The Vatican Connection

March 18, 2010

In 1992 Chicago hosted the first national gathering in the United States of Catholic clergy abuse victims.[1] Three hundred men and women attended. My remarks included a statement to the effect ‘that the current revelations of abuse are the tip of an iceberg; and if the problem is traced to its foundations the path will lead to the highest halls of the Vatican.’

That time has come. Revelations of sexual abuse of minors that have been common and frequent in the United States especially since January 6, 2002 when the Boston Globe began a series of 1,200 documented reports of Catholic clergy abuse; similar reports are now pouring out of Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Poland. Revelations will continue because sexual abuse of minors is part and parcel of the Roman Catholic clerical culture. I predict that when sexual activity of priests and bishops in Africa and South America become public those reports will overshadow all current records of clerical behavior. The Vatican already knows.

·        The reason for my continued confidence in that statement is because the problem of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy is systemic. Sexual activity occurs on every level of the clerical system. Sexual activity with minors is but one manifestation of the range of sexual behavior in the ranks of Catholic bishops and priests. A major reason for attention of this particular clerical behavior is because it is criminal. It has been recorded prominently since 1049.[2] Public concern and outrage in the U.S. has followed the revelation of its existence and the ongoing conspiracy of silence to keep abuse hidden and the collusion of superiors to keep it as secret as possible; all duly recorded in court and Grand Jury documents.

·        At any one time no more than fifty percent (50%) of Catholic clergy bound by the requirement of perfect and perpetual celibacy are practicing it.[3]

·        Between six percent (6%) and nine percent (9%) of priests active in U.S. dioceses and religious communities get involved sexually with minors. Those are figures from 1960 onward.

·        [In 1983 11.5 percent of priests active in the Los Angeles, California Archdiocese were subsequently reported for abuse. Thirty percent of the ordination classes of 1966 and 1972 of the LA seminary are calculated to have abused minors.]

·        [Twenty-three percent of priests active in the Tucson, Arizona in 1988 were named in diocesan files for sexual activity, mostly with minors.]   

In 1993 Cardinal Jose Sanchez, then Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy, was asked by a BBC correspondent what he thought of the reports that between 45 and 50 percent of Catholic priests were sexually active. His response on video, seen by 90 million viewers was: “I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of those figures.”[4]

·        Religious superiors knew and have known about the sexual activity of clerics—even about sex with minors.

·        It is absurd to pretend that the rule of celibacy is perfectly or even moderately well kept by priests and bishops. It is destructive to perpetuate that illusion. Priests, Monsignors, Abbots, Bishops, Archbishops, Cardinals, and Popes know about sexual activity in their ranks—and some perpetrators are represented in that list.[5]

March 2010 The Pope Benedict’s handling of the crisis of abuse bursting out of Ireland, Germany, Austria, Poland, the Netherlands and Switzerland is being defended by Vatican sources despite his 2001 Vatican letter sent to all bishops advising them that all “cases of sexual abuse of minors must be forwarded” to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith his office; and all cases were to be subject to pontifical secret.

Required celibacy is intimately bound up with pedophilia within the ranks of the Catholic clergy despite Vatican denials.

·        The Church continues to protest “that its celibacy requirement for priests was [not] the root cause of the clerical sex abuse scandal convulsing the church in Europe.”

·        Not true. In combination with the other factors that comprise the clerical culture, required celibacy does predispose, promote retain, hide, and defend clergy who are sexually active in their ranks.

·        Sexual deprivation can be instrumental in predisposing a person to sex with a minor. RC clergy often find adult sexual partners unavailable due to their deficient psychosexual development and the social constraints on intimate adult interaction. The availability of admiring and vulnerable youngsters to ill educated ministers with unconscious childhood strivings coupled with unsublimated sexual drives can lead to sexual contact of a priest with minors. 

