Catholic commentary on culture, media, and politics.

Friday, September 30, 2005

We've seen the future of marriage in Canada

And it looks awfully Dutch.

"A fourth person would not be allowed in their marriage," says the groom of his two brides.

No way. That would be wrong, wrong, wrong.

And they mocked the argumentum ad Santorum that "gay" "marriage" would grease the slippery slope toward acceptance of polygamy and other undesirables.

Logic has that annoying way of catching up with you, eh.

Next at bat: sibling-sibling marriage.

Warming up in the bullpen: NAMBLA-style marriage.

It's only a matter of time.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

NASAholics hit rock bottom

I've been complaining about the space shuttle pipe dream for some years: So many billions of dollars for so few results, so little scientific advancement for such high risk, etc.

According to the head of NASA, Michael Griffin, it was all one big beta mistake in a VHS world.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Brittania used to rule the world.

Now she forbids cooing at babies.

Luckily, this veddy profound respect for babies has been accompanied by a dramatic end to all abortions in Great Britain. I say, old chap, extraordinary!

Oh, wait a sec.

Hat-tip to Kathy Shaidle.

Bienvenido a Los Angeles

And here I thought Canada was the land of two official languages.

The effort needed to juggle the oil 'n water mixture of dueling languages has been a humungous waste of money and resources in Canada.

The above news item paints a rosy picture about what it means for LA residents. But the net effect is something less than the happy-happy multicultural diversity we're constantly told is a Beautiful Thing(TM).

In the main, Southern California has forced to align into two separate cultures for one simple reason: Having arrived through illegal channels in the knowledge that they will join millions of well-connected fellow amigos, they feel no need to assimilate.


And they have a point. Why bother? Business phone trees are often given in Spanish with "for English, press two" prompts; Spanish FM radio dominates LA airwaves; Mexican flags and Mexican slogans adorn every other pick-up truck on LA freeways; LA mayor Antonio Villariagosa is warmly pro-illegal, conspicuously prefering the bogus term "undocumented worker;" and LA's Cardinal Mahony likens them to the hapless stranger to whom Jesus would give an unconditional hug.

Thanks go also to President Bush, who, in our Age of Terror, continues to use a hammer made of nerf on this particular nail.

Friday, September 23, 2005

What if they treated home robberies this way?

There is so much with which to be disgusted in this story, not the least of which is the use of the scare-term "strident anti-immigrant voices." I can't take it.

God in heaven, please send us Republican candidates for 08 that are far from the Rove model of domestic policy.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Canada: taking great leaps backward so you don't have to.

Pharmacies used to be places to buy Robitussin DM, band-aids, maybe a new toothbrush. But in the Land In Which We Know We're Not Americans, my fellow Canadians will soon be able to stop by the local drug store to assuage their croaking for some good shit (hell, they call it a drug store don't they?); or, while waiting for that antibiotic prescription to be filled, maybe a French tickler.

Warming up in the bullpen: Canadian sex shops to sell antihistamines and Dr. Scholls crap.

(Hat tip to the reliably vigilant Dr. Terry Vanderheyden. All in the disinterested pursuit of scientific research.)

Nature's Project Minuteman?

If there's one up-side to her arrival in Texas, Hurricane Rita is already handily doing what President Bush won't.

Can you say dhimmitudinous?

So, you live in Muslim Malaysia and you want to become a Christian. No problem. Just don't insult everybody by calling yourself a Christian.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Dan Rather: forgotten but not gone

"This is Dan Rather reporting from my lawn bowling league, where I still speak truth to power."

This amazing Reuters "news" tidbit manages to simultaneously praise Mr. Rather, ignore why he got the Early Golden Boot Award from CBS, and exult in the media's own self-importance. A three-fer.

Lunch, stay down; I don't want to lose you.

Monday, September 19, 2005

The joy of self-regretfulness

To me, any thought that inspires humility is a good thought. Try this one on for size: Ever read something -- or done something, or wore something, or believed something -- ten years ago that you now look back on and cringe?

Think about it. We tend to naturally feel rather mature and "in the prime" at any given moment. Yet the self you were a decade ago, who now makes you cringe, is in all-too-real continuity with the same person you are today. And this is the same person who's provide cringe fodder for a decade from now.

