13 April 2010

Cardinal Bertone is Mistaken

The AP is reporting on controversial remarks made by the Holy Father's right hand man, Crdl Bertone in Chile:

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican's secretary of state, made the comments [linking pedophilia to homosexuality] during a news conference Monday in Chile, where one of the church's highest-profile pedophile cases involves a priest having sex with young girls.

"Many psychologists and psychiatrists have demonstrated that there is no relation between celibacy and pedophilia. But many others have demonstrated, I have been told recently, that there is a relation between homosexuality and pedophilia. That is true," said Bertone. "That is the problem."

If the translation of Crdl Bertone's comments is correct, then I believe he is mistaken about there being a link between homosexuality and pedophilia. 

Some distinctions are necessary to make his mistake clear.  The very definition of the word "homosexual" is "one who is sexually attracted to one's own sex," perhaps even exclusively so attracted.  "Pedophilia" is a sexual attraction to children (pre-pubescents, non-adolescents) with no indicated preference for one sex over another.  Psychologists do not distinguish between "homosexual pedophiles" and "heterosexual pedophiles."  If any such term were to be used, it would be "bisexual pedophiles."

Pedophiles tend to be opportunistic, molesting when the chance to do so arises.  Generally, they also regard certain physical characteristics (hair and skin color, precociousness) as the most important in choosing their victims.  

The sexual attraction to adolescents is called ephebophilia.  In the U.S. clerical abuse cases, the overwhelming number of victims were adolescent males, mostly in the 15-17 year old range.   In classical Greece a sexual relationship between an adult male and an adolescent male was called pederasty and was accepted as a positive stage in the younger male's education as a citizen.  Once the boy became a man, the relationship stopped.  If it did not, the couple was often subject to public humiliation and risked being socially ostracized.  There was nothing more damning to a Greek man's virtue than to be though of as a woman.

It is clear from the evidence gathered by the John Jay Study on the Church's abuse scandals in the U.S. that there is a direct link to be drawn between sexually active homosexual priests and the sexual molestation of adolescent males.  This does not mean that all homosexual priests are molesters.  Nor does it mean that most homosexuals in the general population are molesters.  In fact, the overwhelming majority of molesters in the U.S. identify as heterosexual.

The media persists in calling clergy involved in the abuse of adolescents "pedophile priests" b/c they are loathe to draw attention to the politically incorrect fact that a vast majority of abusers were "ephebophile priests," thus avoiding an emphasis on the link between the sexual abuse cases and clerical homosexuality.  

By the same token, some in the Church have wrongly concluded that a homosexual inclination (exclusive of behavior) is a sufficient reason to exclude a man from seminary or religious formation.  This sort of exclusion fails to take into consideration that not all homosexual men experience their sexuality in exactly the same way.  The "kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out" approach to excluding same-sex attracted men from seminary is uncharitable and unjust.  By excluding homosexual men who are capable of living chastely in sexual continence, the Church is depriving herself of the service of potentially exemplary priests and encouraging those called to priesthood to begin their ministries under a shadow of deceit.  The emphasis in formation needs to be squarely and heavily placed on chaste, celibate continence, regardless of sexual orientation. 

It is entirely possible that Crdl Bertone is confused about the terminology he is using, or perhaps he is trying to point out that the current crisis is mostly about sexually active homosexual clergy.   Whatever he may have intended, it is wrong to suggest that there is a link between homosexuality and pedophilia.  They are two completely different burdens.

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  1. I appreciate your distinctions made in this post.

    Also, I've never heard or read anyone say so before now. It's true and it's important, this: "By excluding homosexual men who are capable of living chastely in sexual continence, the Church is depriving herself of the service of potentially exemplary priests and encouraging those called to priesthood to begin their ministries under a shadow of deceit. The emphasis in formation needs to be squarely and heavily placed on chaste, celibate continence, regardless of sexual orientation."

  2. Anonymous5:18 AM

    Except, the largest group in the US were boys aged 11-14 not older teens.
    The average male "hits" or reaches puberty at 14.

    I don't agree with the use of the word "pedophile" meaning to conjure up a MORE horrible picture of what happened. It was horrible and in asking just the adults I know, what they thought pedophile means, they thought it meant underage sex.

    Also, a priest can misuse his power and manipulate adults too. I think it is first a misuse of power and trust and a horrible offense against the dignity of the human person.

    I even asked the Office of Child Protection with USCCB how they were grouping the children (11-14) pedophilia or ephebilia (above puberty, 15-19) and I got no response.

  3. Anonymous5:43 AM

    Here are the stats from John Jay(the CARA-recent one-reflect the same age group being largest)
    The John Jay study said that pedophilia, an attraction to pre-pubescent children diagnosed as a psychiatric disease, was a smaller part of the sex abuse problem. It said that 22 percent of the victims were under 10. It added that 51 percent were 11 to 14 years old and 27 percent were 15 to 17 years old.

    Also, I have my own hunch as to why there aren't as many girls coming forward yet.

  4. The CCC and (I'm sure) other Magisterial documents speak of homosexuality, apart from homosexual activity, as "objectively disordered."

