The following is an open letter to Bill Donahue of the Catholic League was penned by Gene Thomas Gomulka in response to Donohue’s recent claim that the U.S. sexual abuse crisis ‘is over.’
Dear Mr. Donohue,
Between 1975 and 1980 when I was serving as an associate pastor at Our Lay of Victory parish in State College, Pennsylvania; teaching liturgy and dogmatic theology at St. Francis Seminary in Loretto, PA; and coordinating pro-life activities as the Altoona-Johnstown Diocesan Respect Life Director; I invited Jesuit Father Virgil Blum to speak to the clergy and laity of the diocese about The Catholic League he recently founded in 1973. Out of respect for Father Blum, before responding to a request to write an article on the current state of the Church’s abuse crisis (which you addressed recently on EWTN), I am writing to give you an opportunity to help me determine if you like a number of bishops intentionally wish to mislead people about the severity of the ongoing sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, or if you, like many Catholics and non-Catholics alike, are misled by false reports and misleading graphs.
If I were to approach you in the street and offer to sell you a new BMW I was standing next to for $100 on the promise that I would mail you the title in the mail, you would either laugh at me or call a cop and have me arrested. If you were the archbishop of an archdiocese with a population of 2.7 million Catholics and you told me, an investigative reporter for a German magazine, that no one in your archdiocese was ever sexually abused (“In my diocese it never happened”), do you believe I could justifiably put your picture on the cover of my publication with the words, “Dusollst nicht lügen”?
When you appeared recently on EWTN with Raymond Arroyo, you argued that sex abuse has not only declined significantly in the Catholic Church after the U.S. Bishops implemented certain protective measures, but that “It’s over.” It appears you based your comments on charts prepared by Church officials which depict a steep decline in reported abuse cases. The problem is that while the charts may truly represent cases of abuse “reported” by the bishops, the charts do not and cannot represent actual cases of abuse particularly within the past 40 some years. Also, because of documented underreporting on the part of U.S. bishops, one cannot even accept the validity of the amount of abuse dating back before the 2002 Dallas Charter to 1950.
My question to you is: Did you intentionally wish to mislead listeners into believing that abuse actually decreased to the level depicted on USCCB and similar charts, or do you yourself honestly misunderstand that it is still too early to know if and by how much abuse may or may not have decreased?
Before you answer that question, let’s divide the abuse time frame into before and after the 2002 USCCB Dallas Conference.
The statistics on graphs which deal with reported abuse before 2002 were mainly compiled for the John Jay Study commissioned by the USCCB. I’m going to assume that the John Jay researchers did not intentionally cover up the extent of clerical sex abuse when they published their flawed multimillion dollar report. I believe the problem was that they believed the data they were provided by the bishops; abuse data that has since been shown to be grossly underreported.
For example, when the Pennsylvania Grand Jury reported that 301 priests from six PA dioceses credibly abused over 1,000 minors, that came out to a ratio of roughly 1 to a little over 3. We know that then-Archbishop O’Brien reported to John Jay researchers that there were only two abuse victims in the 52-year period (1950-2002) of the report. The truth, however, is that bishopaccountability.org has to date identified over 150 priests of the Archdiocese for the Military Services (AMS) who were credibly accused of abusing multiple victims. Hence, while John Jay recorded only 2 victims in the AMS, there were most likely between at least 150 and 500. If every one of the 177 Ordinaries underreported abuse between 150 (1 victim per priest) and 500 (3+ victims per priest) as did O’Brien, the number of additional victims would be between 26,550 and 88,500!
I can understand that you might not be willing to believe that the bishops underreported the number of abuse victims as much as Cardinal O’Brien, but look at the dioceses in the state of Illinois. In December of 2018, the Illinois Attorney General reported that Illinois bishops alone left 500 predator priests off of their sex abuse lists. Given the fact that there are six dioceses in Illinois, that averages out to 83 underreported priests per diocese. Now, if every one of the 177 (arch)dioceses in the U.S. underreported 83 priests, then there would be 14,691 more abuse cases added to the John Jay Study and the USCCB Charts.
Whether one calculates the amount of underreporting based on one archdiocese like the Military Services USA, or an average of dioceses in one state like Illinois, the fact is that both the John Jay Study and the USCCB charts you used to support your position are not worth the paper they are printed on. Without a doubt, based upon evidence of gross underreporting by the bishops to the John Jay Study, the decrease in abuse reported and reflected on charts particularly between 1985 and 2002 is totally unbelievable.
Having shown that the abuse statistics based upon self-reporting by the US bishop between 1950 and 2002 were grossly underreported, let’s now turn to the statistics you quoted over the past 20 years contained in the following two charts:
Those of us who work with victims of clerical abuse know that it is usually decades before abuse victims report what happened to them years earlier, and many abuse victims never report the abuse they suffered. In light of this fact, it is clear that the main reason the USCCB and diocesan charts depict fewer reported abuse cases is because the victims have not yet reported their abuse.