A good thing to keep in mind when tempted to take our precious opinions and current ways of living too seriously and the good Lord and his gospel Way too lightly.

Only One among us the same "yesterday, today, and forever" (Letter to the Hebrews.)

The End is nigh

Uh oh.

Catholic World News is reporting that the imperious, homophobic cabal that has temporarily taken over the normally pastorally sensitive Church of The Council (the only Council deserving of the article "The") are set to begin the much-feared and self-evidently unjust crackdown on sincere, dedicated, pious, chaste, orthodox gay seminarians. Is there any other kind?

Some in St. Blog's are not going to like this. No, no nooooo.

As my readers know, I think it's high time. on earth the official visitators and vocation committee experts will be able to determine how SSA is too much SSA, and how far in the past is far enough, remains a mystery to me.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

What if we held an exorcism and no one brought proper wrist restraints?

That's Jennifer Carpenter in the harrowing role of Emily in The Exorcism of Emily Rose, which I saw Friday night. My jaw is still on the floor, not because it's a flawless movie but because of what co-writer/director Scott Derrickson got away with: a heroic, honest, humble Catholic priest, an unambiguous exposition of good vs evil, a Marian apparition as plot device, and an engaging exploration of the ideas hinted at by William Friedkin's The Exorcist.

Comparisons to the 1973 classic are inevitable, and Scott Derrickson includes a nod to its famous setting (a supine girl restrained on her bed). But his deft treatment of the background material, and his command of the story elements, illustrate that The Exorcism of Emily Rose is about ideas as much as visual jolts.

For a relatively new director, he deserves a lot of credit for fighting for, and sticking to, an inherently pro-Catholic angle, and for successfully recruiting the decidely secular-minded lead actors Laura Linney and Tom Wilkinson to play the defense attorney and priest, respectively. (Sidebar: My friend Barbara Nicolosi over at Church of the Masses knows Scott Derrickson, an Evangelical who, Barbara affectionately taunts, may be in danger of crossing the Tiber. She posted a snippet from the LA Daily News that showcases how the two stars are giving the ol' barge pole treatment to the movie's premise. Sigh.)

The Exorcism of Emily Rose is told without big special effects. There are no pea soup displays, no head-spinning, and no obscene language. Rather, the moments of hair-raising horror come at you from the side door. What gets to you is how "normal," in the sense of plausible, it all seems. (In one scene before a church altar, Emily's pupils are shown suddenly dilating -- just what'd you'd expect in the presence of darkness, I thought.)

Tom Wilkinson's performance as Father Richard Moore is pleasingly under-the-top, although, to be accurate, some of his scenes are clunkily written. No matter. As an actor, Wilkinson is one of those few whose expressive eyes can tell volumes with very few lines. (I can still see those sad, conflicted eyes gazing at Sissy Spacek in In the Bedroom.) Here, his Father Moore is not the urbane Jesuit Father Karras of The Exorcist. He's dishevelled around the edges, dowdy. You can easily see him at Tim Horton's sipping a coffee talking about the game. (That's Dunkin Donuts for Yankee readers.) In believing so completely in his mission, Moore is the anti-Karras.

Sound being the second most tactile of the senses, the earlier movie created a sensation largely though audio effects, winning the Best Sound Oscar. It's true that Linda Blair couldn't have looked scarier, but I argue it was the vocal work of the unsung Mercedes McCambridge (who can forget "Your mother's in here, Damien") that held delivered the movie's impact.

But The Exorcism of Emily Rose aims not primarily to depict outward manifestations of evil, but, as Father Moore himself tells his counsel, "to tell Emily's story," and to account for the spiritual battle that raged invisibly behind the scenes. It is based on a case in Bavaria in the late 1970s involving a 22-year-old named Anneliese Michel, in which the attending priest was charged in her death following a failed exorcism.

The decision to enshrine the "true life" details of the story in the credits surely adds to the overall effect. Viewers are invited to identify with either the skeptical defense attorney (Laura Linney as Erin Bruner); the sacrastic, but apparent church-going prosecutor (a miscast Campbell Scott, whose Ethan Thomas plays more like an uptight accountant than a charismatic people's advocate); or with the believing family and trusted priest. Smart marketing, that.

