Matt C. Abbott
'Sacrilege: Liberation Enters the Church'
By Matt C. Abbott
January 24, 2010

The following is a lengthy excerpt from the book Sacrilege: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church, authored by Leon J. Podles, Ph.D. Many thanks to Mr. Podles and Charles Eby of the Crossland Foundation for allowing me to reprint this material. (Caution: contains disturbing descriptions.)

Chapter 15: 'New Errors'

Liberation Enters the Church

...Even in the 1950s many priests studied psychology. Priests frequently deal with disturbed people, and modern psychology seems to offer insights in how to help. Psychology tends to displace theology. Therefore, the Catholic clergy have been exposed to all the trends and fads of modern psychology, including the pernicious ones of sexual liberation. When psychologists were brought in to advise nuns about their rules or to advise bishops how to deal with sexual offenders, disaster has often been the result.

Joyce Milton, who had personal experience with the humanistic psychology movement of the 1970s and 1980s, has exposed its weaknesses in her Road to Malpsychia (a word-play on Maslow's Road to Eupsychia). Humanistic psychology "emphasized alienation from values based on the authority of revealed religion and a need for the individual to derive meaning through his search for identity and authenticity." Carl Rogers emphasized that "neither the Bible nor the prophets — neither Freud nor research — neither the revelations of God nor man — can take precedence over my own direct experience,"[42] that is, his "lived experience," a phrase that is always invoked by those who reject traditional Christian moral teaching. Presidents Higgins and Letson of St. Jerome's University note that only three percent of young people in England think that premarital sex is wrong and criticize "the Church's unwillingness to locate itself within the realm of lived experience,"[43] by which they mean the Church's unwillingness to accept the fallen reality that previous generations called "the world."

The teaching of Carl Rogers had a massive influence on the Catholic Church in the United States, from which it has never recovered.[44] For Rogers the therapist was only a facilitator (a word that still haunts Catholic meetings) who gave unqualified acceptance (unconditional love) to the client. Rogers, an unbeliever who had been formed in a strict but affectionate Protestant home, wanted everyone to explore and accept his deepest desires. Rogers's deepest desires were civilized and humane, but not everyone is like him. Rogers unwisely kept reassuring people that they should have no fear about "calling up and unleashing their hidden desires."[45] The Jesuits wanted to get in on the act. They consulted Rogers's associate William Coulson and discussed the new concept of the "third way between celibacy and marriage." Coulson asked what they meant. A Jesuit replied, "It means you don't have to marry the girl."[46]

Rogers and Coulson set up a massive group therapy program for the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) nuns, who invited them in to help with the period of reflection that the Vatican Council had asked for. Coulson was a good Catholic. When he and Rogers got in touch with their inner selves, they discovered sensitive, enlightened consciences. When their patients were in the presence of Coulson and Rogers they too discovered sensitive consciences that gave good direction. But Coulson and Rogers trained facilitators who, they discovered, were unable to evoke such a conscience. Under these facilitators' direction, the nuns got in touch with their inner selves. What they discovered there was that they did not want to be nuns and they did want (at least some did) to be lesbians. The order disintegrated in a matter of months. Cardinal Manning became alarmed, and attempted to stop the collapse, but he only made it worse.[47]

Rogers and Coulson gave the same program at St. Anthony's Seminary. When the friars there looked into their inner selves and affirmed their deep-est desires, a good proportion of them (about one-quarter) discovered that what they really wanted most of all was to have sex with fourteen-year-old boys, which they proceeded to do for the next twenty years. The encounter groups had convinced them to believe that "when people do what they deeply want to do, it isn't immoral."[48] The abuse had started before the encounter groups were formed, but after the encounter groups it vastly increased.

After complaints of abuse surfaced, the Franciscans who ran St. Anthony's Seminary commissioned an inquiry. The board discovered that twenty-five percent, eleven out of the forty-four friars at the seminary had engaged in sex with the high school students there...

