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May 24, 2005



I guess the Springfield Diocese is sort of admitting that there's a problem, but I'm just a tiny bit skeptical of the excuses put forth by these kids, who sound like a couple of punks to me.

Gibson punched him, knocking him to the ground. Gibson and Boyle then started kicking him in the head, reports said.

Nice guys.


Even punks don't deserve sodomitic propositioning.

Gerard E.

"Gibson pumched him, knocking him to the ground. Gibson and Boyle then started kicking him in the head, reports said."

Vicious little punks. Throw the book at them now.

"Costa is now at an out-of-state rehabilitation facility for priests, nuns and members of religious orders."

Then toss him out before he's moved to another parish- Springfield or elsewhere. No More Geoghans. Ever. Throw the book at him at that time.

Rich Leonardi

When I was a young teenager, I was verbally propositioned by an older man. I told him to buzz-off or I would knock him senseless.

Had that man "rubbed up against" me (twice), I no doubt would have made good on my threat. Had I known he was a priest, it likely would have gone worse for him.

There's no excuse for kicking this man while he was down, especially about the head. But knocking him down in the first place? That's another matter.


Right on, Rich!

Rod Dreher

Yep. "Vicious little punks"? Please. I'd say theirs was a healthy response. The only thing they did wrong in my book was kicking him while he was down. They were certainly right to knock this old perv's block off when he laid his hands on one of them. I'd like to buy those hoods a Coke.


Um..or you could just walk away and report him.

I'm just sayin'.


amy, maybe it's a guy thing. That the healthy response to being propositioned is to knock the guy down.

If women knocked everyone down who made unwelcome propositions, half the population would be on the floor.


Not quite sure what a proposition of that nature deserves (definitely not a kick in the head), but probably more than a "thanks but no thanks." My father still tells the story of when some guy on a bus put his hand on his knee when my father was a boy. (in that day and age kids could ride the public buses without adult supervision) My father jabbed the guy in the hand with his ballpoint pen. Man changed seats. End of proposition.

Not comparing that (which is self defense) to what the two toughs did, which seems like assault and battery. Didn't sound like "an excuse" to me, more of a vivid description of what happened. Kicking someone repeatedly in the head and then running off hardly puts them in a good light.

I've never really understood the stories of repeated molestations -- doesn't anyone ever tell their parents when another adult puts them in an uncomfortable situation or makes a weird suggestion? Maybe it's the Ballpoint Pen Effect...you need to feel your parents will believe you.

john hearn


These are teenage boys with all the "am I really gay?" fears that go with that state in life. This guy knew that well and was really really asking for it.

Rich Leonardi

I know what you're saying, Amy. But Fr. Costa in touching those boys assaulted them. And in those instances, one flees or fights. I guarantee that half your male readers would have been inclined to choose the latter.

Paul N.

I'm with Rod (again). He got what he deserved. The icing of getting kicked in the head violates those Queenbury (?) rules on fighting, but hey, when you play with fire, you get burned.

Turning and walking away, even if they did report it, would have amounted to letting the pervert continue on and proposition someone else. The diocese obviously would have covered the whole thing up anyway.

This butt-kicking barely begins to make up for all the ones that should have happened.


And then, of course, we'd never have learned about the "previous instances of inappropriate and risky behavior that have come to light" which evidently may have been so "risky" as to include criminal child molestation.

What if someone cruising local highschool "propositioned" in such a way your 15 year old daughter?

I don't think there'd be too much of an outcry over putting an immediate and sudden end to such a method of propositioning.

I agree, kicking someone when they are down is wrong, but there are worse things than getting popped for being a sicko.

Like being coddled in the practice of such depravity.

Victor Morton

Report him to whom? The diocese? OK, stop laughing, people. That was obviously a joke. Besides they'd need to know who he was.) The state? It's gonna need evidence and it'll be a straight he said/he said case. Plus the state generally doesn't, in this day and age, pursue cruising cases -- partly because (1) sex has been largely privatized, either formally (laws rerpealed/struck down) or informally (prosecutors/cops don't want to interfere); and partly (2) from fear of discrimination suits from the GLAADs and HRCs of the world.

Sorry, Blogmeistress, but there are some things that can only be handled personally and on the spot.

Dale Price

The repeated rubbing up against the boy warranted a physical response. In Michigan, that's fourth degree criminal sexual conduct, a felony. Somebody rubbing up against one of my kids is going to get hurt. Then tossed into prison.

Then again, the boys didn't stop with that. They repeatedly kicked the guy in the head after he had been incapacitated, leaving him critically injured. If he had died, that's at best manslaughter, and quite possibly second degree murder. The retaliation went well beyond the scope of the offense, and deserves serious punishment itself.


Obviously not the whole story is here. While some can cheer the kids for putting the beatdown on this guy, did it really come as a suprise that AFTER he offered them $50 for an a-hem, that he wasn't still interested in said a-hem. AFTER he smoked, conversed and then offered then $50, then these kids were still hanging around waiting for what? This creep to disappear? And what about the park--in most ciites there are parks and corners you know about where if you have $50 you can get an a-hem--was this one of those places?
No one is less disgusting in this situation.

