Skip to main content /TRANSCRIPTS



Aired February 25, 2002 - 11:30:00   ET


Byline: Colleen McEdwards, Bill Delaney>


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Watching the pain and confusion in my son's eyes. Knowing that someone he trusted as a friend, of man of God, could harm him in such an abusive way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was very upsetting for me, and I assume most of the members of the Catholic community.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After two times, to me, it's common sense, that this guy's got a problem. We don't put him back with kids.

COLLEEN MCEDWARDS, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Victims and church members speak out against the case of sexual abuse in their congregation. A priest in Boston found guilty of molestation cracks open the issue of pedophilia in the Catholic Church.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This defendant hid behind his collar within the safety and sanctity of the Roman Catholic Church. He engaged in what this court can only characterize as reprehensible and depraved behavior.

MCEDWARDS: And the church responds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These cases of sexual abuse of children go against the very grain of who we are as a church, and that's why they are so painful.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not an easy time for the church right now. The best that can come out of this is for the church to look, to listen, and to again, learn.

MCEDWARDS: On Q&A, shining a light on a dark corner of the Catholic Church.


Hello, and welcome to Q&A. I'm Colleen McEdwards. Zain is off.

A United States judge recently laid a tough sentence on a Catholic priest, 9 to 10 years in prison for molesting a 10-year-old boy.

If the courts are cracking down, what about the Catholic hierarchy? Pedophilia has been both a secret and a scandal in the Catholic Church, and now many people are asking why. What is the problem here? Do the strict celibacy vows that priests take have anything to do with it?

We begin with a close look at that with CNN's Bill Delaney.


BILL DELANEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Father Ron Ingalls' priestly vestments go on, it's an act of rebellion, from the heart and soul. When he performs the sacrament of marriage, the Catholic Church doesn't recognize it, because Ron Ingalls himself is married.

FATHER RON INGALLS, MARRIED PRIEST: The two people in the relationship actually marry each other. They confer the sacrament, the wholeness. I can't do it with any kind of official recognition, but in my own belief and my own faith, and their faith, I think a true sacrament happens.

DELANEY: Ordained in 1960, Father Ron is one of an estimated 110,000 Roman Catholic priests around the world who in the past 25 years have married. In Ingalls' case, to Sheila.

How many married priests still practice their priesthood, no one is sure. What is for sure is that here in Boston, the issue of married priests and celibacy, for and against, is again being talked about among Catholics with new intensity in the wake of sexual scandal within the church.

In the wake of former Boston area priest John Geoghan being convicted of indecent assault, still facing rape charges. The Archdiocese of Boston turned over to local district attorneys names of dozens of other past and present priests with histories of pedophilia.

Public pulse-takers, like talk radio host, say, as Catholics search for reasons why, the issues of priestly marriage and celibacy keep coming up.

MARGERY EAGAN, TALK SHOW HOST: For regular, run-of-the-mill, in-the- pews Catholics, what are you supposed to do about this?

DELANEY: Former priest, now psychologist, Richard Sipe doesn't believe celibacy in itself leads to pedophilia. A tradition of secrecy concerning priests and sex, though, he says, creates a secure atmosphere for pedophiles.

DR. RICHARD SIPE, AUTHOR: The denial, to avoid scandal, has become the greatest source of scandal in the church itself.

DELANEY: The Catholic Archdiocese of Boston acknowledges mistakes over its handling of pedophile priests. Boston's Archbishop, Bernard Cardinal Law, no announced a tough, new zero-tolerance policy toward pedophilia. Father Ingalls, though, says what's needed as much, greater openness in general towards sexuality, or he believes pedophiles could continue to exploit the church's shadows. A former close friend of Father Ingalls at seminary and for many years afterward was Reverend James Porter, convicted and jailed in the early-1990's of molesting 28 children in the 1960's.

REV. JAMES PORTER: I've taken walks with him, played cards with him. Never have I ever had an inkling that he was a pedophile. Never.

DELANEY: 40 years ago, Vatican II praised the joy and fulfillment of sexuality in marriage, and currently at least 100 married converts to Catholicism, former Protestant ministers, are officially sanctioned Catholic priests, but the Catholic Church says unmarried priests must remain unmarried, as a sign of the priest's commitment to be free to serve God and his people. Still, Father Ron Ingalls asks why the joy and fulfillment and insight he found in marriage should disqualify him. Bill Delaney, CNN, Boston.


MCEDWARDS: Well, joining us now in Boston is Phil Saviano with the Survivor's Network for those abused by priests. Phil was abused by a priest when he was a boy. Mr. Saviano, tell us how, in your case, the abuse started.