How could this have happened? Religious orders are realistic about human nature and over the centuries have therefore developed ways of minimizing temptations. But these safeguards were abandoned at St. Anthony's: "It must also be stated that within the system, over the years, many rules were broken: rules governing the conduct of guardians and teachers, and rules both explicit [canonical and constitutional law] and implicit in religious life." [50]

The seminary had changed. Rogers and Coulson had preached the new gospel of self-affirmation and disregard of external constraints. Rogers now blames himself for what happened at St. Anthony's:

    The Franciscans . . . were so enamored with our psychology that they introduced it to Saint Anthony's Seminary in Santa Barbara. Years later, eleven or twelve friars were accused of molesting thirty-four high school boys. I'm afraid that we planted the seeds and they carried the seeds to the next generation and they germinated.[51]

The "renewed" seminary of St. Anthony's opened itself to the world. A large number of laypeople from the town began attending services at the seminary, which had become exciting. "By 1968, Eucharistic services incorporated outdoor settings, electric guitars and drums, fluorescent vestments, pop art banners, and sculptures decorated with mod designs and slogans" such as, "Life is where the action is," and invitations to "Feel free (free, free, free, free) to be!"[52] Sister Corita (she of the felt banners) and Cesar Chavez (he of the grape boycott) were attracted to this liberated atmosphere. The rector of the seminary, Robert Van Handel, founded a boys' choir and molested the boys. The seminary closed in 1987 because of declining enrollment. In 1989 complaints against Van Handel led to the exposure of the abuse.[53] To whom could the boys have complained earlier? The rector, Van Handel? He was abusing boys. The auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, Ziemann, who was in charge of the Santa Barbara area? He was himself allegedly abusing boys (see pp. 217).[54]

The disasters do not seem to have chastened the authorities who caused them. Anita Caspary, who headed the IHM nuns when they collapsed, still blamed all the problems on Cardinal Manning.[55] She made no mention of the moral disorders that accompanied the psychological turmoil, and dismissed Coulson's change of heart as incomprehensible: "Why Coulson persists in denigrating Carl Rogers and insisting on the demise of a healthy and growing religious community are matters for speculation."[56]

When Christopher Dixon was an altar boy in Missouri, he went to confession face-to-face with the Rev. John Fischer (removed in 1993 for unrelated accusations). Fischer asked, "Would you like to kiss Jesus?" Priest and boy kissed and, according to Dixon, began a sexual relationship that lasted for years. Dixon went into a high school seminary and was troubled by this relationship. He asked the rector, Rev. (later Bishop) Anthony O'Connell, for advice. O'Connell had him undress completely and also stripped himself, and then they got into bed together. This went on for years. Dixon was ordained by O'Connell, and was assigned to teach in the seminary under another priest whom Dixon said had also abused him, the Rev. Manus Daly. This was too much for Dixon, and he went to the diocese. He was given a settlement and sworn to secrecy, secrecy that allowed O'Connell to become bishop of Palm Beach, succeeding Bishop Symons who had resigned after he was accused of child abuse. Dixon decided to go public, and O'Connell had to resign. He explained his actions with Dixon: "What I was trying to do was work with a youngster who has personal issues. We're talking about the late 70s. In Catholic theology there were different kinds of approaches."[57] Touching his naked body to the naked body of a fifteen-year-old boy was the approach that O'Connell took for several years. It was under the authority of the great theological experts Masters and Johnson, according to O'Connell.[58]

Therapists immediately said that what O'Connell did was unethical. But therapist Myriam Coppens, an assistant professor with the Psychiatry Department at Oregon Health Sciences University, said it is possible O'Connell had good intentions, even though his actions may have been extremely harmful. 'I think he believes that what he did was innocent and furthermore meant to "help" the boy,' she said, saying that in fact the 1970s were an era of more experimental attitudes toward sexuality."[59] This in fact happened with some frequency at the time. The Rev. Ellwood "Bud" Kaiser, the "Hollywood Priest," became too close emotionally to an IHM nun, and suggested that she go into therapy. The therapist used sex play with her; they fell in love; he divorced his wife and married the nun. The therapist's actions were unethical and immoral, but "in the 1960s such procedures were not uncommon."[60] That therapy led therapists into such behavior might suggest that there is something wrong with the therapy. Perhaps Cardinal Manning's suspicions about the psychological treatment the entire IHM order was undergoing were justified.

Such folly was widespread in the Catholic Church and was encouraged and disseminated by bishops who were praised as progressive. Rembert Weakland sent his seminarians to a "Sexual Attitudes Reassessment Program." There the seminarians watched movies that "showcased on the big screen male and female masturbation, heterosexual and homosexual intercourse, and variations on oral sex."[61] Under Weakland's sponsorship the Rev. James Arimond (see pp. 397–398) gave workshops on homosexuality which preached that "when making a moral decision . . . ultimately it is the individual's conscience which must be his or her guide. A Catholic may in good conscience make a decision not in total agreement with [c]hurch teaching and still remain within the Church."[62] Arimond put his teaching into practice. He pleaded no-contest to a 1990 charge of sexually assaulting a teenage boy. Weakland, following his conscience, had an affair with an adult confidence artist, who extracted $450,000 in diocesan money from Weakland as hush money (see p. 399).