Lauda Jerusalem Dominum

in most ciites there are parks and corners you know about where if you have $50 you can get an a-hem--was this one of those places?

Normal people often don't know where these places are (why would they?) and might stumble upon them quite by accident. Maybe it was such a place. But it doesn't follow that the kids who assaulted Fr. (or is it Msgr.?) Costa knew that it was such a place.

Rod Dreher

To paraphrase the Misfit, the Church would be a better place if there were punks there beating up cruisy clerics every single day of the Church's life.

If a priest or anyone else ever propositioned my kid like this, if my kid wasn't in a position to break the perv's nose, I'd go find him and do it.

Mark R

As my Jewish neighbors would say, "Serves him right."


I have heard others here be stunned by *catholics* reactions to little things and in minor ways (of reacting) but to say this man (pervert he may be) should have been knocked down! - sheesh, people! What about JUST calling him what he was and walking AWAY. There were two of them, young punks - and one old perv...

Victor Morton

They repeatedly kicked the guy in the head after he had been incapacitated

I'm not sure that the "after he had been incapacitated" part is true (certainly it's not in the newspaper story Amy links to). People get up after being knocked down, and once a fight has been joined, it's been joined and you have to win. The Marquis of Queensberry rules are for athletic contests, not real-life fights.


I think the disconnect here, is in seeing that the problem is not just that the "advances" were unwelcome, but that they were inherently depraved.

There's a difference between a drunken randy "wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more" type comeon at a bar between a guy and a girl, and someone who calls your daughter a tease or something in the course of touching her.

Yes, rationally we would hope to have the presence of mind to consider the perps immortal soul while taking appropriate actions.

But the hard line the black eye underlines, is a line in the natural law, and this is something that people who describe this kind of stuff as "inappropriate and risky behavior" seem incapable of acknowledging.

Not every untidy squabble in the sandbox can be solved with mutual "timeouts."


When I was 20, years ago, I went to Rome, and gathered with many others in St. Peter's Square to see the Pope. Just as he came out on his balcony, some male creep behind me shoved himself up against my back and.....well, you know. Right there in front of Papa!!

I did my best to ignore it. This kind of thing happened all the time in Italy, and a milder version here sometimes.

Now my own 20 year old daughter informs me that if any man lays a hand on her (or, I assume, other body part) without her permission she'll beat him up. (Actually, she expressed this sentiment rather more colorfully.) She will, too.

I'm not sure I know what to think of all this. Maybe the whole culture will have to go through a period when everyone is beating these creeps to within an inch of their lives before everyone figures out that behavior like this is, as the diocese here put it, "risky."


Okay, even if they didn't know this was a cruise park, if it was (I have no idea), didn't they get the clue this guy was creepy AFTER he smoked a cigarette with them, talked to them, and then offered them $50? He didn't just show up rubbing on them. They interacted with him before the groping. He even offered money. If that isn't a big Hello, I'm Depraved, I don't know what is. There was ample opportunity to exit the scene before the beatdown got put on the man.

Victor Morton


Nobody (at least not me, I doubt any of these other estimable gentlemen) is saying you cannot walk away. Merely that this situation had gone beyond the point that that would have been an appropriate and/or effective response -- i.e., the priest had twice rubbed his body up against theirs.

I have never knowingly gone into a gay public establishment, yet have been propositioned by men three times and seen a friend propositioned once. In none of the four cases, did it come to blows because other means doused the situations. But also none of the four ever involved physical passes or inappropriate touches. And in that case, you are asking for a fight (some gay men even enjoy that risk).


Maybe if more sickos knew that one of the things they could receive from an unwelcome sexual advance was a tail whupping fewer of them would be inclined to act in such a depraved manner. However, I firmly believe you smack the perv in the face and walk away. Less trouble with the law that way. And yes in early press coverage this park was identified as notorious for this sort of activity.

Dale Price


OK, perhaps not after the first punch. We don't have a complete record here, and perps can have reason to shade and slant their statements, often with police encouragement (I'm not suggesting any bad faith on the part of the cops here).

But somewhere along the way he ceased to be a threat. I can appreciate the line of reasoning that says "the only time to kick a man is when he's down," but kicks to the head are a clear escalation. Especially when the odds are in your favor. The early stories indicated there was some doubt Fr. Costa was going to survive his injuries, which indicates a pretty brutal response.

A kick to the clockweights would have ended the matter and the threat sufficiently.



Everyone in Springfield knows about Douglas Park.

Mark Adams

I don't find myself agreeing with many of the justifications offered here for the teens' behavior. And yet, my visceral reaction is that I am glad it happened. Why? Because under what other circumstances would this priest have been found out and at least forced to resign from his post as chancellor. Sadly, if the boys had done the right thing Father Costa would likely still be hanging out in cruising parks and chatting up adolescents in hopes of getting a fifty dollar "favor".


Did you ever notice how church officials dilute this stuff with their choice of words?

Come on "risky" behavior -- be serious?

Here are the more accurate words --

criminal behavior

If this priest did offer these kids money for oral sex, that is a crime.

