Friday, September 7, 2018
Gay Apologetics, Ideology, and the Catholic Sex Abuse Crisis
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, even as they are cravenly committed to that hardly Catholic 21st-century Rule of Rules--Whatever happens, 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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