Finally another reaction about NCR’s insulting article

Late is better than never.

From CNA with my emphases and comments.

Catholic leaders rip ‘ludicrous’ article that argues celibacy causes abuse
By Marianne Medlin

Denver, Colo., Jun 15, 2011 / 06:00 am (CNA).- Catholic leaders are calling a recent National Catholic Reporter [aka Fishwrap] article “ludicrous” after it criticized Kansas City Bishop Robert W. Finn and compared him to the scandal-plagued New York Rep. Anthony Weiner and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Writer Phyllis Zagano said in her June 8 piece for the Reporter that Bishop Finn – who recently apologized for failing to deal swiftly with a priest whom police found possessed questionable photos  – could also be compared to mogul Dominique Strauss Kahn, who was arrested for sexually assaulting a hotel maid.

“None of these four players speaking loudly on the stages of politics and finance seems to have much respect for women, or anyone else for that matter,” said Zagano, a former professor at Fordham University in New York.

Her criticism of Bishop Finn comes after he publicly expressed his remorse for neglecting to heed warnings about local priest Fr. Shawn Ratigan that were raised in a letter sent by Saint Patrick School principal Julie Hess to the diocese’s vicar general. The letter detailed parents’ concerns about the priest’s behavior around children.

However, Zagano’s remarks did not sit well with Catholic League president Bill Donohue and the internationally-known author Fr. Alfred McBride, O Praem., who both believe she went too far[So they are finally getting around to this?  I wrote about this 5 days ago!  Where have they been?]

“Arnold Schwarzenegger impregnates his housekeeper, Rep. Anthony Weiner sends porn pictures of himself to strangers, and Dominque Strauss-Kahn allegedly rapes a hotel maid,” Donohue said.

“To be sure, they have something in common, but to conflate their sordid behavior with Kansas City-St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn’s failure to move quickly against a problem priest is so forced as to be ludicrous,” he told CNA in a June 12 interview.

“That, however, is exactly what Phyllis Zagano has done.”

Zagano also criticized Bishop Finn’s celibate formation, saying she felt “sorry for him” that he entered seminary at age 12. She wrote that the bishop is a “product a system left over from the Council of Trent,” which directed dioceses to create minor seminaries to provide initial formation for diocesan clergy.

“An all-male environment from the age of twelve can ensure celibacy, but at what price?” Zagano said. “If the only way to get celibate clergy is to lock up twelve-year-olds until they are ordained, maybe the hierarchy should reconsider requiring priestly celibacy.”

Donohue said in response that “her lashing out at Bishop Finn, and her inane analogies comparing Finn to sexual deviants in public life, smacks of an agenda.”

Fr. Alfred McBride, a professor at St. Norbert’s College in Wisconsin who has helped form hundreds of seminarians, also took on Zagano’s criticism of priestly celibacy. He told CNA that it’s inaccurate to blame celibacy for sexual misconduct or mismanagement of cases within the Church.

“When we look at the celebrity politicians of late who broke their marital promises to their wives, did that happen because they were married?” he asked. “No. It happened because they failed to nurture their vow of fidelity which they pronounced on their wedding.”

Fr. McBride, a popular speaker who’s authored over 40 books and appeared regularly on TV networks such as EWTN, said that the “central issue of our culture is fidelity, not adultery or sex abuse.”

“Whether one is married or celibate, the virtue of fidelity is central to their lives.”

“Marriage does not cause adultery,” he added. “An evil soul causes that. So also celibacy does not cause what Pope Benedict calls the ‘filth’ of sex abuse, but the permission given by priests to let evil overtake their souls.”

Fr. McBride said that the real reason for sex abuse and sexual misconduct by priests is not celibacy but “the failure to practice the virtue of chastity when faced with temptations to abandon their vow of celibacy.”

He noted that people often make the unfortunate mistake of defining celibacy in a negative way as if it’s simply the act of giving up marriage and and children.

However, “the positive view of celibacy,” he said,  “is that it is a form of loving God and people with an undivided heart.”

“Celibacy did not block Blessed John Paul II from being admired as one of the most courageous priests on earth,” Fr. McBride underscored. “See how one celibate priest stood up against one of the most corrupt governments of his time.”

“Priests that abused children did not do so because of their celibacy, rather they failed because they broke their vow to be chaste,” he said.

“When four million people elbowed their way into the Vatican to pay tribute to a celibate priest, what does that tell you? It states that John Paul knew how to keep his promises,” he said, referring to Bl. John Paul II’s funeral.

I am glad they finally got on board with this… very late.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Malateste says:

    Well, it’s one thing to claim that celibacy aggravates abusive tendencies, and quite another to argue that a particular sort of (celibacy-oriented?) formation may aggravate the abuse situation.

    The former point is clearly ridiculous, but I think it’s not invalid to worry about the psychological and behavioral consequences of segregating young boys together in an all-male (boarding?) environment throughout puberty. Over a century’s worth of English public school experiences testify to the fact that environments like that, however high-minded in theory, can promote same-sex crushes and experimentation, not to mention bullying and abuse– and those experiences, in turn, are the kind of thing that can lead to a seriously messed-up sexual identity as an adult. If it really is common practice to admit young boys to seminary formation programs that early (is it?), then a reexamination of the practice doesn’t seem inappropriate, given our current situation.

