Are Gay Priests the Problem?

The problem of sexual abuse is rooted not in orientation but rather in pathology caused by the environmental, behavioral, biological and societal conditions of the abuser. Trauma from early childhood (ages 2-5), including sexual abuse and arrested sexual development are the most common factors cited by those who diagnose sexual abusers.

Yes, there are gay priests.

Some anecdotal statistics suggest as many as 40 percent of priests may be gay, according to James Wolf's book "Gay Priests," although this is not verifiable because many remain silent for fear of ecclesiastical and societal repercussions.

And, yes, a small minority of gay priests who were sexually arrested and maladjusted abused boys. But the majority of gay priests are celibate and living dedicated lives of service and commitment to their communities. And most have no attraction whatsoever to adolescents.

Child abusers are not interested in or capable of mature, adult relationships. They are stuck at the same psychosexual age as their victims. They have no capacity for authentic relationships. This is certainly not the case for the majority of gay -- or straight -- priests.

Strengthen Entrance Requirements

To conflate pedophilia with homosexuality does nothing to help ameliorate the crisis in the Catholic Church. The real need is for seminaries and formation programs to strengthen their entrance requirements, thus ensuring that no sexual deviant is admitted to the priesthood. This can be done by more extensive psychological testing as well as by ensuring honest dialogue and education within priestly formation programs with regard to human sexuality.

Candidates must be encouraged to talk freely about sexuality and to explore the wide gamut of human relationships and accompanying intimacy. This is certainly an argument against accepting candidates who are too young or obviously immature. High school and college seminary programs should be especially cautious in this regard.

If a candidate is discovered to be a pedophile or ephebophile, it should be immediate grounds for dismissal because these conditions are not curable. One such afflicted cannot find peace in the priesthood with these recurrent urges, especially when he will be in close proximity to adolescents of all ages. By the way, this would be true even if celibacy were not a required discipline in the priesthood.

Like homosexuality, celibacy is not a pertinent issue because child abusers are not interested in or capable of adult relationships. Married people, single people, straight people and gay people all can be -- and are -- abusers. Celibacy in and of itself does nothing to promote abuse. It may however be attractive to those who are sexually immature or conflicted, thus the need for more stringent screening of candidates.

Human sexuality is surely a complex enterprise and inconsistencies in behavior are sure to abound. Love, attraction and human intimacy sometimes follow their own set of rules. But certain rules, even within the purview of fluctuating sexuality, are immutable and must be guarded with vigilance. Surely the rules that dictate mature, adult and responsible sexual behavior among adults, which always excludes minors, are among those non-negotiables.

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