I figured we had gotten past this canard but since Bill Donohue is on every television and radio show loudly proclaiming that the church's abuses can be attributed to "homosexuals", and therefore it is homosexuality and not the church that stands in the dock, it requires some unpacking.
Here's Donohue's valid point. In some of the reports on the sex abuse crisis, the impression is sometimes given that all the offenses are against children in the classic pedophile sense - pre-pubescent. The John Jay Report found that 22 percent of the cases of abuse in America were with children under the age of ten, 51% were between the ages of 11 and 14, and 15 percent were aged 16 or older. Eighty percent were same-sex abuse. So you can see how you can say that the majority of the cases were same-sex acts between men and male teens who were sexually past puberty. Hence, in Donohue's blinkered eyes, the gays did it. And if we get rid of all the gays, we may be unfair to many of them, but at least we can get rid of the abuse.
But here's why Donohue's attempt to blame the crisis on homosexuals as such is so wrong. First, the critical issue is abuse, not orientation. The abuse of a young or teenage boy is no different in its nature than the abuse of a young or teenage girl. The sin is the abuse of power, and the use of religious authority to subject the defenseless to an adult's sexual gratification. It's about the power differential, and the still fragile nature of a developing psyche and sexuality. The sexual orientation of the perpetrator is, strictly speaking, irrelevant to the matter at hand: an institution that sought to cover up, and protect rapists and molesters of minors. If we were talking about adult sexual relationships here, we could have a discussion about sexual orientation. But we're not. We're talking about abuse.
Secondly, and obviously, homosexuality is not abuse. It is an orientation that for the overwhelming majority involves consensual sex with adults. Some obvious attraction for teenage boys is as prevalent among gays as the obvious attraction for teenage girls for straight men. But there is no reason to correlate homosexuality with abuse, pederasty or pedophilia.
The real question is: what kind of gay man molests children and young teens? Just as: what kind of straight man molests children and young teens? What leads to this kind of behavior which is far from the norm among homosexuals and heterosexuals? And why does the Catholic Church priesthood seem such a magnet for child rapists and molesters? Why has it seemed to attract so many gay men who are psychologically disturbed or sick when it comes to their sexual orientation?
I find the answer pretty straightforward.
The church teaches first of all that all gay men are "objectively disordered:" deeply sick in their deepest soul and longing for love and intimacy. A young Catholic who finds out he's gay therefore simultaneously finds out that his church regards him as sick and inherently evil, for something he doesn't experience as a choice. That's a distorting and deeply, deeply damaging psychic wound. Young Catholic gay boys, tormented by this seemingly ineradicable sinfulness, often seek religious authority as a way to cope with the despair and loneliness their sexual orientation can create. (Trust me on this; it was my life). So this self-loathing kid both abstracts himself from sexual relationships with peers, idolizes those "normal" peers he sees as he reaches post-pubescence, and is simultaneously terrified by these desires and so seeks both solace and cover for not getting married by entering the priesthood.
None of this is conceivable without the shame and distortion of the closet, or the church's hideously misinformed and distorted view of homosexual orientation. And look at the age at which you are most likely to enter total sexual panic and arrest: exactly the age of the young teens these priests remain attracted to and abuse.
That's the age when the shame deepens into despair; that's when sexuality is arrested; that's where the psyche gets stunted. In some ways, I suspect, these molesters feel as if they are playing with equals - because emotionally they remain in the early teens. I'm not excusing this in any way; just trying to understand how such evil can be committed.
Ask yourself: how many openly gay and adjusted priests have been found to have abused minors? Or ask yourself another question: if straight men were forbidden to marry women, had their sexual and emotional development truncated at the age of 13, and were forced into institutions where they were treated by teenage girls as gods, an given untrammeled private access to them, how much sexual abuse do you think would occur there? Please. This is not that hard to understand.
I think it's compounded by the shame gay bishops feel about their own sexual orientation. They, like Bill Donohue, secretly associate their homosexuality with dysfunction, disorder, chaos, evil. So when they come across a fellow priest found to have molested teenage boys or children, they associate it with homosexuality - not pederasty - associate themselves with it, and try to cover it up - partly because they want to protect the church (which is their sole refuge) and partly because they want to protect those they wrongly associate with themselves. My own view is that Ratzinger fits almost perfectly into this paradigm, just as Weakland did. Which means there will be no change until this generation dies off. If Ratzinger were to face the truth on this, his world would collapse. He is not giving up on denial yet. He is a prime example of the walking wounded. Crippled, in fact, in the sole area he cannot be crippled: moral authority.
I don't believe, in other words, that you can tackle this problem without seeing it as a symptom of a much deeper failure of the church to come to terms with sexuality, sexual orientation and the warping, psychologically distorting impact of compulsory celibacy in the priesthood. If women and married men were allowed to be priests, if homosexuality were regarded in Catholic theology as a healthy and rare difference rather than as a shameful disorder, this atmosphere would end, and these crimes would for the most part disappear and the cloying, closeted power-structure which enabled them to go unpunished for so long would finally crumble. And the church could grow again.
Through the truth, not around it. But it's exactly that truth that this pontiff and his enablers refuse to acknowledge. It would kill them.
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