One topic too hot for the Vatican sex-abuse conference to handle

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Feb 10, 2012

At this week’s international conference on sexual abuse, held at the Gregorian University and sponsored by the Vatican, one important topic was left off the agenda.

The participants heard from Msgr. Charles Scicluna, the Vatican’s top prosecutor for sex-abuse crimes, who said that bishops must be held accountable for their handling of abuse complaints. Good.

They also heard from Msgr. Stephen Rossetti, the former director of St. Luke’s Institute (the Maryland establishment were many abusive priests were treated before returning to abuse again)—the same Msgr. Rossetti who wrote in the 1990s about “reintegrating” pedophile priests into ministry and complained that society today treats pedophiles the way less enlightened eras treated lepers. Not so good.

The conference heard emotionally powerful testimony from Marie Collins, an Irish woman who was a victim of clerical abuse. But the conference did not give equal billing to the men who accounted for about 90% of the abuse victims in the US, nor did the participants hear any discussion of why clerical molesters had such a pronounced preference for male victims.

When Blessed John Paul II summoned the leaders of the US hierarchy to Rome in 2002 for an emergency meeting on the sex-abuse scandal, the participants agreed that homosexuality was a contributing factor. Ten years later that factor is no longer even discussed. Why not?

The John Jay report concluded that homosexuality was not an important factor in the American sex-abuse scandal, using the curious explanation the priests who molested boys did not think of themselves as homosexuals. By that logic someone who drinks to excess every day, but denies that he has a problem with alcohol, should not be classified as an alcoholic. “We are identified by our behavior,” observes one professional critic of the John Jay findings--who adds, significantly, that the data contained in that report actually strongly support the argument that homosexuality was a key factor.

Still it’s a factor that has been taken off the board in official discussions. Despite the other promising aspects of the Vatican-sponsored conference, the failure to address this question is a step backward. Remember, it was the willingness to suppress uncongenial facts that got us into this mess in the first place.


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 See full bio.

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  • Posted by: thx1688 - Feb. 15, 2012 12:51 PM ET USA

    What's amazing is that it actually was mentioned then. Almost no one has any idea how prevalent homosexual orientation disorder is among the clergy, including the ranks of Bishops and Cardinals. From the homosexual prostitution ring that was uncovered in the Vatican my last year in Rome, to religious houses where I stayed that were entirely homosexual, to seminaries that were well over 50% homosexual, to the scandals of priests going to gay night clubs, the problem is just far too massive.

  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Feb. 10, 2012 5:41 PM ET USA

    Msgr Rosetti, if molesters were like lepers, we should kiss their wounds. But they are predators, and we should do what we need to in order to keep our children safe from them.