PHIL SAVIANO, SURVIVOR'S NETWORK: Hello. The priest in my case was Rev. David Holly (ph), who had a very long career as a priest, 30 years.

I knew him very early in his career, on only his second assignment, and when he came to our community, a small town in central Massachusetts, the kids there thought we were very lucky because he was very outgoing and took a special interest in us. And that was quite unusual.

But over time, you know, the funny stories and the card tricks turned into discussions about sexuality and about our bodies, and by the time we were involved in sexual activity with him, we didn't know how to get out of it, and we realized that we were trapped in a very troubling situation.

MCEDWARDS: So were you ever really able to come forward about this at the time?

SAVIANO: Well, there was nobody that I felt comfortable coming forward with, at the time. The kids discussed it amongst themselves, but nobody felt that our parents would ever believe us about the situation, it was so horrific and really unbelievable. It took me until I was 40 years old before I finally came forward publicly.


SAVIANO: And that was only to support a couple of kids in New Mexico, where he was later transferred after Massachusetts, who he had molested in the 70's.

MCEDWARDS: So what happened to this priest, then? Did I understand you correctly there, was he transferred?

SAVIANO: Yeah, that's the typical problem with so many priests, is that they molest kids in a number of communities in a certain part of the state, they they're moved to someplace where their previous reputation is not know. In Father Holly's (ph) case, he served in Massachusetts in the 1960's, he served in New Mexico in the 1970's, he served in Texas in the 1980's, and in 1992, when he was arrested, he was serving in Denver, Colorado. And he was molesting kids from the very first assignment.

MCEDWARDS: All right. So what do you think that the Catholic Church needs to do about this that it's not doing now?

SAVIANO: Well, one thing that would be really helpful is if we had a national policy. At this point, each Bishop in each individual city, it's up to him to decide how he wants to handle this. If we had a national policy that came from the Vatican, that would be a very good first step.

The other thing is that the key elements should be stopping the abuse, protecting kids, ending the web of secrecy, and providing some sort of support to victims, through conversation or therapy or whatever.

MCEDWARDS: Do you think, in your experience, because, you know, you now deal with other people and help other people who have been through this as well, do you think that the vows of celibacy in the priesthood have anything to do with this?

SAVIANO: You know, to be honest, Colleen, I have no idea what it is within a child-molesting priest, when he sees a little boy walk into a church, and he sees that kid as a sex object. I don't know that it's related to celibacy.

I don't think that trying to lead a celibate life will turn you into a child molester. But it's important to recognize that, in my case, Father Holly (ph), in the Father Geoghan case here in Boston that's been in the headlines so much, both of these priests, from the very first assignment, were molesting kids.

So you have to ask, why did they get into the priesthood to begin with? Was it really a religious calling, or was it something else?

MCEDWARDS: Is the church doing a better job now than it was in the past? Have you seen some progress?

SAVIANO: Well, it's certainly doing a much better job here in Boston. I mean, things that we have been calling for for years are finally being done. For example, we've been lobbying for mandated reporting in Massachusetts, so that if a clergy member hears of a child being molested, he is obliged by law to report it to civil authorities.

Cardinal Law has always been very vocal against that sort of a policy, but just in the last month he has finally decided that, yes, they're going to be mandated reporters. And now he's even gone as far as to say he's going to report cases of past allegations as well. And that, of course, has led to him turning over the names of some 80 priests who have molested kids in Boston in the last 30, 35 years. So it's a really good step, and we're hopeful that this sort of policy will catch on throughout the country.

MCEDWARDS: All right. Phil Saviano, we'll leave it there. Thank you so much.

SAVIANO: Thank you.

MCEDWARDS: And coming up here on Q&A, we're going to talk more about sex, marriage and the priesthood. That's next. Stay with Q&A.


MCEDWARDS: Welcome back to Q&A.

We're talking about the Catholic Church and its policy of celibacy for all priests. Joining us from State College, Pennsylvania is Philip Jenkins, a professor of history and religious studies at Penn State University, and author of the book "Pedophiles and Priests."

In San Diego, California, we have Richard Sipe, a retired priest. He's also the author of three books, including "A Secret World: Sexuality and the Search for Celibacy."

And in Washington, we have Dr. David Schindler, the dean of the John Paul II Institute.

Thank you all so much for being here. First question to Richard Sipe, if I may: how big of a factor do you think celibacy is in this problem?

SIPE: Well, celibacy certainly is related. Certainly, it's not the cause of pedophilia in the priesthood. But if you stop to think about it, if you take the profession of lawyers and you demanded that they not be married and that they keep perfect and perpetual chastity, would it change the profession of law? It seems to me so obvious that it does. The thing that you have to ask is how does celibacy effect the culture of the priesthood, and that is a basic question that has to be discussed.

