Skip to comments.The Man Behind "The Gay Priest Problem": What Needs to Be Done, and Why It Won't Be
Posted on 06/04/2003 8:41:24 AM PDT by Polycarp
By Allyson Smith
(Editor: This is part two of an interview with Rev. Paul Shaughnessy, S.J., who is a Marine Corps and Navy chaplain stationed in San Diego aboard the USS Belleau Wood.)
Father Shaughnessy wrote an essay, "The Gay Priest Problem," published in the November 2000 issue of Catholic World Report -- more than a year before the Boston Globe broke the scandals in the Archdiocese of Boston. Last June, Fr. Shaughnessy penned another essay, "Are the Jesuits Catholic?," in the Weekly Standard. Father Shaughnessy, 53, agreed to an April 11 interview in San Diego.)
Smith: Do you think it is inconsistent for the Pope to oppose the war when he hasn't cleaned out his own closet, so to speak?
Fr. Shaughnessy: I think to this day, the Vatican -- and I don't mean just the Pope, but also the various dicasteries -- don't realize how serious the homosexual problem is. I think there has been a disconnect there. When it first started, they said, "Oh, that's an American thing and it's not as bad as they're saying," and so forth, so there was a sense from people I know in Rome that they didn't get it right away. They didn't realize that this is the single greatest crisis of the Catholic Church in America. But since Cardinal Law and three other bishops have had to resign in the wake of this scandal, hopefully the Vatican is waking up. But should the Church be silenced on all these issues? No. The Church still has an obligation to teach.
Smith: The scandal has really hurt our credibility on other issues.
Fr. Shaughnessy: Oh, absolutely. Rod Dreher in the National Review made that point, and immediately, even on the right, he's being attacked as undermining papal authority. No, I think he's pointing out a sociological reality that we're not living up to what we preach, and when you don't do that, your credibility is weakened.
Let's just look at the American bishops. Where are they on the abortion issue in this country? Where are they on cloning? I never hear anything. I hear it from laymen and laywomen. Where is the leadership of the American hierarchy? Where are they on these issues, especially the homosexual issue? Domestic partners, homosexual marriage -- they're not saying anything.
There's always been a suspicion that the reason they're being silenced is because they would be outed or that priests would be outed or blackmailed. But that is another case that should be corrected. Ironically, as painful as this has been, I was hoping that the scandal would be a purification. As humiliating and as degrading as this whole problem has become, it hasn't led to that result. Are they waiting until it blows over or saying, "Let's wait until the heat or the press dissipates"? I really get that feeling that is what they are doing.
Smith: The only strong stand the California bishops have taken with regard to homosexual issues is on Proposition 22, the Defense of Marriage Act, which passed three years ago. They supported it because it was legislation they could be "for" instead of "against". Apparently they don't want to be seen as "opposing" anyone, but sometimes it's good to be against some things.
Fr. Shaughnessy: They're called to be bishops. They're called to teach the truth in season and out. That's the color of their cassock, red, for martyrdom. This idea that they've all become political operatives and are spinning things is disheartening. St. John Fisher stood alone for the faith, for what was right. Their job is to defend the deposit of faith in a pluralistic culture. That can be done. It should be done. I think they would get more adherence. They would attract healthy, heterosexual males to the priesthood because they have clear leadership and they know who they are and what the mission is, but that's just not happening.
Now, we realize that people have a lot of problems with this whole issue. Families have sons or daughters that are homosexual. The idea isn't to stop people from facing this, but if you don't hold up a standard, an objective moral norm, then we're heading for chaos.
Smith: Just because we all fall short of the standard doesn't mean we shouldn't try to adhere to it.
Fr. Shaughnessy: That's right. It's the law of graduality, not the graduality of the law, you know? And that's very important. You don't get rid of the standard. It's like the New York schools when they had those standardized tests. When you got out of high school, your diploma meant something in New York. But when students continually failed the standardized test, what did New York do? Got rid of the test. Now they're doing the same thing in California, but that is not the solution.
Unfortunately, they're not taking the lead. We need men like "Dagger John" Hughes, who was the archbishop of New York during the Know Nothing controversy (in the 1800s). If one more Catholic church had been vandalized, he was going to let all the Irish immigrants start a war. We need some Dagger Johns. We really need heroic leaders that will stand up for the Gospel in the tradition of a John Fisher or St. Augustine or St. Athanasius. Athanasius stood alone, except for the lay people. The crisis today is in the clergy, in the episcopacy.
