Blame falls on church, not gays

April 28, 2002|By Leonard Pitts Jr.

SO HAVE you been following the sex scandal in the Catholic Church? Been wondering how it happened and whom to blame?

You silly person. Isn't it obvious? Blame the homosexuals.

You think I'm making this up, right?

Obviously, you haven't heard what a Catholic leader said in New York City last Sunday.

The leader in question is Monsignor Eugene Clark. As U.S. cardinals journeyed to Rome to talk with the pope about predatory priests and the sex scandal that has soiled the church, he addressed the same issue from the prestigious pulpit of St. Patrick's Cathedral. And he left no doubt about where he places the blame for priestly misbehavior.

Blame liberals for their continued assaults on celibacy, he said. Blame this sex-saturated society, he said. But most of all, he said, blame homosexuality.

Americans, he told parishioners, have become entirely too tolerant in recent years. "Homosexuality became in the American exchange of views a protected area," said the cleric.

"And unfortunately ... homosexual students were allowed to pass through seminaries. Grave mistake. Not because homosexuals in any way tend to criminality, but because it is a disorder."

My goodness. So many asinine comments, so little time.

By extension of Monsignor Clark's logic (and I use the term advisedly), most heterosexual child molestation - which is to say, most child molestation - must be laid at the feet of the straight community.

It must follow that our tolerance for the heterosexual lifestyle has led directly to the abuse of untold thousands of children.

Besides which, Matthew Shepard would probably be shocked to hear that Americans have become too tolerant of homosexuality. He'd surely have something to say about that, but he can't, having been crucified by some homophobic vermin he met in a Wyoming bar.

If anyone's guilty of being too tolerant here, it's the church itself. Too tolerant of pedophilia. Too willing to pay off the victim and ship the offending priest to another parish where the cycle can begin all over again.

From Boston to Palm Beach to Los Angeles to Long Island to Fargo to Philadelphia, this scandal has become an oozing sludge, tainting churchmen across the map.

Plaintiffs' lawyers estimate the church has settled as many as 1,000 child molestation lawsuits since the early 1990s.

Yet you and I are the ones who've been too lenient toward misbehavior? Stop the presses. The pot just called the kettle black.

I find myself forced to disregard some of the best advice I ever received: Don't get into a Bible-quoting contest with a preacher.

Can't help it. Got to do it. Because Monsignor Clark's homily brings to mind a passage from the Sermon on the Mount. It's the one where Christ rebukes the man who criticizes the speck of sawdust in his brother's eye while missing the plank of wood in his own. "You hypocrite," says Jesus.

I commend those words to Monsignor Clark.

These, too: The pedophilia scandal that has engulfed the Catholic Church offers that body an opening for discussion of any number of pressing issues: the practicality of celibacy in the priesthood; the sacredness of trust; the institution's responsibility to those it serves. It offers the church an opportunity to confront its own - the word is apt - sins.

How disappointing to see that opportunity wasted in a transparent effort to shift the blame.

You wonder to what degree the monsignor's views are his alone and to what degree they represent an obstinate and concretized hierarchy.

Either way, let's be clear: This scandal did not happen because gay people held a pride parade or Sports Illustrated published a swimsuit issue. It happened because the church allowed it to. How sad that the monsignor can't see that. Must be that plank in his eye.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for The Miami Herald. He may be reached via e-mail at or calling toll-free at 1-888-251-4407.

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