The McCarrick scandal & the gay lobby: a problem the bishops won’t address

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Jul 06, 2018

The news that Cardinal McCarrick has been credibly accused of molesting a young man—and the subsequent revelations that “everybody knew” about the cardinal’s homosexual activities—have raised new and important questions about the silence of other American bishops. What did they know, and when did they know it? How did the cardinal advance through the ecclesiastical ranks, even after complaints had been received in the dioceses where he served?

These are not new questions. In fact our sometime contributor Diogenes asked them—and pointed to the obvious answer—in a post that appeared on this site over 13 years ago. His argument was powerful in 2005, and although some of his references will now seem dated, nothing that has happened in the intervening years affects the essential force of that argument.

Herewith the thoughts of Diogenes, from June 16, 2005:

The Washington Times reports that “the U.S. Catholic bishops will sidestep the issue of whether gay men should become priests at their semiannual meeting,” which began today at the Chicago Fairmont.

And why, boys and girls, was it a foregone conclusion that the bishops would “sidestep” the issue? Because the question of whether gays should be ordained cannot be addressed without first addressing a considerably more explosive question: the number of bishop-disputants who are themselves gay and have a profound personal interest that there be no public examination of the connections between their sexual appetites, their convictions, and their conduct of office.

Let’s do a little stock-taking of those U.S. bishops who are publicly known to be gay:
  • Retired Bishop Dan Ryan of Springfield, IL. Did he tell us he was gay? No. Did his brother bishops tell us he was gay? No. Then how did we find out? Through the offices of the civil justice system.
  • Retired Bishop Tom Dupre of Springfield, MA. Did he tell us he was gay? No. Did his brother bishops tell us he was gay? No. Then how did we find out? Through the offices of the civil justice system.
  • Retired Bishop Patrick Ziemann of Santa Rosa, CA. Did he tell us he was gay? No. Did his brother bishops tell us he was gay? No. Then how did we find out? Through the offices of the civil justice system.
  • Retired Bishop Kendrick Williams of Lexington, KY. Did he tell us he was gay? No. Did his brother bishops tell us he was gay? No. Then how did we find out? Through the offices of the civil justice system.
  • Retired Bishop Keith Symons of Palm Beach, FL. Did he tell us he was gay? No. Did his brother bishops tell us he was gay? No. Then how did we find out? Through the offices of the civil justice system.
  • Retired Bishop Lawrence Soens of Sioux City, IA. Did he tell us he was gay? No. Did his brother bishops tell us he was gay? No. Then how did we find out? Through the offices of the civil justice system.
  • Retired Bishop Joseph Hart of Cheyenne, WY. Did he tell us he was gay? No. Did his brother bishops tell us he was gay? No. Then how did we find out? Through the offices of the civil justice system.
  • Retired Bishop Anthony O’Connell of Palm Beach, FL. Did he tell us he was gay? No. Did his brother bishops tell us he was gay? No. Then how did we find out? Through the offices of the civil justice system.
  • Non-Retired Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, FL. Did he tell us he was gay? No. Did his brother bishops tell us he was gay? No. Then how did we find out? The papers reported his $100,000 sexual harassment pay-off to his communications flack. .
  • Retired Archbishop Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee, WI. Did he tell us he was gay? No. Did his brother bishops tell us he was gay? No. Then how did we find out? His lover broke the news on Good Morning America.
Nota bene: this isn’t a roster of gay bishops. This isn’t even a roster of gay bishops who have misbehaved. This is list of only those gay bishops whose misbehavior has gotten them in trouble with the law—and that so deeply that their proclivities were objectively undeniable. What percentage of the total of gay bishops do they represent? I don’t know and you don’t know. And about the only things we do know are:
  1. the bishops won’t be up front with us about names or numbers;
  2. their clandestine gay brethren are voting, caucusing, doing committee work, legislating, cutting deals, and deciding (among other things) whether gays should be admitted to the seminaries;
  3. all bishops, gay and not, will maintain in public that there is no reason to believe a gay bishop would use his vote—on this or any issue—in any way other than to advance the good of the universal Church. The abuse scandal has already cost the U.S. Church $1 billion, as well as immeasurable spiritual harms, predicated on the grotesquely perverse intuition that personal sexual anarchy can co-exist in a truce with priestly life. The fact that the obvious reckoning can still be “sidestepped” tells us all we need to know about the episcopal will for reform.

Say hello to the future, folks.

