Patsourakos: Catholic Church Must Be Serious in Defrocking Abusive Priests

Pope Benedict

Pope Benedict

From George Patsourakos’ website Theology and Society. George is a commentator and contributor to the AOI Observer. I have only one quibble with this otherwise strong editorial. The problem of pedophilia (a misnomer, it is really pedastery) was not a “…result of the Catholic Church’s policy of secrecy in which bishops transferred pedophile priests to different communities,” but caused by the Catholic Church ordaining practicing homosexuals to the priesthood.

Pope Benedict XVI this week in his end-of-the-year speech to Vatican cardinals and bishops said revelations of child abuse by Catholic priests in 2010 reached “an unimaginable dimension” that required the church to accept the “humiliation” as a call for renewal.

At the same time, the pope said that society must share the blame for this phenomenon, because we are living in a society in which the mistreatment of children is “common.”

Blaming a secular society in which mistreatment of children is common, can only be considered as an excuse — or at least a softening — by the pope for the abusive priests’ inappropriate behavior. The fact is that there should be no sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests, regardless of how society treats children.

The sexual abuse scandal of Catholic priests, which first occurred in the United States in 2002, erupted on a global scale this year with revelations of thousands of victims in Europe and elsewhere of bishops who covered up for pedophile priests and of Vatican officials who turned a blind eye to these crimes for decades.

Actually, the scandal dates back to the 1970s, as a result of the Catholic Church’s policy of secrecy in which bishops transferred pedophile priests to different communities — instead of defrocking them — as a means of “resolving” this problem. In reality, this policy backfired, because most of these transferred priests again were sexually abusive toward children.

Many people have raised questions about how Pope Benedict himself handled abuse cases, both as an archbishop in Munich and as head of the Vatican office that handled abuse cases. Some people have even called for his resignation as pope.

Fortunately, Pope Benedict recently implemented a long overdue policy which calls for bishops to defrock sexually abusive priests. If this policy had been in use 40 years ago — as it should have been — the Catholic Church would have several billion more dollars than it has today.

But more importantly, such a policy would have prevented the sexual abuse of thousands of innocent children — an abuse that these children will have to live with for the rest of their lives.


  1. Sadly, the handling of child sexual abuse is just as bad within the Orthodox Church — many GOA and OCA church leaders have a history of clergy abuse cover-ups and shunning clergy abuse victims which is tragic, ungodly, and a blight to Orthodoxy. At least the Pope has been willing to meet with and apologize to abuse victims — something no Orthodox bishop in America (to my knowledge) has ever done, despite the many victims who have asked for such meetings.

    • Stan: Your statement is unfair, uniformed or simply dishonest.

      On Ridding Ourselves of Illusions

      This is that at the present time Roman Catholicism is in the grip of one its greatest crises, that of sexual abuse, which is the result of nine hundred years of enforced clerical celibacy. The scandal is now even touching Pope Benedict himself, and there are some who, fairly or unfairly, think that he must resign. In this matter, as even the Roman Catholic Bishop of Arundel and Brighton admitted on Friday 26 March, ‘the Pope is not infallible’.

      This scandal is only now breaking, as we in the West are aware. In the future it will worsen and we can expect thousands of defrockings and resignations, as is already happening in Ireland and as has already happened in the USA. More than this, we can expect imprisonments of Roman Catholic clergy throughout Western Europe for their revolting crimes. As the Gospel says: ‘But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better that a millstone were hanged about his neck and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea’ (Matt. 18, 6). There are many who wonder whether Roman Catholicism in its present form can even survive this crisis.

      • Eliot wrote: “Your statement is unfair, uniformed or simply dishonest.”

        Can you elaborate please? I’m guessing (from your quoted paragraph) that you think I think the Roman Catholic church is doing a good job on handling abuse issues, which is not my point at all. I would appreciate it if you would clarify your statement. Thanks.

        • Stan: What I meant to say is that the scale of the scandal within RCC cannot be compared to the one withing the OC. You praise the pope for the way he manages the scandal, but forget to mention that he gained his “wisdom” after he realized that the historical covering-up practice does not work anymore.

