Sociologists have published a paper illustrating social networks between bishops in two national episcopal conferences and around the former cardinal Theodore McCarrick who was laicized over credible allegations of sexually abusing seminarians and priests….

“Power, Preferment, and Patronage: Catholic Bishops, Social Networks, and the Affair(s) of Ex-Cardinal McCarrick” was authored by Professor Stephen Bullivant of St. Mary’s University, London and Research Fellow Giovanni Radhitio Putra Sadewo of the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne. It was published online this week by Cornell University….

The authors argue that an examination of relationships, social network analysis, gives insights into cultures where patronage, preferment and reciprocity are important. They believe that, like the Italian mafia and the Chinese political elite, Catholic bishops share this kind of culture.

Bullivant, who is a Catholic theology professor as well as a sociologist, and Sadewo concede that there are theological reasons for episcopal church governance. However, the hierarchical culture also gives rise to problems.

“For example, these might include the potential for ambitious clergy (or seminarians) to actively seek the favour and patronage of their own (and/or other influential) bishops, or indeed for bishops to use the hope – or even promise – of preferment as a means of incentivizing or rewarding loyalty,” the authors write.

“It could result in certain ‘types’ …  of priests being favoured and/or formed, in line with the type of their own bishop, and perhaps of a wider episcopal ‘mould’ or ‘culture.’”

This is “intensified” by the fact that priests learn to be bishops “through a process of imitation and socialization” and this can lead to identifiable cliques of bishops bound together by ties of loyalty, similar behaviour, shared protégés, and a sense that if one member goes down, they will all go down.

Another issue is the “special nature” of the relationship between a seminarian or priest and his bishop. Very different from that of an employee and an employer, a seminarian or priest owes his bishop both reverence and obedience, the authors note.

Then there is the issue of homosexuality. This, the authors argue, has a “important relevance for understanding the McCarrick case.”

“Not least, there is clear potential for mutually compromised networks of homosexually active (or once-active) priests, such as McCarrick appears to have cultivated among his ‘nephews,’” they write.

“The existence of ‘homosexual subcultures’ within U.S. Catholic seminaries or diocesan power structures, while understandably a sensitive topic, is well-established in the academic literature, as too are the disproportionately high numbers of same sex-attracted seminarians and clergy in the first place.”

The authors observe that given a number of factors in the relationship between homosexuality and the Church, and the potential for subordinates’ exploitation by bishops, the risk of “other McCarrick-esque cases” is real….

Rising from post to high-profile post, McCarrick became recognized as a “kingmaker” for episcopal appointments in both the United States and Rome. “Serious allegations” about him were known by those “in the highest echelons of the hierarchy” but were merely “dismissed”, “ignored” or “paid-off” by his previous dioceses. McCarrick was simply that influential among bishops….

The above comes from a July 17 story in LifeSiteNews.