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Kuby and O’Brien’s book on clerical abuse offers strong analysis, personal insight

A review of Abuse of Sexuality in the Catholic Church by Gabriele Kuby and Michael D. O’Brien.

More than 100 young adults pray in front of the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, Minn., Aug. 20, 2018, during a vigil for survivors of clerical sexual abuse and healing for the church. (CNS photo/Dave Hrbacek, The Catholic Spirit)

“If the Church does not cleanse its own household, God surely will.”

So warns artist and novelist Michael O’Brien whose contribution to this book is searing and poetically concentrated. It gives voice to the unspeakable. His warning likely falls on deaf episcopal ears—at least for the bishops who mistake their vocation for a career.

Before reading this book, I found myself—I am ashamed to admit—thinking I’d read enough about the clergy sex abuse scandal. I had not. But I did read too many of the wrong things. Secular media accounts of the ongoing scandal were not enlightening. Yet I persisted. Why? Because newspaper coverage, blogs, tweets, and interviews demand little. A few passive moments and I felt satisfied that I had confronted the great evil of our age.

I did nothing of the sort.

If we are to face this scandal we must first see it for what it truly is: a diabolical attempt to destroy the Church from within. Too many of our bishops have been blind at best and complicit at worst. They have failed the Great Test. We must look carefully for voices of unflinching integrity. Gabriele Kuby and Michael O’Brien are such guides, and by their lights we begin to see our way in this time of shadow. Each contribute an essay to this slim volume and, along with short pieces by Benedict XVI em. and Gerhard Cardinal Muller, offer serious but hopeful engagement with this most egregious of scandals.

Kuby, a convert, is the author of The Global Sexual Revolution: The Destruction of Freedom in the Name of Freedom (Angelico Press, 2016). As such, she provides a sweeping but profound analysis of the cultural and ecclesiastical developments that got us here. Her short essay goes a long way toward answering the question so many Catholics are still asking: How did it come to this?

Like Benedict XVI em. (whose Passion Week 2019 letter is included in the book), Kuby locates the source of scandal in the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s. This rupture had deep and lasting effects on humanity in general, and the Church in particular. It led, Benedict argues, “to the collapse of the next generation of priests.” And, simultaneously, Catholic moral theology “suffered a collapse that rendered the Church defenseless against these changes in society.” It was, then, an inexorable march to tyranny under the Benedict’s aptly described “dictatorship of relativism.”

Kuby describes the particular manifestation of the Sexual Revolution within the Church, arguing—very persuasively—that there exists a “strong correlation between the percentage of self-described homosexuals in the Catholic priesthood and the incidence of sexual abuse of minors by the clergy.” That said, she does not believe homosexuality is the cause of the sexual abuse of boys but the “precondition.” Of course, we won’t hear this sort of thing from most bishops or from the pulpit on Sundays. But it is no less true. And no less part of a concerted effort. Kuby rightly accuses global elites of adopting the aims of the Sexual Revolution and engaging in a “strategic hollowing out, redefinition, and recreation of words like freedom, tolerance, human rights, diversity, sexual orientation, and gender identity for the establishment of a new anthropology.” It is intended to supplant Christian anthropology and serves an entirely different master.

Michael O’Brien’s essay is largely personal and drawn from his experience with an abusive headmaster at a Catholic boarding school in Canada. It is an infuriating thing to read. The lay headmaster, Martin Houston, was convicted in the early 1960s for molesting boys at Grolier Hall in the Northwest Territories. He spent nine years in prison. But by 1990 he had been ordained a Catholic priest for the Diocese of Saint Boniface in Manitoba. The bishop was very much aware of Houston’s past. Houston’ parishioners were not. A decade or so later, he was exposed as a child molester and resigned.

Houston lived in the diocesan chancery for the rest of his life. He died in 2010. And, in utter disdain for Houston’s victims, Bishop Albert Legatt presided over his funeral at St. Boniface Cathedral. Houston was even given a burial plot in the Cathedral cemetery.

With shepherds like that, we don’t need a virus to clear the pews.

