Tuesday, September 11, 2018
What is a bat if it is not a meat moth having a fit under the moon; if it is not a small furred contraption on the verge of going unhinged?
Indeed a bat is a haunted rubber toy dancing to a strobe light; it is Hecate’s own hand-puppet.
Bats are defiantly stuck in the 80s, as you know. Their ears are physiologically incapable of registering names like Britney, Gaga, Kanye. “Who?”
They burst from the hollowed trunks of long-dead trees like text messages sent from the cell phones of Hell.
Will the iPhone 15 be able to decipher these floppy hissing missives? The iPhone 20?
“Look forward 2 seeing u. Sooner than u think. ;) Alison”
No, your Mother can never, neither can your anxiety-disordered Aunt, nor your little sister Carrie when she found the severed gopher’s head in her lunch box--none can shriek more piercingly than the smallest bat.
Was denkst du, Fledermausmann? Müssen wir noch Heidegger lesen?
(As a teen I dreamed such dreams, and if only I had such courage now, I would fulfill these dreams: A one-room museum displaying only the cleaned and mounted jaws of the various bat species, under each jaw a photo of the bat and a sonnet in its honor.)
A bat is a mole in a manic episode. A mole is a depressed bat.
Bats hang while they sleep upside down. Bats sleep while they hang upside down. Bats hang upside down while they sleep.
Sentence 3 is the best.
And you, Kay Thiesenhusen, where are you now?
This and 42 other important public service announcements can be found in my book Idiocy, Ltd.
A friend of mine was criticizing the New York Times for publishing the recent Anonymous Op-Ed purportedly written by a covert resister inside the Trump administration. The Op-Ed, if you haven’t read it, shows the writer gushing in self-congratulation about undermining the president’s agenda. Yes, the same president he or she works for.
My friend made his criticisms in an online thread and asked for comment. His basic position was that the Times “couldn’t be in the anonymous author business and remain credible.” And that whoever in the Trump administration wrote the piece, if indeed it’s authentic, isn’t doing American democracy any favors.
The discussion touched on Trump’s narcissism and then on how our different branches of government are supposed to function.
I post parts of the thread here.
MYSELF: I agree with your basic assessment of why the NYT Op-Ed was out of line. As for the other issues, I suspect we’re in agreement too.
It's the legislative branch and judicial branches that are in charge of countering the executive when and if the executive is out of line. To praise anonymous "Resistance" operatives who brag in print about working inside the executive branch itself is to praise borderline traitors to our democracy. The voters elected Trump to fulfill his policy agenda, and neocons who think they know better and expatiate on how they're subverting what the voters want--well, you do the math.
As a Trump supporter, sure, I see the narcissism. But narcissism is often a personality trait of people who end up in leadership positions. Obama was and is a monumental narcissist. Obviously. But that said, how would the country be reacting if an Obama administration employee wrote something like that NYT editorial? Most of the media would be apoplectic, and the word "treason" would be popping up everywhere, especially on the NYT's Op-Ed page.
The thesis that Trump is somehow "more dangerous" than Obama is undemonstrable. Trump hasn't yet dragged us into a regime-change war, he hasn't decided to dictate trans bathroom policy to the whole country's public education system, he hasn't sat on his hands to allow North Korea nuclear and missile policy to shift into overdrive, or let China continue building military bases in the South China Sea.
Some narcissistic leaders are dangerous by being pussies too in love with the sound of their own "reasonable" and diplomatic speech. Neville Chamberlain. That gay Obama narcissism. Others narcissistic leaders sound dangerous, but aren't as dangerous in the long run.
FRIEND: Eric, this time, it appears the middle is in agreement with your perspective in terms of the actual people and their jobs. Regarding any president, there is the office and there is the man. They are not the same. Trump the man is a personal embarrassment to me. The Office of President is a great responsibility. If Trump’s hires are back-stabbing him, they should stop that, come clean, and front stab him. And get fired. If Trump orders crazy on rice, each person in the process who refuses to bring crazy on rice should be fired until someone either does the crazy or he wakes up. What Trump supporters need to wake up to is that none of these internal resistance people are Democrats or liberals. They are Trump appointees. They are Republicans. And that has to be galling.
MYSELF: The problem we Trump supporters see is that this back-stabbing to some degree is inevitable, given that Trump is going to staff his administration with Republicans, but at the same time most Washington Republicans are not on the same page as him. They're neocons in foreign policy and free-traders in economic policy. Whereas his voters support him, much of the Washington GOP sees the Trump presidency as a crisis for their party--not because he's "crazy" so as much as because he's not following the Agenda. If he were following the Agenda, they could live with the "crazy".
Similar with the Democrats. The line that Trump is "dangerous", a "threat to world peace", a "racist" is fed largely by a combination of two things: 1) Trump is not following the Agenda (that same Agenda the establishment GOP wants); 2) the Dems are the party of people with Daddy issues, and Trump sounds and looks like all the Daddies rolled into one.
On both sides, most of the people screaming opposition to Trump are not screaming about what they really oppose in him, but rather reaching for something else to scream about that sounds more marketable. The GOP establishment can't come out screaming "This guy is not following the Agenda, America!" because the public will respond "Yeah, that's why we voted for him." And the Dems can't come out screaming "This guy's a DADDY who just laughs at what I say about racism and he even told me to take of my pussyhat at the dinner table!" They can't come out screaming that because the non-Daddy-issues public will laugh at them and say "Take off your pussyhat, dork."
All in all, then, neither Dem nor GOP opposition to Trump dares speak honestly about why they are so opposed.
Check out my Idiocy, Ltd. and begin the long, hard reckoning.
Friday, September 7, 2018
Angered like many Catholics by the tsunami of depressing revelations that has hit this summer, I decided last week that we direly needed an online space where lay Catholics could gather and work together on ways to pressure the hierarchy. I created a closed Facebook group for Catholics only, and proceeded to promote it in different threads to build up membership. Yes, the group is growing quickly.
In one online thread however, oriented heavily leftward, I got pushback for my working title for the group--Catholics United Against the Lavender Mafia. I knew such pushback was inevitable, because wide swaths of the Catholic faithful are studiously committed to not seeing what the data on the crisis reveal, but are committed rather to that 21st-century Cause of Causes--Whatever happens, we must never never never offend LGBT people.