The spirit of Vatican II was widely seen as favoring sexual liberation. The respectable Catholic publisher Herder and Herder, after venturing into astrology, issued The Sex Book: A Modern Pictorial Encyclopedia "for young people with candid explanations and photographs of sexual behavior."[63] The photographs were by Will McBride, who also provided similar photographs for Show Me, by St. Martin's Press...

After selling over 150,000 copies, Show Me was withdrawn by the publisher to avoid obscenity prosecution after the Supreme Court upheld New York's law against child pornography.[65] It has become a collector's item among pedophiles (listed on the Christopher Robin's Adult-Child Loving List), fetching up to $1,000 on Seabury Press joined in with The Sex Atlas by Erwin J. Haeberle, one of the authors of The Sex Book. As Zieg Mal! McBride's book has sold over 1,000,000 copies, and is used by church groups in Germany; it had a sequel, Zieg Mal Mehr! McBride's book Boys (available at Wal Mart) shows boys in various states of nudity.


Following Scripture's positive attitude to procreation, the Catholic Church teaches that a Christian should not have any sexual experiences, mental or physical, outside marriage, and that within marriage procreation is never to be excluded by a deliberate act. This is a hard saying for the human race, but the doctrine is clear, logical, and consistent with Scripture. The Church has always been merciful to the sins of the flesh, since the human sexual appetite is hard to keep within these strict boundaries.

However, after the Vatican Council, Catholic moral theologians began competing with one another to see how much of traditional teaching on sexuality they could reject. The Rev. Matthew Lamb, at that time a theologian at Boston College, claimed that

    No adequate diagnosis of the contributory causes of the Catholic priest scandals can overlook the role of dissent among theologians.... How many of the priests and bishops who have brought such suffering to minors and scandal to the public were encouraged by teachers and theologians to cut corners and dissent from the truth of Catholic faith and moral teaching? Many priests and future bishops read articles dissenting from Catholic sexual ethics in the 1960s and '70s. A climate of dissent was promoted by wholesale dissent from Catholic sexual ethics.[66]

The dissenters have denied any responsibility for anyone putting their theories into practice.

The Rev. Anthony Kosnick, seminary dean, headed a study group for the Catholic Theological Society of America, which published its findings in 1977. The study was full of blather about self-actualization, which was understood in psychological terms instead of the classical idea of virtue. The study, Human Sexuality: New Directions in American Catholic Thought, wanted "greater attention to the subjective elements in pastoral judgments."[67] Beginning in the 1960s the Catholic Church was flooded with ideas of self-affirmation. Ascetical discipline, the denial of the self in answer to the Master's command, "Take up your cross and follow me," was abandoned for the pleasures of self-actualization, for affirmation of self, for self-worship, a trend which continues unabated. The problem with self-affirmation is that every Christian is simul justus et peccator, the Old Adam and Christ. We remain fallen, and various heresies over the centuries try to make Christians forget this, with self-indulgence of sexual desires as the result. Sexual desires are strong and disorderly; every society has hedged sex with rules and taboos. When people are encouraged to jettison rules as inauthentic restraints on the real inner self, they discover a taste for a multiplicity of perversions, including pedophilia and pederasty.

For Kosnick, the validity of all moral judgments has to be established by the criteria of modern psychological research. The study asked the fatal question, "Is there any empirical data available which might support a claim that certain sexual expressions always and everywhere are detrimental to the full development of the human personality?"[68] The answer was no: "at this time the behavioral sciences have not identified any sexual expression that can be empirically demonstrated to be of itself, in a culture-free way, detrimental to full human existence."[69] Of course, society disapproves of many sexual practices, and "any activity of which one's society disapproves is a potential source of anxiety for one who engages in it." Society's views will eventually be changed to conform to what people want to do, so "until that day arrives, enlightened and well-integrated individuals might well free themselves of conflict by simply reflecting on the relativity of their society's sexual ethic and proceed discreetly with their sexual project."[70]