The film explores all sides of the event and, I think, comes down gently on the pro-Catholic side. A few minor gripes: We get no sense of how Emily became enmeshed in the demonic possession to begin with. I won't give away anything, but an apparition scene tries to explain how it ends the way it does. But I was hoping for a clue as to how it began. In The Exorcist, we saw that Regan dabbled with a Ouija Board; Emily only eats cafeteria food.

Second, my post title is meant to be playful. But it seems to me that an experienced exorcist would have shown up with something more durable than a thin cotton hankie to restrain an athletic 22-year-old who can writhe and contort with the best of 'em. Third, Ms. Bruner's wrap-up speech in the courtroom bore the faint whiff of the pulpit, almost turning into a Billy Graham moment. Then again, its true that today's audiences, especially the under-23 market, often need hand-holding and overt explanations.

In all, we should be grateful that, thanks in large part to Mel Gibson and the The Passion of the Christ phenomenon, Hollywood is beginning to recalibrate its standard operating procedures toward "organized religion." The Exorcism of Emily Rose had a $30 million opening weekend and still holds a strong second behind Just Like Heaven. (They don't call it "Show Art.")

Bring a friend and see it. And pray for its talented director.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Great blogging skills, Paddie

For reasons known only to God, I have been given no "tech savvy" to speak of when it comes to the adequate operation of computers. I've been using Mac since 1993, but blogging only since July 2005. I have no idea why the font and size suddenly morphed into the virtually illegible mess you see before you.

I'd fall down and worship anyone with good advice on how to fix this. You provide the incence.

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.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The power of conscience

This story of the woman who finally fessed up to armed robbery brought to mind Cardinal Newman's view of personal conscience as a "connecting principle between the creature and his Creator.”

With God's grace, may this ersatz robber find the comforting Voice that prompted her to turn herself in after all these years.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Back to (even more basic) basics

My good colleague A. Carlton Sallet almost wrapped up our discussion on the desirability of screening out gay seminarians. Almost. I can't speak for him but "on the rails" is precisely where I'm trying to stay. He quotes from the Catechism on the morality of homosexuality. As a Catholic, I agree. He then says:

Now, thus far I have heard two - and only two - arguments that could, should they be supported by facts, lend themselves towards supporting a ban on gay clergy...The arguments are as follows (my wording):
The proliferation of an increasing number of homosexual clergy has created a hostile climate in seminaries that dissuades heterosexual, masculine men from answering a call to vocations (the "lavenderization" argument); and
The presence of homosexual clergy (and the efforts of those who oppose a ban on same) play into the hands of those fifth column Catholics who seek to oppose and undo church teachings on a variety of issues, including same-sex marriage, abortion, the ordination of women, etc. (the "conspiracy" argument).

I would ask that we debate the above points in a manner that seeks an honest position, consistent with the magisterium.

Yes, and yes. I agree in full. But there is another reason, which you have now -- twice -- avoided mentioning: Homosexuality is a disorder -- even in people who try their best to remain chaste; and has been found to be strongly related both to pedophilia and the recruiting/seduction of teen boys.

So with no rancor, I ask, Why do you not want to address this, Carlton?

It would also be helpful if you could put yourself in the shoes of this neophyte, and try to understand how wonderful it is to be welcomed into an organization concerned only with the salvation of my soul and caring not a bit about this poor sinner's wretched past.

Obviously (I hope it should be obvious) every Catholic rejoices that you entered the Church. You bring gifts and self-evident talents we'd otherwise lack. Praise God. But we're not talking now merely of being welcomed into an organization, etc. The same Church is far more than a soul-saving device. It's a whole universe. We're talking specifically about her Christ-mandated right to ensure the moral and spiritual integrity of the training and formation of her priests. The salvation of your soul and mine (while supremely important to us) is a separate issue.