It never ends.


re: "risky behavior" ...

Yes - just what does that mean? And from an institutional perspective, why not call it "deviant"?

Deviant behavior has been around for a long time, but the "risk" to such behavior is quite variable. It's important to know what meaning the Diocese of Springfield assigns to "risky" behavior.

(And - geez - I do wish that the institutional Church could say that Fr. Costa's behavior was indeed deviant, because I'm fairly certain the the majority of priests are NOT cruising parks, (or malls, or restrooms) looking to score.)


Sadly, Mark, you're probably right.

It never ends.

I feel the same way, lw. After all, this wasn't just one more creep (of whom we are never in short supply), this was a priest (though I doubt the boys knew that).


How bout monstrous behavior?

"Risky" makes it seem like the infraction was against the 11th commandment (Thou shalt not get caught) rather than the 6th, the 5th or the 1st.

alias clio

I think there were several people in this story who "should have known better". Cruisers should know the risks they take, of course. But the two "punks" were, I suspect, looking to rob someone; encouraged the man's come-ons in order to put him off guard; and then, once they had convinced him that they were prepared to acquiesce, they took the money and THEN beat him up. Oh, of course I don't _know_ that's what happened, but I don't think this is a simple case of over-reaction to a proposition.

Especially if, as J.D. Kelly says above, everyone in Springfield knows about Douglas Park. There are young men (I've met one or two) who like to lure gay cruisers into danger for kicks or to rob them. This may not excuse the cruisers (really they should know better, esp. if they're priests) but it sheds a nasty light on the young men and makes it harder to excuse what they do as springing from moral outrage.


"There's no excuse for kicking this man while he was down, especially about the head. But knocking him down in the first place? That's another matter."

Fair enough.
A young man grabbed my breast once. I slapped in in the face. If I'd aimed a bit better, or used a closed fist it might have knocked him down, and he would have deserved it.

But it's kind of shocking to know some of you would have been cheering me on if I'd then proceeded to kick him in the head.

"He got what he deserved."
So, there are crimes that merit being kicked in the head?
What a fine addition you would make to the Supreme Court. Enough coddling of criminals.

Let's face it, these punks were cruising just as surely as the perv was cruising. They did what exactly what they had planned to do, and I suppose Costa is lucky they weren't as depraved as Matthew Shepherd's attackers.
But if they had been I have no doubt there are plenty of Neanderthals who would still be saying, "got what he deserved."

Mike Petrik

I agree with Rich's comment quoted by Beanie.

And Beanie, I suspect I speak for many of us male commenters when I say that in your case I most certainly would have cheered you on and would have piled on if you needed it.


I'm a little confused here. The State has a law against battery and these two have been charged and pled guilty. They could get up to 3 years in prison. Why all the discussion?

Should it legal to beat someone if they proposition you or rub themselves against you?

It remains to be seen, I guess, if the victim will be prosecuted for a crime.

Jimmy Huck

As much as I despise what this priest did, I have to agree that I can find no justification for beating him senseless in the way that these kids did.

Others have said it previously, but, really, why not just walk away and report it?


alias clio wins the prize for most accurate read of the situation.

Victor Morton

why not just walk away and report it?

To repeat what I said above: "report it" ... to whom? On the expectation of ... what result?


I enter this thread with trepidation. I think that we can say, however:

1. One can resort to self-defense from assault. The alternative of resorting to the law to seek redress is preferable, because it also deals with the offense to the social body, but, because "love towards oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality" (CCC 2264), self-defense is permissible, if undesirable.

2. An act of self-defense, however, needs to have a double effect -one does not intend to harm the aggressor, one only intends to protects his or her life and safety (CCC 2263). We should not rejoice in imagining an aggressor being maimed or humiliated.

3. One has no right to "punish" an aggressor, because an individual cannot redress the social disorder introduced by the offense. Furthermore, any punishment must have a "medicial effect" - "as far as possible, it must contribute to the correction of the guilty party," which is usually outside an individual's ability to foster (CCC 2266). We should not imagine ourselves as the heroes in some of the "revenge" films of the past year - "The Punisher," "Man on Fire," etc.

4. Our response to a perceived threat to our lives or safety should not be intensified because it is a homosexual threat. "The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. ...They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided." (CCC 2358). It is clearly an act of "unjust discrimination" if the presence of homosexuality in an assault causes us to wave aside the usual restrictions on self-defense.




They beat a man practically senseless. Sure, he was extremely wrong to proposition them. If it did come to a point where they had to physically defend themselves, then fine. Do so. Surely one punch in the gut would have been enough. But their beating of the priest went too far for goodness sake.


Beanie said:
"They did what exactly what they had planned to do, and I suppose Costa is lucky they weren't as depraved as Matthew Shepherd's attackers. "

I was wondering if anyone else had that particular alarm go off in their minds. Don't get me wrong, clerical abuse makes me mad as hell, and I can see why people are thinking "good lesson to pervert priests" but if this guy hadn't been a priest everyone would be saying, "Of course propositioning someone is wrong, but it's not right to beat someone senseless for being gay."