Here I want to post the main dialogue from that heated left-leaning thread, a sort of struggle over terms between myself and a priest and canonist who joined in to “clear things up”. At issue was whether or not the data in the 2004 John Jay Report on clerical sex abuse indicated a pattern of homosexual men preying on male youths.
The priest’s answer follows. I’ve lightly modified his comments so as to protect his identity. (Not because there’s anything embarrassing in what he writes, but he may not want to be challenged on this or that by others who read my blog.) The thread in which our dialogue occurred was semi-public in any case.
Father B. writes:
I’m a Roman Catholic priest, ordained in 1995 for the Archdiocese of H-----. After being sent for my canon law degree, I returned to Archdiocese of H----- just before the sexual crisis unfolded in our area. (I was spit upon in public while Christmas shopping because I was in the Roman collar.) I also soon became the primary canonist working on sex abuse cases. I learned things that no one should have to learn--much less endure; it was almost unbearable. My experience in the canonical prosecution of these cases is congruent with the conclusion of the “John Jay Study.”
The John Jay Study stated: “There has been widespread speculation that homosexual identity is linked to the sexual abuse of minors by priests, largely because of the high number of male victims identified in the Nature and Scope study. However, the clinical data do not support this finding. Treatment data show that priests who identified as homosexual, as well as those who participated in same-sex sexual behavior prior to ordination (regardless of sexual identity), were not significantly more likely to abuse minors than priests who identified as heterosexual” (The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, p. 74).
I understand it’s difficult to comprehend. However, sexual predation is not the equivalent of sexual attraction; please keep in mind that it is a mental illness. We often say the predator is “attracted to” but that’s somewhat misleading because they are not attracted to the person. The pedophile doesn’t want a relationship with the victim; once the child physically develops, the “attraction” ends. It’s more like an age-fetish. It’s why pedophiles often have multiple victims.
It’s true that the abuse includes a sexual release, but it is rooted in the perpetrator’s mental illness (self-esteem, rage, powerlessness, etc.). It is turned inwards. The journal of the California priest-abuser is chilling; he seems completely unaware that any of the children would not want to be abused.
In addition, the abuse often involves the victimization of those to which the abuser has access. This is why it isn’t difficult to find married men who abuse young boys, or why pedophiles often abuse boys and girls. More often than not, abusive priests had access to boys--as coaches or servers.
I fear that attempts to hang the sex abuse crisis on some “lavender mafia” or homosexuals or even clerical celibacy are misguided. To properly treat an illness, it absolutely necessary that it be properly diagnosed. The notion--which is understandable but mistaken--that homosexual identity is linked to the sexual abuse of minors is a red herring. The pursuit will be self-affirming but do little to serve the good of victims or the Church.
My Response (to Fr. B. and others in the thread):
As I’ve spent some time on this, and as I seek honest and direct discussion of difficult issues rather than easy soundbites, I hope those who’ve weighed in here will take the time to consider my response to Father B.’s comments. I thank him for offering such careful and detailed remarks. His general reading of the sex abuse crisis is more or less the established one. I myself, however, believe this reading suffers certain fatal blind spots and that it is mainly weakened by what are obvious (clinical, social) ideological reframings of the basics of sexual behavior.
So I intend to make a substantial claim, and need to provide a substantially different analysis if I’m to make the claim coherent. Which is why this comment will be a lengthy one by this thread’s standards. I hope people here will bear with me.
Though I’m responding, as I say, to an established analysis, I submit that the burden of proof still lies with those who want to separate the horrors of clerical sex abuse from the sexual orientation of the abusers. In short, I remain convinced that doing so is intellectually bogus and ultimately a matter of deflecting.
Again, we are looking at a situation in which the sexual aggressors are 100% male and the victims are, staggeringly, 81% male. Which does not conform to patters of minor abuse in other social settings, such as public schools, where the data show it is girls who are more often victimized. Why is the gender distribution so markedly skewed toward male victims in our Church? Those promoting the established analysis cannot really answer this.
Let me begin by a clarification of terms which may seem lame but which has a point. Homosexual is the first term. It fundamentally refers to sexual behavior between those of the same (homo) sex. The 81% of documented abuse cases in our Church are thus in a sense already homosexual by definition. Yet, again, the establishment analysis repeatedly insists that homosexual “orientation” in the abusers should not (or rather must not) be seen as related to the pattern of the abuse.
I submit that this is a monumental deflection, and that the deflection is possible on the basis of two ideological claims. Since in this attempt to obfuscate, the homo half of the equation can’t be denied (81% of the cases involve male-on-male acts) so instead, in my reading, the sexual half is taken up and a claim is made something along the lines of: “But it’s not real sexuality!”
Briefly, we are told the abusive behavior is not actually sexual because of two supposedly mitigating factors: 1) the cases involve a kind of aggression; 2) the cases are examples of pathology.
I will take them one by one.
2. On “Relationships”
Let’s first note Fr. B.’s own words in his comments: “I understand it’s difficult to comprehend. However, sexual predation is not the equivalent of sexual attraction; please keep in mind that it is a mental illness. We often say the predator is ‘attracted to’ but that’s somewhat misleading because they are not attracted to the person. The pedophile doesn’t want a relationship with the victim….”
There is an absurd ideological claim lurking in your words here, Father. Namely, that real sexual attraction must involve a desire for a “relationship” with the victim. I’m sorry, but this claim is specious. It tames sexuality in an unscientific and ultimately irresponsible way.
Sexuality as a drive in nature, and thus in human beings as well, is not as domestic or polite as your words here would suggest. On the contrary, aggressivity is an inseparable part of human sexuality. For obvious biological reasons (which I hope I don’t have to lay out here) aggressivity is a strong component of male sexuality in particular. Study even “normal” sexual behavior between men and women, and you will see hints of this aggressivity everywhere: in flirting, in sexually provocative music, in gesture, in the sex act itself.
Aggressivity, then, cannot be arbitrarily separated out from the male sex drive; and it is additionally true, and obviously so, that very much male sexual attraction and action is not at all predicated on a desire for a “relationship” with “the person”.