MCEDWARDS: Well, and how does it? Because what you're saying is that it attracts -- it narrows the field of people who would be interested.

SIPE: That's a great way to put it. It narrows the field. A study done by Dean Hoagie (ph) for the American bishops said that if the priesthood were opened to married men, that four times the number of candidates would come forward who would like to be priests. So that's an important factor.

MCEDWARDS: All right, Philip Jenkins, what do you think?

PHILIP JENKINS, AUTHOR: I think there is no evidence at all that celibacy contributes to the problem of sexual misconduct in the Catholic Church, and the evidence for that is that every denomination, every religious tradition in this country, whether it has celibate clergy or not, has very extensive problems with misconduct.

In Canada, for example, there is an Anglican Episcopal Diocese which may well be going out of business very shortly due to lawsuits over abuse. And they have had a married clergy since Henry VIII, since the 16th century. So I think the celibacy angle is misleading.

I also think it's misleading, by the way, to talk so much about pedophilia, when the vast majority of cases that we're talking about do not involve pedophilia. They involve sexual misconduct with older teens or young adults, and that's a very important distinction in terms of the cause of the offense.

A famous case recently in Orange County, for instance, involved a priest who is said to have had sex with a 17-year-old young man, and that's being listed as a pedophile priest these days. That's misleading, so I think it's misleading to focus on the idea of pedophiles and the Catholic Church. Of course, there's a terrible problem there, but it's not just a Catholic problem. And I think that's misleading.

MCEDWARDS: David Schindler, your thoughts. Is this as pervasive an issue outside of the Catholic Church, in the general population, or in other religions?

DAVID SCHINDLER, DEAN, JOHN PAUL II INSTITUTE: Well, I think that -- I think both of the previous speakers agreed that celibacy was not the cause. And it seems to me the cause has its origin in things that are broader and deeper in the culture regarding psychosexual development as a whole. I think there are numerous problems that are pervasive in the culture, and I think celibacy itself is often misunderstood.

MCEDWARDS: Numerous problems pervasive in the culture -- name some of those, if you would.

SCHINDLER: Well, if I could say -- what I really would like to say is I think the key problem here is to understand what celibacy is and what it's meant to be, fundamentally, and why the church has made the judgment to link celibacy and the priesthood.

And it seems to me that that's where we have to begin, is to see the value of celibacy. And what is that? It's a complete availability to God and a complete availability to serve others in the way that Mother Theresa has, the way that Dorothy Day (ph) in the Catholic Worker Movement has.

And it doesn't mean that a married person is less available. It means that they're available in different ways. And it seems to be the priesthood suggests there is a kind of inner coherence between the kind of availability to be respected as a priest and the kind of availability that is possible for a celibate.

MCEDWARDS: Richard Sipe, I want to go back to a point that Philip Jenkins made, and that point was that this is a problem that is faced everywhere in society. Do you know -- I mean, are there any statistics to help us out here? Is this a problem that is more prevalent in the Catholic Church than elsewhere? Because I think it's important to know that.

SIPE: Absolutely. That's a fundamental question.

First of all, I'd like to underline what Philip said, and that is pedophilia is a technical psychiatric term. I never use that unless I mean something specific by it. I say clergy sex with minors. So that is something that, he being attuned to the media, he is aware that the media does mislabel things.

Secondly, how big is the problem. I did a 25 year study starting in 1960. I finished it in 1985. I sent all my data to Bishop Daniel Polarsic (ph), who was then head of the Bishop's Commission. At that time, and I still say that I find that 6 percent of Catholic priests have sex with minors at one time or another.

Now, there are no studies in other religions, and if people say that figure is wrong, I say give me a better figure.

MCEDWARDS: But do you know, how does 6 percent compare with the rest of the population?

SIPE: There have been no comparative studies.


SIPE: But I will stand by that figure, and I do feel that the Catholic bishops have been very remiss, because they could find the correct figures.

For instance, I had in my data bank a list of 19 priests from Boston who had been involved with sex with minors.

Well, now, certainly, that was incomplete because the cardinal has come out with a group that is 60 more than that.

MCEDWARDS: I want to let David Schindler respond to this, because it's a good question in terms of what is to be done.

If the Catholic Church were to get more of these figures out, and that argument has been made, be more open about it, would everybody have a better understanding of what is going on and how to fix it?

SCHINDLER: Well, obviously this is an enormous problem, and it needs to be faced at a radical level.