If you look through the centuries at the Church in various times, the crisis clearly is in the priesthood and the episcopacy. They say the corruption of the best is the worst corruption, and that's what's happening. We have a few good bishops like Bishop Bruskewitz (of Lincoln, Nebraska) and Bishop Myers (of Newark, New Jersey), and there's obviously a connection because they're getting vocations. And then the argument is, "Well, they're accepting everybody." Well no, they're not accepting everybody. So, it can be done. Let's pray that the bishops get the intestinal fortitude to stand up for the faith, the truth, and the good, and I think if that happens, ultimately a lot of these other problems will fall away.
Smith: Please tell me about your background. How did a nice Massachusetts boy like you end of becoming Jesuit military chaplain?
Fr. Shaughnessy: (laughs) It's a long history. I grew up in Worcester, Massachusetts and went to a local Catholic high school there, St. Peter's. Then I went to Holy Cross College, whose motto is "In Hoc Signo Vinces" ("In this sign you will conquer"). At one time it was like that, anyway.
From there, I went into the FBI for three years. In the FBI they had a lot of retreats. A lot of the agents were Catholic. Interestingly, a lot of them were ex-seminarians, especially the older ones. I think they were a holdover from the Hoover anti-Communist days.
I made a couple of Jesuit retreats, and in my senior year at Holy Cross I made the eight-day retreat. I was always fascinated by the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, and I think ultimately that was my draw to the priesthood.
As an undergraduate I had a great philosophy teacher, Father Joe Shea. He was a tough, philosophical individual. He clearly was formed by the Spiritual Exercises. I think he was on the tail end of the reform; he was clearly an older guy. Until I became a Jesuit, I didn't realize how far to the left they were going. But anyhow, I made those retreats, and I lived in the Washington D.C. area at the time, so I decided to apply.
I entered the novitiate in Wernersville, Pennsylvania, outside of Reading, in August 1977 for my first two years. They used to call it the "First House of Probation". After those first two years, you take your vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. From there I took philosophy at St. Michael's Institute at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. I enjoyed philosophy very much. During that time, they sent us to Mexico.
From there, I did my regency (one of the stages of formation for Jesuit scholastics), where I taught world history and American history for two years at Scranton Prep. In my third year, I went to a refugee camp in the Philippines where I taught English to the Vietnamese boat people.
After regency, I went to the Weston School of Theology in Cambridge Mass., a nuclear-free zone, the Berkeley of the East Coast. I was there three years, from '83 through '86, and then after that I went to an inner-city parish in Baltimore. You're called a "Fourth Year Father," and it's a year that you do pastoral ministry. I was at the Gesu School in Philadelphia. It was all black. We were the only Caucasians around.
From there, I went to the Gregorian in Rome to earn my licentiate in moral theology. It's kind of the hothouse of American theologates. I loved it. I was there a long time and started a doctorate, but I had a little run-in with my director, Klaus Demmer. Klaus? Achtung! No, he was very good man. It was a great time and opportunity for me.
It was during that time that my provincial, Father Ed Glynn, who is now the president of John Carroll University in Cleveland, asked me, "When are you going to work for a living?" I had been noticing all these ads in Catholic magazines and periodicals looking for priests, and I thought he would never allow it, but off the cuff when he came for his visitation, I said, "Would you mind if I go into to the military?" And he said, "Would you like to do so?" I said, "Sure," and he said, "Okay, I give you permission. You can apply after you finish your tertianship."
The tertianship is the third house; it's the final phase of formation, where you do the 30-day Spiritual Exercises again. I did mine at the Villa Cavaletti outside of Rome. I spent a couple months during my fourth year at the Institute for Spiritual Studies at the generalate in Rome.
I left Rome in June '94 and reported to Newport, Rhode Island for officer orientation on July 5. I was there two months, which was nice because it was in New England. Then I had to report to Okinawa, Japan in September of '94, and the rest is history.
There are a lot of great Catholics in the military. I think there are a lot of vocations, especially with the Marines. I know three already that have joined the priesthood. My first two years I served with the Marines. One young guy there was a Naval Academy graduate who then did four years as a Marine officer, and he's now studying to be a priest.
