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As the world demands answers on sex abuse, Vatican demurs, deflects, ducks, and dodges

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ROME, February 18, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — A Vatican press conference this morning displayed the pent up frustration of journalists—and millions of Catholics worldwide—over the Holy See’s insistence on addressing only the sexual abuse of minors while ignoring the elephant in the room: the preponderance of homosexual clergy in the Church.

A two-hour-long press conference consisting of a panel of Church luminaries took an abrupt turn once journalists were free to ask questions, revealing a stark divergence between the preferred narrative of the hierarchy and the universal concern of multitudes of Catholics in the pews.

Stunningly, the panelists ducked, dodged and deflected every question raised about homosexuality in the priesthood.

As it turns out, the questions asked were more significant and more informative than the answers profered.

The National Catholic Register’s Edward Pentin noted that during the Synod on Youth, it was said that the abuse of seminarians and vulnerable adults would be addressed at the Vatican Summit.  

“When this meeting was initially announced, it was to be about the protection of minors and vulnerable adults but now it seems to be only about the protection of minors,” said Pentin.  “Will this meeting include the abuse of vulnerable adults and seminarians in particular?”

In responding, Cardinal Cupich, nervously fiddling with a pen, couldn’t bring himself to utter the word “seminarians,” and suggested only that bishops around the world could take what is learned during the summit and apply it to ‘other situations.’

Diane Montagna of LifeSiteNews addressed the panel: “Recently, Cardinal Muller, former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith—which gives him a unique perspective on these problems—said, as others have … that more than 80% of the victims of these sexual offenders are teenagers of the male sex.”

“Will the problem of homosexuality among the clergy be addressed as part of this problem?  It’s obvious from the data that many of these acts committed against minors are homosexual acts.  In fact, the majority [are]. So will this be part of the Church’s ‘transparency’ over the course of the coming days?”

Cupich acknowledged the high percentage of “male on male” sex abuse but then quickly deflected, saying that “homosexuality itself is not a cause.”  Instead, “It is a matter of opportunity, and also a matter of poor training on the part of people.”

The Cardinal made reference to two famous studies about clergy sexual abuse, but the scope of both were limited to pedophilia, and didn’t take into consideration sexual misconduct with seminarians, other young men subject to exploitive sex abuse by clergy, and consensual romantic and sexualized relationships between clergy and other adult males.

Montagna’s question opened the floodgates.  Other journalists picked up where she left off after the panel ducked her question.

“In some circles, for some time now, there’s been the hypothesis that, not with regards to the abuse itself, but with regards to cover up, part of the problem is that priests, bishops, and cardinals are themselves engaged in illicit sexual behavior and therefore are unwilling to denounce each other,” noted CNN’s Delia Gallagher.

“That is a hypothesis both in conservative circles and now being raised in a book coming out by a French gay author who claims that there are these gay relationships in the hierarchy which enable coverup,” continued Gallagher.

“In your investigation … is that true?” she asked.  

Cupich offered a wry response, dismissing the question.  

“You are right in saying that it’s a hypothesis,” said Cupich.  “Hypotheses have to be proven, and this is something that has to remain at the level of hypothesis.”  

When it was the turn of the Catholic Herald’s Christopher Altieri, his questions—and body language—displayed the embarrassment and awkwardness that Catholics experience when challenging high-ranking prelates—men thought to be holy—with simple, honest, obvious questions shared by millions of faithful Catholics:

I don’t know how to do this without just saying it so let me not even try to put a fine point on it.

On the systemic, the structural, and the cultural level of this issue, how do men who don’t understand how bad the abuse of minors is, ever make it past a preliminary screening in a vocational discernment program, let alone rise through the ranks to become bishops?

When Cardinal Cupich responded by speaking only about the screening process for seminary candidates, avoiding the heart of the reporter’s question, Altieri respectfully tried again.

Your Eminence, I’m not sure you’ve answered the question. … I’m not talking about how to screen out abusers …    

How does someone who doesn’t understand, when he gets to the point of becoming a bishop, that this is bad?  Going back to the beginning of that process, how does someone who doesn’t understand how bad this is ever get into orders at all in the first place?

Archbishop Scicluna offered an unsatisfying, bureaucratic response, while agreeing that pedophilia is terrible thing.  

As journalists in Rome challenge the Holy See’s spokespersons, faithful Catholics in the United States are asking the same questions, rightfully concerned after months of revelations about clergy homosexual abuse of seminarians, young men and boys and the associated cover ups by bishops; the promotion of the normalization of homosexuality by high profile priests such as Fr. James Martin, SJ; and and the increasing numbers of priests who have felt compelled to ‘come out of the closet.’

Catholics fear that after this week’s two very grand, very public gestures by the Vatican—the defrocking of disgraced former Cardinal McCarrick and the much publicized global Summit on the Sexual Abuse of Minors—that the Holy See will claim the matter is closed and no further investigation or action is necessary.   

At a weekend rally in front of the Papal Ambassador’s residence in Washington DC, folks were afraid that after this week, folks at the Vatican will “wash their hands” of the homosexual issue.

“We can’t allow them to just stop there,” Louis Carvallo told LifeSiteNews.

“McCarrick is the tip of the iceberg,” added Bob Foss. “There are so many problems with homosexuality in the Church and the lack of leadership on the part of our bishops.”  

Jeffrey Bedia, also at the rally, said that he sees the laicization of McCarrick only as a first step: “I hope this will not be just an example.  There’s a lot of people both in the hierarchy and the laity that sheltered this man.”

Watch this morning's full press conference at the Vatican here. Edward Pentin's question begins at 1:12:18, Diane Montagna's begins at 1:27:15, CNN’s Delia Gallagher's begins at 1:30:35, and Christopher Altieri's begins at 1:33:49.

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Doug Mainwaring

Doug Mainwaring is a journalist for LifeSiteNews, an author, and a marriage, family and children's rights activist.  He has testified before the United States Congress and state legislative bodies, originated and co-authored amicus briefs for the United States Supreme Court, and has been a guest on numerous TV and radio programs.  Doug and his family live in the Washington, DC suburbs.