O’Brien, author of the Children of the Last Days series and also a fine artist, rightly criticizes the North American episcopate for reacting rather than responding. “Protocols were tightened up regarding what to do after abuse was reported,” he says, “but there was no widespread effort to do the real surgery…to prevent abuse.” O’Brien has surely put his finger on it. Preventing abuse requires courage, a virtue lacking in a largely invertebrate episcopacy. Stephen White, writing recently in The Catholic Thing, asks a question long on the minds of lay people everywhere:

Why do so many disgraced bishops, having betrayed and lost the trust of the flock, continue to inflict themselves upon us, presuming upon our faith and goodwill, while placing their own ministry and careers ahead of the needs of a suffering flock?

A fair question indeed.

And one that is born of something far deeper than anger. We need our bishops, of course, just as we need all of our religious brothers and sisters who bear more than their share of the Gospel. But we need men and women with gravitas. The age demands it. The people cry out for it.

The last word belongs to O’Brien, who offers a stern but loving rebuke. “Please,” he begs, “no more placebos and band-aids, no more committees tinkering, shuffling, churning out masses of paperwork and staging high-sounding press conferences. No more ‘compassionate’ bombast. No more saying one thing and doing another. Give us decisive action. Clean your house. Protect your flocks.”

Amen.

Abuse of Sexuality in the Catholic Church
By Gabriele Kuby and Michael D. O’Brien
Divine Providence Press, 2019
Softcover, 175 pages


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About Timothy D. Lusch 13 Articles
Timothy D. Lusch has appeared in the National Catholic Register, Saint Austin Review, New Oxford Review, Crisis, Toronto Star, Michigan History Magazine, and numerous other publications online and in print.

20 Comments

  1. “Houston, was convicted in the early 1960s for molesting boys at Grolier Hall in the Northwest Territories. He spent nine years in prison. But by 1990 he had been ordained a Catholic priest for the Diocese of Saint Boniface in Manitoba.”

    What??????????????????????????????

    That such evil exists – should be allowed to go unpunished – words fail me.

    • Leslie,
      Your response is correct until you read further and get the full answer. After the Houston’s fall from grace, he lived the rest of his life in the chancery residence [presumably with the bishop] and buried with typical Catholic honors.

      In other words, Houston was a favorite of the bishop (Read: the bishop, himself, was morally compromised).

  2. In The US, at least, the stables have been largely cleaned. They were gradually cleaned up by a number of people and events: not the least of which events was the changing face of those who were entering seminaries over the 1980s and 90s. This kind of book, in many ways, is story about a Church which no longer exists. It ceased to exist steadily over the 1980s; despite the fact that American bishops manipulated and neutered the Vatican visitation of American seminaries in the late 80s.

    • I beg to differ, JAD. It’s still going on. Do you expect seminaries to clean themselves? History has shown they will not and it’s time us good, practicing Catholics DEMAND that the USBBC, as the article says, “take decisive action.”

  3. Thank you, Mr. Lusch, for this honest review. It’s most interesting the quote you wrote “The last word belongs to O’Brien, who offers a stern but loving rebuke. “Please,” he begs, “no more placebos and band-aids, no more committees tinkering, shuffling, churning out masses of paperwork and staging high-sounding press conferences. No more ‘compassionate’ bombast. No more saying one thing and doing another. Give us decisive action. Clean your house. Protect your flocks.”

    We all know the “elephant in the room”. We all know but, I believe, have been so manipulated by the society “developed” since the 70s, of the slow and deliberate acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle. For the Church to get the bishops to, “Clean your house” and “protect our flocks” starts with the seminaries and the USCCB. All seminaries should be required by order of the USCCB, (in making an effort to clean their house and protect their flock) as the first part of the admission policy to ask the question, ‘have you ever considered a life of an active homosexual?” If the answer is other than an immediate “No”, the candidate should be requested to pursue their career objectives elsewhere, other than the priesthood as they are not acceptable”. Over time this will help to “clean the house” of the seminaries. But the true Church of a loving and merciful God should not stop there. It should make an attempt to help these poor lost souls find their true humanity. I have no doubt that this will require those states who shamefully, (and by manipulation as I eluded to earlier) to repeal laws prohibiting the practicing of “restorative therapy” for those who realize that they are sick and WANT professional help to find their true humanity. The Church should not and cannot simply turn these poor sick souls out into the public. We as a merciful Church must help them. “Clean your house” begins at the seminaries and NEEDS the help of a USCCB, (they are bishops, aren’t they?) to do what they have promised to do when they took their vows. To begin “giving decisive action” the USCCB must pray for guidance, ask for forgiveness for NOT acting sooner and “protect their flocks” Decisive action must start in the seminaries, where the filth began years ago. We are in a fight, fellow Catholics and it’s time we recognized a plan is necessary. If we do not, we will be reading articles 20 years from now, of a priest convicted of sexual abuse. Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.

