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This blog is maintained by the Ruth Institute. It provides a place for our Circle of Experts to express themselves. This is where the scholars, experts, students and followers of the Ruth Institute engage in constructive dialogue about the issues surrounding the Sexual Revolution. We discuss public policy, social practices, legal doctrines and much more.
Posted on: Monday, October 15, 2018
Just remember: Pray. Learn. Speak Out. Repeat.
This article was first published October 15, 2018, at NCRegister.com.
Faithful Catholics are understandably distressed over the scandalous revelations about our church. Sexual abuse of minors, sexual harassment of seminarians, cover-ups by bishops are all part of the mix, not to mention financial malfeasance for good measure. People may wonder, “What can I do about all this?”
I offer my Three and a Half-Step plan for reforming the Church.
This plan is NOT for people who have specific vocational expertise to offer. If you are a canon lawyer, investigative journalist or retired FBI investigator, I won’t presume to tell you how to do your job. My plan is for ordinary people, without such specialized knowledge.
And yes, you read it right: It is a Three and a Half-Step Plan. Here are the three full steps:
Let me explain each one in turn.
Step 1: Pray.
You better believe we need to pray. The recently revealed sexual and financial corruption is far too deep to address through natural means alone. Yes, of course, we need to use all of our skills and knowledge. But these problems have a supernatural dimension to them. Don’t be stupid: We can’t get this done on our own.
During the worldwide Rosary Coast to Coast Oct. 7, the Ruth Institute’s contribution drew more than 800 people to Lake Charles, Louisiana. In all, the Rosary Coast to Coast comprised more than 1,000 participating locations in the U.S. and an additional 57 around the world. I have no doubt that some of those people were praying for healing for our Church.
Prayer allows us to tell God we are sorry for any ways in which we have enabled or participated in the current mess. There have been many sins of commission related to the scandals within the Church. But for most of us, sins of indifference and omission are more likely the issue. Prayer also reminds us that we are the creatures and God is the Creator. We owe him everything.
When we pray, we can listen to what God wants to tell us. I have found that sometimes when I am trying to figure out what to do or not do, an answer “just comes to me,” during prayer. We can get guidance about what specific actions we should take or not take. Given the huge range of issues that deserve the attention of faithful thoughtful Catholics, receiving direction toward one or another is no small blessing.
Step 2: Learn.
I’m sure most people reading this column in the Register know roughly what is going on in the Church right now. But you may feel overwhelmed by the scope of the problems. We really need to know what we are talking about, or we will discredit ourselves and our cause.
Faithful Catholics need to be informed about the current situation. For instance, the Ruth Institute prepared this backgrounder that addresses the disproportionate number of male victims. This is a manageable amount of information to absorb.
We also need to proclaim the Church’s teachings about marriage, family and human sexuality. Be prepared to explain what the Church teaches about divorce and premarital sex and contraception. Learn about the evidence that shows the Church has been right all along: if we lived these teachings, we would have better lives.
And we would not have sex scandals involving priests preying on young men. So yes, we need to be prepared to explain what the Church teaches about homosexual activity and homosexual identity.
Step 3: Speak Out.
People inside and outside the Church need to know that faithful Catholics want transparency. We want the truth to come out. We are not interested in protecting the Church’s reputation at the expense of innocent victims.
Another advantage of speaking out is that we will embolden the clergy or Church employees who have information about abuse and cover-up but who have been afraid to speak up. We will comfort the victims, some of whom have been seeking justice for years.
Speaking out could include: signing a petition, sharing information on social media, writing to people in authority, including bishops, priest, or governors or congresspeople. Speaking out could also include talking with your friends and neighbors. Whatever you do, keep in mind these two points that we absolutely must convey:
Step 3½: Repeat!
I count it as a “half-step” because you don’t really have anything extra to remember.
I’m dead serious about this. The “Repeat” step is very important. Let’s say you’ve done one round of Pray, Learn, Speak Out. I absolutely promise you: You will not get it all correct and complete on the first pass! You might stumble on your words. Someone might ask you a question you can’t answer. Maybe you make a mistake. Maybe someone gets mad at you. Maybe you get mad.
