Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

A Smart Move: The Pope appoints a Jesuit to prosecute sex abuse

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Sep 10, 2014

The decision of Pope Francis to appoint an American Jesuit to spearhead the Church’s prosecution of clerical sex abuse cases is very likely also a shot across the bows of the Society of Jesus itself. It is an excellent way to buttress forces of renewal within the Jesuits by utilizing one of their number in what we may describe, with extreme understatement, as an internally sensitive role.

The Society of Jesus is, unfortunately, known for defending homosexuality, including the admission of gay men to the priesthood, despite the Church’s 2005 ban on this practice (see the instruction from the Congregation for Catholic Education, On Priesthood and Those with Homosexual Tendencies). The anecdotal evidence is overwhelming for a lavender mafia in Jesuit seminaries, and a search of our news archives will bring up numerous reports of Jesuit universities working very hard to make their campuses gay-friendly.

The Jesuit magazine America has led the fight against barring seminarians with marked homosexual tendencies from ordination. In 2002, America attempted to forestall any such restrictions by, among other things, making the absurd claim that the sexual abuse crisis was unrelated to homosexuality. Five years after the ban, America published a protracted argument by a Jesuit priest that for a Church which relies heavily on gay priests, it shows “cognitive dissonance” to attempt to keep more such men from being ordained.

This problem is so obvious that every Catholic observer knows that both active homosexuality and the not-so-subtle defense of active homosexuality are significant characteristics of the Society of Jesus in our time.

Given all this, it is impossible to pretend that it was not a calculated move for the Pope to select Robert Geisinger, SJ for the Church’s top role in combatting clerical sex abuse. It seems likely that he wants to promote a member of the Order who is willing to do this as both a rebuke and an example to other Jesuits. For those in denial, this may not be enough. Nonetheless, allowing for a Church that moves very slowly, we may consider this to be some very deliberate writing on the wall.

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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Show 12 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: james-w-anderson8230 - Mar. 28, 2017 8:58 PM ET USA

    And Cardinal O’Malley was one of those who championed "Zero Tolerance" and "One Accusation and YOU are OUT." If this is all he does, no wonder most other Bishops do nothing.

  • Posted by: dfp3234574 - Mar. 27, 2017 7:52 PM ET USA

    Phil, how about providing some *specific* examples of what you see as wrongdoing by bishops and then telling us how you think they should be "held accountable" under Church law?

  • Posted by: nix898049 - Mar. 27, 2017 1:58 PM ET USA

    This Cardinal has always stuck me as so low-key as to be practically comatose. Nothing gets a rise out of him. Maybe that's why he was selected for this position. The PCPM is on autopilot.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Mar. 27, 2017 12:31 PM ET USA

    "We have to pass the bill before we can read it and know what is in it." Said by a prominent Catholic politician.

  • Posted by: shrink - Mar. 27, 2017 11:50 AM ET USA

    Another shining example from the Alfred E. Neuman School of bishop accountability. Its motto: What! Me worry? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  • Posted by: garedawg - Sep. 15, 2014 1:33 PM ET USA

    Ha, ha, regarding mothers: Yes, my Mom often simply said, "Because I said so!". But looking back, I can see that she could be very subtle as well, as subtle as the most wily of Jesuits.

  • Posted by: Contrary1995 - Sep. 12, 2014 2:09 PM ET USA

    You are unfortunately reading way too much into the appointment: would that you were right!

  • Posted by: Defender - Sep. 10, 2014 4:36 PM ET USA

    Reminding myself that our pope is not Clement XIV and another “Dominus ac Redemptor” would be too much to ask from this pope, too, does, however, beg the questions, “Why does this pope put up with this? Can’t he clean up his condo (the Jesuits) and his house (the Church at large) of homosexuals? Or are we to have more, ‘Who am I to judge’ while the family suffers as the media holds homosexuality up as something to be applauded and our prelates now either actively or passively agree?”

  • Posted by: - Sep. 10, 2014 3:32 PM ET USA

    You are suggesting that the pope has as much authority as a lame-duck president, that he has to scheme politically and fool people to get what he wants. He should take his own counsel. Today he spoke of the Church as mother. Mothers don't scheme when dealing with their children, they simply do what is right, and if their children ask why, the answer is both simple and authoritative: because I'm your mother and I said so. Mothers always go to the mat, something Dolan needs to learn, too.

  • Posted by: Deo Vindice - Sep. 10, 2014 1:55 PM ET USA

    I do not agree with this appointment. As you stated Jeff "The Society of Jesus is, unfortunately, known for defending homosexuality". We have now placed the wolf in sheeps clothing and placed him among the sheep.

  • Posted by: Jeff Mirus - Sep. 10, 2014 12:38 PM ET USA

    Shrink is likely right that this appointment is largely symbolic, but then that was my point. I do regard homosexuality in the priesthood and clerical sexual abuse as inextricably linked, though it is true that Jesuits and others have had a vested interest in denying it. For more than writing on the wall, however, we'd have to proceed to the step of identifying as many abusers as possible in the Society of Jesus, and laicizing them. There also needs to be consistent punishment for superiors who aid and abet abusers; I'd laicize them, too. This is pretty obviously a close-knit affair, and I use the word advisedly. But one small step at a time, I fear.

  • Posted by: shrink - Sep. 10, 2014 11:55 AM ET USA

    Jeff, you're mixing apples and oranges. The pederasty crisis is only one facet of the MUCH larger problem of homosexual clergy. Fr Geisinger is not directed to address the problem of homosexual clergy, but only homosexual predation. I think this appointment is symbolic only. It will have no practical effect on the problem of homosexual clergy. It will have little effect on predation—for reasons too long to discuss here.