Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Crux on Cardinal McCarrick's "Sexually Deviant Behavior": U.S. Catholic Church Continues to Be Unsafe for LGBTQ People

I went to bed last night more than a little troubled by something Crux reporter Christopher White states in his report on a presentation John Carr has just given at Georgetown's Initiative for Catholic Social Thought and Public Life. The presentation is entitled "Confronting a Moral Catastrophe: Lay Leadership, Catholic Social Teaching, and the Sexual Abuse Crisis." In his lecture, Carr, who was previously Director of the U.S. Catholic Bishops' Department on Justice, Peace and Human Development, and who has been a friend of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, revealed that he had been sexually abused by priests as a minor seminarian. John Carr is a married Catholic layman with children.

Christopher White reports on a key section of Carr's presentation as follows:

Carr went on to say that the now-revealed past behavior of his former ally McCarrick, whom [sic] he said was "a friend…and great supporter of my work," has made him "appalled, ashamed, and devastated by his abuse of power and people." 
He also added that he had previously confronted the former archbishop about rumors of his sexually deviant behavior, which he denied. 
"If any of that were true, I would not be here. These charges from my enemies have been repeatedly investigated by media," McCarrick told Carr.

As I say, I found these comments deeply disturbing — because of the casual way in which an influential young Catholic journalist with ties to other influential seasoned Catholic journalists drops the phrase "sexually deviant behavior" into a description of what John Carr, long a leading spokesman for Catholic social teaching, has said about Cardinal McCarrick. I was surprised, frankly, to hear John Carr using that phrase, and equally surprised — and alienated — to find Catholic theologian friends of mine circulating Christopher White's article on Twitter without any critical notice at all of his phrase "sexually deviant behavior" to sum up Cardinal McCarrick's abuse of power and people.

Some of the influential Catholic journalists and arbiters of the Catholic conversation in the public square with wom White is associated include Crux editor John Allen, Anne Hendershott of Franciscan University at Steubenville, and Austin Ivereigh, who is influential in the Catholic Voices project associated with Opus Dei member Jack Valero. White was formerly head of the U.S. branch of Catholic Voices, and its current head, Kim Daniels, chaired the Georgetown event at which Carr spoke.

Like John Carr, I am appalled, ashamed, and devastated by McCarrick's abuse of power and people. I am appalled, ashamed, and devastated by his alleged abuse of a minor. I find the way in which he preyed on vulnerable adults — seminarians —gut-churning. What power did the men under his authority whom he was abusing have to repudiate his advances or report them to anyone? No one should be subjected to such abuse of power.

But sexually deviant behavior? What does that ambiguous phrase mean, in the casual way in which Mr. White inserts it into his report? Does he intend to say that homosexuality itself is ipso facto sexually deviant, and that the root of the Catholic abuse crisis is that we have allowed the deviants into the priesthood — and we must get them out and purify the church from deviancy (a term that looms large in the title of a book Ms. Hendershott has written about abortion) to resolve the abuse crisis?

Is this how queer people will be talked about from here on out — casually, unapologetically — in Catholic circles, I asked myself as I tossed and turned during the night? By privileged, non-self-critical young journalists who have been groomed by right-wing think tanks and have amazing entrée at the top levels of the Catholic journalistic world to define the public conversation about Catholicism?

Then I woke up and I found the text of John Carr's presentation in America this morning. Here's how the passage into which Christopher White inserts the words "sexually deviant behavior" actually reads: 

As a father, friend and ally of Archbishop McCarrick, I am appalled, ashamed and devastated by his abuse of power and people. Years ago, I saw attacks on the cardinal, including rumors regarding the abuse of power and seminarians. I asked him directly whether they could be true. I can remember where and when he told me that "if any of that were true, I would not be here. These charges from my enemies have been repeatedly investigated by media. If they were true, I would not be here."

I don't find the words "sexually deviant behavior" in John Carr's text, do you? Though Mr. White states, reporting on this section of Carr's presentation, "He also added that he had previously confronted the former archbishop about rumors of his sexually deviant behavior, which he denied."

Maybe John Carr did use those words in an off-the-cuff remark. Maybe he did say those words and they don't appear in the written text of his lecture. If so, I owe an apology to Mr. White for suggesting he may have added them in his own report of what Carr said. If John Carr did not say those words, they're rather an interesting — rather a telling — insertion, are they not? They carry a lot of freight.

They carry a lot of very negative, toxic baggage for all queer people and all gay priests who are being maligned because of McCarrick's abuse of power and people — which is appalling, shame-worthy, and devastating behavior. But which is something quite different from "sexually deviant behavior," a term that certainly does define his and other clerics' abuse of any minor, and which might also be applied to the use of positions of unequal power to coerce sexual favors from non-consenting adults. But which does not define homosexual behavior if we rely on the overwhelmling consensus of the medical community for several decades now — a consensus that has not shifted despite the efforts of the Catholic magisterium to continue stigmatizing homsexual people and behavior as disordered and deviant.

But Mr. White's unnuanced use of the phrase makes none of those distinctions. I read it and hear, "Oh, McCarrick the homosexual doing what homosexuals do." 

And I suspect a whole lot of other readers will read it and hear the same thing. In fact, given my necessary suspicions about the powerful world of Catholic discourse and Catholic conversation-controlling to which Mr. White is connected and for which he has been groomed, I tend to think that the phrase is quite deliberately inserted into his report about John Carr's presentation to evoke such associations in the minds of readers.

As I've said previously and have to say again in conclusion, in the wake of Viganò's filthy homophobic attack on Pope Francis, not only are many leading Catholic journalists not speaking out about Viganò's homophobia as they critique his statement about Francis and expose its lies. Many leading Catholic journalists, including ones critiquing Viganò, are piling on with additional homophobia.

The Catholic community is not a safe space for queer people — not with powerful people like this controlling its public conversation. And with the rest of the pack, other Catholic journalists and academics, letting this happen and keeping their mouths tight shut.

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