Thursday, April 1, 2010

Going for the Jugular of the Gays Again: Benedict's Defenders Set Us Straight

I’m sorry to say that I was correct when I observed several days ago that the defenders of the indefensible would go right for the jugular, as they work to deflect attention from the pope and the bishops following the latest revelations about clerical abuse in the Catholic church.  They’ve gone right for the jugular of the gays once again, that is.  Question the pope’s moral aptitude to lead the church, and you’ll quickly see the defenders of the indefensible do what they always do when the pope’s behavior is being scrutinized: go for the gays.

Earlier this week, Catholic League president Bill Donohue published a full-page ad in the New York Times trying to set us all straight, as it were, about the real causes of the Catholic church’s abuse crisis.  It’s the gays.  And the minors they’re abusing in the priesthood are not children, but young adolescents—as though the rape of young adolescents is any less horrendous than the rape of children.

This is by now a tired line of defense, vis-à-vis the abuse crisis, one whose exceptional dishonesty is now very clear to thoughtful observers.  As I’ve noted previously on this blog, spokespersons for the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) point out that half of their membership is female—and that the record of clerical abuse by minors involves females every bit as much as it does males.  SNAP officials, who know the church’s abuse record in more detail than anyone outside the Vatican itself, note that the stigma attached to rape of girls or women is so strong that many females do not come forward with reports of their rape—though SNAP has strong reason to suspect that reports of abuse of girls would be abundant, if these cases were ever reported. 

The attempt to blame gays for the abuse crisis is an attempt to draw the spotlight away from where it has to be placed, if the crisis is ever to be effectively addressed.  The crisis of abuse of minors in the Catholic church is a crisis about abuse of power and authority.  The bishops and the Vatican are responsible for this crisis and its cover-up, and it will never be effectively addressed until these pastoral authorities are brought to accountability for what they have done.

Though it may be deeply satisfying at a psychological level (and politically effective) for Catholic defenders of the indefensible to go for the jugular of the gays yet again, this immoral and destructive attack on a minority group is not going to do anything at all to assist the church in coming to terms with its serious, deep-rooted problem.  It’s only going to deflect attention from the real roots of the crisis.  That’s what it’s designed to do.

As Maureen Dowd notes in yesterday’s New York Times, Donohue is playing a cynical Rovian card here, and his choice to do a Karl Rove is not surprising, when one notes the coterie of right-wing Republican activists with whom Donohue is connected, including Brent Bozell, Alan Keyes, and Dinesh D’Souza.  These folks have long been involved in vicious diversionary attacks on the gay community to drum up support for right-wing Republican causes.  Of course they’re going to take the self-reported data of the U.S. Catholic bishops about abuse cases and try to spin the data in an anti-gay direction. 

That’s what they do.  The right-wing Catholic outfit Catholic was already floating this anti-gay meme a week ago, as it commented on the latest data about the abuse crisis gathered and reported by the bishops themselves

And they’ll keep on trying this tactic as long as it appears to work for them—which is to say, as long as their Catholic brothers and sisters of the center, who are now working fast and furious to assist them in their dishonorable defense of the indefensible, permit them to bash the gays with impunity, as a way of deflecting attention from the real problems facing Catholics today. 

As Marci Hamilton notes, the time for fence-sitting is long gone, re: the abuse crisis.  When children are being raped, and when gays and lesbians are being viciously bashed all over again, it’s high time to take a stand and stop the “on the one hand, on the other hand” business. 

Because refusing to take a stand in situations like this is actually taking a stand: it’s siding with those covering up the rape of children and cynically using gay human beings to deflect the attention from the cover-up, yet again.  And the moral track record those colluding in the cover-up of child rape are creating for themselves is not a pretty record, and certainly not one fitting for people who claim to be defending a Christian church and its values and teachings.