The Catholic News Agency recently posted a story on how leaders in the Church responded quickly and forcefully to a poor excuse of an article written in the National Catholic Reporter, otherwise known as the National Catholic Fish-wrap.
Here are some highlights:
Writer Phyllis Zagano said in her June 8 piece for the Reporter that Bishop Finn – who recently apologized for failing to deal swiftly with a priest whom police found possessed questionable photos – could also be compared to mogul Dominique Strauss Kahn, who was arrested for sexually assaulting a hotel maid.
“None of these four players speaking loudly on the stages of politics and finance seems to have much respect for women, or anyone else for that matter,” said Zagano, a former professor at Fordham University in New York.
Her criticism of Bishop Finn comes after he publicly expressed his remorse for neglecting to heed warnings about local priest Fr. Shawn Ratigan that were raised in a letter sent by Saint Patrick School principal Julie Hess to the diocese’s vicar general. The letter detailed parents’ concerns about the priest’s behavior around children.
However, Zagano’s remarks did not sit well with Catholic League president Bill Donohue and the internationally-known author Fr. Alfred McBride, O Praem., who both believe she went too far.
“Arnold Schwarzenegger impregnates his housekeeper, Rep. Anthony Weiner sends porn pictures of himself to strangers, and Dominque Strauss-Kahn allegedly rapes a hotel maid,” Donohue said.
“To be sure, they have something in common, but to conflate their sordid behavior with Kansas City-St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn’s failure to move quickly against a problem priest is so forced as to be ludicrous,” he told CNA in a June 12 interview.
“That, however, is exactly what Phyllis Zagano has done.”
Zagano also criticized Bishop Finn’s celibate formation, saying she felt “sorry for him” that he entered seminary at age 12. She wrote that the bishop is a “product a system left over from the Council of Trent,” which directed dioceses to create minor seminaries to provide initial formation for diocesan clergy.
“An all-male environment from the age of twelve can ensure celibacy, but at what price?” Zagano said. “If the only way to get celibate clergy is to lock up twelve-year-olds until they are ordained, maybe the hierarchy should reconsider requiring priestly celibacy.”
Donohue said in response that “her lashing out at Bishop Finn, and her inane analogies comparing Finn to sexual deviants in public life, smacks of an agenda.”
Fr. Alfred McBride, a professor at St. Norbert’s College in Wisconsin who has helped form hundreds of seminarians, also took on Zagano’s criticism of priestly celibacy. He told CNA that it’s inaccurate to blame celibacy for sexual misconduct or mismanagement of cases within the Church.
“When we look at the celebrity politicians of late who broke their marital promises to their wives, did that happen because they were married?” he asked. “No. It happened because they failed to nurture their vow of fidelity which they pronounced on their wedding.”
Fr. McBride, a popular speaker who’s authored over 40 books and appeared regularly on TV networks such as EWTN, said that the “central issue of our culture is fidelity, not adultery or sex abuse.”
“Whether one is married or celibate, the virtue of fidelity is central to their lives.”
“Marriage does not cause adultery,” he added. “An evil soul causes that. So also celibacy does not cause what Pope Benedict calls the ‘filth’ of sex abuse, but the permission given by priests to let evil overtake their souls.”
Fr. McBride said that the real reason for sex abuse and sexual misconduct by priests is not celibacy but “the failure to practice the virtue of chastity when faced with temptations to abandon their vow of celibacy.”
He noted that people often make the unfortunate mistake of defining celibacy in a negative way as if it’s simply the act of giving up marriage and children.
However, “the positive view of celibacy,” he said, “is that it is a form of loving God and people with an undivided heart.”
“Celibacy did not block Blessed John Paul II from being admired as one of the most courageous priests on earth,” Fr. McBride underscored. “See how one celibate priest stood up against one of the most corrupt governments of his time.”
“Priests that abused children did not do so because of their celibacy, rather they failed because they broke their vow to be chaste,” he said.
“When four million people elbowed their way into the Vatican to pay tribute to a celibate priest, what does that tell you? It states that John Paul knew how to keep his promises,” he said, referring to Bl. John Paul II’s funeral.
The piece that originated in the National Catholic Reporter is poor and judgemental to say the least. However, there is not much one can expect from a consistently dissident and unfaithful publication that purports to call itself “Catholic” when it is anything but.
On the issue of priestly celibacy, Father McBride sums up the root of the problem when he said, “Priests that abused children did not do so because of their celibacy, rather they failed because they broke their vow to be chaste.”
This brings me to another issue. And that is the one that is not commonly reported on – the homosexual nature of the majority of these cases. The vast majority of reported priestly unchastity with minors occurs with teenage boys. Psych texts and professionals have a term, which escapes me know, for this type of attraction and that word is not pedophilia. A pedophile is one who has this unnatural attraction to little kids.
Many of these abusive priests do not fall in this category but rather have an attraction to boys/young men who are reproductively viable but are nonetheless minors. That means that these priests are preying on boys whose bodies are otherwise mature. This is homosexual attraction and desires.
Again the main issue is unchastity to the priest’s state in life. The same goes for accusations levied against Fr. John Corapi and the admissions of Fr. Thomas Euteneuer and the deplorable conduct of Albert Cutie. The difference between the former and many of the abusive priests is a) consenting age – of course – and b) gender.
Priestly celibacy is not the cause of this sin – falling into temptation is the cause of this sin. Let us reflect on the holy and good nature of celibacy whether one is a priest, a religious or even a consecrated single person:
I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman or girl is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.
— Saint Paul on the unmarried and widows, 1 Corinthians 7:32-35