According to the antigay Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, the incidence of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests has been exaggerated by the media, and the abuse that has occurred should be blamed on gays in the priesthood.
The Catholic League makes these claims in a full-page ad in Monday’s New York Times. Signed by Catholic League president Bill Donohue (pictured), the ad cites a study indicating most of the victims of sexual abuse were adolescents, not younger children, and therefore with male-on-male incidents, “the issue is homosexuality, not pedophilia.”
Donohue quotes psychiatrist Paul McHugh as saying, “This behavior was homosexual predation on American Catholic youth, yet it’s not being discussed.” (McHugh, a retired Johns Hopkins University professor, has previously stated that he does not believe in a gay gene and that acceptance of gay people is “part and parcel of the pandemonium that the permissive movement has brought.”)
The Catholic League’s ad also contends that there is no sexual abuse crisis in the church, saying many of the accusations are not credible and that most of them are decades old, dating from “the heyday of the sexual revolution, from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s.” Donohue says some of the reports of abuse have surfaced because of “the unseemly practice of attorneys searching for new ‘victims’ in bars and prisons.”
Pro-gay Catholic groups responded strongly to the ad. “There are so many problems with what Mr. Donohue is saying,” DignityUSA executive director Marianne Duddy-Burke tells The Advocate. For one thing, she says, contrary to the figures he cites, half of the victims of abuse are female, according to the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. She adds, “He avoids what is in many ways the larger sin — the cover-up and enabling of abuse” by the church hierarchy. Also, she says, while it would be wonderful if abuse were no longer occurring, it sometimes takes so long for victims to gather the courage to come forward, there is no way of knowing that. Phil Attey, executive director of Catholics for Equality, notes that “all of the arguments we see in this ad are scapegoating attempts.”
Donohue concludes by blaming the public perception of a crisis on bias against the Catholic Church. “If its teachings were pro-abortion, pro–gay marriage and pro–women clergy, the dogs would have been called off years ago,” he writes. Duddy-Burke responds, “That is a tremendous insult to everyone who has suffered abuse by people acting in the name of God.”
Adds Attey: “We’re disappointed that Bill Donahue refuses to look at the long-term well-being of the Catholic Church by joining the overwhelming majority of American Catholics who see the only path toward fixing the problem to be the establishment of permanent structures for the laity to be involved in the running of the church. This is only way we’ll see true transparency and accountability. And this brings up an important tie-in point for pro-equality American Catholics. Because such structures for lay involvement don’t exist, there’s no internal vehicle for the majority of American Catholics who already support LGBT equality to provide accurate information or even foster open discussions which would answer the questions other Catholics have on public policy that affects both the LGBT community and our church community.”
Read the full text of the ad here.