However good an object lesson it may seem like at first blush that a priest shouldn't be doing this, those are words someone is going to have thrown back at them the next time someone says "Catholics encourage people to beat gays senseless. How can you say that Catholics don't hate gays?"

Clearly this guy needs to be out the the chancery and possibly out of the priesthood, but that doesn't mean we need to have any cheering for his attackers on record.

Maclin Horton

Here's another male vote for the knock-down, against the subsequent kicks. I doubt very much that these guys were seriously worried about a counterattack from a 54-year-old priest.

I remember once in college getting weird attentions from an older guy on the street. In my naivete I didn't understand what was up but I knew he was seriously creeping me out. I ignored him and he went away, but if he had put his hands on me he would certainly have gotten some kind of dramatic reaction, if only a shove and a curse. It's kind of instinctive.

But you know what's maybe most creepy to me in this story: the diocese describing this as "inappropriate and risky behavior." So there is a situation where it would be "appropriate"? So the problem with it is that he could have gotten hurt (as of course he did)?

I know I can be kind of pedantic about words, but, dang, this sure sounds like a presumption that priests are going to engage in homosexual activity and that the problem with this incident is just lack of discretion.

Paul N.

Come on, Jimmy. I don't think it's a stretch to figure that this pervert has been to the park before and propositioned others. I'm sure others did walk away, allowing him to continue surfing for victims.

But if they had reported it, do you think it would have made the news? No. Do you think he'd be sent away? Nope. So the only way this guy was stopped was for him to be unlucky enough to proposition the wrong guys.

He got what was coming to him. Finally. Thank God for that. How many kids since then would he have propositioned, and how many successfully? We don't know. But you can bet your sweet bippy that if those kids just "reported" it, he'd still be doing his thing, all with the blessing of the diocese.

Would that something like this happened EVERY time one of these pervs did this.

And again I agree with Rod. If my son (or daughter) was too young, I'd have gone there myself and taken care of the situation.

Victor Morton


No, Catholics aren't encouraging anybody to "beat gays senseless." They're encouraging people to "beat gropers and mashers senseless."

Only Al has specifically tied this to moral opposition to homosexuality, and I'd suspect he'd be in the minority on that narrow point. In fact several people have said women should do the same thing to male gropers and mashers. Nobody's mentioned the male reaction to female gropers and mashers, but that's a really rare scenario.

I saw live an Elayne Boosler routine about automobile cruisings or public "wolf whistle" tours, in which she asked, close as I can recall "Why don't women drive along streets with the top down, telling every man in sight 'I wanna do you,' and inviting every man into the car 'Come back to my place and I'll show you what a woman is'? Because men would get in the car and say 'yes'."

Rich Leonardi


I assume you would have lectured St. Louis De Monfort too, no?


I'm a little concerned that the majority of the men posting feel that "knocking his block off" was the appropriate, if not the correct response.

I've been hit on several times in my life by gay men. Each time I said, "Sorry, I'm not gay," and that was that. I guess I don't associate feeling manly with knocking out a gay person.

Dale Price


Did the propositioners rub up against you twice?

Rod Dreher

Dave, we're talking about an older person offering to pay minors for sex. If this were a man offering to pay two girls for same, I'd feel exactly the same way, except probably more strongly, because they wouldn't have been in a position to defend themselves if the older man had forced himself on them.



I'm not saying that's necessarily what people are saying or what they mean, but it is how they sound. I know I'm hair trigger on this because this is an issue I go hammer an tongs on all the time with some Episcopal friends who are pro gay marriage, etc and insist that the Catholic Church is directly responsible for every gay person who ever gets beaten.

Now, I read way too many Norse sagas at a formative age not to have a lot of affection for the "if you offend me I will dismember you" approach to life. Like Heinlien said, a well armed society is a polite society. But the Church did spend a lot of time (and blood) convincing the West that killing someone was not the best response to his offending you.

I'm essentially in agreement with the "knock down fine, kick him in the head when he's down, not fine" school -- which is clearly the majority here. I just feel we should be careful how we scale that comparison. If "right to knock down" is the emphasis and "not right to beat senseless" sounds like an afterthought, you send the wrong message.

If I said, "If was great that the police office wrestled the suspect down and handcuffed him, it was just a little over enthusiastic that after he was handcuffed the cop shot him."

Maybe I'm being overly sensitive. I just want to be clear on the proportionality. Seems to me like for a grope, just knocking the guy down calling him an fing pervert, and walking away is plenty. Now, if the guy had assualted and tried to rape them, then they could have killed him and been totally justified. All a question of scale.


Should have been:

If I said, "If was great that the police office wrestled the suspect down and handcuffed him, it was just a little over enthusiastic that after he was handcuffed the cop shot him." people might rightly assume that I didn't take wrongful death very seriously.


Dear Rich,

I do not know the circumstances of the case involving St Louis De Montfort. St Thomas, citing the jurists, says that one can "repel force by force, provided one does not exceed the limits of a blameless defense" - that is, one must always act in self-defense with "moderation," never using "more than necessary violence." One can imagine circumstances - particularly concerning the nature of the heckling and the impossibility of redress by law - that would make St Louis' actions "a blameless defense" indeed.

