There is a reason Catholic seminaries rejected for priesthood candidacy those with homosexual tendencies for centuries. There is also a reason the backgrounds of men who want to start up new societies and set up shop complete with boarding schools should be thoroughly vetted before being allowed to do so. One specific example coming to us from the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania, courtesy of the massive and very scandalous Grand Jury report against various prelates in the Catholic Church in the state tells the tale. (This is long but worth the read.)
Following a complaint in 2001 from a parent of a child who had been abused by priestly members of the Society of St. John, a group set up by an Argentinian who had been kicked out of seminary there in the 1980s for making a pass at another seminarian, the group was rebuked by the then Bishop of Scranton at the time (now retired Bishop James Timlin).
It was not until 2003, after the man’s son filed a federal lawsuit, that the Society of Saint John was finally disbanded in Scranton. The lawsuit accused two of the society’s priests of cultivating “intimate relationships with students” and of plying students “with alcohol, as well as sleeping with them.”
The society was singled out in the scathing grand jury report that Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro released in August, which included its leader and three members, along with 297 other Pennsylvania clerics that he branded “predator priests.”
The society is a particularly chilling example of priests with red flags in their backgrounds who were allowed to operate in close proximity to the most vulnerable church members with little oversight.
The questions raised by the article linked above are valid. Why should a man kicked out of one seminary for making a pass at another man be allowed to set up a society elsewhere hosting teenaged boys and young men without much in the way of oversight?
Quite frankly, they should not be – not in the Catholic Church and not anywhere else for that matter.
Why is not simply about abuse. The victim whose father complained about this particular group explains:
“I went from being a kid who thought about becoming a priest to being a kid who lost his faith,” Doe said. “I’ve probably been to Mass twice since 2000, and each time it was for a funeral.”
That is what happens when priestly abuse is not addressed. Faith is lost. And that is a sin that can be laid right at the door of the bishop who did not follow up with any evidence that there was abuse or address it directly.