A reader writes:

I’ve been thinking about the way the child abuse situation is playing out, and I’ve realized that one of the unaddressed problems in this situation is silence.

Silence_wojnarowicz I’m not just talking about the silence of those who knew horrible things were happening and didn’t report it to civil authorities. I’m talking about the silence that has created this warped culture in the first place.

I’ve spent much of my life around Catholic priests, and teach religion at a Jesuit university. In dozens of conversations with priests, it is clear that so many of them don’t believe in an exclusively male priesthood, don’t believe in the church’s teaching that homosexuality is a “disorder,” reject the church’s absurd claims about masturbation, and some (though a smaller minority) don’t believe in the necessity of a celibate and chaste priesthood. But they keep their views to themselves. They remain silent.

The truth is that this silence is a form of acquiescence to the illusion of an asexual institution. And it is this illusion that has created this problem in the first place. 

People who feel compelled to molest children either enter the priesthood with the sincere hope that they can escape their sexuality altogether, or as a shield to enable their predatory behavior. The disproportionate extent to which this predatory behavior has taken place among gay men is only a function of the disproportionate degree to which the priesthood is the world’s biggest closet, and young gay men are encouraged to enter it as a way to “escape” their “disordered” tendencies (so yes, while same-sex child molestation can and does happen with otherwise heterosexual men, in a population in which a third?, a half?, or more? [it’s bound to be speculative] of the men are gay, it shouldn’t be surprising that a higher proportion of the predatory behavior will manifest itself in molestation of boys.

And to pretend that eliminating homosexuals from the priesthood will solve the problem is not only comicalit’s like a politician promising to clean up Washingtonbut will only assure the church is doubling-down on the fantasy of asexuality. It makes the invitation to predators even more appealing!).

If all of those priests who whispered in private conversations about their disapproval of the formal teachings of the Church regarding human sexuality were to make themselves known, and begin to work to publicly change the Church, who knows what the result might be? It wouldn’t be pretty, but it would be a start to an honest dialogue. Of course, this is a culture that values obedience over honesty, submission over truth telling, and it is set up in such a way to assure that deviating from this value structure will lead to great personal loss. But at a certain point, once we see the costs of this warped structure, isn’t it morally incumbent on the silent to speak?

I’ve always felt that “Silence=Death” was among the most powerful slogans ever. In the case of the Church, silence sometimes equals death, but it always equals pain, suffering, and the destruction of human souls whose lives will never be the same as a result of these acts.

So, yeah, keep stickin’ it to Ben XVI and his crew….but maybe, like MLK used to say of those who silently bent to the will of oppressors, the solution rests with them.

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