  4. The review hits every note. Should the book be as brilliant as the review it is undoubtedly essential reading. I knew I was on to something when I read “…at least for the bishops who mistake their vocation for a career.” Indeed, is that malfeasance not manifest in an inordinate number of parish clergy and religious — female as well as male — at least in the few on two legs remaining?
    One thing which was alluded but not boldly stated is that all sexual abuse is made possible by and flourishes where there is theological abuse.
    Theological abuse — there is the root of the problem.

  5. The dictatorship of relativism, the heresy of moderism in the world and Church. Why does P. Francis keep appointing liberal priests to the Cardinate? How more progressive and liberal will the Church become? Do your priests pray the St. Michael the Archangel prayer after Mass? Do Catholics really know the importance of the Eucharist in their daily lives? Do we pray enough and do penance or are we expecting the leaders of our Church to do more than we are willing to do? We are still such an infant Church.

  6. In the early days of the sexual abuse revelations, of course the media and secular culturalists were reveling in rapturous schadenfreude and prejudice vindication, which was ironic in that they were overlooking that the phenomenon arose directly from the sexual revolution ethos, particularly the celebration of homosexuality as heroic, that was perceived as triumphal progress in anthropology by the secular culture they championed. The bishops came in for particular contempt as the enablers of all this, whether directly complicit or not. Early on I thought this unfair, since most were not complicit and tried in their own way to address it (although I didn’t recognize how extensive the Lavender Mafia had become). After all, remorse and reconciliation are foundational in Catholic Theology and presumed to be efficacious for all sins. In the 60s, 70s and even 80s I don’t think anyone much recognized that sexual predation is almost completely refractory to remediation. Christ forgave nearly every kind of sin while personally present on earth. Some people regard that as carte balance to live however they like because we are supposed to treat each other with love and mercy (true) but some are inclined to forget that while their sins are forgiven, Christ always said “go and sin no more.” It has since occurred to me that for one category of sin, Jesus did not imply a willingness to be merciful – destroying the innocence of children. “Better a millstone…” Listen up Bishops…

  7. The Sexual Revolution of the 60’s could not have happened without the “crack” that was the Lambeth Conference that gave a green light to contraception in 1930, and the developement of effective medical rememdies for STDs.
    .
    I certainly do not want to come out against cures for diseases, but it would be very helpful if both the medical community and the clergy were to say “Sex is primary for reproduction/procreation. It isn’t just a play thing.”

  8. “Too many of our bishops have been blind at best and complicit at worst.”

    Correction: “Too many of our bishops have been willfully blind at best and complicit at worst.”

  9. We read: “Kuby rightly accuses global elites of adopting the aims of the Sexual Revolution and engaging in a ‘strategic hollowing out, redefinition, and recreation of words like freedom, tolerance, human rights, diversity, sexual orientation, and gender identity for the establishment of a new anthropology.’”

    To get an accurate fix on where we are today, a close parallel is provided to Soviet enslavement of eastern Europe, but then came “The Final Revolution” of the 1980s (final meaning ultimate, not last chronologically) as reported by George Weigel in his book of that name (1992). In both cases, the enemy is less a massive litany of abuses than it is a multi-level “web of mendacity” dependent on the manipulation of language. The Big Lie.

    Where today is the needed spark of resolve to clean out the stable—like Cardinal Wyszynski’s nine-year “Great Novena” and then Pope St. John Paul II’s papal and personal visit and presence in Poland?