          • Eliot, you are correct that the Roman Catholic church (in America at least) is much bigger than the Orthodox church, so the quantity of abuse reports is higher. Regarding any praise for the Pope, my point was not to say the Pope has handled everything correctly, but rather that there are some areas where the Roman Catholic church has responded to abuse issues (meeting with victims, putting in safe environment programs, etc.) which the Orthodox church has still not done. But both institutions — Roman Catholic and Orthodox alike — have a long way to go before I would categorize either as doing the right thing with regard to preventing abuse, defrocking abusive priests, and reaching out to victims with compassion.

      • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

        Just to clarify. The RC child abuse scandal is not the result of “enforced clerical celibacy” except that the celibacy rule necessarily excludes married men from the priesthood. The abuse began after the RC’s allowed homosexuals to be ordained starting in the late 60’s and 70’s. Almost all the cases of abuse were adolescent teen-age boys. Lifting the celibacy requirement would open the priesthood to married men who are generally more mature than most single heterosexuals, and certainly more emotionally stable than homosexuals.

        • Scott Pennington :

          Actually, the whole thing is a misnomer. For the most part, it’s not “pedophilia” although “pederasty” might cover it as Fr. Johannes points out. To be accurate, the vast majority of cases in the RCC are homosexual statutory rape. But you don’t hear it being called the “homosexual statutory rape” scandal because that’s too politically incorrect even though it is factually accurate. Most of the boys abused were between the ages of 13-17. If we were talking about heterosexuals, this would be statutory rape. There is a significant difference not only legally but psychologically. Really, pedophilia refers to pre-pubescent victims. A person who, in the old world, would otherwise be eligible for marriage (i.e., capable of reproduction) is in a separate category from those who have not entered puberty. Psychologically it is different because the person has more physical, adult characteristics than a pre-pubescent child. Legally the two types of abuse are treated differently in terms of the severity of punishment.

          The whole thing really does revolve around homosexuality, not pedophilia. And one reason we have a much lower rate of this among the Orthodox priesthood is that Orthodox priests are normally married men.

          Eventually, when the whole story is told regarding this, as well as homosexual (i.e., same sex) parenting and adoption, a hard rain will fall. And the story will eventually be told.

          • I don’t care what you call it. It involves predatory behavior, does it not? Are sexually “mature” kids between 13-15 going to be less psychologically damaged by someone who abuses their authority in this manner than someone younger? I don’t wish to put words in your mouth, but it seems you are suggesting that the advances of a much older man on a 13-year-old female are acceptable, simply because she may have the physical capabilities of an adult.

            Do you really think that kids at that age enter sexual relationships with much older adults willingly? In almost all cases, it involves coercion, threats and playing upon their sense of guilt. It is a form of rape, if you will. I know several women molested by their biological father in their early teens (who incidentally also molested a male family member – try to categorize that one!). It took them years to overcome the difficulties this presented, and several became involved in drugs in the interim.

            So while it’s true that preying upon a 13 or 14-year-old may be physically more “natural” for adult men than upon one who is 8, it is no less criminal if you look at it from the perspective of the victim.

          • Scott Pennington :


            You missed my point. I wasn’t saying that it’s wrong to prosecute statutory rape, that it’s not a bad thing, or that it’s victims aren’t victims and it’s perpetrators victimizers. What I was saying is that the problem is basically homosexuality, not pedophilia. When we use the term “pedophilia” it sounds as if we’re talking about some uber-warped subsection of the homosexual community that has a desire to have sex with young children. That’s not true. What we are talking about is average run of the mill homosexuals who cannot control their desire to have sex with pubescent males.

            An analogy in the realm of heterosexuality would not be someone who raped a ten year old girl, but someone who seduced/raped a 15 year old one. It is perfectly normal for heterosexual men to be attracted to pubescent girls. However, we have made a decision as a society that they are too young for sexual activity. In older societies, women were married off at 14 or 15. If it were not psychologically normal for heterosexual men to be attracted to pubescent girls then, axiomatically, all previous generations of men who lived before the 20th century were perverts. That’s a very parochial (or ignorant) point of view. The difference is that now girls have educational opportunities, career opportunities, etc., i.e., many more choices. In the old world, a girl’s life was pretty much cut and dried and there was no sense in not starting reproduction at a younger age since children were considered an asset, especially sons.