·        A significant number of RC clergy are psychosexually immature. This has been studied and well documented.[6] The church prefers men and women on this level of development for church service because they are easier to control—they tend to be idealistic, dependent, obedient to authority, in need of causes and devoted to people they feel are strong; underdeveloped people are responsive to well defined boundaries that make them feel special (superior) and secure.[7]

·        Men who say or think that they want to be completely free of any and all sexual activity are frequently troubled by their desires and instincts. Many are in denial about their basic drives and hope that the system will protect them from sin and perversion. Once within the clerical system—from seminary onward—they progressively discover that the system is full of sexual activity and opportunities for sexual expression. Frequently confessors and superiors indicate (and act on) their spiritual and physical attraction to their students or young priests. As a student in Rome we observed and talked about the system of preference for “beautiful” boys that was open and starkly visible among the monsignori who served as Vatican secretaries to various bishops and cardinals. “Afternoon tea” was the entrée to ever more intimate introductions and invitations. Parallel patterns are prevalent in seminaries, abbeys, and chancery offices all over the United States. Sexual activity, not celibacy, is the underground mood and energy of religious institutions. 

·        Secrecy is the key element that drives the clerical engine and preserves its power. Sacramental Confession is and has been used as a cover for crime for centuries.[8] Clerical sexual activity of all strips—including abuse of children—is considered sin and therefore first and foremost under the jurisdiction of clergy. All is forgivable.

·        Mental Reservation can be used as a justification of what an ordinary person would label an outright lie; bishops consider the law of the Church to supercede civil laws and that the oath of obedience to the pope and the Church is superior to any mundane demand. Multiple depositions of cardinals and bishops demonstrate this maneuver—black on white court documents.[9]

Corruption proceeds from the top down and not from the bottom up as church media wants the public to believe. How it works:

·        In 1992 an American prelate who had just returned from Rome sat in my office and said bluntly, “The organization to which I belong is rotten from the top down.” He also related a 45-minute visit he had with an American cardinal who was in a long-term intimate relationship with a woman. The cardinal spent 22 minutes (he timed it) bemoaning the fact of the large number of sexually active homosexual priests in his archdiocese. No one has described the clerical structure and current state of affairs better or more clearly than Fr. Brian D’Arcy: “A combination of bad theology, the dysfunctional abuse of power and a warped view of sexuality, have contributed to what the Murphy Report repeatedly refers to as “the systemic failure” to protect the most innocent and the most vulnerable children. I believe that the evil clerical culture which pervades our institution right up to the Vatican bureaucracy itself needs to be dismantled…Part of the human structure of the church is rotten to the core.”[10] [emphasis mine]

·        He is not alone: On March 10, 2010 Rev. Gabriele Amorth who has served as the chief exorcist of the Vatican for 25 years, was quoted in an Italian news paper: “the Devil is at work inside the Vatican,” and that “when one speaks of ‘the smoke of Satan’ in the holy rooms, it is all true—including these latest stories of violence and pedophilia.” He said specifically that this includes cardinals.

Pedophilia in the system and how it works

·    Between six and nine percent of priests active in the United States get involved sexually with minors at least once.[11]

·        Some Cardinals, bishops, abbots, seminary rectors are or have been sexually active. Some of that activity has been with their subordinates. Only a minor proportion of their sexual activity may be between them and children or minors. But some prelates in the highest ranks of church power do have sex with minors, mostly boys. Nonetheless the sexual histories of church officials are often known within the closely guarded circle of high-ranking clerics. Part of this knowledge is acquired and sealed over the years behind the seal of confession. Some of it is bound by the brotherhood of the Scarlet Bond that forbids scandal and the preservation of image at all costs. Superiors who are or have been sexually active are compelled to keep their activity secret and preserve their anonymity. For instance Cardinal Mahony of Los Angeles knew about or lived with several priests who have been credibly accused, convicted, or imprisoned for abuse. The cover up of abuse by the American bishops is now well documented even is substantial Grand Jury Reports.[12] The dynamic of the cover up is outlined also in Ireland[13]. This dynamic is operative also in the Vatican.     

·        Sexual infractions by subordinates receive great mercy and latitude; even the abuse of minors and abortion by clerical partners receive easy forgiveness—again to avoid scandal and with the frequent excuse or justification that “everybody sins or father is only human.”

