Received from Bob Hoatson by email.
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Thank you, Bob.
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I suspect this first-person account of (hypocritical homosexual) sex in the Roman Catholic priesthood will be tough reading for many people, Catholic and non-Catholic.
I hope this very personal sharing by the courageous Bob Hoatson will be widely circulated and have positive results.
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Cardinal O’Brien – Trend Setter?
(March 4, 2013)
The resignation of Cardinal Keith O’Brien of Scotland and his subsequent admission of sexual misbehavior with younger men preparing for or ministering in the priesthood hopefully will inspire many of his colleagues to follow suit. Let the mass resignations begin.
As a forty-year ministerial “insider” in the Catholic Church as a religious brother, deacon, and priest, I can attest to the fact that sex very often is more important to church leaders than the transmission of the Gospel. It proves, no doubt, that when something is forbidden among a group of people, like sex for religious and priests, it often becomes an obsession. The institution of mandatory celibacy, among other factors, has created and promoted sexual dysfunction and obsession to the detriment of innocent victims who were taught (and believed) that religious life was reserved for those who were called to serve God.
When I joined religious life at the age of eighteen, I was an object of sex for my superiors from the moment I brought my foot-locker-filled belongings to the postulancy (first year of training in the religious life). I didn’t realize that once we said good-bye to our parents, the “grooming” would begin. Within a few short days of the beginning of my religious life, the superior was telling me that I was a cold person whom he was going to warm up.
I had no idea that the superior was making sexual overtures toward me. He was a man about twenty years my senior who taught theology at the local college and hailed from a wealthy family. He repeated his “cold person” criticism throughout the year, and when it came time for me to move to the novitiate (year two of formation where a young religious learns to live the spiritual life), he told me I was being “promoted” conditionally. I still didn’t realize that the “condition” had to do with having sex with superiors.
I was warned before moving to the novitiate, located on one thousand acres of farm land, that the novice master had a tradition of giving the keys to the jeep and tractor to “his boy.” The previous year, the keys had been given to a young man who had blondish hair and blue eyes, like me. It was predicted by many of the men in training that I would receive the keys. They were right.
My novice master, after each monthly conference, would stand, place me in a bear hug, and rub himself up and down my face. I could feel that he was aroused. I left the novitiate after six months because of my fear and anxiety. My vocation was put on hold for a short time.
I re-entered the religious life after a year and a half and returned to the novitiate. However, the previous novice master had been replaced and the new superior was a more balanced person. That did not prevent more people from pursuing me for sex. A classmate abused me on vacation at the end of the novitiate year. I thought he wanted to “talk” about a crisis of faith he was having. He wanted sex.
Once again, I was catapulted into sexual dysfunction and suffered serious anxiety and depression. Determining that I had to get some help for what I was feeling, I sought out a trusted superior. After pouring out my heart to him, he sexually abused me. His abuse lasted about a year and a half until I decided enough was enough and sought professional help.
I was sexually abused in religious life from the age of eighteen until the age of thirty-one, principally by men who were my superiors. They abused their power and authority. I joined religious life to serve God and others, but that goal was thwarted at every turn by older men, primarily, who were sexual predators.
At the age of forty-two, I left the religious life to pursue the priesthood. While in the seminary, I was propositioned for sex by a man who was fifteen years my junior. When I challenged his proposition, he declared, “What you are going to say, that I am gay?” He was the same seminarian who, just before ordination, declared, “I don’t know if I can be friends with you any longer because I will be ontologically changed.” Ontological change, according to the Church’s theology, occurs when a man is ordained a priest. In essence, he becomes a different person, another Christ, as it were. Unfortunately, that so-called theological principle is simply a prescription for malignant narcissism.
A few months before I was accepted into the diocesan seminary, I made sure to ask one of the priest recruiters if the bishop had stopped sleeping with the seminarians. He assured me that that practice had ended by order of the bishop’s superior. That bishop is now a Cardinal and has dodged exposure of his misbehavior for decades.
The seminary I attended was a hotbed of sexual misbehavior and obsession. The seminarians had a tradition of assigning female nicknames to the priest professors. As the priests walked through the seminary dining room to their private dining room, seminarians would comment on their dress, mannerisms, and sexual proclivities. They spoke of their boyfriends, vacation houses, and pick-up establishments. It was an inappropriate sexual culture, to say the least.
A priest recently told me that when he was a student in the same seminary, a group of diocesan priests would come to the seminary in late August during the first full day of classes. They would hang out in the hallway outside the dining room sizing up the new seminarians, presumably to find out which of them would be available for sex. The priests who gawked were active pastors of parishes throughout the diocese.
Not one of the men mentioned in the previous paragraphs has ever been held accountable for any of the actions described. Their actions, unfortunately, were rewarded, not sanctioned.
I have witnessed or been victim of a massive amount of sexual misbehavior among religious and clergy. Many of those who have misbehaved are bishops, others are pastors and seminary professors, and still others lead diocesan administrative offices. In other words, in the clerical culture of the Catholic Church, “the worse you are, the higher you go.” Cardinal Keith O’Brien is a case in point.
Did others know that Keith O’Brien was abusing seminarians and young priests? Of course they knew. Did they report his abuse of these young men? Of course they did not. Was Keith O’Brien counseled to stop abusing young men? Probably not. Were his peers abusing young men? Probably. Did Keith O’Brien reach the heights of power and authority in the Roman Catholic Church precisely because he sexually abused young men and engaged in forbidden sex as a cleric? There is no doubt about it, according to my “insider” knowledge of forty years and the sexual abuse leveled against me.
Years after I had been sexually abused, it dawned on me that it is virtually impossible for a priest to be promoted in the Church without having a compromised character. It’s time to demand the resignations of the “characters.”
Robert M. Hoatson, Ph.D.
Co-founder and President
Road to Recovery, Inc.
P.O. Box 279
Livingston, NJ 07039