What the Priest Scandal Is – and Is Not – About

What the Priest Scandal Is – and Is Not – About


I have not written about the recent barrage of accusations regarding the scandal of Catholic priests who could not keep their hands and other things to themselves, and the prelates who did the same, encouraged them, or shuffled them here and there to hide them. I am not a private investigator or a lawyer, so for the time being I’ll let matters take their course and see what specifics are brought to light.

But many of my fellow Catholics, and plenty of people who detest the Church, and some who are a little of this and a little of that, have said things that ought to be addressed.

First, some people say that to focus on the homosexual nature of the crime is unjust to the girls and women who were victims, and that in any case it is not to the point. Here we must both condemn all the abuse, and insist on the cold numbers, to analyze the character of most of it. Four out of five of the victims in the whole scandal were male, and most of them were not little children, but adolescent boys and young men. It may well be that a disproportionate number of homosexual men entered the seminary in order to hide their desires from themselves or from others, and that therefore we should not interpret that ratio too severely. But the social stigma cuts in both directions. If it raised the number of homosexual men who became priests, it also undoubtedly lowered the number of men who would ever admit to having engaged in homosexual relations. If a boy is even half as likely as a girl to report that he has been molested by a man—almost always not by force but by enticement and invitation into indecency, so-called “grooming”—then the ratio is more like eight males to one female, rather than the four to one ratio whereof we have hard evidence, and four to one is already staggering. Perhaps it was ten to one, or twelve. We don’t know.

Second, the whole of the meta-crime was homosexual. That is, we do not have examples of womanizing priests or priests with fetishes for girls going out of their way to recruit other such priests, forming a tight little cabal, covering for one another, suborning young men into the wicked way of life, issuing veiled threats against anyone who would go public, and snubbing those who did not approve. There was no network of abusers of girls. This network was about men who wanted to do things with boys and men.

Third, somebody ought to tell the authors of the John Jay report that Barnum and Bailey have an opening in their sideshow, for human pretzels. Add in everyone who says that the real problem with the priests was not homosexuality, but sexual immaturity. That is like saying that the real problem with Stone-hands is not his fielding, but that he makes too many errors. People who study the lives of gay men have been saying for years that the syndrome is deeply intertwined with immaturity. It is as if a boy in the Sodom-infested public schools of England never got through that stage, but remained stuck there for the rest of his life. Or as if a boy, lacking a father (as Theodore McCarrick did), or being cursed with a father who was negligent or cruel or both, never got beyond the stage of boyish hero-worship, as he longed for masculine companionship and did not get it in the ordinary way of boys in all cultures across the world. You have to twist yourself into knots not to see what the problem was, and not to ask some obvious questions about maturity and immaturity. Leave the whole moral side of it out. If a man needs some mature quality in order that he might get married and have a family, and if he never acquires that quality, we would suppose that he is not mature. A ten-year-old boy who is allergic to any deep relationship with a girl is immature, but not for a ten year old boy. But at age twenty or thirty?

Fourth, what on earth can people possibly mean when they say, as Mr. Damon Linker has said, that the Church is a “repulsive institution” that no decent person can endure? Name any other large human institution. Ask of it, “What is the worst thing this institution has done in the last seventy years?” to take the interval specified in the report out of Pennsylvania. The United States government? Hollywood? The British Broadcasting Corporation? Harvard? Let us be consistent here. I remain an American not because of America’s sins, which are many and grave, but because I owe a citizen’s debt to the land of my birth, and because America is also a nation of great and humane virtues. I do not judge America by her worst presidents, or by her worst crimes, but by her character as a whole, and by her triumphs and her goodness. No nation is utterly evil—even the Soviet Union, which could give Satan a run for his money, was not utterly evil, and in any case Russia and the Soviet Union were not the same thing, as the Church and her evil prelates are not the same.

Fifth, who’s kidding whom? I’ve seen an “icon” of the homosexual predator Harvey Milk, whose name also graces a Navy ship. Exactly what did McCarrick do that was worse than what Mr. Milk did all the time? On the contrary, if McCarrick was a predator, Milk was evil incarnate. He groomed boys, “helping” them when they were on the streets, taking them in, seducing them, entering into a relationship with them, and then dumping them when he got bored with it. Yet he is celebrated. So is Sir John Gielgud, an actor whose considerable skills I admire; he too did that sort of thing, and the old boys in film covered for him. What on earth do we think that homosexual men talk about when they are in the exclusive company of older boys and young men? Stock car racing? Of course they are aroused by the youths. Greece and Rome attest to the odd man’s attraction to the youthful beauty of the boy, which is not like the beauty of the woman, or like the roughness of the grown man. Look up the word “neoteny.”

Sixth, again, who’s kidding whom? We hear that in Pennsylvania 300 priests took indecent liberties with 1000 children—most of them boys big enough to have gotten away or given the priests a jolt to the jaw, a right cross I beg fathers to teach to their sons in these sick times. That was over the course of seventy years, in a state of ten million people. And how many families during those seventy years were sliced in half by divorce? How many of the people who are furious with the evil men in the Church spent some years of their lives doing their kinds of sexual evil? Fornication, cohabitation, adultery, pornography—priests were the big promoters of all of those? Abortion too? I am not making an excuse for the evil. I am taking away the right of almost everyone alive during these times of easy and widespread and socially accepted sexual immorality to get on their horses and portray themselves as chivalrous defenders of the Order of Decency. Give me a break.

