Catholic commentary on culture, media, and politics.

Friday, September 16, 2005

The unbearable lightness of screening

A few last thoughts before leaving the To Screen or Not to Screen thread behind.

Before I exit the party, I regret not clarifying a few terms earlier. For instance, even though I slip into writing "gay man" (or woman) out of convenience, the term is misleading. Along with "gender" the term gay has become a largely socio-political label, a self-applied construct with a weak tether to reality. Science has found no "gay gene" although, of course, genetic predispositions are clearly involved. (Dispositions, mind, not sole causality.)

In my very humble opinion, Christians should avoid buying into language that presupposes any kind of inherent, permanent "gay identity." Which, I submit, is a satanic deception. To whit, I believe Same-Sex Attraction Disorder more accurately describes the phenomonon. A man with decades of pastoral experience, Father John Harvey (founder of Courage) says he regrets the title of one of his books, The Homosexual Person: New Thinking in Pastoral Care, because putting homosexual as a predicate to person, instead of the other way around, implies an ontological basis of the disorder, i.e., "God made me this way. I am a person who is homosexual."

As a Christian, I reject any idea that robs people of hope for change. Any fixed isness applied to an objective disorder such as homosexuality contains the implication that God's very design orients his creature toward perversion "from the beginning."

Also, I object to a prejudicial phrase of which Carlton and others are fond: "banning gay priests." I object because a) the word ban suggests some unjust restriction, such as banning books or artistic genuises; and b) we're not talking about priests but seminarians, who, of themselves, have no "right" to the priesthood. One more time: Holy Orders is not a right, but a divine gift from Jesus Christ, conferred by and with his Church.

I have given ample evidence that the recent priestly crisis is a crisis of homosexual predators and the bishops who enabled them, not a "fringe crisis" of pedophilia. Carlton ignores this or derides it as spurious. Not one peep about the Clowes-Sonnier study; barely a sneer.

And yet, 81% of the priests catalogued by the John Jay Report abused children homosexually. This is not ultra-conservative homophobia. It's the truth. While I'm at it, here's some more inconvenient evidence for the old ignoring/deriding bin:

* Dr. Thomas Plante, a psychologist at Santa Clara University, found that 80 to 90% of all priests who in fact abuse minors have sexually engaged with adolescent boys, not prepubescent children.

* The Boston scenario is even worse. According to The Boston Globe, “Of the clergy sex abuse cases referred to prosecutors in Eastern Massachusetts, more than 90 percent involve male victims. And the most prominent local attorneys for alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse have said that about 95 percent of their clients are male.”

* In a database analysis of reports on more than 1,200 alleged victims of priests identified by USA Today, 85 percent were males.

* In another study, also by USA Today, it was determined that of the 234 priests who have been accused of sexual abuse of a minor while serving in the nation’s 10 largest dioceses and archdioceses, 91 percent of their victims were males.

And none of this justifies paying added attention to homosexual leanings at the formation level? Reach down, grab neck, pull head from sand.

The conservative allergy against screening for homosexuality in seminaries is eerily similar to the liberal aversion to so-called racial profiling for terrorism in airports. Since an overwhelming percentage of terrorists who've harmed Americans have been Arab males between 19 and 35, it's just common-sensical to pay particular attention to this particular profile when security screening points. Sure, I suppose some terrorist could dress up as a Swedish nun or a Chinese grandmother, but, well, you get the point.

Now -- you watch -- someone will say I'm equating homosexuality to terrorism!

Carlton proposes what he calls a sound risk management plan. He summarizes it thus:

A sound risk management plan, for example, may require all retreats involving children to ensure multiple adult supervision, double occupancy of all rooms or tents (adults with adults, children with children), separate bathing times and washrooms, etc.

Can a more wrong-headed waste of the Church's already overtaxed time and energy be imagined? As I said before, I also propose a risk management plan -- to be implemented long before the egg hatches. Curiously, Carlton supports Archbishop O'Brien's US seminary visitations, which will most certainly be watching especially for signs of unseemly lavender behavior, yet he (Carlton) thinks the orientation itself -- that which motivates said behavior -- is too precious to single out.

The following summarizes my basic point of view:

-- Are all heterosexual priests sinless? Not a chance. (Our High Priest excepted.)

-- Should the priesthood be restricted to ex-Marines, jet engine mechanics, rodeo stars, or exhibit otherwise overpoweringly masculine personalities? God forbid.

-- Should we rely only on secular psychological methodologies alone to assess a candidate's worthiness? No.