The problem is that you misled EWTN viewers and those who watch the broadcast on YouTube to believe that clerical sexual abuse declined significantly based on these charts which report abuse that only to date has been reported. If one were to have created an abuse chart in 1985, the amount of abuse would be no greater than what the ADNY chart reported for 2010. Hence, in discussing clerical abuse, you cannot honestly say how much abuse may have dropped when most of the reports have yet to be filed. It would be like predicting who is going to win an election based on a 5% tally of votes.
The ADNY abuse chart leads people to believe that clerical abuse declined significantly after the Dallas protocols were put into place in 2002. However, if one looks at both the USCCB and ANDY charts, one discovers a decrease in abuse beginning around 1985, just less than 20 years before the Dallas Charter. Again, this decline is primarily due to the fact that most victims do not report the abuse they experienced for decades. Hence, if someone were abused in 1990, he or she may not report that abuse until 2025.
Everyone needs to understand the abuse rates between 1985 and today will only be known 40-50 years after those dates. In other words, the USCCB and ANDY charts cannot be used to argue how much abuse has actually occurred over the past 40-50 years, let alone over the past 20 years since the Dallas charter was implemented.
That being said, I would estimate that the abuse of minors will probably be found in the future to have gone down after the Dallas Charter but the abuse of vulnerable adults (e.g., college and major seminarians) will have gone up. Why? Because many of the priests who were reported for abusing minors were products of high school seminaries where they were groomed and abused during their period of psychosexual development. These groomed and abused seminarians later as priests preyed upon kids the same age as they were when they were first introduced to gay sex by faculty members or older seminarians.
Because over 90% of these high school seminaries have closed, the Church is no longer growing predators whose targets are mainly teenage boys. Hence, there should be a drop in the abuse of minors.
Another reason there will be a decrease in clerical abuse is because there are far fewer priests today to abuse mainly teenage boys. According to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), the numbers of priests in the U.S. have decreased by 40 % from 59,192 in 1970 to 35,513 in 2020. If one were to exclude retired priests and those removed from ministry for disciplinary or health reasons, that 35K number would be considerably smaller. Fewer priests today than there were in the past mean fewer potential predators and fewer abuse victims.
A third factor to consider in predicting a decline in the abuse of minors, primarily teenage boys, is that the vast majority of newly ordained US (not foreign born) priests today are homosexuals who are used to having sex with other adults and were not products of high school seminaries. Hence, if they are going to proposition someone for sex, it would ordinarily be another adult over 18 who may be either straight or gay. For example, two former seminarians who studied at St. Pope John Paul II college seminary in Washington, DC claimed that they were sexually harassed by their rector. One was straight and one was gay. As the number of gays in seminaries continues to increase, one can anticipate that a certain number will leave either because they believe they cannot lead celibate lives as priests and want to marry another man, or because seminary and Church leaders do nothing to discipline gay faculty members or gay seminarians who proposition them for sex. Gay bishops, priests and seminarians need to understand just because a person may be gay does not mean he wants to have sex with any gay cleric that comes on to him, just like not every heterosexual woman wants to have sex with every straight man who might like to bed her.
The bottom line is: Stand by for less sexual predation of minors and more clerical sexual predation of vulnerable adults like seminarians and young priests. However, because 73 percent of homosexual men admit to having come on to teenage boys, don’t think that gay priests who were not products of high school seminaries will only be having sex with other adults, especially if they have been drinking. If you look at the profiles of gay priests who were arrested within the past 20 years, you’ll find that in the absence of a steady adult lover (e.g., after a break-up), they sometimes tend to cruise looking for “young meat.”
Almost all of the numerous sexual harassment and abuse cases involving former seminarians that I am currently investigating, while reported to bishops and even the Nunciature, are not being properly investigated but are being covered up by Church authorities. Hence, because I know with hardcore evidence that young men are being abused and the abuse is being covered up, I have a very hard time not getting very angry when I hear or read about how the Catholic Church no longer has a serious abuse problem. Try telling that to the victims I am dealing with and don’t be surprised if they were to deck you.
Please get back to me and let me know if you agree or disagree with my analysis. Your response will help me determine if your comments on EWTN were simply based on misinformation or if you intentionally wished to mislead viewers in an attempt to cover up clerical sexual predation in the Catholic Church.
Gene Thomas Gomulka
Gene Thomas Gomulka is a sexual abuse victims’ advocate, investigative reporter, and screenwriter. A former Navy Chaplain / O6 Captain, seminary instructor and diocesan respect life director, Gomulka was ordained a priest for the Altoona-Johnstown diocese and later made a Prelate of Honor (Monsignor) by Pope St. John Paul II.