one might expect. Yes, the Church wanted to protect itself from scandal.

And, yes, it was also defending its right to try “criminous clerks” under Canon Law in Church courts. You remember the conflict between Henry Plantagenet and Beckett? The king caved then and the Church is asserting the same rights today in these cased of clerical abuse of children.

But that does not mean that the intention was to ignore the problem or to let guilty men continue to prey on innocent victims.

Forty years ago very little was known about pedophilia. It was considered a moral defect that could be treated therapeutically and that sexual urges could be controlled by discipline and prayer. The Church had the histories of hundreds of its saints who had conquered their private demons through these methods to prove their validity.

Locally, when a man confessed to his superior that he had abused a child he was sent to a Church-affiliated treatment center, the equivalent of our popular rehab clinics today. If the treatment facility certified that the man had completed his treatment and the prognosis was good and that he would not abuse again, he was returned to parish work. The intentions were good given what was known at the time.

That was the standard operating procedure. The case of Father Murphy is egregious in the number of his victims and in the way complaints were treated as they worked their way through the Church hierarchy. Pope Benedict XVI has not explained why he ignored Archbishop Weakland’s letters urging the pope to defrock the priest. In his autobiography, Weakland says that he did not have a good relationship with Rome during those years. Perhaps the Vatican simply ignored correspondence from Milwaukee. Whatever, this scandal mutated in the darkness and other perverts were able to hide behind their clerical vows and garb.

What is this to us, to LGBTs today? We must condemn all child abuse and disavow pedophile groups such as the North American Man Boy Love Association.

We must affirm that sexual orientation, whether homosexual or heterosexual, is attraction by adults toward other adults. Let there be zero tolerance for those who indulge their pedophile inclination in either in deeds or through pornography. If we come out strongly and assert these values we will make considerable progress in convincing heterosexuals that we are indeed all members of the same community.

Bea Green
Milwaukee