  10. While I find that in homilies, our Priests interpret what Jesus or the Apostles were saying, they almost NEVER refer to how that is to be applied TODAY. This is the missing factor in the decline of Catholic morality. It seems the priests and Bishops are afraid to suggest people are REQUIRED to go to church, obey the 10 Commandments and that certain sexual activities ( living together before marriage, homosexuality, etc) are WRONG. They fear even more people leaving the church and taking their wallets with them. So where and how will change for the better ever happen? Talk about sex seems to make them squeamish. They are afraid to speak out for fear of the consequences, flat out. I heard ONE homily lightly MENTION confession during all of Lent. They need to teach and not be afraid.

  11. Clerical abuse is not new. It existed in the days of the Desert Fathers, in the Dark Ages as recorded in Irish Penitentials, and is denounced by St. Peter Damien in his BOOK OF GOMMORAH. For a through survey of abuse during the Middle Ages, see CORRUPTER OF BOYS: SODOMY, SCANDAL AND THE MEDIEVAL CLERGY by my one-time thesis advisor, Dyan Elliott.

    The Sexual Revolution can’t explain Fr. Maciel or why two of my female relatives were molested in the 1920s. Thirty years ago, a highly respected orthodox bishop told me he’s found files of complaints in his new diocese going back the previous fifty years. Neither is sexual abuse a peculiarly Catholic problem. It happens at the hands of ministers, rabbis, coaches, youth leaders, teachers, etc., etc. and has been covered up in much the same pattern as incidents involving Catholic clergy. We can’t eliminate sin but surely something could be done about tacit toleration and smug coverups.

  12. I am certain that this book is excellent.

    I note that it includes an eaasy by Cardinal Mueller.

    I further note that the Pontiff Francis has publicly expressed contempt for Cardinal Mueller, calling him “a child.”

    The Pontiff Francis is the chief representative of the abusive cult in the Church, a cult which treats the Body of Christ as an object, a piece of personal property to dominate. That idea was expressed by Chris ALtieri, I beleive in these pages, and here is a link to the same essay on another site:

    https://brownpelicanla.com/the-churchs-next-scandal-is-money-by-christopher-altieri/

    “The motor of the clerical culture we have right now,” …is the intrinsically perverse libido dominandi (will to power)….”

    Let’s remind ourselves that in 2010, Cardinal Danneels of Belgium retired in disgrace after newspapers in Belgium (e.g. De Staandard) published the accounts of how Danneels tried to deny justice to the Vangheluwe family, who were asking the Bishops in Belgium to bring their own uncle, Roger Vangheluwe, to justice, for raping their brother, his own little nephew. Damian Thompson discusses this here:

    https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/three-things-you-need-to-know-about-pope-francis-and-the-cardinal-disgraced-in-a-sex-abuse-scandal

    In 2013, three short years after the world watched Danneels publicly disgraced for trying to protect and defend “the Belgian McCarrick,” the Pontiff Francis restored Danneels to power, and had him standing on the balcony with him when Francis was “introduced” to the world as “the new pontiff.”

    These men, as Lord Acton warned his own Bishop 100 years ago, are absolutely corrupted.

    All believing Catholic people should pray and fight to defeat this spiritual corruption.

  13. Can you fathom a woman having five children in the war-torn middle-east? Just saw one lone soul traversing the rubble in Garmsir Afghanistan holding her new baby followed by her other four siblings. Responsible procreation, indeed.

    • Perhaps one day she will attain your degree of rectitude.

      On the other hand, perhaps she inclines toward something else…

  14. morganB
    APRIL 19, 2021 AT 5:44 AM

    Chris in Maryland
    APRIL 19, 2021 AT 9:30 AM

    I am left in a mild state of shock by the above two comments, seemingly out of place in this discussion. They leave me bewildered as they seem to me to be a betrayal of so much you purport to stand for in your faith.

  15. So much corruption among bishops, cardinals, and on down. Whose word to do you trust? Whom do I follow? Is there a list somewhere that names names. Honest & trustworthy bishops. Evil bishops whose morals have been compromised.

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