Thursday, August 9, 2018

Strange Story from Fort Worth Diocese: Is Public Shaming of Priests Thought to Be Gay What We Can Look Forward to in Wake of McCarrick Story?

As Austen Ivereigh points out, the "open letter from young Catholics" who are seeking to resurrect the lavender mafia slur of priests in the wake of the McCarrick story (the letter does not use that term, but uses all the buzzwords connected to that slur) does not once mention Saint John Paul the Great, who made McCarrick a cardinal after the Vatican knew McCarrick's story, but focuses, instead, on Pope Francis, stating,

We are scandalized by the fact that men like Archbishop McCarrick have held positions of authority in the Church. Indeed, we are alarmed by reports that Pope Francis acted on McCarrick’s guidance in creating cardinals and appointing men to senior positions in the Church.

But it was Saint John Paul the Great, who sheltered the notorious abuser Marcial Maciel, who made McCarrick a cardinal, when the Vatican knew McCarrick's story — not Pope Francis. A certain set of Catholics richly represented in this "open letter of young Catholics" are predictably trying to use the McCarrick story to gay-bash and Francis-bash, without even noting who made McCarrick a cardinal. Even when we now know that the Vatican knew the full score about McCarrick when Saint John Paul the Great, whose papacy brought brutal attacks on gay Catholics, made him a cardinal….

I'm making these observations to preface my commentary on the following story, which I've been trying to follow carefully, though I have to admit that the he-said, he-said way the story is being framed in the media and by church officials makes it extremely difficult to decipher. Perhaps I am simply misreading or not understanding this story, and, if so, I hope readers will put me to rights. 

To me, something about this story does not meet the smell test. Here are its bare bones (and for news coverage, see here, here, here, and here):

A Prosper, Texas, priest — Father Richard Kirkham — has resigned after an unnamed priest and the diocese of Forth Worth released a letter by Kirkham to that unnamed priest that they say is sexually explicit (and the portions of the letter featured in news accounts are, indeed, explicit).

Kirkham claims that the other priest was having an affair with a woman, spoke to Kirkham about it, and Kirkham then said he'd report him to diocesan officials, but did not do so. The unnamed priest claims Kirkham gave off a "gay vibe" and once kissed him on the cheek.

If I am reading correctly, the diocese says that the unnamed priest and the woman with whom he was allegedly having an affair are innocent — but Kirkham is guilty, and should have reported the affair of the other priest to the diocese. Yet the diocese is simultaneously claiming that said affair did not happen!

The bottom line I see here: an unnamed priest said to have been having an affair with a woman has had his identity shielded by diocesan officials, while another priest has been publicly outed as perhaps gay (he gives off a "gay vibe," he kissed me on the cheek), and has had his name dragged through the mud and a racy letter he wrote the priest whose identity is being shielded made public.

Once again, bottom line: a priest said to have been having an affair with a woman has had his identity carefully protected by diocesan officials, while another priest now publicly branded as gay — Fr. Kirkham — has had his name dragged through the mud.

This story is not meeting the smell test for me. Is this what we can now expect across U.S. Catholic dioceses in the wake of the McCarrick story — priests suspected of being gay targeted, publicly shamed, while priests about whom there are allegations of heterosexual transgressions are protected?

I hope not.

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