So how could it even come about that you would frame things in these terms?
I would suggest that part of this reframing of human sexuality got its impetus from the feminism of the 1980s and ‘90s. It was then that Western feminists sought, as an ideological maneuver, to remove the sexual element from the crime of rape. And so, we were told, if a man rapes a woman that is not properly a sexual act, but rather an “act of violence”. We still hear: “Rape is not about sex! It’s about power!”
Sharper minds see through this feminist claim. Sharper minds recognize that regardless of what people might want to believe, rape is in fact “about” both power and sex. And this is no surprise. Given the heritage of millions of years of mammalian evolution, male sexuality remains inevitably a perilous mix of aggression and sex act. Although our third-wave feminists are wrong about nearly everything else, when they yell “All men are rapists!” they are stating something like a truth. Their mistake is only in implying that men can’t control their more rapacious urges. Thankfully for civilization, the great majority of men can and do, and thus we do not live in a “rape culture”.
In modern biology, the telos of sex for any individual of the species is to pass his or her genes onto as many viable offspring as possible. Since the male doesn’t need to carry the offspring to term in his own body, male sexuality naturally evolved in a more aggressive and multi-partner direction. From a purely biological perspective, we have some major winners in this game. If genetic researchers are correct, the biggest winner we know of is a medieval man who now has roughly 16 million direct descendants spread across Asia and Europe. His name was Ghengis Khan. Note: He wasn’t always interested in establishing “a relationship with the person”. Note 2: His behavior was still, by definition, sexual.
Abusive, predatory sex, then, is still sex. Thus, like it or not, the horrid instances of clerical sex abuse that recent decades have brought to light are in fact sexual crimes, which is why, after all, we refer to them as cases of “sex abuse” to begin with.
These are ugly truths. I do hope everyone here recognizes that I’m not in the least offering these paragraphs as an apology of some kind for male sexual aggressivity. Not at all. The reason most cultures evolved rigorous codes of sexual behavior is precisely because 1) the sex drive is very hard to domesticate and 2) our complex communities simply could not survive without such codes.
2. “Illness made me do it”
But aside from this “taming of sexuality” ruse implicit in your comments, there is a second ideological claim at work in the now standard reading of clerical sex abuse, and this second one appears in your comments too. And so: We see analysts and journalists everywhere attempting to erase the sexual element from the (mostly homosexual) clerical abuse by ascribing the acts to illness.
I think this ruse is also easy to dispatch with.
After all: Why is it that a man who suffers some neurosis that expresses itself in sexual acts somehow no longer engaged in sexual acts? Again, it is specious to claim so. Once an individual begins to suffer neurosis, his or her original sexuality is not thereby erased. It doesn’t simply become nonsexual. Rather, his or her sexuality is integrated into the whole complex of the disordered psyche.
And so, the mentally imbalanced heterosexual man will not suddenly change his normal choice of object and out of the blue start focusing his sexual attention on males. Same with the mentally imbalanced gay man. In both cases, however, the imbalanced and/or sociopathologically inclined man may very possibly begin to offend against this or that sexual taboo. For instance, the taboo against sexual relations with children. And this is what we see documented in the John Jay Report. We have men who finally broke that taboo. But the hard data of the John Jay Report nowhere proves that sexual orientation no longer existed in these men.
Indeed, the fact of mental illness or neurosis, aside from calling for treatment, mainly serves to dampen public fury against men who abuse children. We feel sorry for those who suffer mental illness. We also, in recent decades, feel especially sorry for LGBT people who have been stigmatized in the past. But you know what? I myself am not much impressed on either count. I do not feel sorry for the priest who couldn’t control himself and thus began abusing minors under cover of his “priest card”. I’m not sorry for him whether he’s gay or straight. And I also don’t much care if he or his doctors lay claim to some kind of neurotic obsession to explain his vile crimes. His vile crimes gravely damaged the lives of real victims, in many cases leaving those victims far more damaged than he himself was. Or, as the case may be, than he claimed to be.
One commenter here, Chris, asks me to reconsider using the term “lavender” and even suggests I need to think more about “the dignity of the human person”. Really? We are talking about scores of young people, mostly boys, whose lives were devastated in their formative years by men who couldn’t keep their hands off them. Many of those young people grew up to abuse drugs or alcohol, many others eventually committed suicide. And you, Chris, are worried I might be offending gay men by using the word lavender?
Sadly, I think the priorities of many commenters here have been warped in a truly sick direction by political correctness and the LGBT craze that now rules our society.
In any case, I don’t think the ascription of mental illness to the abusers manages to erase the fact that they were driven to act by sexual desire, and that for most of them their sexual desire chose objects according to their sexual orientation. As will be clear in the next section.
3. Pedophilia? Really?
I want to move on to what I consider the most important takeaway from the John Jay Report, one which, I’m sorry to say, Father, you entirely avoid addressing. You avoid addressing it because you only refer in your comments to pedophilia.
First, let’s acknowledge that any and every sociological or criminological report written is inflected to some greater or lesser extent by the regnant ideologies of the era in which it is written. That I hope goes without saying. Even if we do our best to escape from ideology, we will remain inscribed within it to some degree.
Asking about ideology, we can look at the John Jay Report in two ways. We can look at the hard data, and we can look at the analysis of that data. Of these two planks, where are we more likely to find ideological obfuscation, whether intentional or not? I would say, obviously, in the analysis plank. Thus, I’d also say that it’s the hard data that should concern us most.
The hard data in this report do not in fact portray only pedophilia. Not by a long shot.
Very obviously--and this is a fact that our journalists and commentators have worked overtime trying to ignore--what we see in these crimes is mainly what is called ephebophilia, the erotic attention of men not to young children, but to prepubescent and teenage boys. (Note, the technically more accurate term is hebephilia, but as ephebophilia is more commonly used in recent debates to refer to range I have in mine, and is more widely known, I use it here.)
The study indicates that in fact only 22% of the victims were under the age of 10. That leaves 78% falling in the usual ephebophile range. So why is this never mentioned in the public discussion?
