Nearly 50 seminarians in Honduras have protested against what they say is a widespread and entrenched pattern of homosexual practice in Tegucigalpa’s major seminary.
In a letter written to the seminary’s formators that was subsequently circulated in June to the country’s Catholic bishops, the seminarians asserted “irrefutable evidence” exists that a homosexual network pervades the institution and is being protected by its rector.
“Heterosexual seminarians are scandalized and really depressed,” one of the seminarians who drafted the letter told the Register.
“Many are thinking about leaving the seminary,” the seminarian said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of a fear of reprisals. “I fear that many will leave.”
And, just as the revelations regarding Cardinal McCarrick have provoked troubling questions about what his brother U.S. bishops and the Vatican knew about his interactions with seminarians and about why nothing was disclosed publicly for so long, the Honduran allegations call into question the actions of Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa.
While Cardinal Maradiaga — a key confidante of Pope Francis who is coordinator of the “C9” group of cardinals advising him on reforming Church governance and the Roman Curia — is not himself the subject of allegations of sexual misconduct, he is now under fire for appearing to have disregarded a wealth of evidence of homosexual misconduct by Bishop Pineda, whose resignation as auxiliary bishop was accepted by Pope Francis July 20.
The Honduran seminarians’ letter reportedly was not met with praise for having come forward in June; Cardinal Maradiaga instead accused them of being “gossipers” who wish to portray their fellow seminarians in a bad light, according to sources in Honduras.
Of the 180 men enrolled in the seminary, 48 signed the letter calling active homosexual practice there an “epidemic.” There was supporting evidence too:
The Register also obtained graphic photographic evidence of homosexual pornography, exchanged on WhatsApp between seminarians who did not sign the letter, as well as other obscene messages. The exchanges have been verified as authentic by computer specialists at the Catholic University of Honduras who searched computer memory and handed the exchanges to the country’s bishops.
Reporter Edward Pentin adds that some of the formators at the seminary refused to participate in ordinations because of this problem … so Cardinal Maradiaga, who tried to quash discussion of the situation at the recent bishops’ meeting, ordained the gay men himself. Read the whole thing.
This is a hopeful thought:
— Michael Brendan Dougherty (@michaelbd) July 25, 2018
If so, it has been a long time coming. Back in 2002, Michael S. Rose made a splash with his book Goodbye, Good Men, which was about ways Catholic seminaries systematically discriminated against and excluded candidates who espoused orthodox Catholic teaching. In this excerpt from a 2002 interview with Latin Mass magazine, Rose talked about the homosexual aspect of the general crisis he reports in his book:
TLM: Obviously one of the great strengths of Goodbye, Good Men is that it helps one understand the current spate of sexual abuse scandals that have been plaguing the Church this year. What’s the relationship between the current scandals and what has transpired in seminaries over the past thirty years?
Rose: In bringing the “sexual revolution” into the Church, liberals have welcomed—even preferred—radicalized active homosexuals to orthodox seminarians in the name of “tolerance.” Now that tolerance has been exposed as a toleration of criminal acts. The extent of the sex abuse scandals and the accompanying payoffs and cover-ups has mystified many of the faithful who are simply at a loss to understand how this could have occurred, and why it was swept under the rug for so long. Goodbye, Good Men presents evidence that the root of this problem—both the cover-up and the sex abuse itself—extends down to the very place where vocations to the priesthood germinate: the seminary. The corrupt, protective network starts in many of these seminaries, where gay seminarians were encouraged to “act out” or “explore their sexuality” in highly inappropriate ways.
Through the seminaries, moral and religious liberals have brought a moral meltdown into the Catholic priesthood. If the sex scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church are to end, the individuals responsible for this moral meltdown must be rooted out. Only then will the “dark shadow of suspicion,” as the Pope calls it, be removed from “all the other fine priests who perform their ministry with honesty and integrity, and often with heroic self-sacrifice.”
This book was first published 16 years ago, having been completed just before the scandals broke big out of Boston. I remember reading it as the Catholic world was seemingly falling apart that spring, and thinking that Michael Rose was some kind of prophet. He wasn’t a prophet; he was a Catholic journalist who opened his eyes to the elephant in the sacristy.
As painful as the 2002 revelations were, some conservative Catholics hoped that they were the lancing of a boil, and in that way the first painful step to real reform. As Larry Stammer wrote in a Los Angeles Times report then:
Conservatives hope that the sexual abuse crisis will mark the beginning of the restoration of the priesthood to a holiness defined by strict adherence to the church’s moral teaching against homosexual acts. Liberals see it as a time to openly acknowledge the contributions of homosexual priests. Or, they fear, it could lead to more secrecy and denial–and a decision by dedicated gay priests to leave the church.
No one knows how many of the nation’s 46,000 Catholic priests are homosexuals. At minimum, 20% of priests are believed to be homosexually oriented, according to Father Donald Cozzens, author of “The Changing Face of the Priesthood.” Others say the number could be as high as 50%. Former priest and researcher H.W. [sic] Richard Sipe predicts that by 2010, homosexuals could well constitute a majority of Catholic priests.