Another thing is that the fundamentalists are really going after the Catholics. I think by nature Catholics are religious, so they are open to suggestion in that area. Due to the failure of the last 30 years of catechetics, most Catholics can't defend themselves scripturally or theologically, so they are vulnerable, and they have an almost innate respect for religion which makes them even more vulnerable. The fundamentalists aren't going after pagans, you know?
Smith: You said you were in Okinawa, but when you wrote "The Gay Priest Problem" in Pearl Harbor, and now you're stationed in San Diego. Tell me about that progression.
Fr. Shaughnessy: The military keeps transferring you. Each stint usually lasts two years. I was kind of happy that I was away from my superiors (when I wrote the essay) so they couldn't dispute it. I knew that it was going to raise the hackles of a lot of people, because this predates the big exposé in Boston. It caused a lot of discontent, to put it mildly. Even the archbishop of the military, Edwin O'Brien, said I could have been more positive....
Is there a connection between homosexuality and child molestation? No, I'm not going to say there's a connection between pedophilia and homosexuality per se. However, most of these cases involve adolescent males. Now, it may not be classical pedophilia, but they are clearly minors, and they're all men.
Let me tell you about a great guy who I went to Holy Cross with. He was a few years behind me and is now the father of six children. He teaches Latin and Greek. Now, he was in the Society but had never told me why he left. One of the reasons is that he was getting hit on so many times by gays, and he went to his formation director and said, "What's going on here?" After this happened a number of times over a couple of years, without it being resolved, he left.
Smith: The Society lost a vocation.
Fr. Shaughnessy: Very much so! I think even to this day he's never really told his wife why, which I find even more interesting. I think he's embarrassed by it, but to protect the Society and the Church, he doesn't want to talk about it.
Another time, I was back home in Worcester and I went down to the cathedral where I was baptized and confirmed. I was just going into Mass to see the latest destruction there. It looked like they paid some clown $100,000 or $200,000 to rip everything out and paint it all one color. They removed every piece of art, everything of elegance or of beauty and spray painted the whole thing. It looked like Fenway Park. Everything was painted one color on a huge meat block, like this (taps table).
While I was there, I ran into this guy I went to high school with who has a background very similar to mine. He had been in ROTC at Holy Cross, went into the Marine Corps, and then went into the diocesan priesthood at Catholic University. Now, we're both from Worcester; we're kind of blue-collar. Anyhow, he sees this openly gay propaganda going on, and it made him uncomfortable. He started complaining about it, but they were telling him it was his problem. Now, he's benighted; he's coming into this without any ideological baggage. He's thinking, "They really couldn't believe that." Well, after a couple of years of this, he left.
In other words, there was a level of disconnect where a lot of good guys went into the priesthood and thought, "This couldn't possibly be happening; there must be something going on here." I mean, here was a guy who was in the Marine Corps and had a college degree. He's not some kid, but he assumed, "Maybe I'm missing something," or "They don't fully understand." Well, obviously, they did understand. He was a daily communicant. I don't know if he ever got married; I think he lives with his father. But he clearly could have been a priest. He wanted to be a priest.
Smith: Have you ever experienced similar situations in your own priesthood?
Fr. Shaughnessy: Yes, I did. I remember bringing it up and being told, "What's your problem? Are you afraid?" -- some Freudian kind of response -- or "You've got a little fear of it. What's going on there?" so that you would doubt yourself and say, "No, not at all."
As a priest, you deal with a lot of homosexuals, and there are different reasons that they talk to a priest. Some want to live the life, some want you to approve it, and some probably need some type of psychiatric care. But the point is it's not a matter of fear but of free will. Does somebody have the right to engage in the behavior, or does the inclination justify the behavior? If I'm a pathological liar, that doesn't give me the right to lie, does it? But they say, "God made me that way, so it's got to be all right."
Smith: Well, God made me wanting to have a few more beers.
Fr. Shaughnessy: Exactly! That's the thing about inclination. They say, "Well, I have the inclination," but what if I'm a kleptomaniac and that's my inclination? Do I have the right to go steal?
Smith: Tell me about your duties as a military chaplain.
