Friday, March 19, 2010

Boys Talking to Boys: The Roots of the Abuse Crisis in the Catholic Church

I woke last night thinking about the attack of Carl Olson and Mark Shea on Andrew Sullivan for daring to be a . . .well, a  homosexual: that's the word Olson wants to put front and center . . . who dares to tell the truth about what the Catholic hierarchy have done vis-à-vis clerical sexual abuse.  Believe it or not, I do actually sometimes spend restless nights thinking about the church and its comportment, though I no longer set foot in the church after I was robbed of my vocation as a theologian, and of my livelihood and health care in the process.

And what struck me in the middle of the night, as I mulled over Andrew Sullivan’s summary of the preposterous confabulations that these defenders of Benedict now want to get away with, is this: perhaps the biggest problem the Catholic church faces now, the one most responsible for the abuse situation, is the lack of women’s voices in the church.  The lack of any effective power for women in the church.

I am more weary than I know how to say of boys talking to boys.  About boy things.  In both church and the culture at large.

Boys talking endlessly to boys about boy things: that’s what the church has made of itself, and it’s no wonder that the conversation is so tragically skewed, so off-center, so unable to produce any effective, compelling account of what it means to be Catholic in the world today—and it’s no wonder that this disjointed, one-sided conversation which effectively excludes the viewpoint of half of the church (and half of the human race) has ended up producing the abuse crisis.

And is now producing lame, dishonorable, sinful attempts to shield from blame those old boys who have brought the church to the pass in which it currently finds itself.

Yes, I’m a boy, and I’m a boy who also talks to boys.  But as I wrote last October, I’m also a boy—one who happens to be gay, and has fought to value his feminine side and the feminine in general—who finds it unthinkable to understand or talk about anything without listening to what women have to say.

My October posting notes how perplexed—but unsurprised—I was to hear about Mr. Obama’s vacation reading list last summer, and to discover it contained not a single book written by a woman.  Not one.  All boy talk.  All talk by boys to other boys about how to rule the world as a boy.

It’s no surprise, then, that our government is where it is today, with Rahm Emanuel stalking nude through D.C. gyms frequented by the boys who run the government, yelling at them as they stand toweling off after their workouts.  We’re stuck, as a culture, at a level of early adolescent development peculiar to males, with a fixation on power over others, on phallic strutting, and on game playing that’s all about being on the winning side and turning others into losers—and not about healing the world or building a humane society for all.

The church merely mirrors what is normative in the culture at large, in this respect.  It’s about winners and losers, a fixation on power, and phallic strutting—in the name of God, of course.  As Nicole Sotelo reminds us at NCR yesterday, it’s about beating up on women religious while giving a free pass—a complete and total free pass—to priests raping children.

It’s not about lesbian mothers and their children, and making the world humane for those members of God’s family.  And for all children.  It’s not about protecting vulnerable children from sexual predators sporting clerical collars.
It’s about the boys who defend those old boys trying to convince us that the real moral challenge facing us all is not the squandering of our world by power-mad little boys: the real moral challenge, the boys talking only to other boys and defending old boys would have us believe, is homosexuality.

It’s men who don’t uphold male-dominant side.  It’s men in whom the feminine (and therefore the weak and irrational) is too pronounced, too undisguised.  It’s men who remind us of women.

These are the real challenges, the boys talking only to other boys and defending the old boys (some of whom wear dresses as they bash their gay brothers) want us to think.  The real challenge is keeping women and gay men in their places.  It’s homosexuals.

It’s enough to make you weep.