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The Song Remains the Same

Remember when the Catholic priesthood was supposedly “becoming a gay profession”? That was the claim of Fr. Donald Cozzens, a former rector of St. Mary Seminary in Cleveland, who estimated in his book The Changing Face of the Priesthood (2000) that the percentage of homosexuals in the priesthood ranged somewhere between 23 and 58 percent — way out of proportion to their percentage in the general male population.

Not two years later, the explosive revelations of a decades-long cover-up of sexual impropriety and abuse by Catholic clerics appeared to prove Fr. Cozzens correct. Though much of the scandal centered on the sexual abuse of children, a report by the Boston Globe (May 17, 2002) discovered that the “vast majority” of predator priests chose adolescent boys — not young children — as their targets. In fact, one of the more alarming statistics put forth by the John Jay Report, a 2004 study commissioned by the U.S. bishops to gather data about the extent of the crisis, was that 81 percent of the victims were males. According to Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, a psychiatrist and a consultant to the Congregation for the Clergy, the John Jay Report “clearly revealed” that the sex-abuse crisis was “not one of pedophilia but of homosexuality. The primary victims have not been children but adolescent males” (Zenit, May 1, 2004). He expressed hope that “this clarification in regard to homosexuality as the basic problem that caused the crisis” would lead to new measures to “protect” the priesthood.

Over in Rome, Pope St. John Paul II said little. He seemed curiously uninterested in the whole mess; it was as if he thought it were beneath his mention. He soon lost his ability to say much at all. His successor, Pope Benedict XVI, was not so reticent about the greatest scandal to rock the Church in modern times. He was quick to bemoan “how much filth there is in the Church, even among those who, by virtue of their priesthood, ought to belong entirely to Christ!”

One of Benedict’s first acts was to approve the publication of the Congregation for Catholic Education’s “Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with Regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in View of Their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders” (2005).

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