Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Why Blaming Gay Priests for Catholic Abuse Situation Will Not Help Anything (Plus News about Cardinal Pell, Anti-Gay Hardliner)

As I posted my posting two days ago with an assortment of reports about the sexual abuse of vulnerable people in Christian churches, I had decided that I'd do a follow-up posting featuring some valuable commentary from Jamie Manson about Pope Francis' "worries" about gay priests. In my view, the critique/discussion of comments by top Catholic officials like the ones Francis has made to Father Fernando Prado about homosexuality and gay priests needs to go hand in hand with reports about abuse of vulnerable people in Christian churches. Where a plethora of reports from various churches, including the Catholic church, demonstrates plainly that the vulnerable people being abused by priests and pastors include females…. Demonstrating that the gays-are-the-problem analysis is a red herring if we really want to get to the root of sexual abuse of vulnerable people in faith communities….

Some very important commentary from Jamie Manson regarding Francis' muddled, bigoted, scientifically ludicrous comments about homosexuality to Father Prado:

A number of progressive Catholics have rushed to Francis' defense. Some argue that he is only opposed to priests and religious who break their vows of celibacy. Others insist that he did not include heterosexuals in his condemnation of celibacy-breakers because the interviewer's question was specifically about gay priests and gay and lesbian religious. 
But to apologize for Francis in these ways is to deny what he has said previously about homosexuality and about admitting gay men to the priesthood. 
In December 2016, Francis signed a rather homophobic document called "The Gift of the Priestly Vocation." 
That document quoted a 2005 instruction signed by Pope Benedict XVI that said, "The Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called 'gay culture.' " 
This statement clarifies Francis' obtuse words in his recent interview. It states clearly that even if a priest is not breaking his vow of celibacy, if his "homosexual tendencies" are "deep-seated," he loses his chance to be a priest. 
In May 2018, Francis also weighed in on the issue during a closed session with the Italian Episcopal Conference. As La Stampa reported, Francis expressed his concern about admitting seminarians with deep-rooted homosexual tendencies, telling the clergymen, "If you have even the slightest doubt, it is better not to let them in."

Jamie then goes on to provide a valuable overview of the abundant scientific evidence disputing the claims on which this attack on gay priests and religious rests — real science as opposed to the junk science pedded by homophobic sectors of the Christian world. And then she concludes:

Francis' words paint a portrait of gays and lesbians as those who will always struggle to remain celibate and who always run a high risk of causing a scandal. That he holds them to a special standard of sinless perfection suggests that he not only sees homosexuality as deviant, he also sees gays and lesbians as somehow powerless against their sexual desires and highly vulnerable to acting out sexually. 
The fact that Francis returns to this issue so frequently suggests it is one of his top concerns. The question is why? And why doesn't he fret nearly so much about heterosexual priests breaking their vows of celibacy? 
Many Vatican insiders predict that at next year's Synod of Bishops, Francis may attempt to relax the celibacy requirement. He has said more than once that the celibacy rule is changeable. Is the pope's preoccupation with the celibacy requirement for gay priests his way of shoring up this rule, should the time come that there will no longer be mandatory celibacy? Is he afraid that, when that day comes, gay priests will feel as entitled to sexual love as straight priests? 
Regardless of his motivations, Francis' characterizations of gays and lesbians and his notion of "deep-seated homosexual tendencies" will only foster the toxic homophobic attitudes that are already so prevalent in seminaries and religious communities, as well as in the wider church. In his attempt to discuss "the strength of a vocation," he has only weakened what little hope LGBTQ Catholics still have for his pontificate.

Add to Jamie Manson's valuable testimony that of Catholic theologian Brandon Peterson in the Salt Lake Tribune  yesterday. He states,

[T]he cause of the #ChurchToo phenomenon can in no fair way be traced to the orientation of gay clerics. Perhaps the easiest way to call this connection into question is to compare it with the wider #MeToo movement. In the case of Weinstein, nobody judged his pattern of preying upon women to stand as an indictment of heterosexuality. (Nor was such a judgment made after similar allegations surfaced against other public figures like Charlie Rose, Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, or Matt Lauer.) Likewise, calls to ban gay actors were not made after Kevin Spacy was accused of sexually molesting several teenage boys. In yet another case, feminist New York University professor Avital Ronell, a lesbian, was accused by her former graduate student, Nimrod Reitman, of sexual harassment; Reitman is a gay man. 
Even in just this handful of cases, any attempt to trace the cause of abuse to the root of sexual orientation leaves one’s mind spinning. There’s no pattern to indicate that the sexual exploitation decried by #MeToo is a function of the predator's sexual preference; indeed, cases can be found in just about any permutation of perpetrators and victims, whether they be gay, straight, male, female, or otherwise. However, one pattern clearly does emerge: People in positions of power take sexual advantage of their vulnerable subordinates. … 
Catholics today are right to widen their lenses in order to see both adult and child victims in the church's ongoing abuse crisis. However, in turning our attention to seminarians, we cannot address the issue by blaming gay men and calling for their expulsion from the priesthood. Doing so unfairly stigmatizes the church’s many faithful gay priests, it erases the stories of girls and women who have survived clerical abuse, it focuses our much-needed efforts on a wild-goose chase that fails to address the true problems, and finally, it is almost impossible to implement. It may even exacerbate the problem.

Nor is this news unrelated:

The Vatican's third most powerful official has been convicted in Australia on all charges he sexually abused two choir boys there in the late '90s, according to two sources with knowledge of the case. 
A unanimous jury returned its verdict for Cardinal George Pell on Tuesday (Australian time) after more than three days of deliberations, the sources said, in a trial conducted under a gag order by the judge that prevented any details of the trial being made public.

As you read this news, keep in mind that Pell has long been one of the Vatican's hardliners on the topic of homosexuality and on the gay-priests-are-the-problem analysis. As this ABC Australia report notes, it is Pell's hardline stance on homosexuality and other hot-button issues that caught the attention of powerful men in Rome, resulting in his ecclesiastical preferment. He has characterized homosexuality as "wrong," has refused communion to openly gay people, has stated that the abuse problems in the Catholic church are "obviously connected with homosexuality." He has campaigned against distribution of condoms in Africa to stop the spread of HIV and against same-sex marriage. He supports the ban on accepting gay candidates in Catholic seminaries. He refused to answer a letter his cousin Monica Hingston made public, in which she wrote to ask him to justify magisterial teaching on homosexuality, when that teaching attacks people like her, a former nun now living in a lesbian relationship.* Pell refused to meet with his cousin to have the discussion she requested.

In what real universe is all of this a solution to the abuse crisis in the Catholic church? Given what now appears to be Pell's own story….

* Later (13 December): I now see on doing further reading that Monica Hingston's partner Peggy Moran died in March 2011.

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