Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Catholic Gay Priest Problem

Via Dad29, a post from Crunchy Con comments on the “Gay Priest Problem.”

Although child molesters in society generally are more likely to be heterosexual than homosexual, it’s very different where the Catholic priesthood is concerned.

The issue is not nearly so simple as the notion that “gays are child molesters.”

The story is much more complex, involving the domination of many seminaries by open and aggressive homosexuals. And no, not just guys who lust after other guys, but men who unashamedly engage in homosexual sex. Indeed, seminarians (gay and straight) who want to remain celibate are often marginalized.

It’s not, in other words, about the sinful nature of individuals (something Christianity holds to be universal) but about a perverse culture.

The mainstream media, not surprisingly, won’t touch the issue.

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11 Comments:

Anonymous hot fuzz said...

Professor McAdamas --

Although I agree with you on economic issues (e.g., Wal-Mart), I disagree with you on social issues. I guess you could say I'm a libertarian. But the former governor's brother has made that word so dirty. And I don't really care whether we legalize any drugs. And I tend to vote Republican because Democrats are so, so wrong on the economy.

Okay, so the preceding paragraph was nothing more than an attempt to show you that, although I disagree with you on this issue, I tend to think I'm a reasonable person and not an ideologue.

So, to get to the point (which may be more terse than my disclaimer): Rather than "perverse" behavior, could the Catholic Church's (or, more specifically, the seminaries') problem be that the Catholic Church forces homosexuals to hide?

Or, to get to the heart of the matter, does it make sense that (in the description of my parents' Catholic parish priest, with whom I recently had a private meeting) the Church condemns homosexual acts but not homosexuality? This culture of repression can't be healthy . . . .

1:17 AM  
Anonymous mrslovett said...

I have a question! If priests are supposed to be celibate, who cares if they are homosexual or heterosexual? Who really cares who it is they are not sleeping with? Seems to me your issue should be that there are priests who aren't celibate, if you think that's a central part of the priesthood, and not their sexual preferences. Just wondering why it's necessary to say the problem is "gay priests". Isn't it "sexually active priests"? I must be super confused!

11:06 AM  
Anonymous mrslovett said...

Oh, something else I wanted to say. "Gays are child molesters" is the most offensive thing I've heard in a long time. It's counter to research, it's stereotyping, it's hateful, and the reason mainstream media won't touch it is because most people don't like listening to hate speech on the 5 pm news.

11:07 AM  
Blogger John McAdams said...

Hot Fuzz,

. . . could the Catholic Church's (or, more specifically, the seminaries') problem be that the Catholic Church forces homosexuals to hide?

Remember, the rule is celibacy for both gay and straight orientations. If either can't hack it, they should look someplace besides the priesthood.

. . . the Church condemns homosexual acts but not homosexuality? This culture of repression can't be healthy . . . .

It makes perfect sense. A heterosexual guy may be tempted to have an adulterous affair with somebody else's wife. His "orientation" is toward adultery. But if he can avoid sinning, he's not going to be condemned.

As for "the culture of repression:" isn't this just a way of saying "self-control?"

Don't you favor the "culture of repression" where adultery is concerned?

I think you simply disagree with the Church about homosexuality.

Of course you have that right, but don't make bogus arguments.

4:17 PM  
Blogger John McAdams said...

mrslovett said...

You are correct that both gay and straight priests should be celibate.

The problem is that there is, in at least some seminaries, a culture that condones homosexual acts.

I'm not aware of such a culture condoning heterosexual acts among supposedly celibate priests.

In some places and at some times were probably was. That was a serious kind of corruption.

So my post was about a culture, not really the behavior of isolated individuals.

4:21 PM  
Blogger John McAdams said...

mrslovett said...

Oh, something else I wanted to say. "Gays are child molesters" is the most offensive thing I've heard in a long time. It's counter to research, it's stereotyping, it's hateful, and the reason mainstream media won't touch it is because most people don't like listening to hate speech on the 5 pm news.

I assumed some politically correct person would notice that in my post and, not bothering to read what I actually wrote, assume I had asserted that.

The media are politically correct, and won't honestly publish anything that reflects badly on homosexuals, no matter what the truth.

But the truth is that there have been some very reckless and perverse gay subcultures. The San Francisco bath house scene, the Folsom Street Fair, and some seminaries are examples.

Truth is truth, and labelling it "hate speech" doesn't make it any less true.

4:26 PM  
Anonymous hot fuzz said...

