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The beginning of 2012 is promising to be a banner year for a focus on the sexual activity of bishops and priests who are supposed to be committed to celibacy. January 6th marked the tenth anniversary of the Boston Globe's historic series of articles on sexual abuse of minors by Roman Catholic clergy and the wide spread cover up by religious superiors including cardinals and Vatican officials.1

More than any other single force, that media exposure fueled the outrage of citizens around the world and propelled the movement to tackle the degrading pattern of sexual assaults on minors and the vulnerable demonstrated by Catholic clergy and men in positions of power. 2

The Associated Press ran an article on January 05, 2012 revealing that 60-year-old Gabino Zavala auxiliary bishop to Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles since 1994 resigned with the announcement that he had fathered two children who are now teen-agers and living with their mother. Zavala previously served as rector of the archdiocesan major seminary in Camarillo, California and was well respected for his pastoral work. He has been a long-time advocate for social justice, immigrant rights, world peace, and reform of the criminal justice and prison systems.

Jose Gomez currently archbishop of Los Angeles made this statement: "The archdiocese has reached out to the mother and children to provide spiritual care as well as funding to assist the children with college costs. The family's identity is not known to the public, and I wish to respect their right to privacy.'' This, of course, is far more gracious than the response of the church to victims of clergy abuse who suffered drastic harm from the actions of clergy.

From the known facts already made public we can assume that Zavala is one of bishops who has a heterosexual orientation and has been sexually active over a more or less long period of time.

This revelation serves as a counterpoint to a January 06, 2012 article written by Deborah Gyapong for the Canadian Catholic News outlining the saga of Raymond Lahey, 71-year-old archbishop of Antigonish, Nova Scotia. The story began in September 2009 when he was arrested in the Ottawa, Canada airport and pleaded guilty in May 2011 to charges of possessing child pornography. He was in prison from then until January 4, 2012 when he was given an 18 month suspended sentence.

Lahey's computer collection had over 155,000 homosexual pornographic photos including 588 images of boys, some wearing crucifixes and rosary beads taking part in sex acts involving bondage and torture. Some other images and themes of the stories found on the bishop's computer were of master/slave relationships or the torture and humiliation of young boys.

According to the Archbishop's own admission he is an active homosexual and maintains a ten-year relationship with an adult man that he intends to continue. Lahey confessed to his psychiatrist that before establishing this longstanding gay relationship around 2000 he had engaged in "a number of one night stands".

A report filed with the sentencing court judge that was written by forensic psychiatrist Dr. John Bradford after he examined Lahey and subjected him to a battery of tests registered several points: according to him Archbishop Lahey is not a pedophile and does not pose a likely threat to minors; he is addicted to internet pornography with a preference for sadomasochistic fantasies in which he is the submissive partner or slave (fantasies he claims he does not act on).

Bradford described Bishop Lahey's sexual interest as a mix of homosexual masochism with an attraction to adolescent boys.

The court imposed a number of restrictions on Lahey's activities and associations. He, of course, has suffered the humiliation and vilification of personal homosexual "disgrace" and rejection that Bishop Zavala avoided by being sexual with a woman for more than a decade. We are deprived of a public psychiatric report that could pinpoint his history and inner life. According to all accounts both men were exemplary models of pastoral care and compassion.

And the Church has a long history of tolerating the sexual lives and various foibles of its bishops and even cardinals, but it prefers those activities remain secret. When the danger of public scandal erupts the bishop or cardinal, as the case may be, is sent to a place for a life of prayer and penance - traditionally a monastery or convent - or given a promotion in the Roman bureaucracy. Rome is full of sexual abusers and clerics leading double lives. Luther would recognize the climate of 1510. The culture is much the same now.

We do not have to retreat to the 16th Century to find examples of this mix of pastoral effectiveness (or at least ecclesiastical power) and celibate violation. Pope John Paul II invited Cardinal Hans Herman Groer to Rome for a birthday celebration after his fellow Austrian bishops denounced him in 1996 for sexually abusing several young seminarians.