Your next move is the crucial move: You MUST NOT QUIT!!!!
Go back to Step 1 and Pray. “Lord, what did that person really want to know? What were they thinking? What was I thinking?” Or, if everything went well, you could say, “Thank you, Jesus! That was fun! What do you want me to do next!?”
I’ve been preaching Church teaching since roughly 2001. Trust me on this. You are going to make mistakes. The only way to improve is to keep reflecting on your encounters with people. You might as well do your reflecting in front of the Blessed Sacrament or with a Rosary in your hand.
Repeat the “Learn” step. Go ask someone for advice. Look up the answers on the internet. We’ve got a bunch of stuff (and I do mean a BIG bunch of stuff) at the Ruth Institute website.
And then, by all means, Speak Out again. You will improve. And you will make a difference.
Just remember: Pray. Learn. Speak Out. Repeat.
Together we can reform our beloved Church.
Posted on: Monday, September 24, 2018
by Jennifer Roback Morse
This article was first published August 28, 2018, at Crisis Magazine.
The clergy sex abuse and cover-up stories have created a linguistic challenge for faithful Catholics. Over 80 percent of these clergy abuse cases involve predatory sexual activity between adult men and younger men in less powerful positions. Some Catholic commentators refer to these cases as “gay” to distinguish them from “pedophilia.” Their intention is sound: the “pedophilia” label has frequently been a way to deflect attention away from abusive homosexual conduct. I, however, maintain that we should avoid the word “gay,” and even the word “homosexual.” Former Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò’s bombshell revelations about sexual abuse and the network of cover-ups raises the stakes. We really must get the terminology right.
[Photo: Pope Francis with Cardinal McCarrick, Vatican Media]
Daniel Mattson wrote an important book, “Why I Don’t Call Myself Gay.” He outlines the philosophical, theological, and pastoral problems with the “gay” label. I add to Mattson’ arguments an additional consideration. “Gay” is a losing term for us.
At this moment in history, the word “gay” is loaded with positive associations. The word “gay” means young, fashionable, intelligent, and witty. “Gay” might also mean a weak, victimized, innocent waif, so psychologically vulnerable he might commit suicide. This perception is so prevalent that health care professionals are not supposed to even mention the health risks of “gay sex.”
Speaking of “gay sex,” what exactly do gay men do together? The images we have been presented suggest that all they do is hold hands, cuddle, and kiss. We never imagine “gay sex” to include rectal bleeding or intense pain or rectal incontinence or adult diapers.
In this respect, the “gay” image resembles the other sanitized images created around the Sexual Revolution. No-fault divorce involves two sensible mature people mutually deciding to “move on.” Children of divorce always “get over it.” No woman ever regrets her abortion. And so on.
All these claims are false.
When today’s mainstream journalists hear the word “gay,” they might picture a confused but basically innocent teenager. They might picture this teenager being bullied by classmates or scolded by adults. These benign associations with the word “gay” have been carefully crafted over decades. In fact, this is one place where the word “gay” properly applies. We can accurately describe the people who created these images, as the Gay Marketing Men.
I believe this explains the reluctance of many in the media to address the clergy sex abuse story as forcefully as a story about men preying on women victims. The terms “predator” or “domination” or “exploitation” do not register in connection with “gay.” In the average journalist’s minds, these words are associated with “toxic masculinity” or “conservative Christian.”
Catholic friends, we are not going to be able to dislodge these slanted images, no matter how loudly we yell about it. The protective moat around “gay” is too wide and deep. The Gay Marketing Men have spent millions of dollars and countless hours fashioning this picture and securing it firmly in the public mind.
Some Catholic commentators use the word “homosexual” in an effort to sidestep the term “gay.” I don’t think this strategy avoids the problem. Historically, the term “homosexual” was invented in the nineteenth century to “medicalize” what had previously been considered a moral or behavioral issue. Medicalizing behavior doesn’t help our cause. Besides, the word “homosexual” without qualifiers doesn’t buy us much help from the general public. It just makes us look out of date, like people who still use the word “Negro.”