Further, since the study also indicates that 81% of the victims were male, what we have in the John Jay Report is a portrait of a group of adult men who by large margin chose to seduce or engage in sexual acts with boys in the early or middle stages of sexual development. Sorry, but that’s what the data indicate.
The clerical sex abuse of the 20th century in America was thus not mainly a matter of “pedophile” men who indifferently chose little girls or boys as victims. Rather, as the data show, it was mainly a matter of men choosing boys in the early bud of sexual development. This is ephebophilia, “man-boy love”.
Do I need to point out that in the gay community such ephebophilia is in fact “a thing”--that although such relationships do not characterize all gay men’s sexual history, nonetheless a sizable subset of gay men acknowledge being involved in ephebophile relationships. This topic is widely discussed, an open secret of sorts, and one prominent gay political commentator (provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos) recently lost an editorship because he made the mistake of speaking candidly about it an interview. Yes, it’s dangerous stuff as public topic, understandably, but then on the other hand it seems to be getting less dangerous, doesn’t it, all in the name of LGBT “sexual liberation” of course. Call Me by Your Name why not?
The John Jay Report thus gives us in rough outline a type of sexual abuse/relationship (take your pick) that is known as common in the gay community. Are we to believe then that the maleness of 81% of the victims was somehow an indifferent fact in the abusers’ attention?
Because that, Father, is your claim.
Yes, you do mention that one thing accounting for the large number of male victims is the frequency of contact between priests and boys. OK, that is likely a factor too. But the same John Jay Report also specifies that much of the abuse or grooming began when an abusing priest was invited as guest to the family home of hospitable Catholics.
Did Catholic families in the 1970s and ‘80s lock up their teen daughters when priests visited? If not, why was it so often the sons that priests ended up grooming and abusing?
But you also mention altar boys, and it’s true the Catholic Church only began allowing altar girls in the early 1980s, so again this is another factor we might take into account. Still, all in all, I have to say these are not very persuasive ways to prove that the sex of the victims was indifferent to the large mass of victimizers portrayed in the data.
Thus regardless of your comments, Father, I still have to stand by my thesis that in the main the problem of clerical sex abuse has been a problem of closeted and not-so-closeted gay priests who, breaking their vows, began to prey on or seduce male victims.
So how, in my reading, did it come about this way? Are gay men somehow innately immoral?
No, I wouldn’t argue that. Rather, I’d offer a story that I find, at the very least, plausible.
It’s commonly known that the percentage of gay men in the priesthood is higher than in the general population. I believe the best explanation for this is the one most often heard, namely: Many gay men growing up in Catholic families, rather than acknowledge their sexuality openly, were drawn toward their vocation as a way of escaping the nagging questions: “Why aren’t you interested in dating?” “Why isn’t a nice guy like you married?” etc. In addition to offering these men an escape route and cover identity, the priesthood also offered them membership in an exclusive all-male club, which was an added benefit. And so they applied. But after ordination, and after a number of years serving, some of these gay men began to resent their station. Not only were they living in hiding, but also 1) they were part of a Church that explicitly taught the sinfulness of their acting on their desires, and 2) given the vow of chastity and Catholic teaching, they were expressly forbidden from expressing their sexuality through any sexual contact. This naturally led not only to the anxiety always inherent in living a double life, but also to a resentment that they were not getting what the world owed them. Such resentment likely grew especially keen during the years following the 1960s when the sexual revolution was in full swing: “Everywhere people are engaging in free love. Meanwhile look at me.” Conflicted, suffering, resentful--some of these men began sexual relations with other priests in the same straits, or with men in the community. And some of them began to seduce and abuse minors as an outlet for their frustration and a release from their lust. Doubtless not a few of these latter naively told themselves that they were not really harming the minor in question, that they were actually offering him something in return: “I can be his mentor, his protector.” (Which was exceedingly naive, of course, but as everyone now knows, clerical immaturity on sex played a major element in this crisis.) When the deed was done, shame and failure usually followed, but also a terrified desire to keep the whole thing secret. And voilà, as most of these men discovered, even their superiors did what they could to help on this. So a system fell into place. And the double lives continued, many of the men even sponsoring or teaching a new generation of men to follow them. And over time--surprise!--the percentage of gay men slowly began to increase in the Catholic priesthood, and some of the older generation became very prominent indeed. And so we are brought up to the present, the era of Cardinal McCarrick and his robed cronies and the current woes of the Holy Father.
This is my own rough understanding of the dynamics behind most of the crisis our Church has suffered. Oh yes, there was also victimization of girls--but at a rate of 19%. What troubles me in this thread is that those who support the established analysis keep insisting, as if dogmatically, that homosexuality not be recognized as a key part of the crisis. I think at present this insistence is nothing but egregious special pleading, driven largely by the lock-step LGBT apologetics that now runs roughshod over our culture, but in part also by a Church hierarchy, again, trying to protect its image.
I’ve written here at length on my understanding of the crisis. What I have not written about is the question of how our Church might proceed. On this, in case anyone suspects otherwise, I should maybe point out that I do not believe our Church should defrock gay priests just because they’re gay. That would be terribly unjust. Any gay man serving in the priesthood who is faithful to his vows and who upholds the Church’s teaching on sexuality deserves our respect. He is just as much a priest as any other priest. Obviously. As for a certain type of “openly gay” cleric, however, I am not inclined to tolerance. Any cleric known to have a gay lover must be first disciplined, then, if he persists, summarily defrocked. Also, if a cleric is known for teaching things at variance with Church teaching on sexuality--if he seeks to “reform” those teachings--he is already a problem and should be disciplined. Fr. James Martin SJ, to take one prominent example, is not at all helping our Church. But these are just hints of what I personally would hope to see in future Church policy. And in any case, my thinking on this is not the subject of these comments.
Finally, although I don’t accept your arguments, Father, for reasons I’ve indicated somewhat sharply, I’d like to again thank you for weighing in on this thread. I would hope a degree of mutual respect could animate debate between Catholics on these issues, but, alas, it mostly hasn’t here. In any case, I know the neighborhood I’m in.