Priests and seminarians proceeded "discreetly with their sexual project." This meant that, after the Second Vatican Council, as seminary director Howard Bleichner admitted, "a degree of sexual acting out was tolerated that ten years before...was unthinkable."[71] The study was meant to influence behavior and did influence behavior. Human Sexuality

    was 'received' by the CTSA, which also 'arranged' for its publication 'as a service to the membership of the Society and a wider public of interested persons'....The book has been widely used in seminaries. Seminarians and priests of the time who had a woman or a male lover on the side could, and did, cite Human Sexuality to reasonably claim that a very large part, if not the majority, of the academic theological establishment countenanced their behavior.[72]

The authors of the study discussed sexual expressions such as masturbation, premarital sex, and homosexuality, but they said their approach applied to "any sexual expression." "Any" includes rape, bestiality, and for our purpose, pedophilia and sex with teenage boys. These "expressions," according to the authors, who followed psychologists' opinion in this regard, have not been demonstrated as always harmful in and of themselves. It is only cultural taboos that create anxiety (see Paul Shanley's remarks, p. 161). Shanley was speaking in the mainstream of liberal American Catholic moral theology when he indicated there was nothing innately wrong with man-boy sex; only society's disapproval created the problems, and "enlightened and well-integrated individuals" — and who would not consider himself enlightened and well-integrated when he is adulated by liberal Boston for his advocacy of homosexuality? — can discreetly carry out their sexual projects.

No, the Catholic Theological Society did not identify pedophilia as a harmless activity, but it explicitly said that no sexual activity had yet been proved in itself to be harmful. Nor did the criteria give any objective guidance. Sex must be self-liberating, other-liberating, honest, faithful, socially responsible, life-serving, and joyous.[73] The traditional Christian teachings about sex outside of marriage are only rough guidelines, and "to the extent that they refer to concrete, physical actions (e. g., masturbation, sterilization, contraception, premarital sex) without specifying particular circumstances or intention, to that extent they cannot be regarded as universal and absolute moral norms."[74] The prohibition of sex with a child or teenage boy is not a universal and absolute moral norm.

These Catholic theologians were a little doubtful about swinging, "free sex [which] has become a popular pastime for many single, divorced, widowed and married people." Although it may look like "self-gratification," the authors are "open to the results of further research."[75] The theologians urged "caution" about adultery, threesomes, and mate-swapping, but were "open to further evidence from the empirical sciences" and pointed out that some are open to the possibility that "such an arrangement could uphold principles of true human growth and full integration."[76]

There was almost no sexual activity of which the authors disapproved. "Full development" understood in empirical psychological terms is their redefinition of virtue. Of adultery and group marriage, the authors at best can give a caution: they are not to be tolerated "at least in most cases,"[77] but the authors affirm that such sexual relationships "can be truly 'creative' and 'integrative' for all involved, and therefore morally acceptable."[78] The authors reject the extreme position which rejects "every deliberate experience of sexual pleasure outside the marriage context."[79] The evaluation of homosexual acts is surrounded by a fog, and the authors refuse to make any judgments.

These were not the opinions of fringe radicals, but of the Catholic Theological Society of America, of seminary deans and seminary professors both in the United States and Canada. The Rev. André Guindon, who taught moral theology at St. Paul's University in Canada until his death in 1993 and was dean of the faculty of theology there from 1978 to 1984, taught that an adult having sex with prepubescent children did little or no harm:

    It should be pointed out that most recent studies tend to disprove that lasting harm results from the pedophiliac contact itself. Rather the trauma comes from the familial panic which is the usual response to the incident. Nobody seems to care that children are exposed to violence, greed, social injustice, and family wars. But let a man kiss a young boy or touch his genitals — usually a meaningless gesture for the child, by the way — and the incident is blown up into a national tragedy. Many parents and citizens who pose as do-gooders should consider carefully whether they are not making a scapegoat out of the defenseless pedophile for their own sins. Equally traumatic for the 'molested' child is often his appearance as a witness in court. Interrogation and cross examination are probably more damaging than the offense itself.[80]

Guindon is equally soft on pederasty: "According to all available statistics, the effects of pederasty, leaving aside very special cases of rape and brutality, are much less pronounced than is generally believed. The literature on the subject is rather non-alarmist."[81]

Not the molestation, but those who object to it harm the child. Note the quotation marks around "molested" that show that Guindon does not think that adult-child sex should be called molestation. The parents who persecute the poor pedophile are the evil people.

Guindon laments "the victimization of an adult homosexual by a teenager. The legal presumption, which aims at protecting minors, often plays somewhat harshly against the adult partner, for the seduction often comes from the younger partner, either consciously or unconsciously."[82] The victims, as bishops frequently informed them, are themselves to blame for the molestation.

