Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Lies Keep Pouring Out: Gays as Pedophiles in Catholic Right Rhetoric

I’ve occasionally used this Bilgrimage blog to highlight conversations I’ve been having on other blogs, particularly when 1) those conversations have dropped to the bottom of a queue as new articles are posted, and/or 2) when the conversations seem to have an instructive value that goes beyond the parameters of the blog on which they’re being carried out.

Today, I’d like to track one such conversation. This is from the blog of the weekly national (U.S.) Catholic newspaper National Catholic Reporter (NCR). The conversation has to do with a report released by the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education on 12 January.

In this report, the Vatican Congregation, which is charged with oversight of seminaries around the world, announced that “difficulties” in American Catholic seminaries have been largely “overcome” because “homosexual behavior” is waning in seminaries (see Daniel Burke’s summary of the report at the NCR thread which began the blog discussion on which I’m focusing

The Vatican report is a follow-up to an order from Rome for seminaries to be investigated regarding their approach to gay priesthood candidates and to homosexuality in general. This investigation was ordered in 2002, the year in which news broke about how widespread was the crisis of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests, and how the laity had been kept from knowledge of the problem by bishops and the Vatican, through procedures like hiding and transferring abusive priests, paying off victims to silence them, using legal tactics to prevent investigations and suppress news coverage, etc.

In 2005, the U.S. Catholic bishops responded to the call for investigation of the seminaries to assure that candidates with "deep-seated homosexual tendencies" or who "support the so-called ‘gay culture’" were barred from the priesthood. Many observers of this crackdown on a purported “gay culture” in seminaries—including leaders of the community of survivors of clerical sexual abuse—maintain that this call for scrutiny of the seminaries is a scapegoating device to blame gay priests for the abuse crisis, and to draw attention away from those really to blame—the bishops and other high church leaders who have covered up and lied about the crisis for decades now.

When the report to which I have just linked was uploaded to the NCR blog site, the very first respondent was a blogger identifying himself/herself as CHAYNES. As anyone who googles this username and NCR or National Catholic Reporter can easily discover, this blogger is a regular on the NCR site. He/she has a tendency to blog in immediately when issues like abortion, homosexuality, or politics are under discussion. He/she also has a penchant for blogging immediately after these articles are posted, and thus framing the conversation on a thread. His/her political position is obvious, and it appears to determine his/her approach to the various religious issues discussed at the NCR site.

From the moment CHAYNES logged into the discussion about the seminaries, he/she was intent on doing more than blaming gay seminarians for abuse of minors in the Catholic church. He/she wanted to draw a clear parallel between homosexuality and pedophilia.

It’s for this reason that I am choosing to highlight this conversation at the NCR site. What the conversation demonstrates is the intent of those on the right to keep alive the bogus gay = pedophile linkage in our culture, as long as they can, and at whatever cost. CHAYNES’ comments on this blog suggest to me that if lying is part of the cost to keep alive this bogus linkage, then some folks on the right intend to pay that cost.

If distorting statistics and manufacturing data are necessary, then so be it: distortion and manufacture of “facts” there’ll be, aplenty. I have trouble getting my mind around the theological mindset of those who play such games. I certainly cannot judge any individual involved in these games. I do have the impression, though, as I watch this tactic from religious-right website to religious-right website, that there’s some belief system at work in which lying for the Lord is considered justifiable and even necessary, as one does the Lord’s work. After all, it's in a good cause, isn't it, and those about whom one is lying don't deserve any better treatment from Christians, do they?

Here’s CHAYNES’ opening salvo on this NCR thread. He wants gays kept from children altogether:

Sorry, pedophilia IS connected to sexual orientation. That's what the facts say.

Boys are the victims in 50% child sexual abuse crimes, and 84% of the cases involving catholic clergy. The only other explanation would be that a very large percentage of all men and an overwhelming percentage of priests are homosexual.

This is further evidence that homosexuality is a disordered condition. People who suffer from it should be kept from children, although they might make great caregivers for the elderly. Recent experience has shown that it was unwise to risk allowing them to be priests.

To which another blogger, DGF (among others) responds, asking CHAYNES for empirical evidence to back his claims linking homosexuality to pedophilia:

Chaynes, I did some research to verify the statistics you used. I could not find any data to support what you said. What I did find was the following:
key figures from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice study titled "The Nature and Scope of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States 1950-2002." The study was released in Washington Feb. 27.

-- 4,392 priests/deacons were accused. Of these, 41 were permanent deacons.
-- Allegations were made against 4 percent of the 109,694 priests serving during the period.
-- Allegations were lodged on behalf of 10,667 people.
-- 75 percent of the abuse incidents occurred during 1960-84.
-- Total sex abuse related costs reported during the period were $573 million with $219 million covered by insurance.
-- 81 percent of the victims were males, and 19 percent were females.
-- 50.9 percent of the victims were 11-14 years old and 27.3 percent were 15-17 years old.
"a high proportion of homosexual priests do not increase the risks of sexual abuse of minors by priests. Sexual orientation does not predict illegal sexual abuse of children and minors in general. Homosexual men are not more likely to engage in illegal sexual behaviors with children and adolescents than heterosexual men"

What are your sources? The vatican? Then your source is invalid. Your premises are in error.

