NOTE: First of two columns.
Chicago news was full of sex, children and Roman collars.
part of the first national "Sins of the Fathers" furor in the
mid-1980s. This was the early 1990s and the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago
eventually opened its files on all 2,252 priests who had served in the
previous four decades. The powers that be hunted for pedophiles and they found
word is "one." One priest had been accused of assaulting a
prepubescent child. The other allegations involved priests and sexually
mature, but under-age, adolescents -- mostly boys.
Chicago numbers are not unusual. This is, in fact, part of a pattern we see in
diocese after diocese," said Father Donald B. Cozzens, former vicar for
clergy in Cleveland and then rector of a graduate seminary in Ohio.
course, any abuse of children is horrifying and it is just as wrong -- morally
and legally -- when sexual abuse occurs with teen-agers. But it isn't helping
matters, right now, for people to keep blurring the lines between these two
conditions. This isn't just about pedophilia."
about sexuality and the priesthood will only heat up, if that is possible, now
that a crucial Vatican voice has spoken. A close aide to Pope John Paul II
told the New York Times that it's time to slow or even stop the flow of gays
into the priesthood. "People with these inclinations just cannot be
ordained," said psychiatrist Joaquin Navarro-Valls.
stressed that he agrees with researchers who believe sexual orientation is
irrelevant in discussions of pedophilia. But what if pedophilia is not the
definition, pedophiles are sexually attracted to boys and girls who have not
reached puberty. But Cozzens said reports he has studied, and his own
experience as a counselor, indicate the more common problem among Catholic
clergy is "ephebophilia." This is recurrent, intense sexual interest
in post-pubescent young people -- teen-agers.
"ephebophilia" is rarely used in church debates and the press. Yet,
Cozzens said that whenever clergy vicars held conferences 90 percent of the
sex-abuse cases they discussed fell into this category. Church authorities are
reluctant to investigate this reality.
it is feared that it will call attention to the disproportionate number of gay
priests," wrote Cozzens, in his influential "The Changing Face of
the Priesthood," published in 2000. "While homosexually oriented
people are no more likely to be drawn to misconduct with minors than straight
people, our own experiences was clear and, I believe, significant. Most priest
offenders, we vicars agreed, acted out against teenage boys."
In his most
controversial chapter, Cozzens quotes reports claiming about 50 percent of
U.S. Catholic priests are gay, with the numbers higher among priests younger
than 40. Talk of a "gay subculture" grew in recent decades as 20,000
men left the priesthood to get married.
seminary climate changed - radically. Cozzens cited a survey in which 60
percent of one seminary's students identified themselves as gay, 20 percent
were "confused about their sexual identity" and 20 percent said they
concluded: "Should our seminaries become significantly gay, and many
seasoned observers find them to be precisely that, the priesthood of the 21st
century will likely be perceived as a predominantly gay profession."
This is the
proverbial elephant in the sanctuary that few bishops want to discuss.
said that, along with many other researchers, he does not see a direct link
between homosexual orientation and sexual abuse. Yet the cloud of secrecy and
denial that swirls around the gay subculture makes it hard to discuss urgent
issues -- such as ephebophilia.
is a totally different kind of sickness and it can't really be treated,"
he said. "You simply have to do what you can to help the abuser and then
make sure all future contact with children is cut off. There is no other way.
there are many bishops out there who, for a variety of reasons, have been
convinced that priests can be successfully treated and reassigned to other
parishes if the sexual contact was with teen-agers. Now, that belief is being
Catholic boys grow up to be men of the cloth without drawing inspiration from
their parish priests and receiving the blessing of their mothers.
of that equation have to work or the church suffers.
you talk about how young men enter the priesthood, you are talking about the
future of the church," said Father Donald B. Cozzens, former vicar for
clergy in the Diocese of Cleveland and then rector of a graduate seminary in
Ohio. "At some point, it becomes terribly important what Catholic parents
-- especially mothers -- think of their priests."
young priest and you will almost always find a find a mother who wanted him to
be a priest, like the priests she has known and trusted.
it's supposed to work. Several decades worth of sex scandals involving clergy
and children -- usually teen-aged boys -- have not helped. But there are other
tensions, as well. In his influential 2000 book, "The Changing Face of
the Priesthood," Cozzens pleads for frank talk about other painful
issues, as well as the sexual abuse of young males.
face skyrocketing demands on their time as church membership rises and the
number of priests declines. Priests live and work under the microscope, yet
they also report feeling isolated from their flocks and from each other.
Lately, Cozzens has been hearing about priests who -- lashed by scandal and
suspicion -- have stopped wearing clerical clothing while not "at
work." The stares and whispers are too painful.
is another sexual secret that is making these issues harder to discuss, he
said. In his book's most quoted chapter, Cozzens cites reports claiming 50
percent of U.S. Catholic priests are gay, with the numbers higher among those
under 40 years of age. This "gay subculture" grew in the past three
decades, as 20,000 or more priests left their altars to get married.
not opposed to celibate gays being ordained and he thinks most priests -- gay
and straight -- are serving the church faithfully and keeping their vows.
Nevertheless, he is convinced this gay subculture is affecting who is becoming
a priest and who is not. Why is this?
generations it was homosexuals who often felt alone and out of place in
Catholic seminaries, living in a shadow culture. Today, discreet networks of
gay priests thrive in seminaries and dioceses from coast to coast, said
Cozzens. It's common for heterosexuals to feel confused, misunderstood and
left out. Many question their calling and flee.
he said, it's "likely that gay priests will be encouraging, consciously
or unconsciously, more homosexually oriented men than straight men to consider
a vocation to the priesthood. Conversely, homosexually oriented men
considering a priestly vocation will be especially drawn to a parish priest
who happens to be gay."
said the "likelihood exists that like will be drawn to like." Once
again, he said he does not believe gay priests are more likely to break
celibacy vows than are straight priests.
past time, he said, for Catholic leaders to start talking about how the
changing face of the priesthood is affecting relationships between priests and
parents. It would help to stop and consider a mother's point of view.
mothers may sense that something is different about the pastor ... who happens
to be gay," Cozzens noted. "They may indeed like and respect the
priest, but find they are not comfortable in encouraging their son to consider
attitude shift is especially significant when combined with a major
statistical change in Catholic life. In the past, when large families were the
norm, it was a matter of pride to have a son enter religious life. But what if
most Catholic families contain only one son?
it has become normal to have two children or less, you are not going to find
many parents who are encouraging a son -- especially an only son -- to become
a priest," said Cozzens. "They want him to get married, to have
grandchildren and carry on the family name. ...
there are fewer sons and there are more mothers who are asking hard