But it seems to me a crucial issue is whether celibacy is the heart of the problem, and that's what I would contest.

It seems to me the issue may be an inadequate understanding of celibacy. And that is what has to be addressed. What is celibacy in a healthy person? And there are abundant examples in the contemporary world, and historically, to show the inner worth and importance of that vocation for humanity.

MCEDWARDS: Philip Jenkins, your thought on that?

JENKINS: I have in the past disagreed with what Dr. Sipe was saying, about his statistics. I believe his 6 percent is too high.

I believe the best figure that we have is a study that was done in the Archdiocese of Chicago a few years ago which took all the priests in the Archdiocese over a 40 year period, 2,200 individuals, and did not take proof beyond a reasonable doubt, they just took plausible evidence of misconduct with minors, and the figures are interesting.

Of 2,200 priests, about 50 had been involved in some kind of misconduct, mainly with older teenagers. Out of 2,200, there was one, one pedophile. And you can look at that figure in different ways, but one way of looking at it is to say that 98 percent of priests were not involved in misconduct with minors, which I think is very different from the impression we're getting from Boston and so on these days, where every priest or every-other priest is an abuser.

So I think the numbers are different. And, as Dr. Sipe said, no, there are no figures in other religions, but as I say, by impression, you look across denominational boundaries, you find this problem everywhere. And some of the very worst cases involve Baptist ministers, Pentecostal ministers, Episcopal ministers, married clergy.

MCEDWARDS: But, you know, the Catholic Church has heard this policy of moving these priests around.

Richard Sipe, let me ask you, I mean, to what extent has the tendency towards secrecy, the tendency to sort of move priests after some medical treatment for what was at one time deemed as a curable problem, contributed to the problem?

SIPE: Well, there is no question that secrecy and the way things have been handled in the Catholic Church have perpetuated the problem and actually fostered it in an unknowing or unintentional kind of way.

I've been an expert witness or consultant now in 56 cases of sexual abuse across the country, and I find that the same methods were being used, and are still being used, in diocese and religious orders. They don't know how yet to deal with this in an open way and preserve everybody's rights.

By the way, I would like to respond to Philip's figures about Chicago, that the figures were twice as high of the actual priests who had been involved with minors, and you're mixing up two things, I think, or we should be careful not to mix up two things: the question of sex with minors, which is noncelibate activity, and with pedophilia. Those are distinct things.

MCEDWARDS: OK. I'm sorry to interrupt you, I think we've established that there is discrepancy about the numbers, and we don't really have a hard figure, so I just want to move this away a little bit, if I can, and maybe pass it over to David Schindler, about what needs to be done.

I mean, we just heard our previous guest talk about having some sort of a national policy on how to deal with this. There was a study in Britain, for example, that suggested that all people who work within the Catholic Church be subjected to some sort of background check, that the local clergies have people identified to deal with children and young adults and their relationships with priests.

What do you think needs to be done?

SCHINDLER: Well, thank you for that question. I think that's an important question.

And my own response, obviously, it grows out of the kind of work that I do, which is educational, is that it has to be addressed on a number of levels. And there is the policy level, but it would be a mistake to think that this is a -- a change in policy is going to solve the problem.

It seems to me the problem is a more radical one of understanding sexuality, understanding what the vocation of celibacy is, and discerning more radically and carefully people who are candidates for the priesthood. And I don't mean just a background check. I mean prolonged discernment in an environment where they are preparing for the priesthood until they understand the radicality of this call.

And I think that young men are capable of that kind of radicality, but -- so, in sum, not only the policy level, but we need to go to the root causes, which is a transformation in their understanding and a deepening of their understanding of what this call entails, and discerning that.

MCEDWARDS: Philip Jenkins, is that important, do you think?

JENKINS: Clearly. May I just say something about the secrecy issue which you...

MCEDWARDS: Yeah, sure.

JENKINS: I'm sorry. Pedophilia is a topic which nobody really understood in this country until the 1960's and 1970's. There wasn't a book in English on the subject until 1964.

It's not surprising that in years gone by, in the 60's and 70's, dioceses made many, many mistakes in transferring clergy when they shouldn't have.

What is baffling, and I believe this is what Dr. Sipe was also saying, is when they carried on doing this sort of thing in the 80's and 90's, and that's where it gets very puzzling indeed.

MCEDWARDS: OK. And I'm sorry, we've got to leave it there. We could go on and on forever.

This has been a fascinating discussion.

Thanks to you all, Richard Sipe, Philip Jenkins and David Schindler. Appreciate it.

That's Q&A. We're out of time. The news continues on CNN.





Back to the top