Rudy Kos studied at the Dallas seminary, which Michael Hartwig, rector and professor of moral theology, left to "marry" the head of the Gay Alliance. This seminary used the Guindon book The Sexual Language, from which these quotations are taken, as a moral theology textbook, according to Rev. Joseph Wilson who studied there.[83] The seminary invited Paul Shanley to speak. Shanley, who Cardinal Medeiros was told

    spoke of pedophilia (which is a non-coerced sexual manipulation of sexual organs including oral-genital sex between an adult and a child). He stated that the adult is not the seducer — the 'kid' is the seducer and further the kid is not traumatized by the act per se, the kid is traumatized when the police and authorities 'drag' the kid in for questioning.[84]

Father Wilson was at the Dallas seminary when Shanley lectured, and said, "I was sitting directly behind the then-bishop of Dallas, Thomas Tschoepe, who laughed and joked his way through a truly vile presentation."[85] As we have seen in Chapter Five, Tschoepe knew of and tolerated Rudy Kos's abuse of boys.

The bishops of the United States were fully aware that professors in their seminaries were teaching that sex with children and boys did no real harm, that it was only the fuss that unenlightened, pre-Vatican II parents created that harmed the children. Therefore the bishops did not turn the abusers over to the police and did little or nothing to help the victims — who had not been harmed, according to the advanced moral theology that was being taught in their seminaries. Msgr. Richard S. Sniezyk, interim leader of the Springfield, Massachusetts, diocese after Bishop Dupré disappeared, pointed to "a belief among some priests in the 1960s, '70s, and '80s that sex with young men was acceptable." Sniezyk claimed, "No one thought much about it" and that "the whole atmosphere out there was, it was OK, it was OK to do."[86] That is what was being taught in the seminaries.

And perhaps is still being taught. The bishops lied to parents and laity who complained about abuse and pernicious doctrines. Why should anyone believe the American bishops? At one seminary, André Guindon's Sexual Language is listed, without any explanation, as a recommended text for the course "Marriage and Human Sexuality."

The Vatican, chiefly Cardinal Ratzinger (now Benedict XVI) as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, occasionally tried to discipline priests who taught these horrors, and for his efforts was denounced by Catholic liberals as a Nazi and Grand Inquisitor. Nor is the Vatican blameless: the Vatican received a stream of complaints that bishops were allowing these doctrines to be taught to priests who then acted on those doctrines by having sex with minors, but not once has a bishop been removed for failure to exercise oversight over his seminary and clergy.

Guindon, "caught in the Roman dragnet,"[87] is still hailed as an example of an advanced moral thinker who was victimized by the Vatican. "The darling of the Catholic liberals in Canada," Guindon is praised on a website of the University of Montréal at Québec as a "figure d'une rare integrité, d'une subtile intelligence and d'une chaleureuse compassion." Douglas Letson, former president of St. Jerome's University at the University of Waterloo in Canada, refers to Guindon as "the only credible Catholic voice in a Canadian university with the potential to foster a meaningful dialogue within the Canadian community on sensitive issues of a sexual nature."[88] Letson and the current president of St. Jerome's, Michael W. Higgins, praise Guindon's "authentic orthodoxy" and his "wholly readable theological vision" and like him reject "infallible codes of obligation."[89] They do not see that Guindon's acceptance of pedophilia and pederasty might reveal a flaw in his method and attitude; or perhaps they agree with Guindon's assessment of pedophilia and pederasty. The attitude of many Catholic liberals is that the sexual revolution in the Church must go on, whatever the cost to children and adolescents. The return to moral absolutes and exceptionless norms might lessen child abuse, but it would also forbid fornication, adultery, homosexuality, and the other practices which the Catholic Theological Society was, and as far as I know, still remains open to as life-enhancing experiences.

Dissenters claim that there is absolutely no connection between dissent and the sexual scandals, but the dissenters wanted their ideas put into practice, and priests and seminarians obliged. If seminarians were taught the traditional doctrine, it was presented only as the "official teaching" while dissenting theologians were presented as "current theological thinking." The dissent reached into the very basis of ethics, and situation ethics became the solvent of all traditional teaching on moral absolutes. Paul Shanley explained to the confused young men who came to him for counseling the concept of "situation ethics" so that they would have sex with him. Samuel Johnson observed of a moral skeptic, "If he does really think that there is no distinction between virtue and vice, why, sir, when he leaves our houses let us count our spoons."

