Word comes that Vatican investigators will visit the 229 Catholic seminaries in the United States and interview all faculty members and seminarians to determine if they dissent from church teaching and to seek "evidence of homosexuality."
Any organization may decide how much latitude on its rules its sworn delegates should and should not have. But the celibate church, rocked morally and financially by decades of sexual abuse by some of its priests in this country, apparently looked at most of their victims -- boys and young males -- and decided under a new pope to beware of homosexuals.
This is a highly sensitive, emotional and in terms of the abuse scandal, sad chapter in the church that 70 percent of Western New Yorkers claim as theirs. But scientific studies show that homosexuals are no more likely to be sexual predators than heterosexuals, perhaps less so. One study in 1978 of 175 men convicted in Massachusetts of child sexual assault found that none were homosexuals. Even anti-homosexual organizations like the Family Research Council note that while almost all sexual predators are men, about two-thirds -- some estimate as high as 80 percent -- of their victims are girls.
While no definitive answer to these issues exists, we can all agree that a priest staying true to the vow of celibacy must remain sexually inactive, whether that priest is homosexual or heterosexual. The church's problem is uncelibate priests. Why single out gay priests or priests to be? That's scapegoating.
American bishops, after a slow and reluctant start, have responded to abuse victims specifically and an aghast laity generally with more sensitivity and outreach. But if the Vatican wants to stem abuse, it must weed out sexual predators, or men who cannot keep their vows of celibacy. It should not single out an already vulnerable subgroup while, in so doing, promoting and prolonging discredited stereotypes.