·        Masturbation, that is officially pronounced a mortal sin is so prevalent within clerical circles that it is all but dismissed, however, it forms a cycle of guilt that binds clerics and confessors together wherein secret sexual transgressions become minimized and trivialized—even sex with minors becomes just another sin to be forgiven

·        Psychosexually immature men are prone to select sexually immature partners.[14] A substantial proportion of priests (fall in love) or become sexually involved with children or minors under the guise and self-delusion that they are being kind.

·        Priests are not educated about celibacy or sexuality. Superiors count on the clerical system including the religious house or seminary to inculcate sexual restraint or celibacy. It is an impossible situation since sexual activity exists in the underground on every level of the clerical culture.[15]

·        The clerical system is homosocialits structure and power system, including its theological construct of Father/Son/Holy Spirit is exclusively male. The only woman allowed in this theological hierarchy is a Virgin-Mother. This intellectual framework supports stunted development. The clerical system is significantly homosexual in orientation. This fact should neither be surprising nor derogatory. The structure and culture of the Roman Catholic Church makes room and positive use of the great reservoir of talent represented in the gay community. But just as gay priests can be exemplary pastors some, too, can remain underdeveloped. Because such a large proportion of the clerical community—bishops and priests—is homosexual a greater proportion of the sexual abusers of minors are gay and their victims, male.[16]

Clerical culture is a reality—priests are not like other men; they conform to a well-defined state of existence: that is appropriately defined as a culture—A set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization or group… An integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for symbolic thought and social learning.”

·        Clerical cultural is an institution as defined above and is essentially homosocial and frequently homosexual.

·    All clerics must conform to the same set of beliefs.

·        Blind Obedience is imposed on members of the hierarchy creating a situation of stultified growth and the perpetuation of adolescent function. In the words of Fr. Yves Congar, O.P. “In the Catholic Church it has often seemed that the sin of the flesh was the only sin, and obedience the only virtue.” This describes an adolescent mentality. Bishops and cardinals conform. Truth and justice are sacrificed.

·        Clerics are trained, develop and function in a culture of double standard—outward “perfection” and secret intrigue. This extends from the top to every level of clerical administration. Image first. Avoid scandal at all costs. Sexual activity is tolerated if secret.

·        Clerical culture is an existence of status and privilege. It is a culture of entitlement.

·        Clergy who get sexually involved with minors have demonstrated a clinical profile of narcissism, psychosocial isolation, and anger / hostility. Within the culture generally and with sex abusers specifically exists evidence of culture of altruism in the service of narcissism. That is that good is done with a predominance of self-gratification and self-aggrandizement.

·        To be a member of the clerical culture is be surrounded if not infused with acquired situational narcissism. This state of ego centrism is necessary to advance in the clerical structure and a certain degree is required to live within it.

Vatican Ersatz Response to the 2010 Crisis of Clergy Abuse in Europe so far echoes if not copies the line of defense used by the American RCC that refined it between 1990 and the present:

“There is no real problem.” (1990-1)

“The media manufactured the sex abuse crisis.” (1992 Cardinal Law pronouncing God’s wrath on the Boston Globe for writing about the Fr. James Porter abuse of 200 children.) (March 2010 Vatican press blamed secular “media coverage of the sex scandals rocking the Catholic Church in Ireland, Germany and Austria for implying that there was a higher instance of sexual abuse in the Church than in other parts of society.”)

“There may be a little problem, but it is just a few bad apples.” (1993) (Vatican, March 2010 “For the love of truth, the number of incidents involving clergy is very small.”)

“The media is anti religious and anti-Catholic” (1994 USCCB Press Office) (March 2010 “The Vatican complained of a smear campaign against the pope.) On March 10, 2010 Irish bishop Kieran Conry, rejected accusations of media bias against the Catholic Church and said the problems of pedophile priests dominating headlines in the UK and across Europe were problems of the Church's own making. "The Roman Catholic Church sets itself up to be the great moral authority. When it does fail its own rigid standards, it deserves to be attacked and criticized.

