Catholics Have a Problem. But Is It Celibacy?

By Peter Wolfgang Published on July 8, 2018

Are there a disproportionate number of homosexuals within the Catholic priesthood? If so, does celibacy cause this problem? And would abolishing celibacy solve it?

These are the questions Catholics have been struggling with since learning that a former Archbishop of Washington, DC, forced seminarians to engage in homosexual relations with him. Worse, for decades “everyone knew.” But no one did anything about it.

The answers involve more than just Catholics. But let’s start there.

Catholics Have a Problem

Studies showing a larger-than-normal number of homosexuals in the priesthood are decades out of date. Anecdotal evidence, however, is strong.

In 2002 Bishop Wilton Gregory, then the head of the American bishops, said, “It’s an ongoing struggle to make sure the Catholic priesthood is not dominated by homosexual men.” Indeed, in the first 12 years of the new century, my own family had two pastors who later turned out to be practicing homosexuals.

The priest who baptized our eldest child went on to embezzle a million dollars from another parish in order to fund a secret gay lifestyle in New York City. (I wrote about him here.) 

Another pastor of ours left the priesthood, “married” a man and posts his support for the LGBT agenda and its lobbying groups on his Facebook. This man had once been the bioethics expert for our Archdiocese, with a regular column in the Archdiocese’s newspaper. In fact, he was my pastor when I was the leader of a campaign to overturn our State Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling.

My wife was near tears for several Sundays that October, wondering why the Family Institute of Connecticut executive director’s own seemingly faithful pastor was refusing to even mention the campaign from the pulpit. The Church was asking every pastor to do so. Now we know why.

Everyone Has a Problem

So a Catholic priesthood with a secret network of homosexuals who soft-peddle the Church’s teachings seems to be a real thing. But did clerical celibacy cause it? Would abolishing celibacy fix it? I don’t think so.

As the head of an ecumenical organization (the Family Institute of Connecticut), I have worked with clergy from a wide range of denominations. It is because of that experience that I disagree.

First, the liberal mainline Protestant clergy is, in my experience, gayer than the Catholic priesthood. Drive down any Main Street in Connecticut and you are now more likely to see a rainbow flag hanging from their churches than you are a cross. Clerical celibacy did not cause the wholesale apostasy of the Protestant mainline.

Second, closeted homosexuality among married African-American clergy is one reason why the Black church does not speak as strongly on this issue as it once did. I have spoken with older African-American pastors who are beside themselves over what they are seeing among the younger clergy whom they mentor. Again, that is a problem that cannot be pinned on celibacy.

White Evangelical clergy, on the other hand, seem to be undergoing an epidemic of heterosexual adultery.

I can think of four of them off the top of my head. They run the spectrum from relatively mild (a publicly confessed “emotional affair”) to episodes involving children in the congregation secretly fathered by the pastor decades earlier and only admitted to now. And 21% of Evangelical youth pastors and 14% of pastors admit they currently struggle with pornography.

Sexual Brokenness

These are men I have worked with on pro-life and pro-family issues for years. What they all have in common is a sexual brokenness that is widespread throughout our society. The McCarrick scandal is of a piece with things happening in all the churches. These things go way beyond clerical celibacy or even homosexuality. That should not surprise us.

First, because the clergy are not immune to temptation and to sin. They are fighting — or giving into — the same anti-Christian culture we all face.

Second, because the clergy are a greater target of Satan’s than the average layman. “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will scatter” (Mat 26:31).

We should pray daily for our clergy. We should also encourage them and help them in their work. This will prevent burnout, which makes them more likely to give in to temptation.

And we should think about other solutions to the problems our clergy face. More on that next time.


Peter Wolfgang is president of Family Institute of Connecticut.

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  • Starlord616

    I think it don’t help. It started by my journey to being a protestant. I knew from a young age that I wanted to be married.

  • im4truth4all

    The priesthood of the Catholic Church has a significant number of sodomites in it. It shouldn’t be too difficult to identify them and release them. This would be best for the Catholic Church.

  • campus minister

    As a priest I have, from time to time, thought that it may be a good idea to end mandatory celibacy for Roman Rite priests so that we could clean up the predominate homosexual culture in the clergy. At the end of the day though it cannot be the answer because if it was to end, the problem would just become worse among the episcopacy, who must be unmarried. The pool of candidates would be greatly reduced to religious and unmarried secular clergy, many of whom would probably be homosexual.
    The answer is not to end celibacy, but to follow the guidelines of Popes Benedict and Francis on the non-admittance of homosexuals into seminaries.

    • GaryLockhart

      21 of the 22 Churches sui juris which comprise the Catholic Church, ordain, as a norm, married men. All 21 of those Churches have both a shortage of Priests and examples of sexual abuse committed by intrinsically disordered sexual deviants masquerading as Priests. The historic ban on the admission of homosexuals to seminary let alone ordaining them as Priests far precedes the remarks of Benedict XVI or Francis. As only one example, Pope St, John XXIII reaffirmed the ban in February of 1961. Don’t look to Francis to take substantive measures to purge the Priesthood of homosexuals as he has willingly surrounded himself with homosexualists in the curia and as close advisors plus he has appointed nearly half of the voting eligible college. With his demise things may get much worse not better.

      Mentioned by only a few observers are the revelations made by Bella Dodd decades ago about the Communist plan to infiltrate seminaries with homosexuals around the world in an attempt to destroy the Bride of Christ.

      • campus minister

        Gary, thanks for your response. I agree, Pope Francis will not take substantive efforts and it is obvious now that he relies heavily on homosexuals (the US Cardinals made under Francis are by and large promoted by McCarrick and Mariadaga). And I know that while some seminaries do follow the policy (and are by and large healthy as a result) there are some that flaunt it. Instead of barring men with deep homosexual inclinations, they say they can come and be ordained as long as the inclination is “integrated.” We are decades away from the end of this problem – perhaps two generations or more.
        You make a good point about the other Churches. I know a bishop in one of them and he has terrible issues with his clergy.

  • “What they all have in common is a sexual brokenness that is widespread throughout our society.”

    Absolutely spot on. All of society has been over turned with the approbation of sexual disorder.

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