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Earlier stories

Spotlight Report

An accused priest speaks out

By Sacha Pfeiffer, Globe Staff, 9/1/2002

In several lengthy interviews last week, the Rev. William L. Butler had much to say about the allegation of sexual abuse from 1966 that he now faces. But the voluble and outspoken pastor also shared his views, some of them controversial, about other aspects of the crisis that is buffeting the church.

Some examples:

On why some priests became involved with teenage boys:

''I'm not a psychologist or psychiatrist, and there's a lot people [that] don't understand. But you're talking about a young priest getting involved with an adolescent male going through his own development stages of sexual awareness, and sometimes the adolescents have infatuations with the male role model, whether it's a teacher or coach or priest or minister. And if a priest is a young priest - especially in our young generation when we lived monastic lives - our own emotions, our own stages of intimacy, were not developed.

''... I don't think the priests always forced the kids to do anything. But probably because of the kids' lack of maturity and lack of a certain age, and because adolescents are sexually developing so they're interested in any attention - especially if they have undefined gender issues in their own lives - the attention of a male adult would be something they'd look for.

''... I'm not condoning sexuality with underage adults, but adolescents are not sexually neutered. In my experience, adolescents are very sexually involved and interested. Unfortunately, some priests got involved. These are adolescents groping with their own sexual identity who oftentimes got tied up with priests groping with their own sexual identity.''

On his belief that homosexuality plays a role in the crisis:

''I think there is an underlying gay issue and many of these priests were reaching out themselves. We were in a seminary that was monastically ordered. You lived in isolation, with no communication with the outside world, no television, no newspapers. All of a sudden you're cast out into a world where you're an adult with a great responsibility as a leader and you're still searching for your own understanding of sexuality and intimacy issues. That's where I think the issue is. And sex, unfortunately, is part of that equation. And I really believe a lot of those guys got caught up in that and now we're treating them as pariahs. They did wrong - absolutely. But there was no malice.''

On victims:

''I'm not trying to condone what happened, but I think some of these people were already vulnerable. This is not a cop-out, but I do believe some of these people were predisposed, because of their own natural weakness, to get involved in unhealthy relationships that caused them a lot of pain later on. I mean, I'm sure that they've suffered. But this is one of those underlying subtle issues that will gradually be explored.''

On the mood of priests:

''There's a morale problem. Priests feel very down about this. I think there's a fear that the phone will ring, that somebody will make an accusation. That's a fear among a lot of people ... and I think there's a motivation out in the community from people who think they can make a buck on this.''

This story ran on page A19 of the Boston Globe on 9/1/2002.
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