    Father, could you comment on this expression in light of your statement that, "some in the Church have wrongly concluded that a homosexual inclination...is a sufficient reason to exclude a man from seminary or religious formation"?

    Should not a person with ANY objectively disordered condition be excluded from seminary formation?

    Perhaps I'm simply unsure of the Church's use of "objective disorder."

  5. Regarding homosexuals in the priesthood and religious life.

    One of the points made about religious celibacy is that the celibate is making a gift of himself or herself by sacrificing the natural desire for marriage and family. This sacrifice is the gift of self that mirrors the gift of self in marriage. It's what makes the consecration to Christ a "nuptial wedding with Christ" and hence a superior calling than that of the vocation and sacrament of marriage (Hildebrand, Marriage and the Mystery of Faithful Love, 76).

    Those people lacking that natural desire for a heterosexual marriage (it's a shame I need to word it that way) are celibate for different reasons than those that do have the natural desire for marriage. Those with disordered desires would be (should be) living a celibate life without the formal consecration of oneself to Christ.

  6. IIRC, Rome called for exclusion of those with homosexual tendencies from religious Orders back in the 1950's (a request which was ignored almost totally) AND more recently, has called for exclusion of those w/homosexual tendencies from the priesthood, period (religious Orders or seculars.)

    While I agree completely that 'not all homosexuals act out'--I know several who are excellent examples of Catholic men--I cannot disagree with Rome's expressed preference.

    I will also agree that this may exclude some very fine men from the priesthood.

  7. Wallaces,

    Objectively disordered means that the object of a moral act (what is actually done) is not properly ordered to the Good. So, in any moral act, we consider the circumstances around the performance of the act, the intentions of the actor, and the object of the act itself.

    In the case of homosexual sexual acts, the object is always disordered b/c the act of homosexual sex cannot carry out the natural end of sex: procreation and unitative love btw a man and a woman.

    Most human beings have objectively disordered inclinations, that is, tendencies toward committing acts whose object cannot express or lead to the Good. Each of us experiences these inclinations in different intensities and in different ways. But merely possessing an objectively disordered inclination is not a sin. Sin only occurs when the O.D. inclination is made real in an act.

    The impediments to ordination found in canon law detail some of these: murder, abortion, etc. A man who possesses an inclination to kill, as evidenced by either his own admission or by the commission of a murder, would be excluded from ordination if he were unable to control the inclination. Most of us have probably felt the urge to kill someone, but we've resisted it. Merely thinking about strangling someone is not an impediment to ordination.

    One assumption often made about homosexuals is that they all feel their inclination at the same intensity and in the same way. This is simply not true. Thus, the Vatican document distinguishes btw those who have a "deeply seated" inclination from those who have fleeting same-sex attractions.

  8. first off, you know you're my favorite friar right?

    so I hope what I have to say won't offend you.

    I appreciate the point you're trying to make. However. Can we leave out the entire section about classical Greece's take on homosexual acts between adult men and teen boys? a) it's irrelevant, b) it makes it look like you're trying to say -by historical example- the abuse is acceptable. c) I thought the Church considered all homosexual sex acts to be sinful, regardless of the participants' ages.

    frankly, the average person on the street will have a basic understanding of what pedofile means, not a clue of what ephebophile means. and Pedofile Preists as a headline/tagline has rhythm and alliteration that cannot be matched...which is why that title is what most people know the current abuse scandal in our Church as. I think focusing on the symmantics of what words are used muddies the waters.

    1) what happened was sinful and shameful
    2) having sex outside of marriage is considered a sin. having sex with a person who is under the age of 18 is considered statutory rape and illegal.
    3) homosexual men and women are valuable members of our Church, even though
    4) they, just like all heterosexual men and women struggle against our basic sinful nature.

    it's not the homosexuals we need to get rid of....it's the folks who can't live by the vows they've taken.

  9. Mom, we don't disagree. My reference to classical Greece was actually a way of undermining the notion that adult homosexual relationships were once considered OK...until the evil Christians came along and ruined it all.

    The media use "pedophile priest" in order to discourage us from making the connection btw sexually active homosexual priests and their abuse of teen boys. The NYT went on a bender not too long ago and decided to exclude any reference to the gender of the victim, referring to them instead as "accuser," "student," etc. Also a way of hiding the fact that most victims were male teens abused by sexually active homosexual priests.

  10. Anonymous8:07 AM

    Ok, but the majority of victims that have come forward were Not what is considered ephebophilia (14-19 or 14-16). The majority and most vulnerable were 11-14.
    So, how are they considered?
    I don't consider that JUST homosexuality.

    And this is where I get very frustrated because for the common person, pedophile means sex with an underage person. It doesn't mean they WEREN'T homosexual,hetersexual, bisexual, etc.
    I surely don't want them labeled "homosexual priest" because not all victims were male.

    So, child molester?

  11. Friar,

    I don't understand the point you are making. I agree with Mightymom that splitting semantic hairs is not helpful to an honest disucssion of what is taking place.

