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Jewish World Review June 25, 2002 / 15 Tamuz, 5762

Bill Steigerwald

Bill Steigerwald
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Consumer Reports

Origins of a scandal: 10 minutes with Michael Rose | It's easy to understand why Michael Rose's explosive new book about the root causes of the Catholic church's sex scandals, ""Good-bye, Young Men," is shocking Catholic and non-Catholic alike.

Rose charges moral and religious liberals with 30 years of corrupting the Catholic church from within -- mainly by hijacking its seminaries and subverting its traditional beliefs, standards and disciplines.

More sensationally, he says that the epidemic of sex scandals - both the actual abuse of minors by priests and the subsequent cover-up by Catholic bishops -- can be traced to seminaries, where the church's teachings on sexual morality were deliberately subverted, where homosexual promiscuity was often rampant and where straight seminarians who held orthodox beliefs were often marginalized and demoralized.

I talked to Rose on Thursday by telephone phone from his home in Cincinnati.

Q: So the big problem is in the seminaries and how future priests are taught and shaped?

A: Right. The big revolution in the seminaries happened in the late 1960s, when a lot of the disciplinary codes were thrown out the window in favor of a new, very much more liberalized, more university-like atmosphere with a lot of freedom and so forth.

A lot of the seminary professors themselves handled that in a very peculiar way. They seemed to have adopted a humanistic psychology to replace the traditional Catholic spirituality in the training of priest.

And one of the tenets of humanistic psychology was, basically, "Do what makes you feel good." So in other words, a self-gratification model, or a self-fulfillment model, replaced the traditional self-sacrifice model of the priesthood.

Many of the teachings on sexual morality were thrown out the window during those times. Catholic church teachings on sexual morality were jettisoned by the textbooks they used and by the types of exercises and workshops that were done within the Catholic seminaries.

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Q: Some seminaries have been called "lavender seminaries." What's that all about?

A: The term "lavender Mafia" was used by Father Andrew Greeley, who is quite a liberal priest, who has for years contended that there exists in many of the seminaries what he calls a gay subculture.

That viewpoint was reiterated a couple years ago by the Cleveland rector, Father Donald Cozzens, in his book "The Changing Face of the Priesthood." He made the claim that there were a large percentage of gays in the seminaries, not only in the student bodies, but on the faculties, and that it created problems for some of the heterosexual men who wanted to pursue a vocation.

Over the last 30 years or so, there have been some pretty outrageous things that have happened to people in these seminaries, some of which are nicknamed "the pink palace" or "Notre flame" or "Theological closet," for instance. These are places where there was an active gay subculture where men left on the weekends, sometimes with faculty members, to cruise the gay bars.

Q: This is unbelievably shocking to most people, but this isn't a new phenomenon.

A: No it isn't at all. It's been going on since the early 1970s, at least.

Q: Is there any explanation why the rest of us haven't heard about this? A: The mainstream media hasn't covered it very much over the years, for whatever reason. But some of the Catholic periodicals, for instance, the Wanderer, have been reporting on this for years and years in very explicit ways.

The Wanderer is a very conservative weekly out of St. Paul, Minn., that is distributed nationally. I think they feel quite vindicated now. They were ignored for so long, because it does sound outrageous that these things were going on.

Q: Are the church's sex scandals today a result of pedophiles running rampant in the church or does it have to do with this gay subculture?

A: Well, it has to do with an active gay subculture. And one of the elements of the gay subculture that has existed in seminaries over the last 30 years is a predatory homosexuality.

If you look at the statistics, well over 90 percent of the victims who were abused by priests over the past decades have been adolescent boys or teen-age boys and not boys and girls who are prepubescent, which would qualify for pedophilia.

Of course, there have been some notorious instances of pedophilia. I'm not saying that isn't a problem. But by and large over 90 percent have been predatory homosexuality.

Q: Why has the mainstream media not made that distinction between the problem of gay priests who can't stay celibate and pedophiliacs, who are exceptionally rare in the church and elsewhere?

A: Well, I don't think they want to admit that, because that would be bad press for the homosexual community. What I'm saying certainly isn't that all homosexuals are predators or anything like that.

What I found is that there is an element of predatory homosexuality in this gay subculture that exists in seminaries and I don't think a lot of the media want to touch that, because that might raise some questions about problems with homosexuality or having priests who are gay.

That's the issue people want to discuss with me: "Are you saying that gays can't be good priests." But what I'm saying is that there has been an active gay subculture that has undermined the church's teaching on sexual morality for 30 years. That's really the point that I'm bringing out in my book.

Q: Do you think it is possible for gay priests to be in the church as long as they are celibate?

A: Of course it's possible. Certainly. But I just wonder if the best place for a young man to practice the virtue of chastity, if he defines himself around his sexuality as gay, would be in a seminary or in an army barracks, for instance, where you shower with men and you live with men 24 hours a day and sleep in the same rooms with men.

Q: The word "homosexual" never appeared during the bishops' meeting in Dallas, that's for sure.

A: Yeah, well, I think people are more upset - as certainly I am - about the protective network that shuffles around these abusive priests, than about the sexual abuse itself. Of course, if a priest falls and abuses a minor, he should be dealt with right there, not moved to another place.

Q: Have the scandals permanently hurt the church, perhaps by giving ammunition to those who want to liberalize it and push for married priests and women priests?

A: The affects are definitely widespread. There are bad affects and also good affects, in the sense that the Catholic Church can do some self-purification and will probably come out being much better for it, because the problem is much more widely known now than it was six months ago, when for years the pattern seemed to be denial, denial and more denial.

Now it's very difficult to deny that these things are going on.

Q: What does the Catholic Church have to do to prove to you that it's on the right path to fixing some of the problems you point to?

A: The current scandal is, again, a direct consequence of the failure to uphold and promote the teachings of the Catholic Church regarding sexual morality. The problem the bishops must now confront can not be solved simply by adopting new procedures and guidelines for the handling of troubled priests.

I think the resolution of the crisis will begin when the bishops firmly insist that the teachings of the Catholic church must be upheld and the discipline of the church must be enforced. That's beginning with the seminaries, of course.

The bottom line is that no one should assume any position of authority in the church who doesn't willingly and publicly defend all teachings of the Catholic Church. That would solve a variety of problems, including the ones on transgressions of sexual morality.

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JWR contributor Bill Steigerwald is an associate editor and columnist at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Comment by clicking here.

06/21/02: 9/11 report unearths good, bad and ugly
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06/14/02: U.S. News opens closet of Secret Service
06/11/02: 10 minutes with William Lind: Can America survive in this 'fourth-generation' world?
06/07/02: America, warts and all
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04/05/02: Looking into the state of American greatness
03/25/02: The American President and the Peruvian Shoeshine Boys
03/22/02: Troublemaking intellectual puts Churchill in spotlight
03/20/02: 10 minutes with ... Bill Bennett
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03/12/02: 10 minutes with Ken Adelman
03/08/02: TIME asks the nation a scary question
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02/26/02: 10 minutes with ... Tony Snow
02/12/02: Has Soldier of Fortune gone soft?

© 2002, Bill Steigerwald