- The Washington Times - Monday, March 25, 2002

NEW YORK Many priests, theologians and other clerical sources view the sexual-abuse scandal engulfing the Catholic Church as the inevitable result of a don't-ask-don't-tell policy that let many homosexuals enter seminaries during the cultural turmoil of the last three decades.
The scandal has been framed in many media accounts as an epidemic of priestly sexual abuse in which pedophiles have victimized children.
But some Catholic officials insist that the majority of the cases reported so far involve homosexual priests and young men.
"The overwhelming majority [involve] homosexuals, but the media steers away," said the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus of the Institute on Religion and Public Life. "It is no secret that there has been a certain moral laxity and that a significant number of active homosexuals entered the priesthood in the last 20 or 30 years."
No precise studies document this widely held perception, but many informed church sources maintain that pedophilia an abnormal condition in which an adult has a carnal desire for pre-pubescent children accounts for a relatively small portion of the sexual abuse scandal.
Some church officials and Catholic intellectuals contend that the media are not reporting the story as homosexual activity in a bow to political correctness and also out of reluctance by the church to publicly take on the issue of homosexuality.
"No one can look at these statistics and not draw the conclusion that this is essentially and basically a homosexual phenomenon," said Jack Hartigan, a Catholic lawyer active in child and education issues.
Two recent Florida cases show the pattern. In one, the diocese of St. Petersburg has been accused of paying hush money over charges of sexual harassment against Bishop Robert Lynch by his former spokesman a married man with two children. In the other, an anti-racketeering lawsuit against the church accuses Palm Beach Bishop Anthony J. O'Connell of sexual misconduct with a former seminarian.
According to the lawsuit, the man was 15 at the time of the first sexual contact, which continued into adulthood.
George Weigel, author of "Witness to Hope," a biography of Pope John Paul II, called the priesthood "a homosexually oriented clergy not living celibacy the way it must be lived."
Members of the Catholic clergy cite two reasons for the rash of priestly sexual scandals: a "sex-saturated culture," and a climate of indifference to church teachings.
"There would be no scandal if people had lived by the teachings of the church and if the bishops had done their job," Father Neuhaus said.
When it came to following the church's teachings, he added, there was "a wink-and-nudge attitude" as well as a closing of the ranks among Catholic clerics.
Father Neuhaus said he does not advocate barring homosexuals from the priesthood, but emphasized that such a priest must adhere to "uncompromising" chastity.
"Every priest knows that. It's drilled into them," he said.
Over the years there has been talk in church circles of a homosexual web of alliances in the church, a "lavender Mafia" that operates out of seminaries referred to as "pink palaces." This group of priests, Mr. Weigel said, protect others who share their homosexual orientation.
A high-profile Manhattan priest who spoke on condition of anonymity said the scandal has been brewing for years.
"They called me right-wing and Attila the Hun they just refused to acknowledge the growth of the homosexual networks in the hierarchy," he said.
The most pressing question for the church is: How will it rebound from the daily revelations of sexual abuse sweeping the country?
"Getting on our knees and praying," answered Monseigneur John Woolsey, pastor of St. John the Martyr Catholic Church on Manhattan's East Side. "We've lowered the bar to the point where I think there's confusion as to what defines a Catholic."
Mr. Hartigan welcomes a proposal by Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau to amend the law so that "all religions" would be required to report sexual abuse.
"If they got a law passed that says any church official who receives a report from a reliable source about a specific child being sexually abused by a priest must convey that report to the authorities, then that law would hold up as well as protect people," Mr. Hartigan said.


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