-- Is it better to have chaste, holy, orthodox priests who secretly deal with SSAD than to be overrun with feminist nuns or crappy heterodox priests? Duh.

-- Are all persons with SSAD by definition liberal dissenters? Certainly not. Many in fact, veer to the other extreme. They even have a seminary nickname, "Daughters of Trent" (wouldn't be caught dead out of their cassock and berreta, but emotionally as tightly wound as a steel trap).

-- Should homosexuality be the sole criterion on which to expel a seminarian? Obviously not. (Some critics of the proposed screening are hyperventilating that this will happen.)

-- Is the Holy Spirit able to give restoration and normalcy in exchange for repentance and ongoing conversion? Absolutely.

-- Is it possible for a man who has struggled in the past with SSAD, or even been active in the lifestyle who could, over time with therapy and prayer, experience enough freedom from its compulsive power to be ordained? My answer is yes.

We do well to recall that the Catholic Church operates by a thoroughly incarnational principle. If the Church doesn't ordain you -- regardless of your strong subjective feelings -- you don't have a vocation. So let's take a deep breath and just see where His Excellency O'Brien's visitation plans lead us, mkay?

Carlton gets in one last, rather un-Canadian, dig:

I will be honest on one other point: In the face of these arguments, the teachings of the church and everything else I do suspect that many of those who want to expel all gay men simply, well, don't like gay men - and either wish to exclude them out of hate or are indifferent to them as men.

Wow. A DignityUSA press release couldn't have said it better. Imagine if I wrote the corollary:
"I do suspect that many of those who refuse to screen for homosexuality simply, well, really, really like gay men - and either wish to be as close as possible to them out of love or are especially attracted to them as men."

Let's just keep it charitable and say my northern opponent doesn't know me, and leave it at that. Such "suspicions" remind one of the liberal tactic of reading the "true intentions" behind conservative policies they dislike. I very much regret to say Carlton has already
accused me of regarding victims as somehow complicit in sexual abuse. A jaw-dropping -- and so far unacknowledged -- bit of finger-pointing, which has only contrary evidence in its favor.

As radio host and author Dennis Prager says, "clarity before agreement." My readers, along with Carlton's, are more than capable of deciding for themselves who's approach makes the most sense and why.




5 Comments:

Blogger A. Carlton Sallet said...

"Let's just keep it charitable and say my northern opponent doesn't know me, and leave it at that." [in response to my writing 'I will be honest on one other point: In the face of these arguments, the teachings of the church and everything else I do suspect that many of those who want to expel all gay men simply, well, don't like gay men - and either wish to exclude them out of hate or are indifferent to them as men.']

CORRECTION: I said "many of those", not "Pat from Seize the Day"; check around the world wide web and you may see what I mean.

"Carlton has already accused me of regarding victims as somehow complicit in sexual abuse."

CORRECTION: What I agruged was that attempts to colour the priest abuse scandals as "homosexual" rather than "abusive" are wrong, because even teenage male victims lack the sexual maturity to be equal partners in sexual relationships with male clergy in positions of clerical authority. I never accused "you" of anything, but just responded to an argument you made that appeared to me to attempt to play down the abusive angle of the scandals.

Pat - I think you're a bright, articulate fellow but it's not all about you, OK? When our arguments get demolished, it's not automoatically a personal attack.

The only personal attacks I have thus far detected in all our posts have been personal slights from you. I will reflect on any role I may have had in provoking these, and you and your family will be in my prayers at Mass today.

I remain ready to continue our discussion; you may wish to consider recasting the debate as one of dissent, as suggested by Tony at Catholic Pillow Fight. Let me know.

May the peace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you and your family here and in Nova Scotia always.

4:16 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Carlton: I'm done with the debate. It got bogged down a while ago, and I take responsibility for part in that. I can get a bit tart in my replies and I apologize. You're right to call me on it. Also, my posts are too damn long, and the few readers I do have deserve more pithy comments. That's my fault.

Part of the reason (not excuse) for my frustration is that you have done some evading, word twisting, and can ignore evidence with the best of 'em.

You say "I said "many of those", not "Pat from Seize the Day"; check around the world wide web and you may see what I mean." But re-read your remark, ACS. Sans a caveat, a reasonable person with whom you're debating would conclude he's being lumped in with the homophobes.

Your second "CORRECTION" evades the obvious. I had written that the crisis was a gay priest crisis caused not by fringe peophiles preying on children and toddlers but by "gay priests preying on teens, minors, vulnerable young men, often from bad family situations.

