HRC Urges Catholic Leaders To Speak And Act Responsibly On Issue Of Child Abuse Within The Church

The Human Rights Campaign spoke out on April 25th against Roman
Catholic leaders who are acting irresponsibly in dealing with the current
crisis of priests who sexually abuse minors. HRC condemns this attempt to
sweep this tragic pattern of exploitation under the rug by wrongly linking
the problem to the admission of gays into the priesthood.

"Reckless and hurtful statements by some leaders in the Catholic
hierarchy unnecessarily harm gay and lesbian Catholics and dishonor the
thousands of gay priests who have served the Church with honor and
distinction," said HRC Communications Director David M. Smith. "These
reckless remarks do nothing but create misunderstanding, and distract the
Church from addressing the real issues at hand, which led to these
unconscionable acts of child abuse and the Church's cover-up of these
crimes.

"What Church leaders desperately need is reflection, not deflection of these
difficult issues that confront them," continued Smith. "Solutions will only
come through an honest, thoughtful and deliberative attempt to address the
situation. The immediate answer is to root out abusers, plain and simple, no
matter what their sexual orientation. We call on the Church to punish
wrongdoers, without sweeping the problem under the carpet by blaming and
persecuting innocent people because of who they are."

"The Church hierarchy is refusing to acknowledge their own failings in
moving abusive priests from parish to parish, and protecting criminals
instead of children," said Marianne Duddy, executive director of
Dignity/USA, the organization for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender
Catholics. "And now the American Church has joined the Vatican in cynically
shifting the blame to gay priests."

While a few Church leaders have linked homosexuality to the crisis, the
research is clear that the sexual orientation of an adult is not a factor in
the analysis of child abuse. The American Psychological Association, the
National Association of Social Workers, the American Academy of Child
Psychiatrists and the Child Welfare League of America all have policy
statements stating there is no correlation between homosexuality and child
abuse.

In fact, a 1994 study found that "a child's risk of being molested
by his or her relative's heterosexual partner is 100 times greater than by
someone who might be identified as a homosexual." (Carole Jenny et al.)
"What is particularly painful is that using gay priests as
scapegoats is a smokescreen that may be allowing Church officials to avoid
dealing with numerous types of abusive situations," said Smith. In 2001, two
Catholic organizations – Caritas International and the Catholic Agency for
Overseas Development – released reports citing widespread sexual abuse of
nuns in Africa by priests. According to the reports, female members of
religious orders were frequently "seduced, sexually exploited and raped" by
priests and missionaries. There were also reported abuses of nuns by priests
in Brazil, Columbia, India, Ireland, Italy, New Guinea, the Philippines and
the United States, according to a nun who compiled one of the reports.
"All abuse is wrong, regardless of the sexual orientation of the
perpetrators, and should be punished without a double standard singling out
gay priests," added Smith.

A few church leaders, following a meeting in Rome with the pope,
made unfortunate and irresponsible statements partially blaming gay priests
for the scandals. At a press briefing on April 23, Bishop Wilton D. Gregory,
head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said: "One of the
difficulties we do face in seminary life or recruitment is made possible
when there does exist a homosexual atmosphere or dynamic that makes
heterosexual men think twice" about entering because of fear of harassment.
"It's an ongoing struggle to make sure the Catholic priesthood is not
dominated by homosexual men."

In talking about their meeting with the pope, Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick
of Washington said, "People mentioned problems in society. One was sexual
permissiveness. One was homosexuality. One was lack of commitment."

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