Does that mean we throw up our hands and give up? Certainly not. I propose a different approach that gives us a better chance of success.
Instead of the word “gay,” use the most descriptively accurate phrase possible in the context of what you are trying to say. Instead of “gay sex scandal,” try this: “male on male sexual predation.” Sometimes, the most appropriate strategy is to use a long, clunky, but highly descriptive phrase like, “a powerful man with deep-seated attractions to males used his position of power to exploit younger men under his authority.” No one could conceivably confuse this word-picture with the teenaged boy who may have feelings he doesn’t understand.
In some cases, “pederasty” could be a good term to use. The Gay Marketing Men have not sanitized this term, and “pederasty” is distinct from pedophilia. (A “pederast” is a man who wants and has sex with adolescent boys. I had to look it up.)
The term “same-sex attraction” proposed by members of Courage, is a particular instance of the general policy I am suggesting. Dan Mattson and David Prosen and others argue that the gay identity is an inaccurate, self-limiting description. These men reject the term “gay” to eliminate a ton of philosophical and theological baggage.
The current torrent of embarrassing sex scandals is actually providential for the long-run health of the Body of Christ. We have the chance to offer authentic Catholic witness of authentic Catholic teaching to a desperate world. To succeed, though, we must be careful with our language. We can’t say or imply, “All gay men are predators,” because it isn’t true. At the same time, we cannot let anyone else say or imply, “All gay men are innocent lambs,” because that is not true either. And we will need at least some help from journalists who don’t necessarily share all of our views.
We can restate Archbishop Viganò’s explosive revelations without ever using the words “gay” or even “homosexual.”
“Men who do not agree with the teachings of the Catholic Church, nevertheless swore allegiance to the Church, and accepted positions of power, authority, wealth, and influence. They used those positions to indulge themselves sexually, to favor their friends, and to advance their careers. Among their preferred forms of sexual indulgence were the abuse of little boys, the seduction of teenaged-boys and the harassment of young adult male subordinates.”
No one will ever mistake this description for an appealing kid on a TV sitcom. No one would dream of saying these perpetrators were “born that way.”
When we use the word “gay,” we are doing battle on the field chosen by our opponents. By contrast, when we use other terms, we give our listeners a chance to think about what we are saying, without all the noise associated with the terms “gay” or “homosexual.”
“Gay” is a political word, a marketing word, a propaganda word. We don’t need to use it. So let’s quit using it.
Posted on: Saturday, August 11, 2018
Fr. Paul Sullins, Ph.D., Research Associate of the Ruth Institute, Answers Questions on The Clerical Sex Abuse Scandal
Is the current Catholic sex abuse scandal related to homosexuality?
Yes. The current scandal includes mostly revelations about male on male sexual abuse of seminarians, where the victims are adults. These kinds of cases were not even considered in the responses to the 2002 scandal, which was about the criminal abuse of minors.
Was the 2002 scandal also related to homosexuality?
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops commissioned two reports, one in 2004 and in 2011, by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice to study the reported cases of clerical sex abuse from 1950 through 2002 and 2010 respectively. Both reports found that over 80% of the victims were neither girls, nor pre-pubescent children (true pedophilia), but pre-teen and teenage boys. These results clearly indicate that the problem was male on male predation by priests against under-aged boys.
Is there a “homosexual subculture” which exists within certain Catholic institutions?
Yes. In a 2002 survey of a national sample of 1,852 Catholic priests by the Los Angeles Times, 44% responded "yes" when asked if there was a "homosexual subculture in your diocese or religious institute". To the question, “In the seminary you attended, was there a homosexual subculture at the time?” 53% of recently-ordained priests responded “Yes” (reported in Hoge and Wenger, Evolving Visions of the Priesthood, p. 102. Their own concurrent survey yielded 55% “Yes” to the identical question.)
