ROME — People must stop using homosexuals as scapegoats for the sexual abuse of children, two male survivors of abuse by priests told reporters.
“To make this link between homosexuality and pedophilia is absolutely immoral, it is unconscionable and has to stop,” said Peter Isely, a survivor and founding member of the survivor’s group SNAP.
Speaking to reporters outside the Vatican press office Feb. 18, he said: “No matter what your sexual orientation is, if you’ve committed a criminal act against a child, you’re a criminal. That’s the designation that counts. Period.”
Isely and other survivors were in Rome to speak with the press ahead of a Vatican summit Feb. 21-24 on child protection in the Catholic Church.
Phil Saviano, who founded SNAP’s New England chapter and is a board member of BishopsAccountability.org, told reporters Feb. 19 that he felt “there has been a lot of scapegoating of homosexual men as being child predators.”
To lay the blame for the abuse of children on homosexuality “tells me that they really don’t understand” the problem and have made a claim “that is not based on any source of reality.”
“I will admit that if a priest is abusing a 16-, 17- or 18-year-old boy, that part of the element that is going on there is homosexuality, but that is not the root of the problem” of abuse by clergy, he said at an event at the Foreign Press Association in Rome.
Saviano was a prepubescent boy when he was abused by Father David A. Holley of Worcester, Massachusetts, and he said, very often, a perpetrator is no longer “interested” in his victim when the child goes through puberty.
Saviano, whose story of abuse triggered the Boston Globe investigation and was featured in the film Spotlight, said he hears from victims from all over the world “and many of them are women who were abused as children.”
“Trying to lump it all together under homosexually,” he said, is “a dodge” and will not “lead to a proper solution.”
“It is also an insult to all the women who have been sexually abused as children,” he added.
The report of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice on clergy abuse in the Catholic Church in the United States found there was no “causative relationship” between either celibacy or homosexuality and the sexual assault of children by church members.
The report concluded clerical sexual abuse of children was more a crime of opportunity with abusers violating whomever they had more unsupervised access to — regardless of age and gender — and that abusive priests almost always had more access to boys.
Contributing to this story was Liam McIntyre in Rome.