Marcial Marciel Degollado the founder of the Legionaries of Christ was reported to the Vatican for several years because of his sexual abuse of young seminarians. The same pope embraced him publicly and resisted any investigation that included facts of fathering children by two women and multiple financial frauds. Jason Berry recorded Maciel's history and spearheaded advocacy for Maciel's victims for a decade before Pope Benedict XVI took action and deposed Maciel and sent him to prayerful retirement. Many people find John Paul's audacious recognition of such men and refusal to discipline them when they have violated minors the real scandal and a slap in the face of victims. Jason Berry documented in print and film the saga of the sexual abuse and financial shenanigans (crimes) on the highest levels in the Church.

The list of known sexually active prelates in the United States and around the world is incomplete. The important fact is that many, many bishops and cardinals have sexual partners and indulge in a wide range of sexual activities.

Bishops - good men in many ways - caught in sexual affairs with consenting adult women are forced out of active ministry. Recent examples are: Eugene Marino, archbishop of Atlanta, resigned in 1990 when his relationship with Vicki Long a woman with a troubled past was made public. He had several lady friends during other assignments.

Robert Sanchez, archbishop of Santa Fe, N.M., resigned in 1993 after confessing to sexual activity for 18 years and relationships with five women. He introduced an interesting facet of his behavior when he volunteered under oath in deposition that he "always used protection". The deposing lawyer asked in surprise, "Where on earth does an archbishop buy condoms?" This humble man simply stated, "at a drugstore".

James McCarthy, auxiliary bishop of New York, resigned in 2002 after the archdiocese was alerted about his four affairs with women.

"Caught" is the salient word when it comes to the sexual activity of bishops and cardinals. There are dozens of sexually active men in the hierarchy who are having or have had a whole range of sexual partners and activities. Bishops Zavala and Lahey are but two recent examples. Most highly placed Catholic clerics are not reported for their celibate violations; and if they are, little or no pressure can combat a system of secrecy, myth and mutual blackmail that forms a scarlet bond of immense power and reach. Recently Fr. Lopez y Lopez from the Los Angeles archdiocese, perhaps the most corrupt in the US, abused a minor was convicted and sent to prison. Cardinal Roger Mahony had granted him faculties in LA even after he had a criminal conviction for abuse in Italy. Despite that, 2,500 parishioners signed a petition declaring his priestly worthiness.

The higher the Church position the more difficult it is to catch or report a clerical abuser. Because bishops and cardinals have so much power they frequently escape censure. Some like Cardinal Theodore McCarrick who has been reported by at least five priests for having sex, involve themselves with clerical partners. They become untouchable because the church has power over the victim priests. The chancery office told one priest who threatened to speak with the press that if he did, "We will crush you".

Louis Gelineau, bishop of Providence, RI (1972-97) was well known in clerical circles for his homosexual activity with adult men and adolescent boys. I interviewed a man who received a settlement for the abuse he endured as an orphanage in Burlington VT. He encountered Gelineau there and suffered abuse at his hands. A priest of the Providence diocese procured boy hustlers at the bishop's insistence. He later paid the price for his dutiful service with hospitalization for a serious depression. Gelineau was ticketed for solicitation at a Massachusetts truck stop. The ticketing officer and the priest chaplain of the Highway Patrol both gave personal witness to the incident. Despite his persistent sexual activity Gelineau wrote in 1985, "Homosexual acts are contrary to God's command and contrary to his purpose in creating sex. To give support to this proposed legislation (gay rights) may easily be interpreted as supporting the homosexual lifestyle." Five Cardinals attended his retirement mass.

Archbishop Rembert Weakland resigned his duties in Milwaukee in 2002 when a man revealed that he and Rembert had had a love affair. Although the partner comes off as a sleaze, the archbishop's poor judgment in giving him 450,000 dollars for silence compounded the violation of celibacy. In his autobiography Rembert says that his pastor warned him before he went to St. Vincent Abbey for high school about one dangerous monk he should beware of. He tells about being a junior in high school when a different monk abused a fellow student; he and other students encouraged the victim to report. The whole following year was in "chaos" as a result. When Rembert was in graduate school in New York he lived in a parish rectory while studying at Julliard. He was called during the night to attend a priest who died in the apartment of a gay friend. He was part of the cabal that devised a deceitful cover story to protect the reputation of the priest and the diocese.

