In order to understand the current Maynooth homosexual sex scandal we need context. That context really comes from the USA where it has been studied more.
This article ib by Richard Sipe.
What he says about US seminaries is true of MAYNOOTH.
PLEASE READ THIS PIECE. IT WILL EXPLAIN THE BACKGROUND TO THE MAYNOOTH GAY SCANDAL TO YOU.
Aquinas Walter Richard Sipe (born December 11, 1932, in Robbinsdale, MN), USA is a former Benedictine monk-priest of 18 years, a sociologist and author of six books about Catholicism and the sexual abuses arising from the Catholic Church's requirements of celibacy. He is an American Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor trained specifically to deal with the mental health problems of Roman Catholic priests. He practiced psychotherapy, "taught on the faculties of Major Catholic Seminaries and colleges, lectured in medical schools, and served as a consultant and expert witness in both civil and criminal cases involving the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests". During his training and therapies, he conducted a 25-year ethnographic study published in 1990 about the sexual behavior of supposed celibates, in which he found more than half were involved in sexual relationships. In 1970, after leaving the priesthood, Sipe married a former nun, Marianne; they have one son together.
Sipe has been a witness in more than 57 lawsuits, testifying on behalf of victims of childhood sexual abuse by Catholic priests.
SEX IN ROMAN CATHOLIC SEMINARIES
When I taught theological students what was called “Practical Theology” (how to be a pastor) in the 1970s, I counseled them that one rule of thumb for their behavior was: Don’t do anything that you would not want published on the front page of the New York Times.
Of the several hundred clerical students I taught between 1967 and 1984 (and into the 1990s) some of them disregarded that piece of folk wisdom. Several of my students have made the pages of the NYT more than once. No need to add coals to the fire by naming names. Too many people know their stories—sex abuse of minors and prison; embezzling parish funds (by the millions) and flaunting a lifestyle with a big car, a boat, a big city pad, and a boyfriend. That kind of behavior from a parish pastor will get the attention of the newspapers. They had photos.
What effects does seminary training have on its students? It is meant to develop competent, responsible, and spiritually mature priests. Several times prelates (Daniel Pilarczyk among them) have reassured me that the seminary system does just that. I have long protested that this goal is not reached in regard to celibacy.
I say celibacy is not taught in seminaries. And priest after priest agrees that celibacy was not given consideration in their seminary training. Rectors respond: you can’t teach celibacy; that the whole system of study and discipline—spiritual direction—inculcates knowledge and experience of celibate living. Not so.
Monsignor Helmut Hefner, currently rector of Los Angeles’s seminary at Camarillo, California, graduated from the same institution in 1969 where he said, “Sexual issues were taboo” during his time as a student. He now holds that “any problems of immaturity, sexual and otherwise have disappeared” because today’s student body is half foreign-born with an average age of 34 years. As if men from other countries are better equipped to be celibate and age alone assures maturity. Not so.
Talk about wishful thinking, denial or self-delusion! Take your pick, but the continuation of a refusal to face squarely the need for a serious, series of courses and open and honest discourse on sex and celibacy within seminary training is close to criminal.
On July 20, 2007 the LA Times published a long article under the banner Trail of Abuse Leads to Seminary.1. It is classic because it is a piece of history that could have been written about any one of number of seminaries I know of. It outlines the system that selects, trains, and hides sexual activity of men that can and sometimes does end in sexual abuse of minors and the vulnerable. As of 2004 these are the recorded numbers:
Remember these figures only represent priests who have sexually abused minors. But the figures raise three important questions. Certainly most priests do not abuse children, but would it not be presumptuous to think that these men are the only priests who have sexual activity after their graduation? Some priests have affairs with women or men, some priests father children, some priests masturbate or use pornography, etc. in ways that are not illegal.
Second, the figures are telling. As more and more evidence comes out the more accurate percentages of clergy abusing minors appear to be between and 9 and 11 percent. This is considerably more than the 4.3 percent (or between 3 and 6 percent) recorded by the John Jay Survey5. or the less than the .02 percent claimed by the Vatican in 2002.6.
Third, what if anything, do seminaries that should be the principle training ground for celibacy, do to undermine or neglect that goal? “The John Jay survey determined that the quarter-century from 1960 through 1984 was particularly troublesome for alleged abuse by clerics nationwide.”7. Records show that 15 percent of priests who graduated (from Camarillo) during that period and served in LA were accused of sexual abuse.
Many men (and priests) have written to record their experience or observations about their seminary training:
Pringle’s LA Times article quotes the testimony of a number of former students, both those who say they knew or observed nothing sexual going on in the seminary and others who observed small groups who “dressed up in nuns’ clothes,” and those who claim they could not use the bathroom some nights “because it was occupied by men having sex.”