I don't go along with some conservatives who would single out homosexual behavior for special censure, as if there is no worse perversion on earth. But the fact is, the condition is objectively immoral, disordered (there is no sufficiently pastoral adjective for dissenters). And the road to healing for people who struggle with same-sex attractions is notoriously difficult to make manageable, and it's usually a very long, uphill one. Some people like to argue, "Hey, we're all sinners, so if we ordain a guy who slept with 10 women, we're being hypocritical homophobes if we ban the guy who slept with 10 men." The key distinction is that fornication is the immoral desire for a moral -- potentially sacramental -- act. Its immorality stems from desiring it apart from its God-designed context of marriage. But sodomy is always and everywhere an unnatural perversion. And desiring a perversion is itself intrinsically disordered.

Yes, the Holy Spirit, frequent Confession, the resolution to be chaste -- and even good psychotherapy - can do wonders, but do we really want priests who are distracted from their duties by a great internal struggle, especially during seminary studies when they're surrounded close-up for five years by objects of desire?

Perhaps, as a cradle Catholic, you lack this perspective and have difficulty understanding why I am reticent to advocate for the exclusion of others from active ministry in the church that saved even me.

You may be onto something, but I have to say I seriously doubt that being cradle Catholic has much to do with my assessment. (I'm actually a raised-rebelled-returned Catholic). And I know some very zealous converts from other communions who are more hardline than I on this issue. Besides, good sir, you're conflating two separate issues: while the Catholic Church is the earthly and sacramental presence of the mercy of Christ -- a hospital for poor sinners like myself -- the Church has at the same time not just the right but the DUTY to ensure that her priests are formed and trained properly in accordance with all the precepts of the gospel. We're also talking about priestly ministry, not personal commitment to living and spreading the gospel. In the marketplace, that's more our job than the priest's anyway.

Carlton, let me repeat what I wrote earlier, and this time I'm requesting your reaction: married Catholic men are excluded from active priestly ministry, as are all Catholic women (even holy, personable and gifted women); men who belong to other Christian faiths, men who are alcoholics, men who are divorced with no decree of nullity. Canon law expressly excludes them all from "active priestly ministry."

Is this unjust?

Last week, I spend a few hours with a former Vocations Director. This whole issue came up and his observation was that many seminary rectors and diocesan-hired psychologist now admit that, in the past, they have treated the homosexual condition in a far too clinical-neutral way, owing to a view of pastoral compassion that ended up backfiring. Big time.

One last time: I think the best way to "manage risk" is to do it at the source, at the seminary formation stage. Not downriver after momentum has gained. This approach, in my opinion, doesn't contradict the Church's general mission to be the mercy of Christ and to offer authentic compassion and welcome to sinners.

In this issue, as with most others facing the bishops, I believe we need to place clarity above agreement.

I look forward to your thoughts.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Nova Scotia glory

Behold, the simultaneously elegant and rustic Bluenose II, floating ambassador of the Province of Nova Scotia, and permanent star o' the back of the Canadian dime.

There is an undeniable mystery and charm to my home province. I'm blogging from here while visiting my parents in Halifax, the capital city. My father turned 70 on September 8 (also the Blessed Virgin's birthday) and I surprised him by showing up at the surprise birthday bash. Poor guy; almost keeled over.

Had two rounds of golf, and took in the Nova Scotia International Air Show. I was stunned to hear the air show commentator use the term "War on Terror" in his remarks about the US Air Force F-15 Eagle fighter jet performance. How refreshingly un-CBC. He sounded...pretty much...admiring of the great iron bird's prowess and the nation she protects. It's nice to see that not all of Canada is anti-military, or anti-patriotic. Ask a Canadian about his patriotism, and you'll see a bit of spittle form on the lip, a slight tremble of the hands, and then you'll hear some sputtering about not being a flag-waving American. Not that there isn't plenty to love about Canada, but Canucks themselves tend to get tongue-tied when saying what it is.

The people of Nova Scotia are almost preternaturally friendly and hospitable. My soul's coggles are warmed anew with each return: The light salt scent of the sea; the crunchy cool air of the evenings; the soft aura generated as summer reluctantly gives way and surrenders to fall (or autumn, as it is more often called here).