That was the prediction of Diogenes in 2005. To be fair, the long-overdue exposure of Cardinal McCarrick was not brought about by the civil-justice system. It was the result of an investigation by a review board, acting on authorization from the Holy See. But neither was it disclosed by the bishops of those dioceses that had previously received complaints. So after all these years, you might count this story as a small, hesitant, partial step forward toward a goal that should have been obvious to everyone fifteen years ago: holding bishops accountable.

Since the sex-abuse scandal exploded, our bishops have frequently spoken about the need to re-establish trust. But they still haven’t given us reason to trust them.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

Sound Off! CatholicCulture.org supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 10 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: jan02 - Jul. 29, 2018 9:07 PM ET USA

    @polish.pinecone: 1) I am not a "fella" and 2) I am aware that SSPX is not in full union with the Catholic Church and 3) that the Eastern Orthodox Churches are not in union with the Catholic Church. I do believe that pride caused division in the one Church Christ Christ founded, and only humility, willingness to address injustice on both sides and forgiveness by leaders of the Church and lay people, on both sides, through the grace of God, will bring about reunification.

  • Posted by: polish.pinecone4371 - Jul. 11, 2018 8:02 AM ET USA

    @Monserrat: Not sure why that's a temptation. Sin is everywhere. Sinful people are everywhere. Christ established only one Church -- running off to the Lefebvrites or the Orthodox only increases sin, and adds to you the sins of division and apostasy. The Catholic Church is THE refuge for sinners, including 'gay' clergy. It may seem as if her Lord is sleeping during the storm, but He rebukes us for our fear that He will let His Church drown: “Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?"

  • Posted by: nix898049 - Jul. 10, 2018 9:11 PM ET USA

    What have they given us? VIRTUS training. As if the laity is the problem. I hope uncle Ted is the first of many whose rock will be overturned until there's no place left to hide.

  • Posted by: Jim.K - Jul. 10, 2018 7:05 PM ET USA

    Monserrat & jan02. You fellows both missed the mark. Please let me help you and others who may have read your texts. Eastern Orthodoxy is NOT part of the Catholic Church but there are Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church that are available to you. Same for the SSPX! Currently NOT in good standing with Rome, but the FSSP (Fraternity of St. Peter) is fully in union and an active part of our One, True Church. Please look into these options before you unknowingly leave the Church.

  • Posted by: john.n.akiko7522 - Jul. 10, 2018 7:00 PM ET USA

    I miss Diogenes!

  • Posted by: jan02 - Jul. 10, 2018 4:40 AM ET USA

    @ Monserrat: I have thought in similar ways, but Eastern Orthodoxy has this problem, too, and I'm willing to bet so does the SSPX :See: https://oca.org/parish-ministry/parishdevelopment/when-the-unspeakable-happens and also http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/abuse-in-orthodoxy/ I have come to believe that though I am a miserable sinner my job is to practice faithfulness to God within the Catholic Church with His grace as many lay persons, priests and Bishops continue to do.

  • Posted by: Monserrat - Jul. 09, 2018 11:19 AM ET USA

    Such overwhelming evidence that this horrible scandal continues unabated leads one to seriously consider joining the SSPX wing of the Church or even embracing eastern orthodoxy, especially with Francis at the helm. It is very, very tempting.

  • Posted by: jan02 - Jul. 08, 2018 5:05 AM ET USA

    "But this tragedy is not fundamentally about sex. It is about the abysmal and treacherous abuse of power --- ecclesiastical power, church power, power that has been given by the Creator only to do good but power that has been selfishly perverted by those to whom it has been entrusted and which has brought some of the most despicable harm imaginable to the most innocent and vulnerable members of Christ's Church..." http://www.awrsipe.com/Doyle/2012/Santa%20Clara%20-%20May%2015,%202012c[5].pdf

  • Posted by: bkmajer3729 - Jul. 07, 2018 12:49 PM ET USA

    Here's the thing: if it is a mortal sin to act on homosexual or child sex abuse temptations and these men are well formed, intellectually, in the Catholic tradition - they are hypocrites and liars. The fact they are not more forthcoming lends credence the problem is deeper than we know. Hmmm, mortal sin. Not my place to judge or suggest condemnation by God. But in this life, we have a duty to protect the innocent and the faith. Get 'em out and give us back Christ's Church.

  • Posted by: feedback - Jul. 07, 2018 11:18 AM ET USA

    Each candidate to the priesthood in the US is being asked about his sexual orientation by the vocations director, then by a psychologist, and then by the admission board. The exact numbers of homosexually oriented seminarians (and priests) are known to every seminary rector, and to every diocesan Bishop, although they are never disclosed to the Catholic faithful. News reports of abuse hide the victims' sex, or use terms "pedophilia" and "children" to describe any victim under the age of consent.