Another former student at Camarillo thought that many of his fellow students were chaste at the same time “there was a great deal of sexual activity among students. I saw it, and yes, I participated in it,” he admitted. He went on to say, “It was like shooting fish in a barrel to seduce somebody there,” adding that one learned how to hide it. The estimation of sex at the LA seminary is not unique. A reliable source (a judge) reported that the reputation of a seminary in Baltimore was reflected in what gay men had said before the bench: “You can pick up a trick there any time of day or night.”
Pringle’s investigation results raise the questions: was the administration “ignorant about sex on campus or turned a blind eye to it”? Or another question: did they tolerate or create there a culture of permissiveness?
I have interviewed scores of men who left seminaries because they were sexually harassed or abused by a faculty member or a fellow seminarian. I have also worked with men who went on to ordination after they were involved sexually with a seminary professor. In some instances the sexual activity started even before the man entered the seminary. Others continued the relationship after ordination and into their parish assignments. It is possible, and even easy, to trace coteries—small exclusive groups—of priests who share the same sexual interests, proclivities, activities, and partners.8.
I became aware of a seminary where fully one-fourth of the faculty members were involved in long term sexual activities—some in stable relationships with women, others with lay men or other priests. Some of the faculty dallied with students taking them to what could be called the “combat zone.” In Washington, D.C. the area of gay and straight bars, pornography shops equipped with “glory holes,” and pick-up sites (meat racks) was along 14th Street and the Dupont Circle.
A few faculty priests partied here where some staff members of the USCCB hung out. A number of up-scale gay bars and restaurants in the Georgetown/DC area were notorious “watering holes” of highly placed priests from the chancery office and houses of study for religious orders. This atmosphere and social activity created a sense of permissiveness condoned by authority; and even more seductive, it excited the feeling of being on the “in” with the movers and shakers of the U.S. church.
Partying was not confined to excursions beyond the seminary walls. In-house parties were held regularly in the 1970s and 80s on campuses where “dress-up” (in women’s clothing and makeup) was welcomed. Girls’ names were assigned to each other and some faculty.
These activities and their regularity might have been underground, in the sense of not being officially sanctioned, but they were certainly well known to anyone who had an interest in seminary life. It was difficult not to be aware, even for those faculty and students who had no inclination to participate. First hand experiences were circulated not only by and within the clerical community, but also occasionally a surprised and embarrassed cleric or layperson was invited, and later reported the scene with outrage.
Pontifical seminaries in the United States were baptized “pink palaces” because homosexual activity was so common in them. Did bishops know? Yes. In fact, some bishops and cardinals are well known for their sexual activity with seminarians and young priests. A number of my former students have related the difficulty they have had in fending off the sexual advances of their superiors.
Why is this covered up? Where is a priest who wants to stay in his ministry to go with complaints of sexual harassment from his boss—a bishop or cardinal? To go outside the clerical system will make him a pariah or destroy his ministry altogether. Within the system there is no recourse. I have talked to priests who have been sexually assaulted by a bishop or cardinal. The common response of the superior is “who will believe you?” (Does that sound familiar?) One highly placed church official who had sex with a young priest even threatened to expose the priest and to “sue” him if he went public.
The church is a formidable and powerful adversary.9. Its history of martyrs and excommunications is testimony to the church’s intolerance of critics within the ranks who dissent.
A priest who got himself into serious trouble because he had sex with two teenagers related the story of his path from the seminary to prison. Behind the newspaper headlines there was a story beyond the personal.
When he was a seminarian he was serious and quiet—and naive. He was troubled and uncomfortable when one of the faculty members started to shower him with attention. He spoke to his faculty advisor about his discomfort that was vague; because he had never experienced anything like the mix of feelings he was faced with. He was flattered and intrigued. He was confused and wary without any basis for distrust. His confessor told him he was “too uptight and rigid.” He was counseled to “lighten up” and enjoy friendship. The confessor told him that he would have to be more accessible and warm as a priest.
The seminarian took his advisor’s advice and relaxed, entered into the friendship offered. But the priest courted and groomed the young seminarian (21 at the time) into a sexual partner of exquisite response. The way he describes his experience one gets the idea of a first love affair with all the trappings of elation and freedom—of being loved and completely accepted.
This love fit into his spiritual striving. At first he felt some guilt, because the pleasure was so intense and surprisingly welcome. Even his confessor was not put off or disapproving when he confessed “sexual feelings.” It was contrary to the teaching he was brought up with that every act even of masturbation was gravely sinful. But his mentor reassured him that love was natural and the friendship God’s will for him. It was private, personal, and secret—shared only with God in his prayers. He felt he was a better person. He knew the priest’s feelings for him were real love.
The relationship lasted only a short time after ordination. The young priest felt abandoned and lonely beyond words. But he was popular, a good preacher, well thought of, and considered a successful young priest. He began, however, drinking alcohol to excess. He had learned to enjoy the comfort of alcohol from his mentor.