            There is a temptation to say the “pedophile” priest scandal is about molesting younger children. This is a lie. It is about homosexuals who cannot control their “normal” (to the extent you can call homosexuality normal in any circumstance) desire for pubescent males. The media prefers the label “pedophile priest scandal” because it obscures the reality of what happened and protects the homosexual lobby and its agenda. They use it to attack the RCC for harboring child abusers. It is actually much more useful to show that homosexual men should not be admitted to the priesthood. But that’s the “wrong” lesson, hence the semantic subterfuge.

          • Scott writes: “It is perfectly normal for heterosexual men to be attracted to pubescent girls.”

            Says who? Frankly, I find it creepy to see old men ogling girls who barely need training bras.

            Look, if the girl (or boy, for that matter) in question says “no”, that makes that adult male a rapist. Further, it makes those men who aid and abet that man by shuttling them back and forth from one parish to another complicit in that man’s deeds.

            You seem to think that by eliminating gays from the priesthood you’d solve the problem. I think that’s grossly oversimplifying. Odds are that these men aren’t even attracted to anyone over 18. I call it the “Michael Jackson” syndrome: these men are stunted emotionally and spiritually and want to surround themselves with children because they themselves never grew up or wanted to take responsibility for their actions.

            Not having been a victim of abuse, I’ve wondered what kind of impact it has on you. I’ve wondered if some people overstate its effects for the sake of revenge or a personal vendetta.

            However, I recently read the last letter of a young graduate from Princeton who detailed the torment it left him in for years and who sadly decided to take his own life. It’s a harrowing and difficult read, but it will give you an idea of what this sort of abuse does.


          • Scott Pennington :


            “Says who? Frankly, I find it creepy to see old men ogling girls who barely need training bras.”

            As do I. You’re raising a spectre (old men oogling young girls) I never mentioned. Did not Christ say that he who looks upon a woman with lust in his heart (aka “oogles”) commits adultery?

            The plain fact is that for most of history, 14-16 was the normal age when females got married. It’s a fact. If you don’t like it, that’s your tough luck. I simply pointed out that under your definition of normal, most men in history have been perverts. That’s also true.

            You’re not mad about my pointing out the obvious fact that humans are designed to be able to procreate at a certain age and that that coincides with them beginning to exhibit adult features and thus becoming attractive to the opposite sex. Any fool with a high school education could tell you that. You’re mad because I’m telling the truth that a large number of homosexual priests, perhaps because they are not allowed to be openly gay in the priesthood, found it impossible to resist temptation. Your quarrel is not with me, it’s with reality. You are putting up canards that I’m belittling the fact of the abuse. That’s not what I’m doing. I’m just saying don’t flat out lie and say it’s pedophilia when the vast majority of cases were not. It is homosexual statutory rape. I’m not denying it was bad or traumatic or that perhaps some victims even committed suicide. You’re somehow reading that into what I’m saying, as a slur, because you don’t like the conclusions I’m drawing. That’s dishonest.

            You seem to think that by eliminating gays from the priesthood you’d solve the problem. I think that’s grossly oversimplifying.”

            Not at all. If you could thoroughly exclude all men who have same sex attractions, logically you would eliminate the homosexual statutory rape problem. What in the world gives you the idea that suddenly at the age of 18, males loose their appeal to these men? Libido’s look at driver’s licenses, I see. That’s nonsense. Some priests had consensual sex with males eighteen and older. They’re not on trial but there’s no fundamental difference in their sexuality as opposed to those who molested 16 year olds. To pretend so is self-delusion.

            Now, it would not elimiate the problem of molestation of teenage girls or the small percentage of cases of true pedophilia where they molested pre-pubescent boys. But it absolutely would eliminate the vast majority of these cases (over 80%). That’s a good start.

            Since you’re being knowingly dishonest about at least two things: 1) that I think its fine if old men oogle 13 year olds and 2) that I’m somehow denying the hurt and trauma the victims feel (which is a flat out lie on your part, I believe you know what you’re doing), I don’t think we’re going to get anywhere. I really only discuss things like this with people who are doing so in good faith and you definitely are not.