  2. TomG says:

    Wonderful summation by Fr. McBride, who is a treasure. As to the speed with which he responded, though, he appears to be in his mid 80s. Maybe not as connected as before. Bill Donohue? Maybe on vacation?

  3. John Nolan says:


    Same-sex crushes are more common in girls’ schools than boys’ schools and I can assure you from experience that segregation in an all-male environment at puberty heightens natural heterosexual tendencies to an ulmost unbearable level.

  4. dans0622 says:

    They seem to have been interviewed on June 12th. Frankly, I wouldn’t know of anything that is on the NcR’s website if it wasn’t for seeing the references to it here or at other Catholic sites.

  5. anna 6 says:

    As I stated earlier…

    Phyllis Zagano is the Maureen Dowd of NCR (how’s that for a moral equivalence?)

    For the sake of entertaining her fans, she consistently vents her disdain for men in a knee-jerk fashion… while playing loose with the facts.

  6. RCGuerilla says:

    When the Cuban Exile Community in South Florida had enough of slanted articles by the Miami Herald, a grass roots campaign started with bumper stickers saying “I don’t believe The Miami Herald”. I think a good social media campaign with “I don’t believe the National ‘catholic’ Reporter” is in order, and I am starting to tweet that now!

  7. MichaelJ says:

    It seems that Catholic University does not agree with you.

    Granted, this is in a University, and not during puberty, but there really is not, in my experience, a great deal of maturity that manifests between puberty and young adulthood.

    I also think it a non sequitur to conclude that a segregated environment during puberty leads to a “messed-up sexual identity as an adult”

  8. Malateste says:

    MichaelJ– I’d contend (a) that there’s actually biologically a huge amount of development that takes place between middle school and college; and (b) that there’s a considerable difference between same-sex dorms (or even same-sex classrooms) and the sort of exclusively same-sex existence that one presumably experiences as part of a live-in seminary formation program entered at the age of 12.

    It’s anecdotal information, true, but articles like this one make me think it’s not all that farfetched to worry about negative social and sexual consequences of forcing boys to go through puberty in an environment where they interact only with men and other young boys. Reading her article, it seems as though that’s pretty clearly Zagano’s point, too– she asks, “Did [Finn] ever get to talk any other women besides his three sisters and his mother?” and specifically objects to guaranteeing celibacy via an “all-male environment from the age of twelve.” I’ve got to say, I don’t disagree. Leaving aside the ridiculous implied assumption that the best way to rein in male sexuality is to keep them away from women– how on earth are priests supposed to act to loving fathers, counsellors and shepherds to the 50% of their flock that’s female, if they’ve never actually had to get to know any members of the opposite sex?

  9. johapin says:

    Celibacy is not the cause of abuse. The following website details the list of married protestant “ministers” and rabbis who have abused children. This is what the media fails to propagate at the national level.

  10. jflare says:

    Seems to me that you and Ms. Zagano both rigorously overestimate the value of co-ed schooling. You ask how priests would learn to behave toward half their flock if they grow through adolescence in an all-male environment?
    I contend they’ll actually be better prepared to deal with both men AND women, because they’ll have had better opportunity to develop a healthy sense of what masculinity truly means, AND thereby have a better idea of what femininity TRULY means, not the rubbish that too many schools promote.
    Seems to me that your assertion places too much emphasis on the value of teen-age relationships. I’d say that’s a very typical view these last 40 years, but one that I grew disgusted with even during my teens. For my purposes, neither I nor any other teen boy truly was ready to deal with a serious male-female relationship. Nor were the girls. If we learned anything through “teen dating” and co-ed schooling, we learned quite a little about how to not quite openly hurt each other in any way for which we’d be held accountable.
    In general, your assertions leans entirely too heavily on the willingness and ability of parents, school administrators, teachers, and society at large to expect decent behavior from both young men and young women. Based on what I remember even in Catholic high school, that’s a VERY debatable notion!

    For what it’s worth, Boy Scouting and Girl Scouting both originally developed with the intent to provide young men and young women with opportunities to develop appropriate same-sex friendships during adolescence, among other good intentions. They understood then that boys and girls have less need to develop male-female relationships at that age than to develop lifelong skills and friendships. Yes, there’s always a risk of abuses, as highlighted by the article you linked. I’ll suggest though, that most of these kinds of “exposes” don’t really highlight Truth very much, but rather exploit the ravages of sin. I can’t imagine how these stories intend to do much besides resurrect old wounds.

    If they really wished to promote genuine dignity, they wouldn’t print these stories, except as a means to help the involved persons seek healing, if needed.

    By the way: Who says that a single-sex environment only allows for “existence”? I avoided numerous co-ed activities during high school precisely to avoid the typical insinuation that we’d made things so much better by forcing boys and girls into the same groups. Our rendition of “equality” tended to mean that I’d be accused of being a sexist pig if I said much of anything opposed to what any girl might want.

    I thrived during high school by avoiding most of those groups. I literally grew very weary of the narrow minds being promoted so much.

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