Father B. Responds:
In our local experience, the primary abusing priest did abuse his niece when he had unsupervised access. The fact was that, in homes and family events, the access was fairly limited; he didn’t know when others were going to “walk in.” He was far more secure/confident in parish settings, where he wasn’t a peer/family member but an authority who could simply take boys out of practice or from the classroom. Social standards precluded him from being with a female alone in the parish settings (e.g. priests couldn’t even drive a car with a woman in the front seat, including their mother); those same standards didn’t preclude him from being with boys; they encouraged it.
When you say “sorry, that’s what the data indicate,” or “...that, Father, is your claim,” I’m left at a loss. You are claiming an expertise in examining the data, while at the same time seemingly dismissing multiple experts in the field whose job it was to compile and analyze the data. My only claim was this: the conclusion of experts matched up with my personal experience of prosecuting priests (13+ perpetrators locally, ranging from about 1950 to about 1990) who had sexual contact with minors. You are certainly free to disregard the experts and to respond to my observations as if there is a debate between us. I fear that you’re doing the equivalent of proof-texting; you suggest I’m making logical errors (engaging in the true-Scotsman, etc.).
At least we agree that everyone should be chaste and that a failure in this area--which we can label sin--harms those involved and the community around them. We also appear united in our desire to both (a) root out the sexual abuse of minors and (b) hold those accountable who--maybe with good intention but poor judgement--put the institution before the victims and God’s people.
Again, I appreciate your reply. Indeed, I am questioning the experts, but must do so because my reason sees glaring blind spots. And examples of what I interpret as an institutionalized special pleading abetted by weaknesses in the various professional discourses at issue. Again, as I’ve argued, the easy deflection to “pedophilia-as-illness” has made it far too easy for supporters of the established analysis to ignore that most of this abuse was actually homosexual ephebophilia--gay men preying on male youth. Again, I think the hard data obviously demonstrate this, so the resistance to writing about it, even as a possibility, is frustrating.
Still, I will carefully think through what you write here. And I apologize for the fact that in my own writing, when something deeply troubles me, I tend to be sharp. This crisis has troubled me for years. And it troubles me in new ways now, given that the Holy Father has been implicated via his poor choice of advisers.
This is my last comment in discussion with Father B.
One commenter in the thread pointed out that according to the John Jay Report data many abusers did choose victims of both sexes, thus somewhat vindicating Fr. B.’s argument that the sex of the victims was unimportant to the victimizers. But note that from the same data, of those who targeted one sex, those who targeted only boys were roughly four times those who targeted only girls. So I would say that argument failed.
Also, yes, the John Jay Report indicates that most of the abusers, when questioned, did not “identify as homosexual”. The study authors make much of this. I do not. After all, is there any surprise in the fact that most of these men did not openly identify as homosexual? If my above interpretation is correct, many of them had already chosen their life path in part because it allowed them to avoid having to identifying as homosexual. Why would they suddenly shift course just because they’d been found out as abusers? If their whole public life was predicated on not acknowledging their homosexuality, how many of them under questioning would opt for a) “Yeah, I’m a homosexual man who desired sex with boys” rather than b) “I’m suffering from a neurosis I can’t control”? Given the shame of being caught as a sex offender, I submit that pleading b) offers the easier out.
Trying to make sense of the hard data, after all, we need to keep human nature in mind.
Students of history are aware that the typology heterosexual/homosexual is largely a creation of the modern West. Many argue that this typology is itself ideologically motivated rather than descriptive, and that we’d be better off in our quest to understand sexuality if we recognized individuals as just sexual. In this view, the individual comes to express his or her sexuality in ways more determined by culture and nurture than the apologists for “orientation” will admit. Anyone who reads Plato’s Symposium, with its detailed portrait of a sexual culture radically different from ours, comes away struck by just how much culture can determine the direction of sexual desire. Plato lived in a society where ephebophilia was the norm. To simplify things, we may say that much of the ancient world took for granted that human beings were generally neither straight nor gay, but rather something like our “bisexual”.
But I’ve ignored these considerations here because I’m now writing in a culture where people explicitly identify themselves as either straight or gay, with the smaller third group who claim to be “bi”. These remain the basic terms of the public debate, and they determine most people’s self-definition and likely behavior too.
So what about “gay men” in the clergy? Do they represent a problem for the Church?
If you’ve read what I’ve written here and conclude that “Gay priests are all abusing kids!” you are sorely mistaken. We don’t know for sure how many Catholic priests are gay, but it’s long been assumed that gay men are way over-represented in the Church. A conservative estimate would be 25%, but some claim it is actually much higher. In any case, if we assume it’s 30%, something should be immediately clear. Given that the John Jay data show that, over the time period covered, around 4.4% of American priests were accused of some kind of abuse, this would prove, even if nearly all the abusers were gay, that the great majority of gay priests never fell into abuse. Thus the accusation “Gay priests are mostly there to abuse kids!” is unfounded slander.
Still, the picture from the data, if my analysis is even partly correct, is not all rosy for the pro-LGBT camp. If we assume 30% of all priests were gay, and then note that 81% of victims were male, and in addition that much of that 81% block was pre-teen or older, it’s difficult not to recognize the takeaway, as follows: Any given gay priest was more likely to commit sexual abuse than any random one of his heterosexual colleagues. But yes, trying to determine how much more likely would be a mug’s game. Is it 35% more likely? Twice as likely?
Aside from being backed by the data, this assertion also seems psychologically plausible, given the consideration of the gay priest’s plight laid out above. Those who suffer from the pressures of living a double life are liable grow cynical, bitter, neurotic. Men in such a state are more likely to break this or that taboo, if only as a means of release or rebellion. It’s the same with many types of criminal behavior. Thus if many gay men in the priesthood took up abuse, it was not because they were gay, but rather because they were living a double life.
My own thinking on how the Church should proceed given this complex of issues is quite simple, so as I’ve written as much as I have, I might as well add it.
Of course the Church should not suddenly start to weed out gay priests as if they were a threat. Nobody with any sense of justice is arguing for such a thing. But I do think the Church has very good reason to begin enforcing its own policy regarding the unfitness of gay men for the priesthood. Why? There are four main reasons I would add in the current context, which I’ll give in random order.
First, gay men are already way over-represented in the Church, and this makes the Church hierarchy imbalanced in relation to the faithful.