Halifax was founded in 1749, a full 25 years before the United States came into being. It feels that way somehow. The downtown area bears the faint whiff of Europe with its tony pubs, cobbled streets, 18th century-era Historic Properties, and ubiquitous images of sailing ships recalling a past intertwined with Maritime legends and ties to the sea. The stormy Atlantic brought our British and French co-founders here, and it still holds sway in the local imagination.

What can I say? I highly recommend Nova Scotia to any and all visitors. Ask Dom Bettinelli (see link at right). He and his new bride honeymooned here last month.

By comparison, Los Angeles lies 6100 miles -- and a whole mindset -- west of this quiet, down-to-earth patch of land.

But I do miss my girls back in my adopted California home.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

How to avoid "passing the trash:" Replying to a Reply

Is anyone having fun yet? In my dialogue with A. Carlton Sallet, I have learned that he believes screening out homosexual seminarians is unjust, and that I am guilty of committing the red herring fallacy in asserting that there is a link between homosexuality and child sexual abuse. (He also broadens the commonly accepted definition of homophobia ("irrational fear of homosexuals") to include any "unjust discrimination" against them. Therefore, by definition I am homophobic.

I told you this would happen.

He used the term "passing the trash" in reference to what some bishops did in moving perpetrators from parish to parish. I noted that , according to all available data, esp. the John Jay Report, "trash" must refer to the homosexual priests who molested boys and older teens, not pedophiles who preyed on little children. Which, as far as terms go, is a counter-intuitive way to fight homophobia as we wrestle this discussion toward truth.

He was patient enough to respond to my arguments, and I do appreciate it. I'm just sorry he didn't rebut much. He only repeated. His reply to my evidence homosexuality is related to higher rates of child sexual abuse could have been written by an O.J. Simpson juror: so much pesky evidence to ignore, so little time. To whit, I cited an important meta-study by Dr. Brian Clowes and David Sonnier that establishes the link between homosexuality and child sexual abuse, but my respondent deleted it in his Reply. Rather than repeat myself -- interested readers can return to that research (both bullet-point sample and full text) linked below in the previous post.

But forget the question of whether homosexual abuse childen in greater numbers (proportionate to their numbers) than heterosexuals. Even if they didn't, my support of tightening up the screening process at the seminary level doesn't stand or fall on this point. There is much more to it. With a touch of bravado, Mr. Sallet rather provocatively asks me if I have any proof of the lavenderized seminary/priesthood. I'm cutting him some slack on this one because his profile says he's a new Catholic. Honestly, it sickens me to share the following information. It's saddening and all the more bewildering because it's true.

This is but a slight glance at the problem:

* The NJ attorney Stephen Rubino says that of the over 300 alleged victims of priest sex abuse he has represented, roughly 85% are boys, and were teenagers when the abuse occurred.
* Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, a respected Catholic psychiatrist who has treated scores of victims and priest-perpetrators, says 90% of his patients were either teen male victims or priests, or priests who abused teen boys. That the victims are mostly teenagers proves that the issue is not one of pedophilia as much as of homosexuality.
* Psychotherapist Richard Sipe has studied the problem for 40 years. Sipe is no conservative, being a laicized priest who writes critically of the Church's sexual morality. But after reviewing thousands of case histories, writes: "This is a system. This is a whole community. You have many good people covering it up. There is a network of power. A lot of seminary rectors and teachers are part of it, and they move to chancery-office positions, and on to bishoprics. It's part of the ladder of success."
* Fr. Donald Cozzens, former rector of St. Mary's Seminary in Cleveland and author of The Changing Face of the Priesthood -- again, not a conservative cleric -- confirms that the higher proportion of gays in the priesthood accounts for the inordinate numbers of Catholic priests dying of AIDS -- a rate much higher than that of normal male population. The Kansas City Star reported that, "there are at least 400 known deaths of priests from AIDS, and probably twice that number -- ranging from four times to eight times the rate in the general population." Two thirds of the priests interviewed said they knew at least one priest who had died of AIDS, and one third knew at least one priest living with it (January 2000: poll of 800 priests, Cozzens, p. 193).
Cozzens also reports of the "gay subculture" in many seminaries, and that the priesthood has become a "gay profession." Gay faculty and students put so much pressure on normal students that the latter are frequently forced to terminate their education and vocation.
* Supporting this, Thomas Fox, former editor of The National Catholic Reporter, concluded from his interviews that, "In some cases there have been reports of predominately gay seminaries and homosexual climates within them that became so pronounced that heterosexual seminarians felt uneasy and ultimately left" (Sexuality and Catholicism, 1995, p. 177). Garry Wills states: "Gays themselves register the change. In a survey of 101 gay priests, those ordained before 1960 remember their seminary as having been 51 percent gay. Those ordained after 1981 say their seminaries were 70 percent gay" (Wills, p. 194).
* In 1982 the thoroughly footnoted and indexed book titled The Homosexual Network: Private Lives and Public Policy, authored by Catholic priest Enrique Rueda, documented the spread of homosexuality throughout the Catholic Church. Rueda also tells of the growing network of support groups, counseling referrals, newsletters, and organizations of homosexuals and pro-homosexuals in the Catholic churches of America. He reports that in the late 1970's a key staffer at the Office of Public Affairs and Information at the U.S. Catholic Conference/National Conference of Catholic Bishops was a leader of the Washington, D.C. homosexual movement, as well as president of Dignity/USA (the radical pro-homosexual clerical group).
* Bishop Robert Lynch, the former general secretary of the NCCB recently admitted that, after he "crossed the boundaries" of professional relationships with a male member of his staff, he also paid off the victim with $100,778 to keep him quiet about harassment charges (The Tampa Tribune, March 23, 2002).
* Bishop Patrick Ziemann of Santa Rosa, CA, a known protege of Caridnal Roger Mahoney was removed from his bishopric after being found guilty of blackmailing a gay priest whom he had recruited for, um, special pastoral favors.
* Archbishop Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee resigned in disgrace in 2002 after it was discovered he paid $450,000 in hush money to keep his younger male paramour quiet.

If you haven't read Good-Bye, Good Men, the painstakingly documented book by Michael Rose, please do so. You asked for proof of "lavenderization"? Glory be to God, America's most famous liberal, Fr. Andrew Greeley -- not some homophobic conservative -- is the one who coined the phrase.

I could have made the above list much longer. But I don't have the stomach. And I don't want to provide a scandal to non-Catholic readers.

ACS's title is "Banning Homosexual Priests: A Reply." Again, the issue is not "banning," it's screening -- and, more to the point, we don't even know what the document says! I even admitted that any screening process is going to run into several difficulties, like: How gay is too gay? How closeted is closeted enough? How healed is healed enough? My respondent is arguing strenuously against the contents of a document that he has not read. (Nor have I.) Let's err on discretion's side.

I read the quotes from Pope John Paul II and then-Cardinal Ratzinger. Beautiful, inspriing words. If only I could see how they related to whether the Church should reduce the number of homosexuals in the priesthood.

If banning gay men from the clergy is the best way to reduce child abuse, then the best way to reduce car accidents is to ban red cars (statistically shown to be involved in more collisions). Just as you would focus on the driver's habits to reduce collisions, so would you focus on the people called to priestly vocation. A good assessment tool would include measures for maturity, self control, sound judgment, etc.

Ouch. The "red cars crash more often" tale is an urban legend. New Zealand researchers Furness, Conner et al have done all that homework for us. Speaking of red herrings, even if the red car myth was true, the analogy is invalid. "Car color risk" has to do with the visibility (or lack thereof) in the eyes of the other drivers, not with some inherent moral choice made by the vehicle itself. Homosexual desires are instrinsically disordered, however, and lead in greater frequency to the further disorder of attraction to minors of the same sex.

My repondent's solution is some kind of ongoing risk assessment plan based on generic tools. My solution is to reduce the risk before it leaves the gate. That's right: Since the wide majority of victims are young males (in the ephebophile profile age, and slightly older), it's correct to say that gay priests pose a higher statistical risk to minors. I take no pleasure in saying it. It's a scientific fact. When was the last time you read about a priest sexually abusing a young girl? It happens, but comparitively rarely. That is, unless the John Jay Report, the Clowes/Sonnier study, the frank admissions of gay-friendly authorities is all a bunch of homophobic B.S.