Books by former seminary rector Donald Cozzens and psychologist Richard Sipe have described how such subcultures encourage and cover up sexual misconduct. Predatory priests and superiors can abuse the confessional by grooming victims who confess sexual temptations. Grossly immature priests are clueless about the extent of the harm they are causing. Cozzens, who writes from firsthand experience, relates that sexually active homosocial groups were at times so dominant that heterosexual men felt that they did not fit in, and left the seminary.
How has this “subculture” contributed to patterns of abuse within the Church?
Sipe chronicles, from mental health records and public court documents, a culture of denial and cover-up by confessors, spiritual directors, faculty, and senior clerics. Sipes wrote presciently in 2011 about what he called the “Cardinal McCarrick Syndrome.” Powerful clerics, including bishops, escaped exposure and penalty even though everyone knew about their predatory behavior and abuse of power. The sense of entitlement shown by senior clerics to seminarians eerily parallels the situation of Hollywood executives to young actresses and actors.
Pictured: Father McCarrick and James in the 1970s. From the New York Times article.
Do these findings suggest that the time has come for the Church to relax its teaching on homosexual activity?
Actually, the exact opposite is true. These findings do not contradict Catholic teaching. The Church holds that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered”, which means they are inherently incapable of fulfilling the purpose of human sex relations, like blindness is inherently incapable of fulfilling the purpose of sight. Further, homosexual acts actively interfere with godliness and human well-being. Though individuals can achieve Christian maturity through chastity, self-denial, and self-control, a homosexual inclination is not a recommendation for Church leadership. In fact, since 2005 Catholic norms have formally prohibited any known homosexual man from being ordained. Honestly, applying these norms consistently would have avoided a tremendous number of problems.
Isn’t it rank hypocrisy on the part of the Catholic Church, which seems to be dominated by homosexually active men, to continue to condemn homosexual practice?
Someone once said, “Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue.” The failure to live up to the teachings does not prove anything one way or the other about the value of those teachings.
Is allowing priests to marry a potential solution to this problem?
Celibacy is not a scapegoat, and married priests are not a panacea. In my research on married priests, I found that married priests are statistically no less likely to engage in minor sex abuse as are celibate priests. At this point, we need to focus on removing abusers and enablers from positions of power. We can talk about other issues such as the discipline of celibacy once we’ve solved this problem.
The Ruth Institute believes the facts show that:
About Fr. Sullins-- The Rev. D. Paul Sullins, Ph.D., is a Senior Research Associate of the Ruth Institute. He recently retired as Professor of Sociology at the Catholic University of America, Washington DC. Dr. Sullins is a leader in the field of research on same-sex parenting and its implications for child development. He has written four books, including Keeping the Vow: The Untold Story of Married Catholic Priests, and over 100 journal articles, research reports, and essays on issues of family, faith, and culture.
He was ordained by Cardinal McCarrick in 2002, during the height of the sex abuse crisis of that year. Fr. Sullins feels a profound sense of personal disappointment and betrayal, along with a desire to see holiness and trust restored in our hierarchy.
For interviews with Fr. Sullins, or Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D. Founder and President of the Ruth Institute, please email Elizabeth Johnson at media (at) ruthinstitute dot org.
Posted on: Thursday, August 02, 2018
People are outraged about the revelations of Cardinal McCarrick’s lifetime of sexual abuse of minors and seminarians and are proposing ideas for reform. For now, we're focusing on the most important thing: the suffering of a little boy.
James was 11 when Fr. McCarrick began abusing him. James asked for help, but no one believed him. He began acting out, got into drinking, drugs, and trouble with the law. People were even less inclined to believe him against the word of a priest. All this compounded the trauma.
After Cardinal McCarrick’s other crimes were exposed, James told his story to the New York Times and to journalist Rod Dreher.
This message is for James, wherever he may be. We want to tell him that people care about what happened to him. The people who covered for Fr. McCarrick or looked the other way, were wrong. When someone tells us about abusive situations, we pledge to listen, take them seriously, and do what’s needed to help.
Your signature will show James, and other victims of sexual abuse, that you care.
Pictured is Fr. McCarrick with James in the 1970s. This photo was published in the New York Times.
James' interview with Rod Dreher is here: