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AMERICAN MORNING WITH PAULA ZAHN

Boston's Catholics Wait for Cardinal's Response

Aired April 12, 2002 - 08:12   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Now on to the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. It is a waiting game this morning for Boston's two million faithful. They're waiting to see how Cardinal Law, one of the country's most powerful Catholic leaders, will respond to the growing calls for his resignation.

Jason Carroll is standing by in Boston this morning outside the headquarters of the Catholic Archdiocese -- good morning, Jason. What are you hearing?

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And good morning to you, Paula.

Waiting game is really the way to say it. We are still waiting to hear from Cardinal Law regarding this church scandal. As you know, he's been under fire ever since Monday, when those documents were released showing that he had allowed a pedophile priest to be transferred from parish to parish for years. That priest, of course, Father Paul Shanley.

There have been many calls for Cardinal Law to resign. Catholic Charities, in fact, a non-profit organization, has come out saying that they've received lots of letters from people basically saying they would not donate to Catholic Charities unless Cardinal Law resigns.

There has been a lot of speculation about whether or not he should resign. People have been weighing in on both sides of the issue, talking about what could happen and if it should happen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he is taking some time and probably not wanting to appear as though the media and the American culture is pushing him. I think that the chorus from lay people and from the priests is just getting louder and louder and that he really doesn't have the authority and the readership to lead the archdiocese.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe that it's in the best interests of the Catholic Church for Cardinal Law to stay, implement a non- tolerance policy so what happened here with these pedophile priests will never, ever happen again, not only here in the Archdiocese of Boston, but I would urge Cardinal Law to go to Washington, D.C. and recommend these proposals for the church across the United States, in fact, maybe even bring them to the Vatican itself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARROLL: Again, hearing from both sides of the issue there. We still have not, again, heard from Cardinal Bernard Law on this issue and at this point with so much going on one wonders how much longer he can stay silent -- Paula.

ZAHN: Jason Carroll, thank you so much for that report.

And that, of course, brings us to our big question of this hour, should homosexuals be allowed into the priesthood? The sex abuse scandal that's engulfed the Catholic Church has led many to question the reasons behind it. For some, homosexuality among priests is at the root of the problem, but others claim homosexuality is a convenient scapegoat for the church and deflects blame from the real issues involved.

Joining us now to offer their opposing points of view, from San Diego, Richard Sipe, a retired priest and psychotherapist, and from Washington this morning, Father John McCloskey, director of the Catholic Information Center.

Welcome gentlemen. Glad to have both of you with us this morning.

RICHARD SIPE, RETIRED PRIEST: Good morning, Paula.

FATHER JOHN MCCLOSKEY, DIRECTOR, THE CATHOLIC INFORMATION CENTER: Thank you for having us.

ZAHN: Good morning.

So Mr. Sipe, let's first establish what you believe, that there is no connection between homosexuality and pedophilia, they are two separate and distinct issues. And you say that homosexuals are becoming scapegoats for current church scandals.

SIPE: I think there's no question about that, Paula. These are two very separate things. If a 30-year-old man abuses a 13-year-old girl, we don't hit ourselves in the head and say oh my god, that dirty heterosexual. I mean these are obviously two different things. One is an orientation and the other is a behavior.

Homosexual orientation has always been present in the church. It's been present in popes, in saints, in priests, in bishops, in cardinals, in the past and in the present.

Everybody agrees that there is a greater proportion of homosexually oriented priests in the Catholic clergy than in the general population. That's not the problem. The problem is the behavior. And I have found in my studies that homosexually oriented priests are every bit as observant of their celibacy as are heterosexuality oriented priests.

That's, but the question is who's going to be blamed for this? I mean the statement from Rome that perhaps homosexually oriented priests are invalidly ordained or should be drummed out of the priesthood is absolute nonsense and would devastate the priesthood and the bishopry of some of its best, most productive, most dedicated, most loving servants.