Seventh—I hear some people say that the priests in question only became priests so that they could become predators. If only things were so simple. Never underestimate the tangle of motives and contradictions that is the human heart. Some conservatives have said that Theodore McCarrick must never really have believed in God or the gospel. Do you think that is also true of the Mass-going couple down the street who are not yet married? We have all been sold a bill of goods. The whole anti-culture roundabout McCarrick, with those nice young people in your neighborhood, has said, “The Church will get with the times, you’ll see. You’re not really doing anything wrong.” When it comes to what is acceptable and what is not, people will usually set the bar two inches below where they happen to be standing—wherever that is. Jesus did not offend the world because he loved sin. He offended the world because he loved sinners, which is another way of saying that he tore away all of our petty excuses for every conceivable sin.

Eighth, the response of some of our bishops has been astonishingly callous and petty. “Madam,” says the policeman, “I know that your child has been kidnapped, but would you kindly shut up about it? I’m working on the logistics for the parade tomorrow.” I do not require that my bishop be a saint. I do require that he be faithful to the teachings of the Church, and that he obey the law of the land. That is not too much to ask. If you are leading a double life, get out. We don’t need you. If you have ever covered for someone leading a double life, get out. If you have covered for someone who has molested a young person of either sex, get out. Please, leave us already. You have done plenty of harm.

Ninth—it does appear that most of the offending prelates, not all by any stretch, were hippy-dippy loosey-goosey innovators with the liturgy, heterodox on family matters, and very bad managers of diocesan resources, especially the schools. They have seemed happy to preside over failure. Whether they were or no, the last people they ever wanted to see were those who complained about some sex-education slime in the local school, or about flatly heretical sermons and sing-a-ding-dings. Please, leave us. Go home, repent, take up bowling or stamp collecting, pray, work in a soup kitchen, do anything but burden us with your incompetence anymore.

Tenth. The Church is our Mother. No true son or daughter takes delight in the shame of his mother. We also must not do so. Nor do I want to believe the worst about any individual member of the Church. I have named McCarrick only because his case instigated all that has been discussed since, and at that I have not judged him, I think, with any harshness beyond what he has clearly deserved. Let us not be prancing play-actors shedding phony tears to hear about the sins of others. We now must be more loyal to our Mother, more committed to keeping her teachings, more devoted to the faith she has brought us, and more humbled by the sight of once admired men brought to the pit by sin. That pit may await any one of us too.

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6 comments on “What the Priest Scandal Is – and Is Not – About

  1. We now must be more loyal to our Mother, more committed to keeping her teachings, more devoted to the faith she has brought us, and more humbled by the sight of once admired men brought to the pit by sin. That pit may await any one of us too.”

    We? Oh, poo. It’s not about us. Us has had it up to here, Anthony.

    Any other thoughts on where we go from here?

  2. “We? Oh, poo. It’s not about us. Us has had it up to here, Anthony.”
    LOL! ( Still chuckling! ) That may be the first time anyone responded so earthily to a Dante scholar! Cyprian, were I very wealthy I’d sponsor a chair at a posh, big name university so that you, Sir, could lecture to victims of virtually all English profs I’ve had the misfortune to have had to endure with only one exception, an Hungarian linguistics expert. I did have a Harvard prof of literature who took a long sabbatical to teach at my prep school. He was exceptional. But that was well before college.

  3. Anyway, Lit is a crucial field and it should be made as exciting and inspiring as the works of great authors truly deserve. My own collegiate experience should not be taken as a guide. I had two Liberal hippies who were part of the vanguard as my overwhelmingly Old School Jebbie profs were aging, retiring or shuttled off to other Jesuit institutions in the 60s.

  4. “Third, somebody ought to tell the authors of the John Jay report that Barnum and Bailey have an opening in their sideshow, for human pretzels.”
    +Cupich is still using this report in defense of homosexuals in the priesthood.

  5. When a flamboyant modernist Jesuit who is an LGBTQ activist states approval for two homo men, “married” in a same-sex union, to engage in homoerotic kissing at Mass during the sign of peace, and is honored with an official Vatican position as a consultant and spokesman which the Pope does not revoke, nor does the Pope remove such a homo activist from speaking at the World Meeting of Families in Ireland or call for him to pull out of it, any lay commission investigating these scandals will have to probe deeper into this mess to get to the bottom of the scandal. Excusing the pun.

    Why must most discussions of the Church now drift into proctology?

  6. It is not about “everybody” sinning. Gaslighting the laity is absurd. Although pro-abortion liberal “Catholic” politicians are in a coalition and alliance with fruitcake modernist clergy and bishops who stand down on abortion for them, this is not about how everybody among the laity sins. So let’s stop with the “everybody sins” mantra.

    Most normal Catholic men can get through a weekend without groping, fondling, or sodomizing teenage boys. Any man who can’t manage to avoid that can’t be a priest (or bishop). Period. It is absurd to try to equate this type of crime with all other sins.

    There are plenty of bad, sinful, and heretical laymen and lay women who have gone along with the modernist revolution of Vatican II and its poltergeist Spirit from the 1970s with the relativism and lukewarmness of situation ethics. Some of them now want to divert the discussion over the clergy scandals to homophobia or Latinophobia to dodge the elephant in the room and cover for corrupt bishops. It is not going to work this time. Oh, Pope Francis may point the finger at accusers and critics, wagging it like a crazy old woman with accusations that they are promoting “division” inspired by the Devil and how Christ would answer such mean-spirited critics with passive-aggressive silence. But that sermon has grown tiresome and pathetic with age. Gaslighting the laity to dodge the homo issue involved with these scandals is not going to help Bergoglio’s karma or that of the liberal modernists who want to cover this up and divert to climate change, immigration debates, or the Marxist “social justice” shakedown.

    When they try to turn it around and point at the laity, they show their true colors. All of the defenders of Pope Francis want to keep the homo gravy train in the Catholic priesthood going for their own left-wing political agenda.

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