A reader writes:
While I wholeheartedly agree with your conclusion that B16 should retire and that the charade of priestly celibacy ought also to be retired, I was startled by some twists in your route to those good ends.
You say that some men entered the priesthood to find a cure for their gay sexuality. I suspect that somewhere there may be such a priest, but overwhelmingly, we who were ordained gay were actually not in search of a cure. We had a rather high estimation of ourselves as sexual creatures. We were joining a fraternity of accomplished and respected gay men. Gay sex was certainly not off limits to us as long as we bought the duplicity and the premise that we did it secretly. As gay culture became acceptable, the need for this fraternity withered and the priesthood stopped attracting good gay candidates.
Also, I tried hard to understand and to feel your assertion that pedophile priests see their victims as less than human. I don't think I agree with that. I think that in most cases, pedophile priests saw their victims as convenient humans.
These men were largely not part of the fraternity of gay priests whose meetings would happen at gay rectories, resorts, bars and baths. As the accusations came to light, many of us who are or were gay priests were totally surprised by the names of the accused. I think that many of them felt trapped by celibacy whereas those of us who simply shrugged it off from the time of our ordinations and led active sex lives and formed healthy relationships with adults were not their associates. They conducted their pedophile sex in secret. I think the media mistakenly paints the image of a priesthood in which all priests were aware of what was happening. I, hardly a blushing flower, was among those shocked at the extent of the situation.
The fledgling group called "Catholics for Equality" hopes to derail an unfair connection between pedophilia and gay clergy. I hope their efforts are successful, but I will say that my experience of the hierarchy makes me firmly believe that a gay bishop or cardinal - especially one who has had his career boosted by not having the kind of sex he might personally desire - might be inclined to go easy on a pedophile priest because he feels guilty about his own desires, mistakenly grouping together all forbidden fruit.
I think what many Catholics don't know is that priests are simply not well trained for celibacy. Even the ones who are not sexually active have substituted the non-celibate preoccupations of gluttony and entertainment and porn and whiskey to take the place of sex. It's a sad way of life all around.
I think B16 will retire "for health reasons" but I am afraid that we do not at this moment have a cardinal ready for election who will abolish the charade of priestly celibacy. Five years from now, there may be one courageous enough to do it, and he may be an American.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.