Fr. Shaughnessy: I'm a command chaplain on the USS Belleau Wood. It's called an LHA, a landing-helicopter-assault ship. It's an amphibious craft. When we go out to sea, there are 1500 sailors on the ship's company. When the Marines come, there are 2000 Marines, so it's a total of over 3,000 men.
I'm under the Archdiocese for the Military Services. Whether you are a chaplain for the Army, Navy or Marines, you fall under the archdiocese of the military. There are over a million people in it because it involves the State Department, the Veterans Administration, so it's a huge diocese. The archbishop of the military is Edwin O'Brien.
I live here (in downtown San Diego), but we were deployed so I was gone for about seven months. Right now we're down in dry dock at the NASSCO shipyard on 32nd Street; the boat is literally up out of the water. Once we're in dry dock, we start up the rotation again, where we're out to sea for a week, come back, then go out for two weeks.
I run the parish on the boat. I go there every day. We start at 6:00 every morning, so I have to be there at 5:30. We have Mass every day, devotions, Rosary, on the boat. It's not as well attended as I'd like, but when the Marines are on, they're very good about it. We have a chapel with the Blessed Sacrament there.
I do all the things a parish priest does: get sailors ready for Confirmation, help kids if they want to become Catholic, do the marriage cases. I also do admin work. I have to go to all the disciplinary hearings.
You're held to account in the military, unlike the priesthood. You're expected to take responsibility for what you do. Look at the guy who was just recently relieved on an aircraft carrier because he was a married man going out with a female. He was relieved. There was no suggestion of rape; it was inappropriate behavior.
You're held accountable for your actions. It's called accountability, which is something the military could bring to the episcopacy. When you have the responsibility, well, with that comes accountability.
Look what happened at the Air Force. They got rid of the top four people. It may not have been directly your fault, but there was an atmosphere, and you're gone. There was an atmosphere created that shouldn't have been there, and you're going to be held accountable for that. You may have not directly caused it. A little bit of that accountability would be a great thing for the bishops.
Smith: Tell me about the reaction to "The Gay Priest Problem."
Fr. Shaughnessy: I got a ton of mail from a lot of old priests. They knew there was something wrong. They're such good Catholics, and they're not dummies, but they presumed that this problem wouldn't have happened if someone (in a position of authority) knew about. That's why it's so devastating, because they did know. I think they're responsible, and I think a lot of them should have resigned. And I wish the Pope had made them resign. I really do. I think that would have sent a message.
Smith: Cardinal Law is working as a chaplain at a convent in Washington, D.C. So he's very low profile now, but it's still not a punishment.
Fr. Shaughnessy: No. And they thought they were going to give him some job in the Vatican. That would have been totally horrendous, to give him some posh sinecure at the Vatican. That's crazy.
My one fear is that they don't do something. My fear is that the spotlight is off. They were feeling the heat, and in some cases they overreacted, but the point is do the right thing.
What gets me is the glorification of homosexuality on TV, on family television. That hit me when I came back from Rome. There is a cultural war, and there is a difference between acceptance and approval. They want you to approve it.
I'm amazed at how open it is around here (in San Diego), how you see homosexuals everywhere. I was living in Europe, and then I came back to the U.S. and realized how far it had gone. It's in your face, everywhere. They want gay marriage. You think it's absurd at first, and then you realize they consider you absurd because you object to that. Years ago, you would have been laughed at. It's only within my lifetime that this has happened. If you ever suggested that, you would be considered a nutcase.
["The Gay Priest Problem" was re-printed in the News Notes in December, 2000; "Are the Jesuits Catholic?" can be found at www.weeklystandard.com]
Got a link? (I hope!)
An academic gloats, "The Society has not sold its soul to the 'Restoration' of John Paul II." Another Jesuit scholar, a church historian, ranks John Paul II as "probably the worst pope of all times"--adding, "He's not one of the worst popes; he's the worst. Don't misquote me." The respondents make it clear that their contempt for the pope is based almost entirely on his intransigence, his unwillingness to imitate their own adaptability in the matter of doctrine.