Professor McAdams:

Yes, I'll admit, my comment had less to do with your post than my disagreement with the church's view on homosexuality.

However, your adultery comparison only answers my question if you agree that homosexuality, like adultery, is morally contemptible. I assume you think this to be the case. (But why? Because your god says so? Where?) Why does the church impose a broader prohibition on homosexual sex than heterosexual sex? If you answer is "procreation," why must sex be for the purpose of procreation (no matter the success, of course, as many an unfortunate couple has found)?

In any event, no, a "culture of repression" is not a culture of self-control. This begs the question. Homosexuality is something to be controlled only if it is (1) wrong or (2) wrong in excess (I assume you would argue the former).

Don't make bogus arguments yourself. Adultery is not the same as homosexuality. Condemning adultery requires no resort to religion, but condemning homosexuality does (although many attempt to cloak the argument in non-religious terms). Devoid of religion, here's the situation we're left with: While a heterosexual person in a monogamous relationship would violate a promise (whether explicit or implicit) to her partner by having sex with another person, a homosexual person violates no promise by having sex with a person of the same sex (that is, unless you impose on her the promise not to have sex with a person of the same sex).

Yes, I agree with a "culture of repression" when it comes to adultery (which I find to be morally contemptible). For that matter, I agree with a culture of repression when it comes to murder, theft, and bestiality (the final example is but a cousin to your adultery argument regarding homosexuality). What is it about homosexuality that is so threatening?

2:42 AM  
Blogger John McAdams said...

hot fuzz,

You are continuing to argue that homosexuality is OK, so therefore the Church should not condemn it.

I'm not going to argue that pro or con, although I happen to agree with scripture on that point.

The issue is that there is a huge problem in some seminaries with a homosexual culture.

It's a culture of disobedience toward (indeed scoffing at) Church teaching, and a culture that leaves those that participate in it badly compromised when dealing with certain issues -- like child abuse.

Even somebody who thinks that homosexual acts are fine should find such a culture problematic.

I don't see anything wrong with people owning a large stock portfolio, but if members of Catholic orders who have taken vows of poverty do so, that's a serious form of corruption.

And if I said that it was fine with me since I disagree with the Church on that, that would not be a morally or intellectually serious argument.

You mentioned adultery, and said it's wrong because it involves violating a vow. I agree with you on that.

And violating a vow of chastity is a serious matter too. Even worse is a culture that scoffs at chastity (or marital fidelity).

Let's please get beyond political correctness. Even if you believe homosexual acts are OK, sometimes there are homosexual subcultures that are perverse. The San Francisco gay bath house culture and the Folsom Street Fair culture are examples.

Want to argue that there are heterosexual subcultures that are equally perverse?

Be my guest. I'll probably agree with you 100%.

2:11 PM  
Anonymous hot fuzz said...

I suppose we could argue in circles about this -- as we've both said, we're unlikely to get the other to agree on the acceptability or morality of homosexuality. So I'll attempt to constrain my comments to issues for which we may be able to find common ground.

I'll agree with you on a couple of points. First, if celibate persons are marginalized (both in seminaries and the priesthood), this is a significant problem, not least of all because of the importance of celibacy in priesthood.

Second, if the pedophilia scandal was inadequately addressed by bishops because of "homosexual blackmail" or misplaced empathy with the pedophiles (as suggested in the original post you linked to), this is also a huge problem. If the "perverse gay subculture" in seminaries is causing this, then I agree with you that it needs to be addressed (the manner in which it needs to be addressed can be for further discussion, but I don't think a homosexual witch-hunt should be the starting point).

Third, I also agree with you that, if homosexual blackmail or misplaced empathy exist because of the "perverse homosexual subculture" within the priesthood, it is a horrible thing, and I am glad that you are helping bring it to light. As I noted in my original comment, I consider myself a reasonable person and not an ideologue. Thus, I am fully capable of recognizing that homosexuals should not be immune from criticism (I remember that many gay activists opposed education about safe sex during the infancy of the AIDS outbreak). My reaction to your post is not the result of political correctness, as you seem to accuse me of in your last response.

However, I don't think the issue is so broad that it can boil down to: "homosexuality in the priesthood caused the pedophilia scandal." You cautioned against taking such a simplistic view of the problem, and you intimated disagreement with the notion that "gays are child molesters," but your argument seems to fit that line of thinking.