The National Catholic Reporter published an account by a priest who was sexually involved with a teenage boy. The priest wrote: "I read a book on situation ethics. The basic theme was that no act is objectively evil; its morality or immorality depends on the situation. I reasoned from this that all sex acts are basically good since God had created us sexual beings, or at least they were morally neutral. They are only evil if they harm someone (like rape or incest or infidelity)." There is nothing good or evil in itself; only the consequences make it so. Everyone is having sex in some way; it can't be wrong. "Then I read a statistic, reported in a newspaper, that ninety-nine percent of adolescents masturbated. I believed it and thought maybe I was strange. So, a period of sexual exploration began. It started with masturbation, and later I had several sexual encounters with classmates in the seminary. It was pleasurable."[90]

When the young priest, full of the latest moral theories, was ordained and sent off to a parish, he met a teenager, "Bill."

    I had known him a year or so when we first had sexual contact. It started gradually and built up to the real thing. He was sixteen then. I had suspected he was gay, and he was. He liked me and admired me. If he felt any shame, it was apparent to no one. We stayed friends and had sex off and on, but that was not the center of our relationship for either of us.

    I did not feel guilt at the time, or at least I deluded myself into thinking I actually was doing something good for Bill. I did not want him to live his youthful years suppressing his sexuality as I had done. I wanted him to feel liberated, like I thought I was. I wanted to be a positive role model.[91]

The priest decided that perhaps he should not continue such sexual encounters; he met a sympathetic woman and became close to her, but remained celibate. He became a pastor. Years later, Bill sued him and the diocese for these sexual activities. The bishop sent the priest for treatment; he was pronounced "cured" (of what? sexual desire? heresy?). He now wants to remain in ministry, and pleads against a zero-tolerance policy for sexual abuse.

Some theologians have focused especially on justifying homosexuality. The biblical passages against it have been explained away, and same-sex love held up as a model. The Rev. Paul Thomas, archivist of the archdiocese of Baltimore, wrote a series of articles that appeared first in the Washington Blade and then in the Baltimore Catholic Review on the supposed homoerotic relationship between David and Jonathan and between John and Jesus. Such analyses proved very useful to priests who had to deal with teenage boys who had irrational prejudices against homosexual behavior.

The Rev. Paul Aube tried to convince a fifteen-year-old boy that homosexual behavior was approved by the Bible: "[Aube] showed me several passages in the Bible that um supported a point of view that he was ah trying to, trying to I guess he was trying to convince me that um it was, it was an acceptable Godly thing for some type of ah sexual relationship between, well between myself and Father Aube."[92] Rudy Kos also used theological arguments on his victims. One boy who had homosexual feelings was sent to Kos for confession and counseling. Kos informed him of the latest theological thought on homosexuality. The victim recounted to the court that Kos told him:

    'Well, basically, there's only, like, nine passages in the Bible that refer to homosexuality, and that people' — he just went through this whole process of saying, you know, how it's really interesting how people pick and chose what they want to follow out of the Bible and that so much was lost in translation between different languages, that homosexuality was actually translated from mail [sic] prostitute and that mail [sic] prostitute means something totally different from homosexuality.

    He then took me through all of these passages in the Bible. And he — he showed me where it was written in the Bible about homosexuality and explained under what context it was used. And — and basically he was showing me examples of where there are two men who actually loved each other. And it said in the Bible something to the effect that they loved each other like a man and women [sic] love each other. And he is saying, 'This is in the Bible. And God loved these people. There is nothing wrong with them. God doesn't hate them for being that way.'[93]

Sexual liberation was taught in Catholic seminaries, with predictable results.

One underlying error is seeing the empirical finds of the psychological sciences as better grounds for morality than divine revelation, which is dismissed as arbitrary rules of behavior. Guindon criticized a "code morality" that held that God had decreed arbitrarily that some actions were evil; Guindon claimed to follow Thomas Aquinas's example by building a rational morality based on what was harmful and hurtful to man. He assumed, and this is one of his errors, that the human mind, specifically the human mind using the research techniques of mid-twentieth century psychology, could discover whether a sexual act did any harm. First of all, the time frame is too limited: some psychologists could not see any immediate psychological damage from adult-child sex; but they did not do a study over the lifetime of the victim. The tools of psychological research are inexact, and at best can determine variations from the common state of human life. But this state is fallen and therefore abnormal, and Christians are called to full human perfection. Only sanctity is truly normal, in that it fulfills what God wants the human person to be. Divine law prohibits actions because they are evil and damaging; but we may or may not be able to see the damage if we try to ascertain it by the very limited techniques of modern psychological research.

