14 September 2005

And the Vatican continues its descent into the depths of fascism

What bothers me most about a new apostolic visitation, reported in the New York Times, is not the increased authoritarianism. Sure, it's troubling any time an organization looks like it's about to purge quite a few members, especially when the purge sorts people not on, say, competence, but on dimensions of identity on which I think one should not discriminate. (In this case, the Church is likely to censure any seminary member with "homosexual inclinations".) And it's troubling when dissent is so quickly condemned, especially in institutes of learning. But, then again, the Church has always been rather dogmatic. I'm vaguely reminded of times when the Supreme Court has rebuked Appellate Courts for ignoring or misinterpreting Supreme Court precedents, but the most harm a sitting judge could do to her career by publishing a reasonable disagreement to a Supreme Court decision is that she might have to recuse herself from hearing related cases.

No, what bothers me most is that this seminary review was brought on by the sex abuse scandals that recently wracked the Catholic Church. I am entirely in favor of a massive and thorough effort to remove from office any priests who have perpetrated sex crimes. Measures should be developed and implemented to determine who within the priesthood can and who cannot be trusted with younger people. I'm not against denying someone a job as a priest just because they're "sketchy", even if they have not committed a crime. And we need to be vigilant against those who abuse children.

But we do not need to be vigilant against those who would prefer to share a bed with a consenting adult of the same sex, rather than a consenting adult of a different sex. Priests should be celibate, sure, but the measure should be horniness, not homosexuality.

Conservatives consistently confuse homosexuality with pedophilia — Justice Scalia certainly has in his writing — and to do so is extremely damaging and counterproductive. In fact, most boys who were sexually abused were abused by male, straight adults, who either through familial, camp, school, or religious affiliation were put in positions of trust and power. That's right, men who prey on boys are primarily otherwise straight.

There are, of course, many gay male pedophiles as well, just as there are straight and lesbian female pedophiles, and murderers who vote Democrat (and I'm not talking about Planned Parenthood). There are even organizations that encourage the confusion between consensual adult homosexuality and homosexual pedophilia. (Have any young boys ever defended such groups?) But pedophilia and homosexuality are very different phenomena.

The Church will not end sexual abuse by purging its gay members. To succeed will require teaching respect for individuals' rights to control their own bodies, fostering an open atmosphere in which victims can safely report such abuses and in which they have the emotional freedom to do so, and helping abusers to work through their own histories of abuse, so that they gain the strength to refrain from perpetration. Rape, molestation, and sexual abuse are about power and privilege, and the Church would do well to create an enlightened and liberated environment in which power differentials are small.

Heightened fascism will only exacerbate the problem.

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