Catholic Culture Resources
Catholic Culture Resources

The Mindset of Priestly Sexual Abuse

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | May 12, 2010

A few weeks ago, when it became known that he had abused a boy (his nephew) in the 1980’s, Bishop Roger Vangheluwe of Bruges resigned. Since then 270 new allegations of abuse have been made before a Belgian commission investigating sexual abuse by clerics. It is important to note that 90% of these cases involve same-sex abuse, that is, abuse of a homosexual nature. This mirrors the experience in the United States, in which 80% of abuse allegations are homosexual in character.

It will do no good to object to the term “homosexual” in this context. First, same-sex is same-sex regardless of age, and second, the overwhelming majority of all these cases involve adolescent boys, not little kids (and even the littlest kids do have a sexual identity). Moreover, it is now a widely-acknowledged fact of American seminary life (and, though I’m guessing here, presumably seminary life in some European countries) that in many places there were what are frequently called “lavender mafias” operating during the 1970’s, 1980’s and beyond. There was a marked effort to screen out candidates who expressed deep concern about homosexuality as being somehow “homophobic”. Gay candidates were often encouraged, and gay circles developed involving both professors and seminarians, circles which took care of their own. Such value shifts were part and parcel of the secularist/Modernist invasion of Catholic intellectual life which spread especially rapidly following the widespread cultural implosion of the 1960's.

We also know from two visitations of American seminaries over the past thirty years that religious houses of formation were more apt to be in the hands of these lavender mafias than diocesan seminaries, and it also seems clear that the problem is more acute in some religious communities today. For example, some Jesuit leaders have made no bones about their resistance to Rome’s instructions regarding the non-admission of homosexual candidates for priestly ordination; the Order has also provided, in some provinces, object lessons in the cover-up of sexual abuse. Reliable documentation of these problems is understandably difficult to find, but there has been enough anecdotal evidence over the years on homosexuality in seminaries and religious communities to start a library.

A very large number of homosexual males are attracted to boys. This has been a common feature of the homosexual inclination from at least the time of the ancient Greeks onward, and it is given modern voice, among other places, in the North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA). Moreover, we know from both Church teaching and the natural law that homosexual attraction is a fundamentally disordered state. It is reasonable to assume that those who are in denial about this, as our culture so clearly encourages all homosexuals to be, would also be more likely to cross the line of what is currently socially acceptable in acting out their desires. In contrast, those who are not in denial have, by that very fact, an opportunity to bear the cross of same-sex attraction as a unique participation in the suffering of Christ which can bear immense spiritual fruit.

It is of vital importance to speak honestly about these matters. Sexual abuse throughout all of society is a far larger topic than the abuse of boys by priests, but this particular kind of abuse cannot be addressed effectively if we are in denial about its homosexual roots. A refusal to face the temptation of homosexuality squarely—as with any aberrant sexuality—engenders the mindset out of which abuse grows.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Jeff Mirus - May. 18, 2010 11:38 AM ET USA

    As far as sources, a good place to start is York and Knight's Homosexual Behavior and Pedophilia, where you'll learn of the international effort by homosexuals to lower or eliminate age of consent laws, and that while homosexuals constitute 2% of the population, they account for one-third of all child abuse.

  • Posted by: klimczak368471 - May. 17, 2010 7:27 PM ET USA

    Raymond: You are contesting the statement, so cite your sources.

  • Posted by: John J Plick - May. 16, 2010 3:08 PM ET USA

    To be compassionate without condemnation and/or denial of the problem is to embrace a state of suffering. St. Padre Pio pray for us!

  • Posted by: koinonia - May. 14, 2010 12:45 PM ET USA

    Great first sentence in conclusion. We have been forced to speak the truth, and it has been painful to us, to our cohorts, and to those in authority. The Pope has identified evil within. "Fair is foul and foul is fair..." Like the scene in Macbeth, things have been turned upside down. Homosexuality and incest among the princes of the Church! God bless Pope Benedict- he has a shamefully messy house to clean. Oh by the way, an $18 million settlement in New England announced yesterday...

  • Posted by: - May. 13, 2010 8:49 PM ET USA

    Please cite your sources when you are writing your articles. To say that a large number of homosexuals are attracted to boys and not cite the source of your information is intellectually dishonest. And to not print a criticism like this is also lacking in honesty and candidness.

  • Posted by: - May. 13, 2010 5:35 PM ET USA

    Well written, Jeff! While sexual abuse throughout all of society is a far larger topic than the abuse of boys by priests, priests and religious and their organizations should strive for obedience, and purity. Same-sex attraction doesn't fit into that equation, and homosexuals do not belong in Catholic clergy!

  • Posted by: sparch - May. 13, 2010 10:10 AM ET USA

    Am I homophobic? Yes, if it means fearing the destruction the homosexual element in the Church has inflicted on our Church. Let's call it what it is, primarily a homosexual problem in the priesthood (and seminaries). It will not stop until the bishops throw away their "expert" findings and identify the problem to alter conditions. We can not be afraid of what the media says of us. We need to correct the problem boldly!

  • Posted by: - May. 12, 2010 8:30 PM ET USA

    Yes, until we can openly state the truth about the obvious--that sex between males is homosexual by definition--there is no hope for us. We cannot lie our way into health.