When he started to counsel teenaged boys he experienced some of the elation he had felt in the seminary. He developed a strong response first to a 14-year-old who was sad, tense, shy, and self-conscious. In his words he was responding to a pastoral need he saw in the boy who had to be loved and comforted if he were too grow and mature. And the boy did develop well and went to college. The sexual friendship—as he experienced it—lasted for a time, but work and distance diluted the relationship.
Drinking more and more as his loneliness flourished, he found another young man he thought needed his love and support. Of course, he was a skilled seducer; he did what he was taught in the seminary. He was able to rationalize his sexual behavior with his new friend in spite of misgivings about the pastoral appropriateness of his feelings and behavior.
This boy’s experience once he got beyond the confusion of seduction was one of assault and abuse. The priest’s perspective had been seriously distorted by his seminary involvement; he could not name his experience with a priest/professor, abuse. It was so intricately and inextricably interwoven with the clerical system.
When the boy’s family brought the abuse to the attention of civil authorities the priest literally sobered up. But sobriety did not abort court action and a prison term.
I have purposefully told this story from the perspective of the seminarian/victim, priest/perpetrator to show the system of denial, rationalization, prolonged adolescent development, and spiritualizing of sex for what it is—a system of permissiveness.
The confessor, who all defenders of the current seminary system point to as the cornerstone of seminary training, has more power than just advising students about their relationships with others. The confessor has a unique position. Every seminarian is expected to go to confession weekly. He is required to have a designated “confessor” who is to oversee his spiritual development. The confessor is bound to secrecy (he cannot vote on the student at faculty evaluations).
In exchange for the promise of strictest secrecy the student (penitent) agrees to share his most intimate thoughts, concerns—spiritual, vocational, sexual—with the confessor.10.
This relationship of trust can be, and has proved to be perennially a fertile ground for distortion and abuse in which the priest/confessor turns the confidences he receives in that setting to his sexual advantage.11.
I can speak from experience with two confessors in my own monastery. Each was my chosen confessor for more than 4 years. They were the most popular confessors for a majority of the young monks. One was the novice master of almost 20 years standing. The other was the sub-prior —the third in command in the monastery—a canon lawyer, abbot’s secretary, once a rector of the seminary, and latter abbot. Both had impeccable spiritual credentials. They were models—prayerful, scholarly, hard working, sociable and athletic.
My experience with them in confession was unremarkable. They were fair, non judgmental, friendly, and supportive. With confidence, I could have recommended both to others looking for a good confessor.
Others were not so lucky. Later other monks and young priests came to me with tales of abuse. “He fucked me,” one desperate, tearful young priest said of the sub-prior. He went on to describe the trail of seduction from reassurance over sexual thoughts to deconditioning about being nude and laying together and finally to penetration and orgasm. Getting heard took the victim down a long and painful road. “Who could believe?” And several officials chided him for “bearing tales.”
This man’s reputation and positions of authority, and the multitude of other men who came to him for advice and had only a good experience, formed a fire wall of protection that was ready to torch anyone would dare to bridge it with allegations.
But other allegations came to light. Although undeniable, a great deal of time, energy, and in the end money was expended in trying to keep the facts undercover. That process of secrecy was very destructive to many lives. And finally, the process of cover-up contributed to the spread of abuse by other monks.
The story of the novice master was a little different. There were rumors. He was said to “stand close” without any sexual touch, but conveying a certain hard-to-describe feeling. He was reported to “kiss on the lips” and he admitted to some of his close confidants that he “liked to suck ear lobes.”
These were all vague rumblings, passed on or sealed with a wink and a nod by the more experienced monks, but escaped the more pious and oblivious, because the spirituality of the novice master was solidly established. Like the sub-prior who went on to be elected abbot, the majority of the community trusted the reputation rather than rumors.
The novice master went on to pastoral assignments in various local parishes. Years later I was asked to evaluate complaints from young men who alleged abuse by this priest when they were boys. Their stories were consistent and credible. The parents of the men trusted the priest and the monastery with firm religious devotion. Allegations against this priest who enjoyed a reputation for spirituality were difficult to believe even by the parents.
But when the men told their stories that were in perfect consonance with earlier vague rumblings (red flags) it was clear they were telling the truth and that the priest had a problem with relationship boundaries.
First the priest established a supportive relationship with the parents. With the boys he built on a base of trust, confidence, and secrecy established in the confessional. He drew the boys close, was loving and reassuring, won their affection and sucked their ears before he explored their bodies and encouraged them to learn form him and his exposure. Both confessors used the excuse that they were giving their penitents “good education.”
Many of the priests learned the process during their seminary years. Abuse was introduced under the cover of forgiveness and love. But the familiarity shared in the context of secrecy cannot tolerate examination in the light of day. It feels like love when the intimate sharing of guilt, concern, fear, worry, and failings are confided in the warm and secret confines of a “confessional.” Some priests delude themselves that what the front page of the New York Times would call perverse, predatory, criminal, and abusive, in their estimation participates in the love of Christ.
That’s how they feel about it.
That’s why education for sexuality and celibacy is sorely needed in seminaries today.