It is hard to believe that after the very public reckoning of the 2000s, a revelation of scandal after scandal which cost the Catholic Church incalculable moral authority, as well as an estimated $4 billion (in payouts since 1950), that the so-called “lavender mafia” — networks of predatory gay priests — still exists. But of course it does, in some places more than others. Popes Francis and Benedict both spoke of the existence of a “gay lobby” influencing policy in the Vatican, as Jim Russell wrote; besides, the “gay lobby” in the Catholic Church does not strictly refer to secretive networks of clergy that take care of each other:
While those may be the lobbies that exist outside ecclesial structures, the gay lobbies that exist in parishes, dioceses, and college campuses are deeply, deeply entrenched and do even greater spiritual harm than these other groups could ever dream of doing. Want a sampling? Look at this long list of gay-lobbying, “LGBT-friendly” parishes and colleges across the country, maintained by New Ways Ministry.
Do you want to know which cardinals, bishops, priests, deacons, and lay ministers are part of the gay lobby? It’s all out in the open. Which clerics are writing books and giving talks that publicly support the gay lobby we call the “LGBT community”? Which are speaking at Catholic gay-lobby events? Which pastors and bishops are tolerating gay-affirming groups in parishes and schools, and at events featuring erroneous teaching and false teachers?
Believe me, as one who has done a lot of digging, you don’t have the time or the energy to even scratch the surface. I do know of one person on the planet who is doing the investigating that Catholic dioceses, parishes, and schools should be doing but aren’t. If you really want to see the dark, writhing underbelly of the gay lobby at work in the Catholic Church in North America, pay a visit to Joseph Sciambra’s website, where you will find years and years of documentation of the gay lobby’s dire work, often institutionally supported and encouraged. All the while, complaints from concerned and faithful Catholics are almost always ignored.
Let’s be clear about something: there are certainly members of this aboveground “gay lobby” — I think of Father James Martin, SJ — who would denounce and who have denounced the pomps and works of predators and predatory networks. It is unjust to say that they are all the same. That said, it is fair to ask: To what extent the success of one in their above-ground pursuits depends on the existence of the other?
In a report in America, Father Albert Rossi tells of his own harassment at the hands of predatory Cardinal McCarrick. This quote makes an important point:
The leadership class in any organization determines its tone. In the Catholic Church, if that leadership class — from cardinals down to seminary rectors — is gay, or pro-gay, to a meaningful degree, then you are going to see the teachings of the Catholic Church on sexuality (both homo- and hetero-) flouted and effectively discarded. This is true whether the pro-gay clerics are keeping their vows of celibacy, or violating them. This newly ordained German priest, for example, may live a life of pristine chastity, but his ministry is able to do real damage to the integrity of Catholic faith and witness:
A service in Germany celebrating a Catholic priest’s recent ordination featured a homoerotic dance.
The newly ordained Fr. Fabian Ploneczka, 33, of the Rottenburg-Stuttgart diocese, celebrated his first Mass on Sunday, July 15 at his home church of St. Moritz in Augsburg. The Mass was preceded by three evening services, dubbed a “Triduum,” in the church, focusing on subjects of interest to the new priest. The events included a Saturday evening service dedicated to the theme of eroticism in the Christian faith.
According to the Augsburger Allgemeine, the worship service included the premiere of a ballet entitled “Jeremiah: Passion of the Prophet”, featuring ballet dancer Clemens Fröhlich of Munich and a narrated libretto written by Ploneczka himself. Observers told the German “Katholische Nachrichten”(kath.net) news site that the dancer performed dressed only in tight, skin-coloured underpants.
“The whole church became a dance floor, even the altar area,” kath.net reported. “There the dancer took the Gospel in his hand, stepped almost naked to the ambo, and lolled suggestively in front of the altar.”
Afterwards Fr. Thomas Steiger of Tübingen, a pastor and radio personality, gave a talk on the “eroticism of the faith,” speaking of “a sensual love for Jesus.”
Another example: from 1995 to 1998, I lived and worshiped as a Catholic in the Archdiocese of Miami, under the leadership then of Archbishop John Favalora. When Favalora was rector of Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, his hometown, it was such a pink palace that wags called it “Notre Flame.” In 1994, Favalora was moved to Miami as its archbishop. In 2011, the website Gawker based its shocking report on the lavender mafia in Favalora’s Archdiocese on basic reporting done by local lay Catholics who were sick and tired of the corruption. I would find out in 2002, talking to a former priest of that archdiocese who had taught at its seminary, that Favalora protected a gay priest who preyed on seminarians there, and encouraged a devil-may-care culture of sexual abandon within the presbyterate.
I didn’t know any of that at the time. Most ordinary Catholics wouldn’t have. The only thing I knew about clerical homosexuality in the archdiocese was the fact that an older priest at my downtown Fort Lauderdale parish preached frequently about “the sin of homophobia.”