SO, IF THE SITUATION in the Society of Jesus is really as McDonough and Bianchi describe it in "Passionate Uncertainty," why doesn't the pope intervene and make radical changes? Two reasons suggest themselves. On the one hand, the attitude of Pope John Paul II towards religious congregations, female as well as male, is somewhat Darwinian. He is content to let the healthy groups prosper--Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity are a parade example--while letting the unhealthy ones die out of their own accord, like sick caribou amid the permafrost. On the other hand, recent popes have judged the political cost of intervening to reform failing congregations as excessive in view of the likely benefits to be gained. A close analogy can be drawn with the moles that surfaced in the British Secret Service in the 1950s. Their treachery was known long before action was taken against them; bit by bit they were denied access to sensitive material, simply so that they'd have less to betray. In the same way, and for the same reasons, the popes have declined a dramatic showdown with the new Jesuits, preferring instead, without calling attention to the fact, to give the really important business to more dependable agents.
Use your Checkbook as a Carrot and Stick. Remember that when your pastoral associate flies to Rio during Mardi Gras you're footing the bill. Don't be silent partners in corruption. When a scandal involving a priest hits the papers, first, cut out the pertinent news article; second, write a check for $100 to the Missionaries of Charity (Mother Teresa's nuns); third, when you receive a request for donations from the outfit in which the scandal occurred, enclose the article in the return envelope along with a photocopy of your check to the MCs and a note to this effect: "My previous contributions were intended for the support of my pastors and the propagation of the faith. From now on you can pay for your own K-Y jelly and your own AZT. I will resume my donations when you have cleaned the stables." They'll get the message. Just as important, when a bishop or religious superior shows some spine by a gutsy dismissal or intervention, send him a note telling him what you think, and include a check as well.
Actually, not even Jesus knows when he will return. Only the Father knows. And "apostacy" has been in the church since the 1st century. We're simply more aware of it bc of the media.
Old news, when you look at the big picture of it all.
I have only one disagreement with it. The fundamentalists (and I are one) are not chasing Catholics. We are chasing anyone who doesn't know Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior (the lost). Now some of the lost are pagan, some are atheist, some are agnostic, some attend protestant churches (baptist, presby, lutheran, pentecostal, etc) and some attend Catholic churches. Church membership or attendence does not get you into heaven. Only accepting Jesus as your Savior will do that.
[In the sake of fairness, if someone is properly raised Catholic and follows the teachings of the church they should come to a point where they will accept Jesus. Unfortunately some are not raised that way. I was one such. I was an altar boy and actively involved in the youth organizations etc, but on a personal level I had never met Jesus. It took me until I was 26 to even realize that only He could fill the empty place within me.]
However, most of these cases involve adolescent males. Now, it may not be classical pedophilia, but they are clearly minors, and they're all men.
Theres a big blurry line for what age pedophilia is and is not and where homosexuals offend. The AMA says its age 13 and the APA says age 12 are the limits to pedophilia. Theres really two kinds of pedophilia, one is age 8-9 and under, the most heinous and hostile kind of child offending, and the pre-pubescent, pubescent and post-pubescent ages (it is here where homosexuals primarily offend). So is the child who is abused at age 13 + (1 day) not pedophilia? 13 + (2 days)?
The homosexual link is clear and compelling at these ages of maturity regardless of chronological age, the pre-pubescent, pubescent and post-pubescent ages vary so greatly we are seeing maturity as early as ages 9 and up. This age group is where the average liberal media and government services dont report or record the homosexual connection for the abuse and consequently the connection is overlooked and difficult to survey thus hiding the BIG LIE.
What gets me is the glorification of homosexuality on TV, on family television. That hit me when I came back from Rome. There is a cultural war, and there is a difference between acceptance and approval. They want you to approve it.This isn't just about what they do in their bedrooms.
Rom 1:32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.
Fr. Edward Kinerk, S.J., is a former superior of the Missouri Province of the Society of Jesus and Savage's successor as president of Rockhurst College. This is how he chose to speak to the issue:
"As a Jesuit, I cannot feel anything but pride and gratitude for a meteor that burned itself out in the service of others," Kinerk said. "On May 10, 1999, God took the gift back. Thom is with God. As Jesuits, we rejoice. He has done what God sent him to do."
I had never heard of this story. How could Father Kinerk say a priest dying of aids is what God sent him to do?
With respect, Catholics call this 'receive Jesus' which we do at Communion. This is really Jesus why? because He said so "This is My Body". We become part of the body of Christ.
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