Second, the evidence shows that gay priests are more likely to commit abuse than heterosexual priests, and the possibility of future abuse needs to be averted by serious measures.
Third, the Church’s teaching on sex and the family is now threatened by this liberal-leaning lavender contingent in the hierarchy, and if things keep “developing” as they are, the Church risks betraying tradition and falling into heresy.
Fourth, things have gotten so lopsided in this direction that many heterosexual men are now discouraged from entering seminary, or leave seminary early, because they have no desire to be part of a gay men’s club. For this last reason, contrary to what some others are saying, identifying and rejecting gay applicants for the priesthood may in the long run actually increase vocations, because heterosexual men would be more encouraged about a future life in the Church.
Finally, one of the most depressing aspects of this crisis for us lay Catholics, second only to the tragedy suffered by the victims, is that many in the secular world have come to assume our priesthood is a professional society of child abusers. This is a gross stereotype, of course, but it’s hard to blame the public at large for falling for it, given what they see in the news. Still, we need to keep pointing out that it’s a stereotype even so. As the statistics show, the great majority of Catholic priests, whether gay or straight, were not abusers. In fact, to go from our best data, the Catholic Church’s problem with sex abuse is no worse, and is probably somewhat better, than what we find in the wider society (cf. public education). That’s a pretty low bar to reach, yes, but we’ve at least reached that bar, and all indications are that things have gotten much better since the 1970s and ‘80s. Still, we need to do much better yet in the coming decades. Because we are the Body of Christ.
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Monday, September 3, 2018
Our Church has a serious problem, and it is not a problem with priestly celibacy, nor is it a problem with established Catholic teaching on human sexuality. The problem is with a specific cabal that has entrenched itself in the Church over the course of decades.
The cabal I’m talking about has come to be called the “Lavender Mafia”. This name is apt. It refers to a group of clerics made up of closeted and not-so-closeted homosexual men who have used our Church as a kind of private club. Over the years, the members of this secretive club have managed to work their way up to the highest offices.
They must be purged.
Yes, this will be no easy task. The reality we face is an ugly one, it is heartbreaking, but we must face it both to save our Church and to prevent further victimization of the innocent.
Whereas in society at large the majority of victims of child sex abuse are girls, statistical study has shown that in our Church 81% of the victims are boys. Consider that carefully. 100% of the abusers are male, and 81% of their victims are underage males. What kind of men systematically abuse boys and male teens?
Our liberal media does not want to answer that question, for obvious reasons. They have their agenda, and the flourishing of the Catholic Church is not on it.
Liberals have tried to argue that since pedophilia is not linked to "sexual orientation", thus homosexuality plays “no role” in the clerical abuse in our Church. Their arguments are patent nonsense. For one, though the research literature does show that pedophilia is not easily related to the sexual orientation of the abuser, that research says nothing about the abuse of teens. And it is the abuse of pre-teens and teens, and not strictly the abuse of small children, that is the main problem we face in our Church.
This is confirmed by the exhaustive John Jay Report (2004) on clerical sex abuse, which documents a fact that liberals inside and outside our Church have done their best to ignore: the majority of victims listed in that report were not young children (as would be the case with pedophilia), but rather boys in the early or middle years of sexual development, i.e. prepubescents and teens. In fact only 19% of all victims were female (!) and only 22% were under the age of ten. The conclusion is inescapable: Most abuse that occurred through the latter decades of the century was not pedophilia, but rather what is called ephebophilia--"man-boy love". Unlike pedophilia, moreover, ephebophilia is easily linked to sexual orientation: it is a matter in this case of homosexual men preying on underage boys. [NB: Here I use the more commonly recognized term ephebophilia, though hebephilia is more technically precise given the data. Anyone interested in the distinctions may look them up.]
The depressing truth is that we have in our Church a cabal of sexually active gay priests (many sexually active with each other in defiance of their vows) who then proceed to include teens and children in their sexual conquests and who protect each other with a vow of silence and cover-up.
This is un-Catholic. It is pure evil. It is an abuse of our Church and the faithful who make up the body of the Church.
Please note that I am not saying that all priests who live with same-sex attraction are part of this terrible abuse. Many of them are faithful to their vows of chastity. They, like all people who struggle to live in harmony with the teachings of the Church, should be supported. Also please note that I am not saying that all clerics who have been involved in the coverups over the decades have been gay men. No, many of those involved recognized the problem but believed it was better for the image of the Church to keep what was happening from becoming public.
We know how that turned out.
Some Catholics fear that with the publication of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò’s detailed letter outlining the power of this homosexual cabal under Pope Francis we are at risk of a bitter battle that will divide the Church. Sadly, this battle indeed seems inevitable. But finally, though we deeply regret the coming conflict, many of us acknowledge that the need to protect our Mother Church makes it necessary. We cannot continue with a cabal of gay clerics on the one hand doing all they can to legitimize their sexuality, on the other maintaining a culture of secret sexual relations and abuse. Their lifestyle is hypocritical and intolerable, putting them in permanent rebellion against the vow of chastity and making them dyed-in-the-wool subverters of Catholic truth.
This particular cabal of clerics, many American, over which Cardinal Theodore McCarrick sat as presiding demon, must be routed. Saddest of all, for many of us, is the recent confirmation from Archbishop Viganò of something many already suspected: that Pope Francis has not only turned a blind eye, but has promoted precisely this group.
Why has our Pope done this? It is unfathomable given what was certainly known about these men. And yet Archbishop Viganò’s exposé fits the pattern of facts that were already there to be observed, most notably: McCarrick’s rehabilitation. How can it be explained? So far our Pope refuses to answer this question.
During this struggle we must remember: This Lavender Mafia is not the true Church, but a foreign body that has set up shop within the Church, to her great harm.
How much damage needs to be done before Catholics loudly call foul? Really. How much? How many future children and teens need to be “groomed”, lives to be ruined, how many faithful Catholics need to founder in their faith before we saner Catholics loudly call foul?
We have been played for fools.
As laity, we must do what we can to fight this cabal until it is defeated. These men, simultaneously living off and destroying our Church, must not be allowed to weather a mere temporary storm and return to business as usual. We do what we can by first looking clearly at the crisis, understanding its nature, then bravely and loudly insisting that the whole of this group be given no quarter.