Any correlation between higher incidents of abuse involving males could probably be attributed to higher sex drives in males of offending ages. Not particularly helpful.

Why is it so hard to see that an inclination that is objectively disordered (because it desires an objectively disordered act) might be frequently accompanied by built-in psychosexual compulsivity? Friends who have battled same-sex attractions with the help of God's grace say the gay lifestyle is all gas and no brakes, if you catch my drift. Medals aren't handed out for chastity in the gay sub-culture, to say the least.

Now, is it theoretically possible for a homosexual to be sufficiently healed of same-sex desires, and to reach a level of maturity and social adjustment that he could function as a priest? I'd say the answer is yes. But I believe my fellow Canuck advocates a misplaced and ultimately dangerous compassion. As I said, I support managing the risk. But like a river that is polluted by an oil spill, let's get at the source, not just monitor things downstream where damage is already being done. That source is the seminary.

I wrote, "Since the John Jay Report clearly proved that the amount of 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 paedophile priests" -- a media-savvy alliteration -- preying on prepubescentcent children but gay men preying on teens, minors, vulnerable young men, often from bad family situations."

And Carlton replied, A non sequitur. This attempt to excuse the crisis as mostly "homosexual" as opposed to "abusive" is old hat - and wrong.

Huh? I'm not excusing anything; I'm describing. You have a false dichotomy. It isn't "homosexual vs abusive." It's simultaneously abusively homosexual and homosexually abusive. Switch the issue to skin color to see what I mean: If a black man is abused by a certain Klansman, you don't merely say, "Oh, leave racism out of it. It's just violence." No, it's both.

It presupposes that sexually immature teenage males are equal partners when courted for sex by adult males in positions of clerical authority.

I don't want to sound snarky, I never said, nor do I in any sense believe, that "sexually immature teenage males are equal partners when courted for sex by adult males in positions of clerical authority." Which is why I call them victims.

First, I don't give a rat's a** whether my priest is tall/short, fat/thin, big shoes/little shoes, gay/straight, masculine/effeminate or whatever! In the spirit of turning the other cheek, I would simply observe that one's personal preferences hardly form the basis for the eclesiastical bar of the profound nature being discussed. Nuff said.

Well, I admit I was open to be misunderstood on this point. I shouldn't have lumped in irrelevant categories; it only muddied the waters. Guilt as charged. But... with respect to a priest's life of holiness, "gay/straight" is not the same thing as "tall/short," or "fat/thin," and I think you know it. My point was merely a wish for more manly
priests. They don't have to be Marine drill instructors, or good ole boys from the ranch, or thugs. God forbid. But do so many have to overuse the word wunnnderful and dress like they walked off the set of Queer Eye?

Finally, A.C.S, this is very important: do you know nothing about the multiple interconnections in the Church between pro-gay organizations in the Church and Catholic dissent? They're practically hillbilly cousins, pardon the metaphor. They constantly cross-list each other in their literature: Dignity USA is a strong ideological partner of Call to Action, which invites speakers from New Ways Ministry, which hold seminars that include Voice of the Faithful leaders, which sends reps to the Religious Ed Congress in Anaheim (aka the LA Heresy Fest), all of which are ideologically interchangable with the Coalition of Concerned Canadian Catholics, which encourages dissent on many doctirnal fronts, etc etc etc. And on and on it goes. (Yes, there are some traditional-minded priests who have homosexual leanings, if you think they're the majority, I have some swampland on Baffin Island for you.)

Well, homophobic in this discussion merely means any unjust discrimination against gay men - which is what I believe a ban would be. As for my politics, well I have a Coulter '08 bumper sticker on order, so you make your own call. To me, a conservative respects institutions and the role they play while preserving individual freedoms. And rights.

You can have the "institution-preserving-individual-freedoms" model of the Church. I'll take Benedict XVI and the non-democratic Bride of Christ model. It's odd that an Ann Coulter fan would reject the idea that the institution of the Church has the right to regulate the quality and moral integrity of her priests at the level of instruction and formation.

Above all, I pray that good Catholics can agree amicably to disagree about how best to do this.

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.