It is only charitable to assume that St Louis' actions would not fall under St Thomas' condemnation of a defense that "comes from revengeful spite": the Angelic Doctor explicitly upholds Romans 12:19 - "Not defending [Douay: 'revenging'] yourselves, my dearly beloved." So, no, I would not necessarily lecture St Louis De Montfort.

And one must always act with humility when it comes to an obviously holy person. I cannot imagine ever lecturing a saint (although one might imagine gently asking some medieval Dominicans to rethink the Immaculate Conception, the morality of slavery, and so on!). But saints, it must be said, have been subject to fraternal correction: "And when Kephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face because he clearly was wrong" (Gal 2:11). Furthermore, canonization is hardly a declaration of perfection. As Dorothy Day once said, a person could go to hell imitating the imperfections of the saints.



Paul N.

If it was a teenage girl, or even a woman, kicking the snot out of the guy, I think we'd all be cheering that one too.

Being a pacifist with regards to perverts simply gives them more opportunities. The diocese just enables them by refering to their "risky behavior" or "indiscretions". The diocese should say "We don't want, nor will we tolerate, dirty stinking perverts in our house." The diocese, as usual, is just giving him a pass.

Frontier justice does the trick. Maybe it will embolden the next would-be victim to do the same thing.

Rich Leonardi


I recognize that saints are sometimes subject to fraternal correction, but this incident generally inspires fraternal praise. I recall Fr. Mitch Pacwa sharing this anecdote to the delight of his studio audience and, well, Amy wrote about it.

The point, I suppose, is that we're often compelled to preserve the peace, even by means of rough justice, in situations when it's inappropriate to ring the constable.


I would like to second your observation that, contrary the claim that there's bloodthirsty sadists on this thread, nearly every person that observed that the active element to this story is not "vicious punks beat a unwittingly ,'inappropriate' and 'risktaking' victim", has said the kicking Fr. Costa when he was down sounded over the line.

That said, I do think that the nature of a homosexual "proposition" puts it in the class of predatory and on-the-face-of it offensive acts.

Victor Morton


"How they sound" ... to whom? The short answer I would give is "to nobody whose opinion I'd have much respect for" ... which I realize sounds hollow to someone who goes "hammer and tongs, etc."

Virtually everybody has said what you want -- "KO/punch/shove, fine; kick in head, not fine." And not a few people are also saying even a punch or shove might be excessive. I'm not sure what subtexts or tones or rhetorical weights you think you're detecting. And in this day and age I just have no faith that people have such fine detectors of insufficiently calibrated proportionometers in others.

Frankly if someone could read this thread and come away from it convinced that Catholics, in any generalizable sense, were saying gay-bashing was fine, they're beyond the pale. Nothing short of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire could convince said person that the Catholic Church is not a sublimated bunch of gay-bashing homophobes.

RP Burke


What would you have done if, after you told the propositioner you weren't gay, "that" were not "that"??

The South Boston kid in me knows that there are some lessons that are only taught by a shot or two upside the head. Ridding yourself of an aggressive sexual proposition is one of them.

And remember the golden rule about being in a fight: "Do unto others, but do it first."

Eileen R

I won't cheer anyone being senselessly kicked in the head repeatedly, but if anyone harasses me, I do tell them I have seven brothers. That seems to do the trick. (Ok, only two of them are taller than me and over seventeen, but it sounds good.)


As I said above, the fact that its a homosexual proposition puts it in the class of propositioning a minor, as a more grievous offense.

Victor Morton

... and do it twice. Just in case.



Said "older person" was 54 years old and I'd wager not in good athletic shape. Those two "minors," one 17, were, even if not athletes quite able to take that priest down. They were not innocents in this incident. They are apparently thugs. Perhaps they thought they could get away with this beating in the current climate of exposing pervert priests. If the priest had not had a past of "risky behavior" and it had not been so late in the evening, not to mention late December, I'd be a bit skeptical of the boys' claims. The priest hopefully has learned a lesson about consequences of "risky behavior" as well. It takes you to unsafe places.



Fair enough. They say you can't always choose your friends, and a couple of my old ones have turned into super-liberal Episcopalians.

I guess I took some of that "I'd buy those hoods a coke" talk a little too literally.

On the other hand, maybe it's a good exercise in humility for this particular gun-owning, war-supporting republican to be called a pacifist one something once in a while... ;-)

The Springfield Catholic Diocese said in a written statement that Costa's resignation would allow him to deal with "previous instances of inappropriate and risky behavior that have come to light" since the beating incident. Costa now is at an out-of-state rehabilitation facility for priests, nuns and members of religious orders.

It seems Fr. Costa has a history of "inappropriate and risky behavior." I wonder how many boys took the money and did the deed? Or maybe just did the deed because Father asked them?

Too bad Father probably won't be going to jail where he would probably meet some of his earlier acquaintances.