Sexual liberation was a strong wind blowing through the modern world when Pope John XXIII opened the windows of the Catholic Church to let in some fresh air. Pastoral considerations based upon the latest psychological fads led priests to permit previously forbidden sexual behavior. This was not good for the weak Christian. Conrad Baars, who recognized the problems that faulty "traditional" presentations of morality had created among Catholics, nevertheless rejected the new morality, which said in effect to a person struggling with moral difficulties: "You may ignore the teachings of the Magisterium. God's laws are too hard for you," that is, "You are not and never will be strong and good enough to adhere to these laws."[94]

Bad psychology and bad theology probably did not increase the number or activity of true pedophiles; these men live in a private hell with its own dynamics. But false doctrine did provide a justification for homosexual behavior, and the incidence of priests having sex with teenage boys increased markedly through the '70s and '80s. It then decreased. The number of priests fell rapidly; priests aged and had a lower sex drive; candidates for ordination were older and more mature; some of the worst offenders had been removed or put out to pasture. Even if the proportion of homosexuals in the clergy has increased, they have behaved better with teenage boys.

The toleration of the abuse raises deeper questions. Certainly some bishops were personally corrupt; a few were involved with teenage boys, more with adults. However, most bishops did not have this motive for tolerating abuse. They had nonconfrontational personalities, they were influenced by old-fashioned clericalism, they regarded priests as sacrament-producing machines whose personal abilities and integrity were irrelevant to their priesthood, and they were caught up in the new openness to the modern world that led them to lend an ear to bad advice from psychologists. They tolerated fashionable heresies and immorality among their priests, and the heresy contributed to the immorality. But the Church also suffered from older distortions and errors. These are more deeply rooted and are often regarded as "traditional," "authentic," "orthodox" Catholicism, and are therefore even more subtly dangerous than obvious dissent from Catholic teaching.


[42]  Quoted in Joyce Milton, The Road to Malpsychia: Humanistic Psychology and Its Discontents (San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2002) p. 135.

[43]  Michael W. Higgins and Douglas R. Letson, Power and Peril: The Catholic Church at the Crossroads (Toronto: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., 2002) p. 228.

[44]  Howard P. Bleichner discusses the catastrophic effects of humanist psychology. See View from the Altar: Reflections on the Rapidly Changing Catholic Priesthood (New York: Crossroad Publishing Company, 2004) pp. 33–34.

[45]  Milton, p. 135.

[46]  Ibid.

[47]  See Rosemary Curb and Nancy Manahan, Lesbian Nuns: Breaking the Silence (New York: Warner Books, 1985), pp. 3–14.

[48]  Milton, p. 135.

[49]  Independent Board of Inquiry Regarding St. Anthony's Seminary, Santa Barbara, California, Findings.

[50]  Ibid.

[51]  George Neumayr, "Liberal Catholicism's Just Desserts," The American Prowler, March 1, 2002.

[52]  Elizabeth Pullen, "An Advocacy Group for Victims of Clerical Sex Abuse," in Anson Shupe, editor, Wolves within the Fold: Religious Leadership and Abuses of Power (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1998) p. 70.

[53]  "Van Handel was convicted of child abuse in 1994, sentenced to eight years in prison and now lives in Santa Cruz as a registered sex offender" (Fred Alvarez, "Two Brothers' Suit Accuses Priests of Molestation," Los Angeles Times, December 30, 2004).

[54]  "Lawsuit Accuses Bishop of Sex Abuse; Church: A Former Altar Boy Alleges Molestation When the Cleric Served in Huntington Park," Los Angeles Times, July 6, 2002.

[55]  For the history of the crisis, see Ann Carey, Sisters in Crisis: The Tragic Unraveling of Women's Religious Communities (Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, 1997) pp. 184–210.

[56]  Anita M. Caspery, Witness to Integrity: The Crisis of the Immaculate Heart Community of California (Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 2003) p. 241.

[57]  "Breaking Silence: Former Priest Describes Alleged Abuse by Florida Bishop," ABC News, March 22, 2002. Fischer had denied abusing Dixon, but "in a secret agreement, the Jefferson City diocese gave Dixon $125,000 with the promise that he not pursue any further claims against the diocese and the priests [Fischer and Daly]" (Dawn Fallik, "Ex-Seminarian's Charges Lead to Removal of Priest," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 8, 2002). Fischer and Daly have not been the objects of criminal prosecution.