ZAHN: All right, let's let Father McCloskey respond to that. What Mr. Sipe was referring to is a statement that came out from a spokesman for Pope John Paul II. His name is Joaquin Navarro-Valls and we're going to put that statement up on the screen. And he's basically said people with homosexual inclinations just cannot be ordained. What is your responsible to what Mr. Sipe says, that this would basically, if you followed this, would leave the Catholic Church without any priests, without any bishops, without any cardinals?

MCCLOSKEY: The percentage of homosexuals in the priesthood is more or less what you would find in the male population of the United States, perhaps somewhat higher. But these type of, talking about 30 to 50 percent of Catholic priests in the United States being homosexual is nonsense. There's no statistical evidence for that.

What Joaquin Navarro-Valls was saying was widely misinterpreted. It's not a question of drumming homosexual priests out of the priesthood. It's a question that from here on in what the church has been advised, and very strongly, is that homosexual, homosexuals not simply with the inclination, but also who have shown themselves to be active in the homosexual lifestyle will not be welcome in seminaries nor in the priesthood.

ZAHN: So what you're saying then, Father McCloskey, is that gays are welcome to serve as long as they're chaste?

MCCLOSKEY: I'm not saying that. That's going to be something the church has to look at and make its own judgment. I'm saying that in order for a priest to live the priestly celibacy, whether he's heterosexual or homosexual, he has to be capable of leading a chaste lifestyle. If the heterosexual, for that matter, has had a promiscuous lifestyle in the past and does not show signs of being able to control himself, he also will not be admitted to the seminary, nor will he be ordained.

We cannot risk in any way the things happening in terms of the sexual abuse of minors and also pedophilia. There simply has to be a zero tolerance policy in that regard and I think that's what the church will try and impose.

ZAHN: All right, Mr. Sipe, you've heard what Father McCloskey has to say. He's essentially saying that your numbers wildly exaggerate the number of homosexuals practicing either in the priesthood or other parts of the Catholic Church. But you firmly believe there is a subculture of gays in the Catholic Church?

SIPE: Well, even whether it's a subculture or not, there is a proportion. My figures and my studies have been lower in estimation than those who are active in the priesthood and priests and rectors of seminaries, who put the proportion as much higher than I do. And the question is not the activity. The question is the orientation. I can't tell you the number of very devout, faithful, celibate priests who have come to me in the last 10 years, especially since Rome has taken a very strange attitude toward homosexual orientation, saying that it is innately disordered, and these priests say they've given their lives to the church in faithful dedication and the church is branding them as disoriented.

And the question is this a problem of celibacy? I have written about celibacy. I have taught in seminaries, tried to say how to keep celibacy. I'm not anti-celibacy. But to put the problem on an orientation and to attack people and, you know, in almost a, I want to say almost a Nazi way of trying to find a scapegoat and label people and then eliminate them, I think it's not only un-Christian, I think it's unrealistic.

ZAHN: Father McCloskey, are gays scapegoats in this burgeoning church scandal?

MCCLOSKEY: Gays most certainly are not scapegoats at all. What, there are men in the priesthood who, in a disgraceful sort of way, both heterosexuals and homosexuals, although the great majority have been homosexuals, who have acted in a way, taken advantage of their priestly status in order to molest minors and also to molest pre- pubescent children, which is what pedophilia is. The great majority of those people are homosexuals.

I'm sure there are also, and I agree with Mr. Sipe, that there are celibate, very fine men in the priesthood who are homosexual.

However, the church has to make sure that anyone who is ordained is capable of living in celibacy. We cannot put our children, our young men or young women at risk. And part of that is given the fact that the great majority of these cases deal with homosexual priests who have acted out this particular inclination dealing with adolescents and young children, we simply cannot put our children at risk. The Vatican and the local bishops here in the United States will take the proper measures. I'm quite confident of that.

ZAHN: Two distinctly different views on this this morning. Richard Sipe, thank you for your perspective. We also thank you, Father McCloskey, for yours.

SIPE: Thanks, Paula.

MCCLOSKEY: Thank you.

ZAHN: Thanks for your time this morning. Have a good weekend.

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