Maclin Horton

Just to be clear: I would not place a civilized come-on in a social situation in the same class as being groped, rubbed, fondled, whatever, by a total stranger in a public place. Subsequent to the weird encounter I described above, I have over the years experienced the occasional advance from gay men whom I knew slightly. By then I was a bit more worldly-wise, and I always found that either ignoring it or somehow turning it aside verbally worked fine, and nobody ever did it a second time. I mean, why would they, if it's somebody they might have further social or work contact with?

Gregg the obscure

The vigilante aspect of this is a bit troubling. Justice isn't a free-lance pursuit.

Had the execrable courts not invalidated the sodomy laws, the victims could have made a citizens arrest and the pervert would end up in prison where he belongs. This would be a fitting and proper conclusion to the episode.

Victor Morton

The vigilante aspect of this is a bit troubling. Justice isn't a free-lance pursuit.

When the law has broken down, it absolutely is.

Victor Morton

Scotus is a pacifist wimp. Scotus is a pacifist wimp. Scotus is a pacifist wimp.

... hey, just trying to help you out, bud.


Keep talking. I'm reloading...


This is one of the stranger threads around, I think.

A physical rebuff of a physical assault is one thing, but even without knowing every detail of this case, it's not as if these guys were sitting in the library working on a research paper.

They were in a PUBLIC PARK in - remember this - DECEMBER in Illinois, at night, a park apparently known as a venue for public sex. Who knows why they were there? It is not unheard of for 17-year old males to cruise around looking for trouble, looking to make trouble, even looking to harass others. When I taught, I had a rather well-off, overtly polite-to-adults student (whose father owned a restaurant), who would sometimes get in his car with his friends with a bunch of raw steaks beyond their use date, drive downtown, and throw them at homeless men. Really.

I'm not saying they were asking for trouble. I'm not saying they deserved to be propositioned. But in this situation, everyone did something wrong, and excusing any of it is wrong, as well, IMHO.


I'd rather not get into the particulars of each time I was hit on, but I do recall a couple times when the propositioner was, shall we say, insistent. At which point I said, look, what part of I'm not gay don't you understand?

I'm just concerned that we have a nation of fathers telling their sons to beat up anyone that gives them a funny look--that's Christian.

But I'm not from South Boston or Brooklyn or Detroit or any place tough like that, so I guess I have NO IDEA how the world really is.

RP Burke


If it didn't come to blows, great. Sure, it's a last resort, but some people just don't understand "no" unless it's expressed with deeds and not just words.

RP Burke

And certainly, to appropriate some just-war theory, the use of force has to be proportionate: in the case of a proposition, exactly enough to get the propositioner to leave his victim alone. I agree with Amy that, in the event involving the Springfield chancellor, "everyone did something wrong."

Mike Petrik

I agree with Amy and RP. But I admit I probably would have socked him in the teeth. Then again, that's why I go to confession.


Young punks tend to suffer from a lack of imagination and an preference to end all things with brutish force. Too bad. They could have waited until Father was much more vulnerable, and then made a lasting (dental) impression which I don't think would have been reported to the police, and maybe would have encourged Father to repent. And they probably could have kept his money, and maybe his trousers, for the trouble, too. Sending such stupid "players" on their way naked is not uncommon. Hmmm...that reminds me of "Sideways."


As a 17-y-o freshman in college, I was propositioned. I saw NO need for violence. I politely told the person I wasn't interested. We then talked about violence against gays -- no, not because I was threatening him, but because he seemed to feel the need to talk about the negative aspects of being gay. I then noticed he was missing a few teeth as if he had them punched out. After a couple minutes, I politely excused myself and left. If he had made a move toward me, I would have simply walked away sooner.

The homophobia that leads young people to violence is learned. When people find rationalizations for the violence, as some above have, it is reinforced.

The violence in this case was not justifiable as self defense. It isn't a "guy thing" to resort to unjustiable violence; it is a sin thing.



As a seminarian, nearing ordination, who left a diocese in Illinois just south of Springfield because I was sick of a surplus of this kind of priest, I know the response exceeded what was necessary to diffuse the threat, but there is a part of me that was satisfied to see a good old-fashioned beat-down administered. The damage this priest has caused by his "risky" (repugnant)behavior goes well beyond these two thugs. He was the chancellor of the diocese, in a very influential position, and I have no doubt that his "risk-taking" lifestyle has been a source of untold havoc in Springfield.
May God have mercy on those who have used His Church as their own personal playground


Something didn't add up about this story of two teenagers in a park late at night where a gay priest propositioned them. So I did a little web search. Here the text of an article from March 23, 2005, from the same source as the article linked at the head of this thread.


Contradictory reports in Costa case


Springfield police reports present two contradictory theories about what led to the severe beating of a Catholic priest in Douglas Park in December.

Police say the two teenagers accused of the crime have given them one story. However, investigative reports obtained by The State Journal-Register indicate a roommate who saw the youths immediately after the beating told police a different version.

Authorities have said the boys told them they were cutting through the park when they stopped to have a cigarette and were approached by the Rev. Eugene Costa. But, according to the thick stack of police reports, the friend said the two accused teens might have gone to the park intending to beat or rob homosexuals.

