Pope Francis has called an extraordinary synod on the protection of minors from sexual abuse for next Feb. 21-24.
Yet, many have criticized the move because the Church, at least in North America, has done a good job of protecting minors since the early 2000s, as the recent Pennsylvania Grand Jury report shows. What’s at issue is the sexual abuse of seminarians, of bishops still covering up, and corruption even at the highest levels of the Church. And that’s to say nothing of concerns there’s an agenda afoot to bring Church teaching more in line with what’s popular in the world. We come from the Anglican world. We have seen this movie. We know how it ends. We came into the Catholic Church because we wanted to stand on the Rock of Christ and not the shifting sands of “experience” and “social science,” and the latest gender theory.
A focus on “pedophilia” i.e. abuse of minors sidesteps the issue of priests engaging in sexual behavior with adults 18 or over—whether male or female–and how devastating this is to vocations, to the formation of holy priests and the cascading negative impact on evangelization.
Several men who went to seminary over the past 10 years told the Register that they believed moral formation in how to live as mature, celibate men was underemphasized, and psychology was overemphasized. They variously described a willful blindness toward seminarians cruising gay bars, using Grindr or Tinder apps, viewing pornography or engaging in sexual relationships — heterosexual and homosexual. Seminary administrators, the seminarians said, had no problem kicking men out for lesser issues, such as questioning their authority in certain cases.
“Nothing happens when you try to bring this stuff up,” said one seminarian, who is now a priest in a Northeast diocese. Another young priest said, on one occasion at his seminary, a sex-abuse victim was transferred to study at a different seminary. The priest added that the abuser followed the victim and joined that seminary’s faculty at the end of the academic year.
Father Berg agreed that moral formation needs to be well-rounded, not just something taught in moral theology class.
“That will have little impact on their priesthood unless seminarians are simultaneously being mentored and supported in the formation of character and virtue, everything from self-control and fundamental human honesty to an array of other human and moral virtues and, most importantly, the exercise of prudence.”