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September 12, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The present severe crisis of sexual abuse by bishops and priests in the Church worldwide has resulted in a number of opinions regarding its origins. 

The recent Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report identified the homosexual predation of males; the Holy Father and Cardinal Cupich blame “clericalism”; the John Jay Causes and Context study (2011) postulated “availability.”

My professional opinion as a psychiatrist with forty years of clinical experience is that the cause of the abuse crisis is rooted in psychological and spiritual conflicts in bishops and in priests, specifically a narcissism and a profound weakness in male confidence which inclines them to homosexual predation. 

Homosexual predation

The recent Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report helps to clarify the origins of the sexual harassment of youth.  It identifies 73% of the victims as being subjected to homosexual predation.

This finding is also consistent with the reports of the sexual harassment by Archbishop McCarrick of children, teenagers, young adults and adults.

Again, this finding is consistent with my clinical experience as a psychiatrist over the past forty years in treating priest abusers.  In every case I knew of sexual involvement with children or adolescents, the perpetrator had previously been involved in adult homosexual relationships.

Summary of Pennsylvania Predator Priest Activity

Heterosexual Predation – 23%

  • child – 6%
  • female teenage victims- 16%
  • female adult victims -1 %

Homosexual Predation – 73%

  • child victims 11%
  • male teenage victims – 60%
  • male adult victims -2%

Child Porn 

  • Gender Non-Specific – 4%

(Source: 40th Statewide Investigating Grand Jury REPORT 1 / Interim – Redacted. 2018.)

The Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report notably identifies the sexual harassment of children, teenagers and adults as “homosexual predation of children, teenagers and adults by an adult male.”  It specifically did not use the terms of the John Jay report of pedophilia for child abuse or of ephebophilia for adolescent-abusive acts.  Instead, the Pennsylvania Report clarified that a male’s engaging in sexually abusive behaviors toward another male is homosexual predation regardless of the age of the victim.


Pope Francis on August 20, 2018, stated that “clericalism” was the root cause of the sex abuse crisis in Pennsylvania.  He stated: 

“Clericalism, whether fostered by priests themselves or by lay persons, leads to an excision in the ecclesial body that supports and helps to perpetuate many of the evils that we are condemning today. To say ‘no’ to abuse is to say an emphatic ‘no’ to all forms of clericalism.” 

Clericalism has been described elsewhere as a “disordered attitude” toward clergy which often results in an “excessive deference and an assumption of their moral superiority.” Pope Francis has noted that such an attitude can be “fostered by priests themselves or by lay persons.”

Clericalism, however, does not result in a psychological need in a priest for a sexual encounter with another male, especially an adolescent. 

The Holy Father did not acknowledge the role of homosexual predation among clergy in the Pennsylvania crisis.

Cardinal Cupich also identified clericalism, not homosexual priests, as the cause of the sexual abuse crisis. Recently, the arrest of two priests of the Archdiocese of Chicago for public lewdness erodes the tag of clericalism. 

In my professional opinion, in an effort to deny the role of homosexuality in the sexual abuse crisis, clericalism and availability (the John Jay Report) have been incorrectly identified as major causes.  There is no psychological relationship between clericalism, availability and the sexual abuse of youth.

Both these terms manifest an attempt to cover-up the true origins of the abuse crisis.

Availability – John Jay Report 

In the John Jay first report of The Nature and Scope of Sexual Abuse of Minors (2004), 4,392 clerics were accused of childhood sexual abuse, which represented about 4 percent of clerics in active ministry during the study period. 

It found that incidents of clergy sexual abuse of youth increased in the 1960s, peaked around 1980, and have been declining since then. This time period coincided with a major rebellion by bishops, priests, Catholic universities and educators, and the laity against the Church’s teaching on sexual morality, which was reasserted by Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae

Table 1 Alleged victims of sexual abuse incidents, grouped by gender and age

Age in years      1–7                 8–10                   11–14                    15–17

Number             203                   992                    4,282                      2,892

Number             284                   398                     734                        502

(Source: John Jay College, The Nature and Scope of Sexual Abuse of Minors, 53, table 3.54.)

The John Jay Report found that 81% of the alleged victims were males.  

The Causes and Context study (2011) by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice concluded that the childhood and adolescent sexual abuse committed by clergy was unrelated to homosexuality. Instead, they identified the predation and abuse of adolescent males, the primary victims in the crisis, as a crime of opportunity or availability.  While criminologists may describe homosexual predation in imprisoned men as arising from availability, this theory is not applicable to the general public or to priests.

The John Jay second study ignored the severe psychological conflicts and grooming behaviors in priests and bishops, such as Archbishop McCarrick who sexually abused minors, seminarians and adults. 