Persistent accusations of abuse hung over the head of Joseph Ferrario, bishop of Honolulu, HI until he retired in 1993. He denied all the molestation charges made against him.

A number of American bishops have resigned because they sexually abused minors: J. Keith Symons of Palm Beach, FL resigned 1998 when he was accused of sexual abuse of minors early in his ministry.

G. Patrick Ziemann, bishop of Santa Rosa, CA resigned in July 1999 after he acknowledged his sexual relationship with Fr. Jorge Hume Salas, who claimed Ziemann forced him into sexual activity. Ziemann had an earlier priest companion who tragically committed suicide.

Anthony J. O'Connell, bishop of Palm Beach, FL resigned March 8, 2002 after admitting to making a secret settlement with a minor whom he abused years prior when he was on the staff of a seminary in Missouri. The victim, a student, had sought counseling from O'Connell after being molested by 2 other priests.

J. Kendrick Williams, bishop of Lexington, Ky., resigned June 11, 2002 after being named in civil lawsuits by three plaintiffs alleging sexual abuse, including a former altar boy, then age 12.

Thomas Dupre, bishop of Springfield, MA, resigned Feb. 11, 2004 a day after newspapers published allegations that he sexually abused 2 young altar boys in the 1970s over an extended period of time.

Lawrence Welch, bishop of Spokane, WA got in trouble with a male hustler who he attempted to strangle during a sexual encounter in 1986 while he was at a convention in Chicago. The police record exists, but was kept secret.

Joseph Hart, bishop of Cheyenne, WY, was publicly accused in 2002 of abusing boys in 1960s and 70s.

John Eidenschenk, abbot of St. John's abbey Collegeville, MN abused a number of young monks in his monastery.

In addition to Lahey several other Canadian bishops resigned under a cloud for neglect or sexual abuse. Alphonsus Liguori Penney, archbishop of St. Johns Newfoundland resigned in 1990 after an investigation revealed that he knew about sexual and physical abuse of boys at Mt. Cashel orphanage for 10 years but did nothing. Twenty priests and lay workers were arrested and convicted.

Hubert O'Connor, OMI, bishop of British Columbia who resigned in 1992 was accused and later convicted of molesting teen girls at boarding schools.

This discovery of prelates who are sexually active is not limited to the USA or Canada; all lists are grossly incomplete. But bishops from around the world including: Austria, Norway, Ireland, Scotland, South Africa, Ireland, Germany and Belgium have resigned because of sexual scandals. 3

The exact number of the 5,100 Catholic bishops in the world who are or have been sexually active is not known, but they are legion.

Many of them are in Rome. Some have mistresses and even children. Some are active with men, at times with other priests. That activity distorts any moral teaching from the Church. The activity itself is not as distressing as the hypocrisy - the greatest religious sin.

For further information contact


1. SEXUAL ABUSE IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH: A Decade of Crisis, 2002—2012. Plante & Mc Chesney Eds., Praeger.

2. Since 2002 cases of Roman Catholic clergy abuse have been registered around the world—Ireland, UK, Australia, Germany, Austria, Netherlands, Belgium, and even Iceland have recorded cases. Cases of alleged abuse by a coach at the University of Pennsylvania that surfaced in 2011 has opened up a similar cultural dynamic as exists in the Catholic Church.

3. Georg Muller, bishop of Oslo resigned in 2008 as a result of sexual abuse of a boy in the early 1990s. Hans Herman Groer, cardinal of Vienna resigned in 1998 under pressure from other bishops when it became public that he had sexually abused a number of seminarians when he was rector of a seminary. Eamon Casey, bishop of Galway, resigned from his diocese in 1992 when the mother of his 17 year-old son exposed him. Roderick Wright, bishop of Argyll, quit his diocese to marry a divorcee at the same time he was named as the father of a son by another woman and faced claims of sexual affairs with three other women.

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