[58]  William F. Buckley Jr., "The Writhings of Bishop O'Connell: The Pope Must Rue Those Who Corrupt the Young," National Review, March 12, 2002.

[59]  "Questionable Defense: Mental Health Experts Doubt Bishop's Explanation," ABC News, March 22, 2002.

[60]  Ellwood E. Keiser, Hollywood Priest (New York: Doubleday, 1991) p. 169.

[61]  Michael S. Rose, Goodbye! Good Men: How Catholic Seminaries Turned away Two Generations of Vocations from the Priesthood (Cincinnati: Aquinas Publishing Ltd., 2002) p. 285.

[62]  Ibid.

[63]  Henry Raymint, "Herder and Herder Books Undergo a Vast Change," New York Times, May 27, 1971.

[64]  Linda Wolfe, "The Birds and the Bees Were Never Like This," New York Times, July 17, 1975.

[65]  Edwin McDowell, "Picture Book on Sex Withdrawn," New York Times, September 19, 1982.

[66]  Michael Paulson, "Church Meets Dissenting Voices with Silence," Boston Globe, September 16, 2002.

[67]  Anthony Kosnick, William Carroll, Agnes Cunningham, Ronald Modras, and James Schulte, Human Sexuality: New Directions in American Catholic Thought (New York: Paulist Press, 1977) p. 52.

[68]  Ibid., p. 55.

[69]  Ibid., p. 59.

[70]  Ibid., p. 56.

[71]  Howard P. Bleichner, View from the Altar: Reflections on the Rapidly Changing Catholic Priesthood (New York: Crossroad Publishing Company, 2004) p. 40.

[72]  Richard John Neuhaus, "Scandal Time (Continued)," First Things, June/July 2002.

[73]  Kosnick et al., pp. 92–93.

[74]  Ibid., p. 97.

[75]  Ibid., pp. 147–148.

[76]  Ibid., pp. 148–149.

[77]  Ibid., p. 150.

[78]  Ibid., p. 151.

[79]  Ibid., p. 164.

[80]  André Guindon, The Sexual Language: An Essay in Moral Theology (Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 1976) p. 374.

[81]  Ibid., p. 315.

[82]  Ibid., p. 375.

[83]  Joseph Wilson, "The Enemy Within: A Parish Priest Cautions His Would-be Defenders,"

[84]  Boston Globe Staff, Betrayal: The Crisis of the Catholic Church (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 2002) pp. 232–233.

[85]  Wilson, "The Enemy Within."

[86]  John McElhenny, "Msgr. Says Harm of Abuse Wasn't Recognized," Boston Globe, February 23, 2004.

[87]  Michael W. Higgins, and Douglas R. Letson, Power and Peril: The Catholic Church at the Crossroads (Toronto: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, 2002) p. 232.

[88]  Douglas Letson, "Catholic Universities in the Modern World," The Tablet, October 2, 2001.

[89]  Higgins and Letson, p. 233.

[90]  "Sex Offense: One Part of His Story," National Catholic Reporter, June 7, 2002.

[91]  Ibid.

[92]  Investigator Anthony Fowler, December 16, 2002 Interview with Anonymous (name blacked out), p. 10,851, New Hampshire Attorney General's Office documents.

[93]  John Doe I, et al. vs. Rev. Rudolph Kos et al., District Court of Dallas County, Texas, 93-05258-G, p. 5904, ll. 2025, p. 5905, l. 1–14.

[94]  Anna A. Terruwe and Conrad Baars, Psychic Wholeness and Healing: Using All the Powers of the Human Psyche (New York: Alba House, 1981) pp. 25

© Matt C. Abbott


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Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication, media, and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He also has an Associate in Applied Science degree in business management from Triton College. Abbott has been interviewed on HLN, MSNBC, Bill Martinez Live, WOSU Radio in Ohio, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's 2019 ‘Unsolved’ podcast about the unsolved murder of Father Alfred Kunz, Alex Shuman's 'Smoke Screen: Fake Priest' podcast, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) and WISC-TV (CBS) in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been quoted in The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and other media outlets. He’s mentioned in the 2020 Report on the Holy See's Institutional Knowledge and Decision-Making Related to Former Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick (1930 to 2017), which can be found on the Vatican's website. He can be reached at

(Note: I welcome and appreciate thoughtful feedback. Insults will be ignored. Only in very select cases will I honor a request to have a telephone conversation about a topic in my column. Email is much preferred. God bless you and please keep me in your prayers!)


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