Psychological and spiritual conflicts

The major psychological conflicts that contribute to the homosexual predation of children, adolescents and seminarians in my clinical experience over the past 40 years are narcissism and a profound weakness in male confidence.

I have described the role of narcissism in the epidemic of sexually aggressive behaviors in the media, as well as in singles and adolescents of both sexes

Narcissism can lead a man to act against his natural role as protector of youth and to think and feel that he is entitled to use others as sexual objects.

If a priest fails to teach and live the Church’s truth about sexual morality and chastity as contained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Humanae Vitae, he does not configure himself to Jesus Christ and fails to surrender his sexuality to the Lord. This weakness in sacrificial self-giving weakens his confidence and makes him vulnerable to situational ethics and to act-out sexually. 

Also, Archbishop Joseph Naumann has written an excellent letter in response to the sexual abuse crisis in which he challenges priests to preach on the Church’s truth about sexual morality and chastity.

“The priest needs to be able to articulate, in a convincing and compelling way, why heterosexual intimacy outside of the marital covenant is gravely immoral, as well as why homosexual activity is also always seriously sinful,” he wrote. 

Responses to the causes of the crisis

The trust in the hierarchy and in the Holy Father himself has been profoundly damaged by the sexual abuse crisis, the response to it and the accusations by Archbishop Viganò of a cover-up of Archbishop McCarrick’s predatory homosexual behavior by top leaders in the Church.

Robert George has identified the documents that are essential to review in response to the allegations of a cover-up of Archbishop McCarrick’s evil behaviors by the Vatican authorities. He suggested that the only way to arrive at the truth would be for the Pope to order church officials to release all pertinent documents in any and all Vatican and Washington offices. 

Archbishop Chaput’s recommendation to the Holy Father that he cancel the Synod on Youth seems prudent. He said, “Right now, the bishops would have absolutely no credibility in addressing this topic.” Instead, he recommends that a Synod of Bishops be held to address the sexual abuse crisis in the Church.  

In my professional opinion, Archbishop Chaput is correct. The mistrust in the laity is so severe at this time, because of the predatory homosexual abuse of youth and seminarians and its continued cover-up by bishops, that they would not trust the views of bishops in the proceedings or conclusions of a Synod on Youth.

The Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report that identifies homosexual predation in 73% of the cases victims of alleged abuse cannot be ignored, denied or rationalized.

A commitment should be made to follow the 2002 recommendation of Pope John Paul II in response to the crisis in the United States, which was to teach the fullness of the Church’s truth on sexual morality.  It would also mean ending the inexplicable and culpable silence on sexual morality and marriage as found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Humanae Vitae. This also would mean learning or relearning moral theology that already proved itself capable of converting an over-sexualized pagan world.  

Cardinal Francis George, the late Archbishop of Chicago, spoke of this truth at the annual meeting of the National Association of Catholic Diocesan Lesbian and Gay Ministries in Chicago in 1999.  He said:  

“It is possible, with God's grace, for everyone to live a chaste life, including persons experiencing same-sex attraction. To deny that the power of God's grace enables those with homosexual attractions to live chastely is to deny, effectively, that Jesus has risen from the dead.” 

Once authentic Catholic moral theology has been learned and communicated, then mandatory conferences on homosexuality should be required for priests and bishops in every diocese and seminary given by Courage, the only international program in the Church for those with same-sex attraction that is loyal to the Church’s teaching. Such conferences should also be required of the cardinals, bishops and priests serving in the Vatican.

Since the John Jay Report failed to identify the psychological and spiritual causes of the sexual abuse crisis, the programs developed to protect youth and priests from further abuse are seriously deficient and must be corrected.

The USCCB should consult with mental health professionals who support the Church’s teaching on sexual morality, such as in the Catholic Medical Association, and who understand the role of narcissism and psychological conflicts in the origins of same-sex attraction and homosexual predation of males of all ages.  These professionals should then develop their aspect of a comprehensive program to protect priests from sexual acting-out with youth, primarily adolescent males, and with their own peers.

The laity also has a responsibility to be active in protecting the truths in the Church as it did in the Arian heresy.  They must demand that bishops and priests be spiritual fathers who are loyal to the Church by preaching the truth. 

It is time to face the truth about the origins of the sexual abuse crisis so that the Church remains faithful to Jesus Christ and does not participate in the de-Christianization of the culture.

Editor's note: Rick Fitzgibbons, M.D. coedited an August 2011 issue of the Catholic Medical Association’s Linacre Quarterly on the crisis in the Church in which he co-authored several articles, is a member of the John Paul II Academy for Human Life and Family, has taught at the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at Catholic University of America and has served as a consultant to the Congregation for Clergy at the Vatican. His forthcoming book on strengthening Catholic marriages will be published in 2019 by Ignatius Press.