This is an editorial from the Yakima Herald in Yakima, Washington--from the periphery if you will. It is right-on and offers good solutions even if you may object to one or two of them:
Saturday Soapbox: Catholic church whistleblowers need protection to expose abuse
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a gay man in a church that teaches homosexual behavior is sinful, has been exposed as a sexual predator who targeted males, mostly seminarians, and young boys.
According to Kenneth Woodward (former religious editor for Newsweek, Commonweal -11/9/18), McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., was not only protected by his high office but by a network of gay clerics that had secrets to keep. Woodward writes, “By network, I mean groups of gay priests, diocesan and religious, who encourage the sexual grooming of seminarians and young priests for decades, and who themselves lead double lives – breaking their vows of chastity while ministering to the laity and staffing the various bureaucracies of the church.”
These men hide behind a veneer of public ministry, celibacy and Catholic orthodoxy while living secret lives of sexual misbehavior, some of it criminal.
Readers of the Yakima Herald-Republic saw a glimpse of this in the story of Juan Jose Gonzalez Rios. Gonzalez, a former seminarian and retreat director, was arrested in the spring, 2008, for an outstanding warrant for accessing child porn. Charges were later dropped (“Former Seminarian Tells His Story,” Yakima Herald-Republic, 5/15/08). Gonzalez described how his pastor drew him into parish ministry, simultaneously introducing him to a public life of service and a private life of pornography, sex games, drinking, and gambling. This behavior continued as Gonzales entered the seminary and ended, according to Gonzalez, when the priest sexually assaulted him.
Frank Murray, the former parish minister at Holy Family Parish, and I, the former director of Evangelization for the Diocese of Yakima, had no idea that this was what we were up against when we stumbled onto issues of clergy sex abuse in 2003 – 05. We believed that we were acting as loyal church employees when we did our part to implement diocesan policies to protect children, youth, and vulnerable adults. Frank and I (and our spouses) trusted that diocesan leaders would have our backs. We were wrong. We were “whistleblowers” in a corrupt system and didn’t know it.
It was mind-boggling why diocesan leaders were pushing back so hard on the initial cases in which we were involved – a priest accessing nude pictures of boys and a deacon aspirant molesting two nieces. We came to see that what we were up against was not simply each specific case of sex abuse by a cleric. Our behavior threatened to expose an entire network of gay clergy who were living double lives similar to Cardinal McCarrick’s.
What to do?
The entire church, clergy and laity, need to accept that this problem is real. It is not “gay-bashing” to identify this “gay network” which provides the context for cover-up of the sexual abuse of minors.
Cover-up on a massive scale will continue unless this network is broken up. One way to break up this “gay network” is to make celibacy for the ordained clergy optional. This would attract heterosexual men to the priesthood without going on a witch hunt to oust gay priests, many of whom serve the church with integrity. Finally, church whistleblowers such as Frank Murray and myself, need protection in canon law and local church policy. Because of the First Amendment clause on separation of church and state, our civil law does not protect church employees who are whistleblowers from retaliation and/or firing. The church must get on board and offer this protection, among other major changes, to end cover-up and create a safer environment for all, especially children, youth, and vulnerable people.
Robert Fontana is a former Yakima resident.