Douglas Park has a longstanding reputation as a meeting place for gay men.

Jamie E. Gibson, 17, of the 1100 block of South Spring Street and Ryan Boyle, 15, are charged with aggravated battery, a Class 3 felony punishable by up to two to five years in prison. Both were on probation at the time, and Boyle has been charged as an adult in the case.

Gibson told police during a Jan. 3 interview what "hypothetically" happened, the reports say.

"Jamie stated 'hypothetically,' 'Let's say me and Ryan were cutting through the park and stopped near the park bench to smoke a cigarette and rest for a second,'" according to one report. Gibson and Boyle "were smoking and talking when a older white male walked up to them and started talking to the pair."

The older man later was identified as Costa.

"The older male then offered the boys $50 ... for (sex acts)," says the report written by police detective Paul Carpenter. "Jamie stated he was not like that and the male rubbed up against him and touched his leg."


So, what we have here is an act of violence against a gay man late at night in a park with a "longstanding reputation as a meeting place for gay men." We also have a friend of the teenagers who reported the teens went to the park specifically to prey upon gays.

The limited reporting in the article at the top of the thread didn't show reason to justify the violence. The further information shows that the violence was likely planned by the boys.

Make no mistake, the action of the priest was wrong. It is good to get this type of person out of the parishes. Get them to a place where God's Grace can heal them.

However, the violence perpetrated against them is plainly a sin. The people on this blog who have delighted in the violence need to examine their consciences.



How did someone like this become chancellor in the first place? "Nobody knew?" Come on. How likely is that.

Rich Leonardi

The homophobia that leads young people to violence is learned. When people find rationalizations for the violence, as some above have, it is reinforced.

"Homophobia" is a convenient pejorative that essentially boils down to "I disagree with you, but I'm not sure what else to say."

Most of the posters have been quite explicit about their limits: repelling a grope or an assault (and, yes, rubbing up against someone falls into the latter category) justifies a "knockdown" but nothing more.


And if those boys had been just a day over 18 who would dare blame Father Costa for anything? Just private business between consenting adults, not acceptable in our priesthood but not anything to be judged either.


Nancy...he was Chancellor for Bp. Daniel Ryan. Does that explain it?

Costa was ordained July 24, 1976, and has worked throughout the Springfield diocese since then.

He was an assistant pastor at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception from 1977 to 1984, vice rector and academic dean at the diocesan seminary in Springfield in 1984 and 1985, pastor at Mother of Dolors Parish in Vandalia and chaplain at the Vandalia prison from 1985 to 1987, pastor at Holy Family Parish in Decatur from 1987 to 1993, parochial administrator at St. John Vianney in Sherman and Holy Family in Athens from 1993 to 2001 and executive assistant to Bishop Daniel Ryan from 1997 to 1999. He had been chancellor and planning coordinator since 1993.

Donald R. McClarey

If more teen-agers had responded to creepy come-ons by predator priests just as these two young thugs did, the Scandal might have been of much smaller proportions. A sexual proposition for money is a mortal insult and an angry physical response is only to be expected. Having said that, I doubt if the young men in this case got lost on their way to catechism class and wound up in the park purely by accident.


Yeah, yeah, overkill. Whatever. It's called "rough trade" for a reason. And I still maintain that if more Catholic fathers had behaved as those boys did, the church would be in a much, much better situation than it is now. A number of priests and bishops wouldn't be, but what the hell, eggs & omlettes, right?


These boys were 15 and 17.
Fr. Costa was the Chancellor of the Diocese of Springfield, IL.
It was December 2004.

Glad to know all that The Scandal is behind us.


Not aything to be judged? It is not a sign of enlightenment to be incapable of judgement. This activity is objectively contrary to the truth of human sexuality wich the Church is called to preach. I will not presume to pass judgement on the state of his salvation, but I can freely judge this to be perverse. If they were over 18, I would still be howling for his head. This is morally depraved regardless of age, and is causing a decay in the Church from the inside out.


OK, the secular state has expressed its opinion, and these kids are in the hands of the criminal justice system, where they belong for a variety of reasons, most of which we have listed here.

Now for the priest. This man is in his 50's. He held a responsible position in the diocese. It sounds to me as though this wasn't the first time he lurked around that park seeking to buy sex. He's been sent off for "treatment," probably to St. Luke's or its equivalent. The diocese seems to feel that the words "inappropriate" and "risky" are adequate to describe behavior which is on any reading very serious sin, and a cause of scandal to the faithful. Or to any of the faithful who are still capable of being scandalized by the behavior of priests.

In addition to all this, this behavior is a grave injustice to seminarians like "me" as well as to all the good priests in this diocese and elsewhere.

OK, the guy was beaten nearly to death. But, what happens now? Does the Church officially do anything at all about this, or will the powers that be welcome this man back, perhaps in a respected position, after he is "treated"?

Before anyone jumps in and starts talking about Christian forgiveness, I'd like to say that forgiveness isn't what we're talking about. We're talking about an institution making an official statement about the standards to which it holds its priests. Or the lack there of, which is implied in the diocese's statement in this article.