When I became engaged to be married, my fiancée was finishing college in Texas, so I had to learn how to do Natural Family Planning (NFP), the Church’s approved method of regulating births, on my own. At the time, it was impossible to find NFP instruction in the parishes of the archdiocese. I found a married couple from the Couple To Couple League, who told me that they were not allowed on parish premises anywhere in the archdiocese to present NFP. I had only been Catholic for four years, and found that really surprising: that the policy of the Archdiocese of Miami was to ban the teaching of a practice approved by the Church to help married couples who wanted to be faithful to Catholic teaching about contraception.
Can one draw a straight line between the sexual corruption in Favalora’s archdiocese and its ban under him of NFP instruction? Probably not. But however bent, the line is there.
Get this: as archbishop, Favalora served on the national bishops’ council’s Committee on Priestly Life and Ministry, and on its Ad-Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse. You begin to see, don’t you, how the absence of sexual integrity and fidelity to church teaching matters throughout the life of the Church.
Getting back to the question of the Honduran seminary, it matters immensely whether not the next generation of priests for that country are going to be men of faith and integrity. From the letter, it sounds like the Church in Honduras is in real trouble. I’ve heard anecdotally that US seminaries have generally been cleaned up since 2002, but that’s just hearsay.
I hope that there’s a #metoo moment for Catholic seminarians who are sick and tired of being preyed on by gay priests and seminarians, and who demand that Catholic leaders fix the problem. I hope there’s a #metoo movement emerging within the culture of the priesthood, in which men who are faithful to their vows of celibacy, and who are sick of the lavender mafia in their own dioceses, find their voice.
If it’s going to work, the laity is going to have to step up. A reader e-mailed to say that she doesn’t think anything is going to get done out of this emerging McCarrick scandal, because people in her small Southern diocese aren’t hearing about it or talking about it. Besides, she said, they haven’t had any gay priest problems. If that’s true, they’re lucky — but if you had caught me after mass in 1996, and asked me about the gay priest problem in the Archdiocese of Miami, I would have said the only one I see is the fact that this old queen of a parochial vicar can’t find anything else but the evil of homophobia to preach about.
The ones who really know what’s going on within the local churches are the priests, the seminarians, and those who work with them. If they find the courage to speak out, the laity needs to give the full-voiced support. If not, the Church is going to become a thing it was never meant to be. It’s happening in many places now, especially as the broader culture has become far more LGBT-affirming.
UPDATE: Reader Annie:
There is a psychological barrier necessary to cross to achieve a reckoning; however, despite all the horror of which we have read, it has not been crossed and, I am afraid, most likely will not be.
What I see when I look around is the same old Summertime Catholicism: the living is easy as the local parishes prepare for their annual food festivals and bazaars. Who has heard of Cardinal McCarrick? There’s a report in this state about clerical sexual abuse which has not yet been released; the only people pressuring and advocating for it to come out are “weird.” Most do not even know it exists. Who cares? The Church needs volunteers! For what, you ask? Why, to run the popcorn maker.
My fear is nothing will happen. It is a rare thing for a person raised in comfort and security, whose existence is so padded, disembodied, and removed from suffering or fear, to willingly choose to face those things. If the horror becomes too large and loud they will not demand change; they will simply leave the room. The prospect of changing their emotional and mental landscape to meet the situation head-on is intolerable. And this affects each of us to varying degrees. It’s why we’re not in jail for peacefully blocking the doors to abortion clinics right now.
The Church asks so little from me. I don’t mean to belittle the very beautiful service we offer to our neighbors, however small it is. My anger is to those who should know better. The Church many centuries ago knew most people were not theologians and needed traditions and rituals to root them in faith. One of the things which most angers me about the contemporary leadership is that they still seem aware of it, and that is why they have trampled on anything which may make their faith rise above cultural patriotism.
The laity must support the whistleblowers, but there are not enough whistleblowers. The priests must humbly ask for moral courage from the laity. They must beg for faith and sacrifice, and they themselves must exhibit the beauty and peace of such sacrifice. But what I am hearing from even (what appear to be) priests of virtue is silence. Perhaps they are working behind the scenes; but, at least from what I sit, is I see disarray, people vocalizing their misery and despair, people announcing they are leaving, people begging for accountability… and rather than offering even a night to pray the rosary for the victims, it’s cutesy public preening about whose ethnic foods are better.
Summertime, fish-fry, faith-as-cultural-patriotism Catholicism: can comfort and inertia be overcome? Can those whose vocation it is to ask more of us dare to ask more? I’m not optimistic. If anything is to happen at this point, it will be because the very small group of people doggedly pursuing the story get organized, create a list of identifiable goals, and start pursuing them. Until then we’re just “weirdos” gnashing our teeth about the stuff sensible people sweep under the rug as they wait in line to find out whose pierogi is best.