    You point our that the "the overwhelming number of victims were adolescent males, mostly in the 15-17 year old range." If the vast majority of the population is heterosexual, then what does the fact that the vast majority of sex abuse cases in the US by Catholic priests were against boys tell us?

    It tells me that homosexuals are taking refuge in the clergy in disproportionate numbers (and maybe always have--I don't know) as a place where the principle of celibacy cloaks their lack of interest in females. There may also be, I'm sorry to say, an either conscious or unconscious desire among some or many of them to get into a position that allows them contact with the objects of their sexual desire. Other institutions such as the Boy Scouts have similar issues.

    In a general sense, there is among adults a natural affinity (sexual and otherwise) for youth and youthfulness. It is in youth that the body is sexually most attractive. For heterosexuals who bear children, this inclination is countervaled to a large extent or sublimated by the raising of their children. Of course, since heterosexuals make up 90% (or whatever) of the population, in raw numbers, they will clearly constitute the majority of molesters as you point out. For homosexuals, there is no such countervaling factor. I strongly suspect that, in general, homosexuals are disproportionately inclined to act on pedophilic (pederast) impulses.

    So, simply saying that not all homosexual priests are molesters, while obviously true, doesn't address the problem. It seem that the priesthood attracts a disproportionate number of male homosexuals, who are, in turn, disproportionately inclined towards sexual relationships with boys. So, like it or not, there will have to be some barrier or filter to homosexual entry into the priesthood--not easily done--or the Catholic Church will lose more of its moral authority, which, given the state of the world, we can ill afford.

  12. Xeno, a big problem that we have with discussions like this is that we don't have any solid numbers. No one knows how many SSA priests there are, so there's no way to make a plausible comparison with the general population.

    You write, "I strongly suspect that, in general, homosexuals are disproportionately inclined to act on pedophilic (pederast) impulses." Here you are making exactly the mistake that makes it easier for sexually active SSA priests to stay hidden. You have to distinguish btw pedophilia and pederasty...pederasty is the more general term for all adult male/non-adult male relationships. Pedophilia is a precise term, specifying children. We don't use pederasty much anymore for this reason. So long as we insist on using "pedophile priest" we cover up the actual abuse which is ephebophilic not pedophilic.

  13. Wallaces,

    Scanlon writes, "Because the homosexual is already bound by the natural and divine law to renounce sexual relations with other males, he cannot renounce sexual activity with other males as a free gift to the Lord. And because he does not have a full and healthy attraction to women, he cannot renounce the possibility of sexual relations with women. One cannot renounce what one does not have!"

    Here he is conflating marriage with sex. He is right to say that SSA males entering the priesthood are already under divine law to forgo sexual activity with other men. If the vow of celibacy were merely about forgoing sex, then his argument might have some validity.

    But celibacy is about forgoing marriage in order to love God more fully. Continence is about forgoing sex. This can be done w/o forgoing marriage. The assumption he is making is that SSA will not marry. But they can and do. SSA men often marry women, have kids, and live happy lives.

    Again, and this is vital, SSA is not experienced by all homosexual men in exactly the same way. Some may feel the attraction to be overwhelming, even uncontrollable. For others it might be periodic, fleeting, or very much a matter of non-sexualized "man crushes." To assume that all SSA men are driven to sexual acts is uncharitable and unjust. It is a stereotype unworthy of serious consideration.

    It is entirely possible that the vow of celibacy for a faithful Catholic homosexual man is the only thing keeping him on the straight and narrow. To deprive him of this chance to bear his burden (as the CCC teaches) with the assistance of the vow given to the Church is cruel.

  14. Here's a practical problem:

    How would a vocations director go about finding out if a candidate is SSA?

    1). The candidate admits his SSA.
    2). Self-reported behavior indicates a SSA.
    3). Reports from others.

    #1 is really the only way of determining the truth of a candidate's SSA. #2 assumes that homosexual behavior is actually indicative of SSA. Does one homosexual act done at age 14 count? One drunken encounter with a roommate in college? Obviously, a long, involved history of sexual acts would indicate a SSA, but that's the same as an admission. #3 is problematic on any number of fronts. You would have to consider the reliability of the info, the motive of the informant, their ability to properly discern the meaning of the behavior, etc.

    Since a vocations director can't do a urine test for homosexuality, there's really not much he can do other than hope that the candidate tells him the truth. If we automatically exclude anyone confessing SSA, then we run the risk of admitting men with a SSA who will start their lives as seminarians as liars and continue on to be liars throughout their lives.

  15. Father, Thank you for your responses. I haven't been trying to provoke you or others in the comment box. I agree with you from the beginning. Thanks for the blog.

    I read through your coffee bowl browsing while I sip on my own coffee bowl. :)

  16. Wallaces, I never thought you were being provocative...in a bad way. :-)

    Thank you for your tough questions!

  17. Anonymous10:45 PM

    I don't expect much light from statistics, but I would like to hear more about multiple offenders. If it turned out that some gay men offended multiply with 15-17 years olds (the age category into which 27% of cases fall) while heterosexual offenders tended rather to pursue a single female teenager, then the huge number of boys would not indicate a huge number of gays, but rather a different pattern in gay sexual behavior.