The vatican has been engaging in a hate campaign against homosexuals, using them as a scapegoat in a vain attempt to cover up the real problem, which is that the entire magisterial authority, including the pope, is corrupt to the very core.

Independently of DGF, and with no awareness at all that she/he had challenged CHAYNES’ data and asked for evidence to back that data, I posted the following:

CHAYNES, do you have a credible scientific source for your statistics about arrests for child sexual abuse? As I imagine you know, the bona fide research conducted in this field for many years consistently demonstrates that over 90% of those who commit sexual abuse on minors identify as heterosexual men, and the overwhelming majority of their victims are females.

The 1978 study of psychologist Nicholas Groth is classic and its findings have been repeatedly verified. He screened 175 men convicted of sexual molestation of children and found not a single gay man in this sample. (See A. Nicholas Groth and H. Jean Birnbaum, "Adult Sexual Orientation and Attraction to Underage Persons," Archives of Sexual Behavior 7[3], 1978, pp. 175-181).

Groth concluded, "]T]he adult heterosexual male constitutes a greater risk to the underage child than does the adult homosexual male."

You may also want to read Carole Jenny, Tom Roesler, and Kimberly Poyer, "Are Children at Risk for Sexual Abuse by Homosexuals?," Pediatrics 94(1), July 1994, pp. 41-44. These physicians reviewed every case of suspected child abuse at Children's Hospital in Denver for over a year. They found that of the 269 cases determined to involve molestation by an adult, only two of the perpetrators could be identified as gay or lesbian.

The researchers concluded that the risk of child sexual abuse by an identifiably gay or lesbian person was between zero and 3.1%, and that the risk of such abuse by the heterosexual partner of a relative was over 100 times greater.

Do we end up in a moral place when we deliberately distort scientific data to "prove" a malicious political agenda linking pedophilia and homosexuality? How can such use of lies be reconciled with our Christian commitment to seek and tell the truth?

In society at large, the vast majority of those abusing minors are heterosexual men. And their victims are usually girls.

CHAYNES has not yet responded to me, and it will be interesting to see if he does so. To DGF’s request that he provide sources to corroborate his data linking homosexuality to pedophilia, CHAYNES replies:

Dear DGF

You were able to confirm my data with your "81 percent of the victims (of priests) were males, and 19 percent were females." I had said 84% and 16%.
Our numbers are virtually the same, and I am grateful to you.

In arrests for child sexual abuse, almost 50% of the victims are males although homosexuals are thought to be less than 5% of the population.

These numbers suggest that homosexuals are more likey to be sexual predators, but perhaps you could offer another explanation for this data?

Clearly, CHAYNES is not going to budge from his belief (and that’s what it is, isn’t it, since it flies in the face of abundant empirical evidence) that “homosexuals are more likey [sic] to be sexual predators . . . .” One gets the impression, in conversations like this, that the CHAYNES of the world need to believe—they need to believe that gay human beings are wicked, lustful, capable of any and all treachery, intent on abusing children. They need to believe this about gay human beings because gay people construed as diabolical have a strong utilitarian value to those who want to promote a smorgasbord of political causes by bashing gays.

When one reads CHAYNES’ other contributions to the NCR threads, one sees that more is at stake than bashing gays. It’s also necessary to question the feasibility of investigating too closely the murders of Catholic nuns working for social justice in Latin America; to play abortion and racial justice against each other, as if one cannot simultaneously pursue racial justice and seek to curb abortions; to slam anyone who questions the alliance of the American Catholic church with Republican politics in the past several decades, etc.

It’s all of a piece. And it’s all nasty, all rather removed from what religion is supposed to be about—which is seeking and telling the truth, loving, healing, protecting and not further harming those susceptible to prejudice and abuse, bringing folks to the table and not shoving them away.

Why focus on these issues in the new day of the Obama presidency? Because CHAYNES’ persistence in offering his unsubstantiated lies about gay human beings on this thread clearly demonstrates that many members of the religious right do not intend to stop this demonization of gay folks, even with the new president.

And perhaps especially not now that Barack Obama is president. Look for a ratcheting up of the lies, at any point in this presidency at which Mr. Obama may move towards human rights for gay citizens. We who support gay rights cannot afford to be blind to the ability of the religious right to keep on keeping on its campaign of ugly calumny. As Pam Spaulding wisely continues to insist on her Pam’s House Blend blog, it is important for us to continue listening to what believers like CHAYNES say—and to keep countering the lies.