The witch hunt for gay priests

gay priests

It is not surprising that Catholics are furious about the latest sex abuse crisis.

It began, most recently, with

  • accusations of abuse and harassment against the former cardinal-archbishop of Washington, D.C., Theodore McCarrick
  • deepened with the Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing 70 years of abuse in the Commonwealth and,
  • intensified with the former Vatican nuncio to the United States Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò’s 11-page “testimony” accusing many high-ranking clerics, including Pope Francis, with covering up the crimes.

Catholics have a right to be angry at abusive clergy, at bishops who covered up their crimes and at the sclerotic clerical system that allowed the crimes and cover-ups to go unpunished for decades.

But the intensity of hate and level of anger directed at gay priests are unprecedented in my memory.

What I mean by “gay priests” is ordained priests with a homosexual orientation who are living their promises of celibacy (and in religious orders, their vows of chastity).

That it is necessary even to define the term “gay priest” points out the widespread misinformation about what has become perhaps the most incendiary topic in the current discussion.

A few commentators have even declared that the term “gay” implies that a priest must be sexually active.

As I use the term, a “gay priest” simply means an ordained priest who has a homosexual orientation.

The long-simmering rage against gay priests and the supposed “homosexual subculture” or “Lavender Mafia” has been fanned into a fire that threatens to engulf not only faithful gay priests but also, more broadly, L.G.B.T. people.

While the contempt directed at gay clergy is coming from just a handful of cardinals, bishops and priests, as well as a subset of Catholic commentators, it is as intense as it is dangerous.

“It is time to admit that there is a homosexual subculture within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church that is wreaking great devastation in the vineyard of the Lord,” wrote Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wis.

A Swiss bishop, Marian Eleganti, declared that the “networks” of gay priests in the church must be investigated before the “great purification” can begin.

A bishop in Kazakhstan, Athanasius Schneider, listing remedies for clergy abuse, began with this: “cleanse uncompromisingly the Roman Curia and the episcopate from homosexual cliques and networks.”

Cardinal Raymond Burke, the influential former archbishop of St. Louis, said, “There is a homosexual culture, not only among the clergy but even within the hierarchy, which needs to be purified at the root.”

Michael Hichborn, president of the Lepanto Institute, takes this to its inevitable conclusion, telling the Associated Press that what is needed is “a complete and thoroughgoing removal of all homosexual clergymen in the church.” Continue reading

  • Fr James Martin, SJ, is editor at large of America

News category: Analysis and Comment.

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