There are many many good men and women in the Church, most priests are dedicated to God and their calling, and even in the hierarchy there are many, such as Archbishop Viganò himself, who continue to struggle against this entrenched menace. We need to stand with them. It is they, and us, who are the Church.
Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin has been among the few American bishops brave enough to call a spade a spade. He describes the need to acknowledge there is a “gay subculture” in the Church that has caused “devastation”. Bishop Morlino deserves our strong support.
On November 12, 2018 in Baltimore, as I’ve indicated, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops will hold its General Assembly. I am confident that Catholics would like to see a group of American lay people show up to demand 1) a thorough investigation of the evidence offered in Archbishop Viganò's letter, plus 2) immediate resignation of bishops part of McCarrick's circle (Wuerl, Cupich, Tobin).
These are first steps.
So far, unaccountably, Pope Francis’ response to the Viganò letter has been to deflect. “I will not say a single word about this.” It is sad to recognize that this is also how our Pope has dealt with reasonable questions from bishops regarding inconsistencies in his encyclical Amoris Laetitia. But given the very serious damage the sex-abuse scandal has caused our Church, the questions now troubling both the faithful and many secular observers cannot be brushed aside by this simple ruse.
As Catholics, we have great respect for the office of the Pope, and we hope ultimately Pope explains how Archbishop Viganò’s depiction of his relations with McCarrick and others in this cabal are mistaken. The question to be answered is clear: If Cardinal McCarrick was widely known in Rome as a corrupter of seminarians, and if, moreover, it was widely known that he had been punished by Pope Benedict for precisely this corruption, how could you, Holy Father, turn to him as a key adviser in the future selection of American bishops? How could you rehabilitate such a man? For the good of the whole Church, please explain how this could happen.
If you are a Catholic on Facebook, there is a new group called “Catholics United Against the Lavender Mafia” that will allow us to gather information about the developing situation as well as encourage other lay Catholics to link up and brainstorm ideas for addressing this serious threat to our faith. And serious it is. If this cabal continues to occupy the current rung it holds in Rome, it will not be long before our Church abandons tradition and falls into heresy. Already figures like Fr. James Martin and many others tour the world promoting abandonment of Catholic sexual teaching. Worse, they do it without any censure from Rome.
If you agree that it is time for us saner Catholics to speak out, ask yourself what you can do over the coming weeks and months to serve your Church. Hopefully some of you will get some ideas through the Facebook page; hopefully there will be a strong new movement that proclaims: “We have had enough. Out with the fakes!”
September 1, 2018
Facebook Page: Catholics United Against the Lavender Mafia
Theodore McCarrick and the Seminarians
Bishop Robert Morlino Speaks Out
Rod Dreher Includes the Full Text of Archbishop Viganò’s Letter (at the end of this article)
Rod Dreher’s Early Assessment of Viganò’s Reliability (NB: Since this article, Viganò’s case has only gotten stronger)
Sunday, August 26, 2018
The inimitable Paul Wylie today sent me a scrap of alphabet squared he’d written. Alphabet squared is an Oulipian genre, and though Paul’s version doesn’t accomplish the squared, I think he’s managed a ticklish single run through.
The task in alphabet squared is to write a text in which the first letter of each word corresponds to a letter of the alphabet, the words running in alphabetic succession. And so “Although Bostonians can’t dance, …” might make a serviceable opening phrase for such a tale, the letters running A, B, C, D.
Although Bostonians can’t dance, each Friday Gwen had invited … etc.
To pull off true alphabet squared, one must go through the alphabet 26 times. I nearly finished one such tale years ago, but tired of it before completion.
Part of the challenge of course is to write something fetching and natural enough that the tale succeeds and the reader doesn’t notice the draconian rule according to which it’s been written.
Wylie sent me the following.
And Brian cried.
”I just killed Laura! My newlywed."
”Xavier… Your zipper."
Oulipian challenges are a mug’s game, yes. But this one, alphabet squared—give it a try. It's harder than it looks. Wylie here opts for dialogue, and does it well. My efforts have been making a prose narrative.
Update 8/27: Received a second one today. This time I think Wylie did a great job on the opening lines, but I'm responsible for most of the rest. So, a collaboration:
MARK OF CAIN
Abel’s brother Cain disappointed everyone.
“Feeble guy," historians intoned.
"Jealously killed livestock."
“Never offered peak quality."
"Really striking tattoo!"
"Unusually vindictive. Wanker."
"Xenophobe. Yammering zealot."
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Saturday, August 25, 2018
That many of Flannery O'Connor's early admirers had no idea they were reading the work of a deeply committed Catholic is little surprise: her stories are mordant and gruesome to a degree incompatible with the image of the "Christian writer”. The Christian writer is imagined to be a pious and blinkered sort, and must be, above all, inoffensive. O'Connor was none of this. Shot through with mania and black humor, often violent, her writing cuts to the bone, and left many early readers wondering how such narratives could also be Catholic. Where were the edifying homilies, the clean cut role models? It was a paradox they were unable to resolve. How could O’Connor’s Catholicism bring her to focus on such things?
For O'Connor, such readers were taking things backwards. Her fiction, with all its darkness and perversity, was only possible because of what she could see through the eyes of the Church. Her task was to depict the world as seen through Catholic doctrine. That doctrine was emphatically not a matter of putting on rose-colored glasses. O’Connor called it “Christian realism”.
O'Connor's ideas of what she was up to in her brutally realistic stories make for one of the strongest Christian apologies for literature left us by the last century. Though she never wrote a book on this Catholic poetics, her ideas hold together compellingly. But one must look for them spread across her correspondence and in a few brief essays.
Ralph Ellsberg's collection Flannery O'Connor: Spiritual Writings is an excellent place to find some of O'Connor's strongest statements on the art of fiction. It was Ellsberg's wise decision as editor of this compact collection to include not only the writer's musings about the faith per se, but also her arguments on the technique and purpose of writing novels and stories. Spiritual Writings contains key passages from the writer’s letters, essays and stories, as well as one complete story, "Revelation." There's also a biographical introduction by Richard Giannone.
