Catholic commentary on culture, media, and politics.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

When Canadians rumble...

...they do it over a cup of tea or a cold Molson's lager. My fellow Canuck over at Upper Canadian Catholic posted on the upcoming Vatican document on screening out homosexual seminarians (see post below). I agree with much of A. Carlton Sallet's post (check out his great blog via my blog roll) and I very much respect the delicate way he approaches the day's issues. A rarity in our polemicized Church. But I see some major chinks in his otherwise resplendent armour. And he has graciously agreed to let me hack unmercifully at said chinks and then respond in kind on his blog.

My respondent's text is in italics:

Gay Priests, Sex Abuse and Risk Management
Well, the Catholic blogosphere is all a-titter about the leaked Vatican report purporting to ban homosexual men from the priesthood.

Since either gay clergy or the sex abuse scandals are always the elephant in the room when discussing the Catholic church, let's have at it:

First, let us openly acknowledge that the proportion of homosexuals in the clergy is higher than that found in the general population. A lot higher. Gay men give up less than straight men to enter the priesthood because forgoing a life of marriage, children and white picket fences is a lot easier to do when it was never in the cards for them in the first place.

Right off the bat, full kudos for the courage for using the term "a-titter." Seriously, I don' t doubt that the priesthood includes a higher proportion of homosexuals than the general population. But "a lot higher?" Estimates get dicey. Based on my years as a Catholic, and having long conversations with priests who are close friends, I'd say 10% is about right, although some National Catholic Reporter "survey" may claim it's much higher. More to the point, therefore what exactly? Does this statistical fact suggest that since the battle is lost, it's somehow wrong-headed to exclude future "gay" priests?

Next, let us not dance around the fact that those who seek to sexually exploit young people almost always seek out positions of authority that place them in a positions of trust over their potential victims. This is true of the Boy Scouts, Big Brothers, educators, day care workers and - yes - clergy. It should be seen as a compliment when the volume of outrage over this type of scandal in the Catholic Church exceeds that for other organizations - it means that people hold us to a higher standard, making our fall that much more egregious. Let us not lose this stature.

True, although I believe most of the stature has been shoved into the toilet, both by the evil done by the perpetrators and by the media's very selective focus on allegations (long before they're convictions) against Catholic priests. Unlike in days gone by, rare is the priest who automatically gets special respect for his lofty office. Today he must earn it personally, which, I think we can agree, is not such a bad thing. Indeed, one contextual puzzle piece that "enabled" much of the sexual abuse was indeed this built-in trust accorded the priest.

As for solving this problem, the proposed solution - banning gay clergy - seems to me to be at odds with the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states that homosexuals "must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided [emphasis own]. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition."

I'm still unsure why it's "at odds." The phrasing above from the CCC strongly implies the acceptability of just discrimination. Yes, persons afflicted with same sex attractions are as fully loved by God, as fully saved by Jesus Christ, and as fully deserving of compassion as anyone else. It doesn't follow, however, that they shouldn't be excluded from the priesthood.

The real sticky wicket, it seems to me, is how the Church intends to do the screening in the first place. Think about it. We're dealing with a spectrum of inclinations -- from having walls proudly covered with Village People, Barbara Streisand and Judi Garland posters, to openly frequenting bath houses, to secret illicit desires in the midst of an otherwise virtuous life. What about the young man who struggles from time to time with same-sex attractions but who is otherwise chaste and holy? I know at least one man like that and he's a fine priest. Then there is the redemption and restoration promised by the Lord to those who sincerely repent and amend their lives....

These are the very delicate, complex realities that rectors, vocations directors, and bishops will have to deal with. They need our heartfelt prayers. I don't yet see how clear bright lines will be drawn, or are even draw-able. It makes me wonder what criteria the Boy Scouts use.

Banning all gay men outright is punishing the person - not the sin - and is a violation of the teachings of the Church founded by Christ. Think how angry gay priests who remain chaste must feel about a potential ban? Associating homosexuality with child abuse only compounds the problem (there is no causual relationship). How un-Christian is that?

First, no one is being punished for no one has a right to the priesthood. It's a divine gift, as Christ said, "You have no chosen me; no, I have chosen you." Is the Church also punishing women, or minors, or active alcoholics, or the mentally handicapped, or married Catholic men because they, too, are similarly "banned"?

Second, I'm sorry, but is never un-Christian to report difficult but pertinent facts: There is an established association between homosexuality and higher rates of child abuse. It doesn't mean that homosexuality per se "causes" pedophilia, nor that all gays are pedophiles, but I believe it's unwise to sever all links between the two perversions in the name of compassion. Researchers Dr. Brian Clowes and David Sonnier have done both science and religion a favor with their recent meta-study on the issue. Here is a small sample:

* Homosexual Alfred Kinsey, the preeminent sexual researcher in the history of sexual research, found in 1948 that 37 percent of all male homosexuals admitted to having sex with children under 17 years old.4
* A very recent (2000) study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that "The best epidemiological evidence indicates that only 2-4% of men attracted to adults prefer men. In contrast, around 25-40% of men attracted to children prefer boys. Thus, the rate of homosexual attraction is 620 times higher among pedophiles."5
* Another 2000 study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that". . . all but 9 of the 48 homosexual men preferred the youngest two male age categories" for sexual activity;' These age categories were fifteen and twenty years old.6
* Yet another recent study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that "Pedophilia appears to have a greater than chance association with two other statistically infrequent phenomena. The first of these is homosexuality . . . Recent surveys estimate the prevalence of homosexuality, among men attracted to adults, in the neighborhood of 2%. In contrast, the prevalence of homosexuality among pedophiles may be as high as 30-40%."7
* A 1989 study in the Journal of Sex Research noted that " . . . the proportion of sex offenders against male children among homosexual men is substantially larger than the proportion of sex offenders against female children among heterosexual men . . . the development of pedophilia is more closely linked with homosexuality than with heterosexuality."8
* A 1988 study of 229 convicted child molesters published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that 86% of pedophiles described themselves as homosexual or bisexual.9
In a 1984 Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy article, sex researchers found that "The proportional prevalence of [male] offenders against male children in this group of 457 offenders against children was 36 percent."10
* Homosexual activists Karla Jay and I Allen Young revealed in their 1979 Gay Report that 73% of all homosexuals I have acted as "chicken hawks" - that is, they have preyed on adolescent or younger boys. 11
* In a 1992 study published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, sex researchers K. Freud and R. I. Watson found that homosexual males are three times more likely than straight men to engage in pedophilia, and that the average pedophile victimizes between 20 and 150 boys before being arrested.12
* A study by sex researchers Alan Bell and Martin Weinberg found that 25% of white homosexual men have had sex with boys sixteen years and younger. 13

Here is the complete text.

I argue that the elephant in the kitchen (or rather, the sacred cow in the chancery) is not "gay clergy" but the uncomfortable truth that homosexuals abuse children with a frequency out of proportion to their population. Or how 'bout an even more obese kitchen-dwelling elephant: the role played by homosexually-inclined bishops in all this?

And now I wait for an outraged reader to call me a homophobe. I'm ready.

Another, better, solution is to employ sound risk management principals and accountability at the parish and diocesan levels. 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. Removing opportunities for abuse mitigates the risk of either actual abuse or false accusations of same. Bishops who "pass the trash" by moving abusive clergy from parish to parish should be removed by the Vatican for failing in their obligations to properly administer and protect their diocese. Abusive clergy should be relocated to live out there lives at a contemplative monastery on a remote island somewhere (following their satisfaction of civil and criminal penalties). Parents need to exercise the same due diligence respecting church officials as they would in any other setting. Children must likewise be educated and empowered to report abuse.

Yes, yes, and yes. But you're talking about removing many bishops currently leading dioceses, if a blanket criterion of "passing the trash" is the governing rule. My own cardinal here in the City of Angels has been beating the Zero Tolerance drum the loudest, and yet there are many instances of trash passage in these parts. Also, be careful about phraseology (isn't "trash" a tad homophobic?) Since the John Jay Report clearly proved that the amount of truly pedophilic abuse is very low, the trash you're referring to are gay priests with a penchant for teen boys and young men. For the whole crisis, by a huge majority, is not about "pedophile priests" -- a media-savvy alliteration -- preying on prepubsescent children but gay men preying on teens, minors, vulnerable young men, often from bad family situations.

Risk management relationships based on this trinity - clergy, parents and children - can succeed far better than blanket, homophobic bans that serve only to further marginalize those desperately in need of the salvation the church provides.

A good rhetorical flourish, but you're conflating several separate issues. First, no one but militant anti-gay activists say that homosexuals don't deserve salvation. They're fringe kooks. Second, you're begging the question of "homophobia." (Do we even need to play the H-card?) Third, describing the document as a blanket "ban" suggests some vague injustice being committed. We simply don't know enough yet to make any judgments on what will and won't be done, as the document is still in draft mode. Should we not err on the side of reticence until we have the specifics? Fourth, what's with the rish management trinity? You lost me. Look, I have kids. Does risk management mean my wife and I need to meet monthly/weekly/daily with our pastor and my children to make sure no one is being diddled? I don't like "risk management" concessions to the problem.

I much prefer emotionally healthy, masculine priests, who aren't "struggling against" perverted desires. Though imperfect and flawed, priests are yet living icons of the divine Bridegroom. I'm tired of seeing soft, effeminate men trying to full shoes that are too big. I'm angry that good, manly seminarians have to negotiate -- lest they be harrassed or booted out-- through the lavenderized atmosphere in many seminaries.

Above all, and meaning not a drop of disrespect, I'm disheartened that attempts to strengthen the priesthood are labelled homophobic by self-described conservatives. "If this is how the green wood reacts, what of the dry?"

If I've monstrously misunderstood you, let me know.


Blogger A. Carlton Sallet said...

Well, you've got me on one point, misunderstand me on others and raised many other sound, logical arguments with some new information thrown in. All of which I intend to rebut on my site. Nicely, of course!

Let us recall C.S. Lewis as we embark on our quest, however:

"Thirst was made for water, reason for truth." Or something like that. (From The Great Divorce, on which I have a post in my August archives).

In other words, we both agree to be seeking the same destination - just by charting different courses.

1:09 PM

Blogger Patrick said...

Sorry it took so many character spaces to get there. I'll look for your rebuttal.

1:50 PM


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