- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 17, 2002


Many U.S. Roman Catholic priests say there is a homosexual subculture in their dioceses, religious orders or seminaries, according to a survey released yesterday.

Nineteen percent said there was "clearly" a homosexual subculture in their dioceses or religious orders, and 36 percent said there "probably" was, when responding to a mail survey of 1,279 priests conducted last year by researchers at Catholic University of America.

Asked the same question about the seminaries they attended, 15 percent said "clearly" and 26 percent "probably," Jacqueline Wenger yesterday told Catholic sociologists at a Chicago convention of the Association for the Sociology of Religion.

Miss Wenger, of Catholic University, and colleague Dean R. Hoge conducted the study for the National Federation of Priests' Councils.

The extent of homosexuality in the priesthood has become a matter of increased debate this year because of the clerical sex-abuse scandals.

Many of the abuse victims have been young males, leading some high-ranking Catholics to conclude that actively homosexual priests are an important aspect of the church's problem. Authorities have differing opinions on whether homosexuals are more likely than heterosexuals to molest children.

The questionnaire did not ask the priests whether they were homosexual.

Mr. Hoge and Miss Wenger wrote that in personal talks with 75 priests, "We heard numerous negative reports about homosexual subcultures in seminaries." One priest said he was "shocked"; another said some fellow students were "kind of predators."

The survey also asked about celibacy. Fifty-six percent said marriage should be a matter of personal choice for diocesan priests, and 52 percent said the church should welcome back priests who have resigned, whether married or single. But only 12 percent said they were likely to marry if the discipline changed.

The Secretariat for Priestly Life and Ministry at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said it had not seen the report.

Homosexuality was not specifically addressed in the policy on sexual abuse the U.S. bishops approved in June, or in the final communique from American cardinals at their April conference at the Vatican.

However, the cardinals said priests "need clearly to promote the correct moral teaching of the Church and publicly to reprimand individuals who spread dissent and groups which advance ambiguous approaches to pastoral care."

The U.S. Catholic hierarchy also is planning a review of the nation's seminaries, focusing partly on "a deeper study of the criteria of suitability of candidates to the priesthood."

Conservative Catholics contend tolerance toward homosexual priests underlies the scandals, while homosexual clergy say they have been unfairly blamed for the situation.

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls and Philadelphia's Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua are among those who said this year that men with a homosexual orientation should be kept out of the priesthood.

The Hoge-Wenger survey was mailed to 1,200 randomly selected priests in 44 dioceses, with a 71.5 percent response rate, and to 600 men in 45 religious orders, with a 70.2 percent response rate.

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