Amy's right, this is one of the weirder threads she's had going in some time. It's hard to believe a story about three guys acting badly can generate such controversy. One night, two teenage boys go to a park known as a meeting place for gay sex, get hit on by a gay guy -- surprise -- and proceed to beat him up, which a friend says was their objective in going to the park in the first place. If the gay guy hadn't been a priest, I can't imagine anybody here spending one minute defending the beating.

An "innocent" who got touched might have shoved the guy as he fled the scene, but slugging, kicking and punching equal the MO of gay bashers, not young innocents. Why would any non-homophobe bother defending this?

RP Burke

Let's not exaggerate what a proportionate response to an unwelcome sexual come-on would be.

You do exactly what is required to extricate yourself from the situation and nothing more.

There will be the case when a physical push or a punch may be all that will get the aggressor to understand that you mean no.

The punks who beat up the priest went way overboard.

David Kubiak

I have much more respect for honest thugs than I do for perv-Chancellors who hear confessions on Saturday afternoon and cruise on Saturday night.

Not even a regular gay guy who hires an "escort" from the Internet, but a priest who cruises for rough trade? Well rough trade is what he got. He might be deliriously happy about the whole thing for all we know.

As Camille Paglia would say, "Puh...leez!"

Mike Petrik

As much as despise the putative actions of this priest (and think he should be defrocked if true), I have to say that I disagree with David (and Camille). There is a difference between sins of malice and sins of weakness. The priest's actions seem to be the latter, as would have been the boys', perhaps, but for their willingness to kick the man while he was prostrate and defenseless. All bad.

Victor Morton


Masturbation is a sin of weakness; going out for sex requires much more intent and forethought; cruising for anonymous strangers in a public place also requires shamelessness and/or perversity.

I should add that I never doubted the possibility (first raised by not-really-clio) that this was a premeditated act, that the teens deliberately went to a known gay-cruising site in order to pick up and then beat up and/or rob the first guy who does what that site is known for. Or Bubbles' point, echoing Camille P., that some gay men deliberately seek out rough trade, for its own sake. The teens are going to jail and so on all sides, it strikes me as rough justice.

Jay Anderson

What are the chances the Chancellor of the Diocese would still be out propositioning and corrupting underage young men if these thugs hadn't responded the way they did?

Just walking away is what has allowed predatory priests like this to get away with their abominable behavior for all these years.

Jimmy Mac


Maclin Horton

It might be worth noting here that a single blow or a brief scuffle can be taken with widely varying seriousness, depending on the culture and circumstances. I get the impression that most of the women here are viewing it as a more serious level of violence than most of the men.

Some of us obviously grew up in environments where fairly casual fist-fights among young men are not uncommon. They can happen for trivial reasons, they have unwritten rules which prevent injuries worse than a bloody nose, they don't last long, and frequently there are no hard feelings a few days or weeks later. Or even a few minutes.

That's the kind of milieu I'm thinking of when I say I think a punch (or two) could be a predictable and in my eyes not particularly blameworthy response. To repeat: kicking a downed man in the head even once, much less repeatedly, does not fall within the permissible parameters of this mode of discourse. I would expect a kid who would do that to end up in jail sooner or later, preferably sooner.


Sadly, I suspect you're right, Jay.


Wouldn't you say that someone trying to seduce your 15year old daughter was something more than simply "weak"?


"They can happen for trivial reasons, they have unwritten rules which prevent injuries worse than a bloody nose, they don't last long, and frequently there are no hard feelings a few days or weeks later. "

A tussle between friends is different from a fight which occurs when a teen punk goes to a specific place to beat-up old gay men.

I had my share of those fights with unwritten rules when I was a teen. The results were far more serious than Maclin suggests. In addition to bloody noses and black eyes, there were broken bones, concussions, infected bite wounds, split lips, missing teeth, and gouged eyes. Unwritten rules are worth the paper on which they are written when violence begins.

The fact is, even a most mannerly fight can result in death from a single blow. A punch to the jaw that misses and hits the temple can kill. As can the same punch hitting the throat or the carotid artery. A punch to face that misses slightly can result in a gouged eye and a dislocated thumb.

Death and serious injury are possible from these "casual fist-fights".

But, again, this case was a little different. These teens were predators looking to beat or rob someone. Their act is in no way minimized or justified because the victim is an unsympathetic (and even contemptible) person.

There is an alternative to fist fights. TEACH PEACE.


Victor Morton

waaa, waaa, waaa

Teach peace? I would comment but I'm laughing too hard to do anything more than cut-and-paste:

Imagine there's no heaven,
It's easy if you try,
No hell below us,
Above us only sky,
Imagine all the people
living for today...

Imagine there's no countries,
It isnt hard to do,
Nothing to kill or die for,
No religion too,
Imagine all the people
living life in peace...

Imagine no possesions,
I wonder if you can,
No need for greed or hunger,
A brotherhood of man,
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

You may say Im a dreamer,
but Im not the only one,
I hope some day you'll join us,
And the world will live as one.


Victor, when you stop laughing, try peace. Christ recommended it.

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