Conservative Catholic activist Bill Donohue has a reliably homophobic take on the appalling Pennsylvania grand jury report on clergy sexual abuse of children: It’s all the gays’ fault.
Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, published an analysis, “Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report Debunked,” on his website Thursday. In it, he claims to “debunk many of the myths, and indeed lies, that mar the report and/or interpretations of it.” The report, released this week, details allegations of abuse of more than 1,000 children by 300 Catholic clergy members and seminarians over several decades.
Donohue has many objections to the grand jury report and news coverage on it, but he says “the greatest lie of them all” is that the accused predators are pedophiles and not gay. He asserts that there is a scandalous “media cover-up of the role played by gay molesters.”
“Most gay priests are not molesters, but most of the molesters have been gay,” he writes. He bases this on the assertion that of the victims, “most were postpubescent.” He mentions one of the alleged perpetrators, Father Gregory Zirwas, and says, “Every person whom he groped was a teenager, meaning this was a homosexual ring.”
Scientific studies, however, have shown that molestation of teenagers of the same sex as the perpetrator isn’t linked with homosexuality any more than molestation of younger children is. A report from the University of California, Davis, notes that numerous studies “failed to support the hypothesis that homosexual males are more likely than heterosexual men to molest children or to be sexually attracted to children or adolescents.”
Donohue goes on to criticize a New York Times article on the grand jury report, saying, “The Times wants the reader to believe that this is a pedophile problem, and that females are as much at risk as males, thus discounting homosexuality. This is patently untrue, but it feeds the lie that this is not a homosexual scandal.”
Donohue objects to several other facets of media coverage, decrying use of the word “rape” when some of the abuse did not involve penetration, and contending that journalists have written as if all the accused clergy members are guilty (in fact, most articles have been careful to say these are allegations or accusations of abuse).
“How many of the 300 were probably guilty? Maybe half,” he writes. (At any rate, most of them will not face criminal charges because the statute of limitations for prosecution has passed, although the report recommends that this statute be eliminated.) He also says the media has wrongly characterized the accused as all being priests, when some were deacons, brothers, or seminarians — a distinction that likely doesn’t matter to anyone who’s suffered abuse.
Even some commentators in conservative publications aren’t swayed by Donohue’s reasoning. “He is wrong to the point of outrage,” writes Becket Adams, a self-described “lifelong, practicing Catholic,” in the Washington Examiner. Adams doesn’t address Donohue’s demonization of gay men, but he does point out that in saying much of the abuse involved teens rather than younger children, Donohue is putting forth “an absurd defense.” Of Donohue’s calculation that perhaps half of the accused were guilty, Adams writes sarcastically, “Well, that’s a relief.”
Donohue’s commentary “serves only to argue that things are likely worse elsewhere, and that the grand jury report is unfair,” Adams continues. “He doesn’t even attempt to argue the Pennsylvania dioceses haven’t suffered a grave evil.
He adds that both Donohue and his “rebuttal” are “a disgrace. “He is the Catholic version of a Tea Party scam-PAC,” Adams says of Donohue. “He exists to separate credulous Catholics from their hard-earned money.”