          • Scott, you have a point, but here’s the problem:

            According to numerous reports, homosexuality in the priesthood far exceeds that in the general population.

            Richard Sipe, a psychotherapist and former priest, has studied celibacy and sexuality in the priesthood for four decades. He has authored three books on the topic. He once estimated that 30% of the priesthood is homosexually oriented. Elsewhere, he is quoted as estimating that between 25% and 45% of American priests are homosexual in orientation. He told the Boston Globe: “If they were to eliminate all those who were homosexually oriented, the number would be so staggering that it would be like an atomic bomb; it would do the same damage to the church’s operation…It would mean the resignation of at least a third of the bishops of the world.

            I find these numbers staggering. Now, I don’t believe that all these men are also predatory rapists (which I consider any man who entices and coerces a minor under their care into sexual relations). To expel all of these men for the sins of some would certainly be unjust, and I know many that have kept their vows and are dedicated. But you may find the risk to be simply not worth it, and that would be understandable.

            I will say this: the church will have to reconsider its rules on celibacy for heterosexual men if it decides to go that route. I don’t see any way around it, do you?

          • Scott Pennington :


            By and large I agree with your last post, except that I consider the “injustice” of laicizing priests of homosexual orientation only marginally an injustice. It is true that many were probably led to believe that their sexual inclinations were no big deal in light of the celibacy requirement. Given the risk, I’m pretty sure it’s not worth it to allow those of homosexual inclination to be ordained. Heck, a friend of my mother’s had a brother who thought about the priesthood but didn’t believe he could handle celibacy (he was straight). He was told it was no big deal and he could have a girlfriend on the side – – i.e., it shouldn’t be a deal breaker. In ROCOR (the Russian jurisdiction in this country), they have a pretty firm rule about not ordaining single men to the priesthood unless they intend to pursue monasticism. There may be exceptions but they’re fairly serious about it. They do this because they have made a determination that it is just too risky.

            The fact is, the desperation that RCC now has regarding vocations will likely get progressively worse anyway. If they were wise, they would drop the celibacy requirement and they would probably have more vocations. They would also attract many more Anglicans and ministers of other liberal protestant churches who might otherwise (for reasons of conservativism) be inclined to convert. As it is, Anglicans who take advantage of the pastoral provision are often assigned to convert parishes or serve administratively. The new provision that is in the works might have some positive effect though.

            The immediate thing for the RCC is to destroy the homosexual subculture in the clergy. Actually the estimates I have seen for percentage of RCC priests being homosexual is around 50%. In fact, many Roman Catholics more or less assume that a priest is homosexual because he is a priest.

        • Fr. Hans: I think it’s more likely the abuse was always proportional to the number of ‘never married’ clergy vs. all the clergy. The dates you note have more to do with two things that are more than ‘P.R. announcements’ than, shall we say, measureable facts. First: what the socioligists and demographers tells us is the statistical end of ‘working age widowers’, which occurred with medical advances extending women’s lives and almost ending maternal death, centering 30 years either way of the 1920’s. Second: More reporters and people reporting and fewer ethnic protective enclaves willing to cover up misdoing to protect ‘the image of the ethnicity in the community’.

  2. well said, Stan.

  3. Michael Bauman :

    All Christian traditions have a great deal to do in handling clergy misconduct in general and clergy sexual misconduct in particular. Sexual abuse of children is not just a problem within the RCC or the Orthodox church and it is not limited to unmarried priests (not to understate the problem of homosexual clergy). There was a married GOA priest with several children who sexually abused altar boys in my city a couple of decades ago. He had a history of the abuse and was transfered into the small struggling parish from an administrative post. He had been assiged to the administrative post because of prior allegations. When the reality of his continued abuse surfaced, he was removed and shipped out again only to defrocked (I believe), brought back to town in handcuffs and imprisoned for what he did. Of course that was only because of the courage of one of the abused children’s parents and the support given her by the Antiochian bishop in our city.

    I know that family well, they are still suffering from the effects and the GOA parish is almost dead. Strangely enough in many ways the offending priest was an effective pastor under whose direction the parish was beginning to grow for the first time in years.

    God have mercy on us all. Lust of power and lust of the flesh are not far removed from one another whether one is married or not.

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