 “The problem in the Catholic Church is no bigger than in any other clergy group or religion.” (1996)

“In fact, the problem of abuse is greater among married men.” (1998 with the 119.6M judgment against Fr. Rudy Kos/Bishop Charles Grahmann/Dallas)  (Vatican statement March 2010: "This has a negative effect on the Catholic Church...but it should be noted that abuse of children is more widespread in non-religious people and married couples than clergy,"

“There may be a small problem, but we are taking care of it.” (2000, Sr. Mary Ann Walsh spokesperson for the US bishops claming that 99/44 100th percent of priests keep their celibacy.)

“There is a problem-crisis.” (2002 after the Boston Globe’s release of documents on January 6 the bishops called a meeting in Dallas to deal with the problem.) (Pope calls the American Cardinals to Rome)

“The problem is history.” (2002 Pronouncement of bishop Wilton Gregory after the bishops Dallas zero-tolerance Accord in June.) (April 2008 Pope Benedict met with five Boston victims of clergy abuse. Press called it “unprecedented”.) 

 “We have been transparent.” (February 27, 2004 when the Report of the National Review Board and the Survey of the John-Jay College of Criminal Justice were made public. Both Reports placed the responsibility for the crisis on the bishops. Justice Anne Burke and Governor Frank Keating who chaired the National Review Board has said repeatedly that the bishops are not really looking for change, but want “business as usual.” All of the subsequent Grand Jury Reports say that the bishops cannot manage the problem of abusive clergy.)

The US bishops set up a Washington D.C. center—Office of Child and Youth Protection—having an office staff of four women: Goals: 1) assist dioceses to implement safe environment programs; 2) to develop audit for bishops’ compliance to 2002 Charter; 3) develop an annual report on each bishop’s compliance with provisions of Charter.

“We have done more than any other institution or church or even the Scouts to educate people about abuse.” Dr. Paul Mc Hugh. 2008. In effect the American bishops have created paper tigers and focused efforts on educating laity about the dangers of child abuse but neglecting solid education for priests about celibacy. (The clerical culture has not changed. It will continue to produce psychosexual immature and sexually abusive priests and bishops.

Pope Benedict XVI writes a letter March 20 2010.

[1] Along with advocates Frs. Thomas Doyle, Andrew Greeley, author Jason Berry, attorney Jeffrey Anderson, and Jeanne Miller, the founder of the first advocacy group for victims and the mother of a son abused by her parish priest.

[2] Cf. Anderson on Peter Damian. This site.

[3] Cf. A Secret World, 1990; Sex, Priests and Power, 1995, etc.

[4] Sipe 1990 Report; and the 1992 Report of sociologist/priest Victor Kotze.

[5] Note the tolerant accommodation that Pope John Paul II accorded to former Benedictine abbot Cardinal Hans Herman Groer of Austria. In 1995, credible allegations surfaced that he had molested students at an all-male Catholic high school in the early 1970s. Also Marcial Marciel Degollado founder of the Legionnaires of Christ remained a guarded friend despite his abuse of young men in his institute and subsequently exposed as the father of children. Cf. Jason Berry and his extensive investigative reporting.

[6] Cf. Conrad Baars 1971; Kennedy & Heckler, 1972

[7] Although 42% of RC employed personnel are women, none have priesthood or essential positions of power.

[8] Cf. CRIMEN SOLLICITATIONIS Vatican document 1922 &1962. Also Doyle, Sipe, Wall. Sex, Priests & Secret Codes, 2008.

[9] Cf. Catholic Dictionary. Also: A lie is something intrinsically evil, however, traditional doctrine also says that people under an obligation to faithfully keep secrets, can fulfill their duty by saying what is false, ambiguous or to tell a lie.

[10] Fr. Brian D’Arcy C.P. 2/1/2010 New Catholic Times

[11] This is putting all the best available information together as of 03-17-10.

[12] Cf. Rockville Center, 2002; Massachusetts 2003; Philadelphia 2005; etc.

[13]  Cf. The Ferns Report 2005; MURPHY REPORT 2009; Ryan Report, 2010.

[14]  Sipe 6% 1990; Rodriguez 7% 1996; John Jay Report 6.5%  P.30-7, 2004.

[15] Cf. I Millinari, Shroud of Silence. An account of sex in the Vatican by five staff members.

[16] Between 70 and 80% of minor victims of priests and bishops are male.