A "perverse homosexual culture" in seminaries is still a far cry from pedophilia -- in fact, I wouldn't be suprised if many or most of the products of the perverse homosexual subculture found the pedophilia scandal horrifying. Condemning priests who may use homosexual blackmail or who have misplaced empathy for pedophiles is one thing. But to broadly condemn a homosexual subculture within the church and seminaries goes too far. As far as I know, these subcultures don't condone pedophilia or train their adherents to become pedophiles. Gay sex is not the gateway drug to pedophilia, and I think it's time this argument died.

And finally, a side discussion: If priests disagree with their vow of chastity or the church's teachings regarding homosexual acts, they should try to work within the church to end the vow of chastity or change the church's teaching regarding homosexuality, rather than creating a "culture of disobedience."

But how is it not a "morally or intellectually serious argument" to condone priests engaging in homosexual acts (I do not, of course, condone pedophilia)? I realize the importance of church doctrine and the vow of chastity -- I mean in no way to diminish its importance. But isn't there any room within the church for civil disobedience? The church has proven throughout history that it is not infallible, and its doctrine has not been without revisions. That the church might be "wrong" on chastity and homosexuality isn't entirely unbelievable.

The example you provide in your previous comment is perhaps a better avenue for discussion on this issue, because we won't get wrapped up in all our beliefs regarding homosexuality.

In your example, you have elevated obedience to the church beyond all else. Must the hypothetical wealthy priest tilt at windmills and attempt to effect change in church doctrine, while surely destroying his career along the way? Perhaps he should have the courage to take on the church, but I'm not sure I can condemn him for choosing to live in violation of his vow of poverty and church doctrine rather than choosing a course that will ruin him.

9:43 PM  
Blogger John McAdams said...

hot fuzz,

We still disagree, although I think we have narrowed the disagreement down to the point that we don't have to refight the Culture Wars with each post.

That's progress. :-)

As for "civil disobedience:" I'm not keen on that in a private voluntary institution.

When blacks sat in at segregated lunch counters circa 1960, or when anti-abortion protestors sit in at an abortion clinic circa 2008, both have had the policy with which they disagree imposed on them.

They didn't agree to it.

But seminarians have agreed to certain restrictions on their behavior.

By the way, if you want to talk about "civil disobedience," the classic essay on that is King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail."

King said that civil disobedience:

1.) Must be nonviolent
2.) Must be open
3.) The person doing it must be willing to take the consequences -- typically some criminal sentence. Happily, this is seldom more than a fine for disorderly conduct.

It seems to me that what you are suggesting violated points 2. and 3.

It seems to me that if a priest wants to resign because of disagreement with the Church on homosexuality or celibacy, there would be nothing dishonorable about that. He's free to make a big stink (that's called "free speech").

Indeed, maybe he should openly defy Church teaching, but then when (like King in that jail) not whine when consequences follow.

As for a homosexual culture in seminaries having something to do with child abuse: you may have a point here. Nothing prevents a priest from being a complete libertine about homosexual sex but taking a hard line against pedophilia.

I respect the blogger to whom I linked on this point, but it's fair to ask for a more fleshed out argument.

It might be as simple as "when you have your own dirty secret, it's harder to be tough on others who have a dirty secret." The case of Milwaukee's former Archbishop might suggest this.

I'm aware that you could argue that deciding that homosexuality is OK might help the situation. If it's not any longer a "dirty secret," it can't be used against you.

I don't think the Church can do this, since it runs so contrary to the Natural Law view of sex and so contrary to scripture.

It's also the sort of thing done by declining religious groups -- Anglicans, UCC, etc.

But there are certainly ways in which it would be convenient.

10:50 PM  
Anonymous hot fuzz said...

Thanks, again, Professor McAdams, for taking the time to keep this conversation going -- I'm sure you have plenty more pressing matters to attend to.

And point taken about civil disobedience -- it was a poorly chosen term. Perhaps a better choice would have been "dissent."

Even if I used "dissent," however, I should have been more clear. As I hinted in the previous post, the priests who engage in homosexual acts but don't openly criticize the vow of celibacy or the church's teachings on homosexuality are taking a somewhat cowardly route -- they can have their cake and eat it too by remaining in the priesthood and refusing to abide by their vow.

Then again, I also recognize that I should be hesitant to call them cowards. Throughout history, dissenters within the church (and without the church, for that matter) have not fared so well . . . with notable exceptions (another Martin Luther comes to mind). Even though dissenters now don't face death, the consequences of openly fighting the church are none too pleasant.

12:21 AM  

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