Readers wanting a deeper understanding of O'Connor couldn't do better than read the stories alongside the writer's statements on her beliefs and goals. Spiritual Writings is the best short collection available.
Below I offer a few key passages found in the volume, most of them from O'Connor's correspondence.
From Spiritual Writings:
I am mighty tired of reading reviews that call A Good Man [Is Hard to Find] brutal and sarcastic. The stories are hard but they are hard because there is nothing harder or less sentimental than Christian realism. I believe that there are many rough beasts now slouching toward Bethlehem to be born and that I have reported the progress of a few of them, and when I see these stories described as horror stories I am always amused because the reviewer always has hold of the wrong horror. (1955)
To see Christ as God and man is probably no more difficult today than it has always been, even if today there seem to be more reasons to doubt. For you it may be a matter of not being able to accept what you call a suspension of the laws of the flesh and the physical, but for my part I think that when I know what the laws of the flesh and the physical really are, then I will know what God is. (1955)
Mystery isn't something that is gradually evaporating. It grows along with knowledge. (1962)
The serious writer has always taken the flaw in human nature for his starting point, usually the flaw in an otherwise admirable character. (1963)
In the gospels it was the devils who first recognized Christ and the evangelists didn't censor this information. They apparently thought it was pretty good witness. It scandalizes us when we see the same thing in modern dress only because we have this defensive attitude toward the faith. (1963)
What kept me a skeptic in college was precisely my Christian faith. It always said: wait, don't bite on this, get a wider picture, continue to read. (1962)
The novelist is required to create the illusion of a whole world with believable people in it, and the chief difference between the novelist who is an orthodox Christian and the novelist who is merely a naturalist is that the Christian novelist lives in a larger universe. He believes that the natural world contains the supernatural. And this doesn't mean that his obligation to portray the natural is less; it means it is greater.
The novelist is required to open his eyes on the world around him and look. If what he sees is not highly edifying, he is still required to look. Then he is required to reproduce, with words, what he sees. Now this is the first point at which the novelist who is a Catholic may feel some friction between what he is supposed to do as a novelist and what he is supposed to do as a Catholic, for what he sees at all times is fallen man perverted by false philosophies. Is he to reproduce this? Or is he to change what he sees and make it, instead of what it is, what in the light of faith he thinks it ought to be? Is he, As Baron von Hügel has said, to "tidy up reality"?
There is no reason why fixed dogma should fix anything that the writer sees in the world. On the contrary, dogma is an instrument for penetrating reality. … The Catholic fiction writer is entirely free to observe. He feels no call to take on the duties of God or to create a new universe. … For him, to "tidy up reality" is certainly to succumb to the sin of pride. Open and free observation is founded on our ultimate faith that the universe is meaningful, as the Church teaches.
The fiction writer should be characterized by his kind of vision. His kind of vision is prophetic vision. Prophecy, which is dependent on the imaginative and not the moral faculty, need not be a matter of predicting the future. The prophet is a realist of distances, and it is this kind of realism that goes into great novels. It is the realism which does not hesitate to distort appearances in order to show a hidden truth.
For the Catholic novelist, the prophetic vision is not simply a matter of his personal imaginative gift; it is also a matter of the Church's gift, which, unlike his own, is safeguarded and deals with greater matters. It is one of the functions of the Church to transmit the prophetic vision that is good for all time, and when the novelist has this as a part of his own vision, he has a powerful extension of sight.
It is, unfortunately, a means of extension which we constantly abuse by thinking that we can close our own eyes and that the eyes of the Church will do the seeing. They will not. … When the Catholic novelist closes his own eyes and tries to see with the eyes of the Church, the result is another addition to that large body of pious trash for which we have so long been famous. ("Catholic Novelists and Their Readers," 1964)
* * *
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Friday, August 24, 2018
Jesuit Father James Maltown today delivered his long-awaited talk to a large crowd at the 2018 Catholic World Meeting of Families. The conference on the family was fittingly held in Dublin, capital of the formerly Catholic nation of Ireland, which recently changed its constitution to legalize abortion.
“One of the more recent challenges for Catholic parishes is how to welcome blaspheming parishioners, as well as families with blaspheming and heretical members,” Father Maltown began. “But that challenge is also where grace abounds because Blasphemer-Heretic Catholics have felt excluded from the Church for so long that any experience of welcome can be life-changing--a healing moment that can inspire them to go to Mass again, where they may blaspheme openly with others.”
Father Maltown recounted anecdotes from the lives of Catholics who’ve suffered exclusion because of blaspheming-heretical children or family members.
“Over the past few years,” he said, “I’ve heard the most appalling stories from Blasphemer-Heretic Catholics who have been made to feel unwelcome by other Catholics who hold to the belief that blasphemy and heresy are somehow ‘un-Catholic’. We as a Church must do better than this. Unrepentant heretics have gifts that our community ignores at its peril.”
Father Maltown spoke of a heretical choir member in a parish where he served whose voice was more beautiful than the voices of other non-heretical members.
“Sadly, much of the spiritual life of Blasphemer-Heretic Catholics and their families depends on where they happen to live. If you’re an unrepentant heretic trying to make sense of your relationship with God and the Church or if you’re a parent of a committed blasphemer and you live in a big city with open-minded pastors, you’re in luck. But if you live in a less open-minded place or your pastor is heresyphobic, either silently or overtly, you’re out of luck.”
Though Father Maltown did not define what he meant by “open-minded,” it was clear from the reactions that those attending agreed with the need for more open-mindedness and wanted to live near the more urban “in luck” group.
Father Martin indicated that being doggedly committed to heresy was not a choice, but a way of life, saying the Church as a whole had much to learn from recent science on blasphemoheretical determinism.
He ended his talk with a moving retelling of the story of Jesus’ encounter with the woman caught in adultery, drawing his moral without mentioning Jesus’ line about “Go, and sin no more.”
“Jesus was about encounter first, then community,” he said. “You first have to encounter, to listen to blasphemers and heretics, really listen to them--for only then will they be able transform your community in the way they want.”
Father Maltown ended his talk with a book-signing of his new title Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church Needs to Respect Those Who Deny Its Teachings, Like Me.
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