You dismissed this as a non sequitur and then said:

*This attempt to excuse the crisis as mostly "homosexual" as opposed to "abusive" is old hat - and wrong. It presupposes that sexually immature teenage males are equal partners when courted for sex by adult males in positions of clerical authority. Why not ask what a 16 year old's father would think of this argument if his son were one of the victims?*

Give me a break. A very lawyerly "correction." I may have expressed my objection imperfectly but you clearly say that "my approach" assumes equal partnership -- something I explicitly renounced.

No, I don't think blanket witch hunts are desirable or even Christian. Yes, I can imagine good, chaste and orthodox men who've struggled successfully with SSA could make worthy priests.

As I said in the very beginning, such screeeing is going to be impossible to uniformly, universally weed out bad apples. The very complex and subtle nature of SSAD makes neat problem-free outcomes unlikely, regardless of screening stringency. Men are free to sin, and that goes for ALL priests.

My opinion remains, in light of the Scandal and the lifelong suffering of past and future victims of gay predators, that the Church does well to err on the side of, uh, risk management at the source and foundation. Which is not the retreat house or the local pool or the rectory. But the *seminary.*

The dissent issue is also not the main point. Yes a great many in the homosexual network are dissenters with agendae. Undeniable, as I've previously posted.

12:29 PM

 
Blogger Patrick said...

Carlton: I'm done with the debate. It got bogged down a while ago, and I take responsibility for part in that. I can get a bit tart in my replies and for that I carte blanche apologize. You're right to call me on it. Also, my posts are too damn long, and the few readers I do have deserve more pithy comments. That's my fault.

Part of the reason (not excuse) for my frustration is that you have done some evading, word twisting, and can ignore evidence with the best of 'em.

You say "I said "many of those", not "Pat from Seize the Day"; check around the world wide web and you may see what I mean." But re-read your remark, ACS. Sans a caveat, a reasonable person with whom you're debating would conclude he's being lumped in with the homophobes.

Your second "CORRECTION" evades the obvious. I had written that the crisis was a gay priest crisis caused not by fringe peophiles preying on children and toddlers but by "gay priests preying on teens, minors, vulnerable young men, often from bad family situations.

You dismissed this as a non sequitur and then said:

*This attempt to excuse the crisis as mostly "homosexual" as opposed to "abusive" is old hat - and wrong. It presupposes that sexually immature teenage males are equal partners when courted for sex by adult males in positions of clerical authority. Why not ask what a 16 year old's father would think of this argument if his son were one of the victims?*

Give me a break. A very lawyerly "correction." I may have expressed my objection imperfectly but you clearly say that "my approach" assumes equal partnership -- something I explicitly renounced.

No, I don't think blanket witch hunts are desirable or even Christian. Yes, I can imagine good, chaste and orthodox men who've struggled successfully with SSA could make worthy priests.

As I said in the very beginning, such screeeing is going to be impossible to uniformly, universally weed out bad apples. The very complex and subtle nature of SSAD makes neat problem-free outcomes unlikely, regardless of screening stringency. Men are free to sin, and that goes for ALL priests.

My opinion remains, in light of the Scandal and the lifelong suffering of past and future victims of gay predators, that the Church does well to err on the side of, uh, risk management at the source and foundation. Which is not the retreat house or the local pool or the rectory. It's the *seminary.*

I don't mind a bit if you disagree.

The dissent issue is also not really the main point. Yes, a great many in the homosexual network are tied to the liberal-left dissent agenda. This is undeniable, as I've previously posted. But we're talking about gay sexual abuse, something distinct from dissent per se. As I've said, some gays are very traditional-minded and hold orthodox views. So orthodoxy is not sure cure for sin; this goes for everyone of us. As I've said (is anyone counting how often I've said "as I've said"?) in your own com box, Catholic abuse victims don't break down in front of their wife or therapist and cry, "A dissenter manifested his liberal permissiveness in a way injurious to my faith!"

As you know, ASC, there is no shortage of "hardliners" who're more stringent than me on this issue with whom you could continue the debate.

Thanks for the prayers; they are reciprocated. Though we don't see eye to eye on here, I'm very glad you're blogging.

On this topic, over and out.

12:35 PM

 
Blogger A. Carlton Sallet said...

Roger that, copy and out.

PS: Lament neither your blog nor readers - they are both enjoyable to me and will doubtless grow.

2:27 PM

 
Anonymous Patrick said...

Who the hell is anonymous and why is he impersonating me!

8:54 PM

 

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