Friday, October 30, 2009

It's Time For Some Honesty, Not Blind Innocence

Photo of the recently deceased deposed Bishop of the Santa Clara diocese, Patrick G. Ziemann. Follow this link for his story on Bishop He avoided criminal prosecution courtesy of the now head of the CDF, Cardinal Levada.

The following from Andrew Sullivan's the Daily Dish is very pertinent to the discussion which opened in the comments section after yesterday's post on Hans Kung's article.

Brothers And Sisters
Andrew Sullivan, The Daily Dish, 10/29/09

Chris Dierkes, who has both Catholic and Anglican roots, notes an irony in the Pope's recent actions:

If personal experience and lifelong immersion in a sub-culture is any form of persuasive evidence, I can tell you that conservative Anglo-Catholicism — at the clerical level — is totally dominated by gay men. Mostly repressed. What used to be called when I was in seminary, the pink mafia. And the thing that is the initial trigger for this decision is the upcoming very likely to happen decision to ordain women as bishops in the Church of England (there have already been women priests there for about 15 years or so). Which has a certain irony in this case. If these Anglo-Catholics join the Roman Communion they can join up with very conservative Roman Catholic groups like Regnum Christi and The Legionaries of Christ, also totally dominated by closeted gay fellows. You don’t need to be Sigmund Freud to see the awesome tragic humor in a bunch of non-wife-having grown men wearing pink dresses (and in the Pope’s case super expensive fabulous Prada shoes!!!) telling everybody else they shouldn’t be gay.

We're not supposed to talk about this aspect of the drama in the Vatican. But there is as much an overlap of closeted gay priests and bishops with liturgical and theological orthodoxy as there is of closeted gay politicians finding ways to oppress other gays who are out and open.
Part of this is a function of generations.

If you had based your life - and sacrificed much of your emotional health - on the "intrinsic disorder" theory, you aren't exactly happy to reverse yourself in your old age. It suggests you gave up your life for an intrinsic illogic. Part is also just mysterious. But the fact that gay men have a disproportionate talent for order and theater and detail seems pretty obvious to me. No surprise then that among the best liturgical organizers are gay men - from choirmasters to priests to altar assistants. There is something very gay about a High Mass - it's almost the religious equivalent of a Broadway musical. So Benedict's sisterly outreach to the closet case smells-and-bells brigade among the Anglicans makes total sense. It's partly about keeping all the queens under one roof - and surrounded by incense and lace. (It's a strange kind of out reach for one particular group of gay men--and it's core very misogynist. The level of misogyny amongst this particular group of gay men is still something even Andrew Sullivan won't openly address.)

Weird, I know. But true. And I might as well admit it: I too love the old liturgies and ceremonies and drama of Catholicism. But for me, it's not sublimation but celebration of gay men's contribution to our churches. One day, we'll be able to offer our talents without having to sacrifice our integrity as human beings. One day, when all this fearful nonsense is blown away and the church can return to the Gospels and the sacraments, and gay people can be treated as, you know, the sinners that everyone else is as well.

Richard Sipe has just recently posted an important article on his own website which deals with the issue of closeted gay bishops. Here's a short excerpt which gives the angle of his thinking:

The pattern of sexual activity within the clerical system is woven into a clerical culture that despite verbal protestations and written directives does not really exercise informed discretion in the selection of its candidates; and most importantly the church does not educate its members for celibate living. Bishops and religious superiors are singularly resistant to explicit sexual and celibate training for clerical candidates; they rely on the tutelage of confessors and spiritual directors and the seminary schedule—horarium—to inculcate spirituality and the discipline of celibacy. The system fails in too many instances and those failures expose a flawed system based in part on a defective understanding of human sexuality.

Sex is the central and key problem of the Roman Catholic Church in this 21st Century—for lay and clergy alike. (Actually sex (and gender) is the key problem for all traditionally conservative movements.)

The sexual abuse crisis confronting the Roman Catholic Church is important, but it is merely one aspect of the unaddressed sexual concerns of the Church. It is clear from the response and cover-ups of the hierarchy to the clergy abuse crisis that they cannot deal with the sexual problems in their own ranks. One reason is the fear of exposing their sexual proclivities and practices.

Already in 1986 theologian William Shea listed what he called the tangle of issues that Catholic religious leadership is failing to face. No one has identified the reality of the challenges better or more succinctly: “They are: family life, divorce and remarriage, premarital and extramarital sex, birth control, abortion, homosexuality, masturbation, the role of women in the ministry, their ordination to the priesthood, the celibacy of the clergy, the male monopoly of leadership. Some have suggested that sex is, at bottom, the issue that clogs up our Catholic calendar. Fear of women, and perhaps hatred of them, may well be just what we have to work out of the Catholic system.” (23 years later we still have not begun to come to grips with any of this. We haven't even opened a discussion.)

I contend that the sexual live of priests-especially bishops-are what keep realistic and meaningful discussion of the sexual agenda under wraps. Although the area of clerical sex and celibacy is delicate to approach the subject of homosexuality is super sensitive and taboo.

I have to give the Vatican and our bishops a great deal of credit for keeping this discussion from ever happening by diverting so much attention to abortion and gay marriage. They have done a remarkable job of keeping the spot light focused on the 'sins' of the laity-especially women-instead of the hypocrisy of the clergy. It's been masterful but it's time we changed directions. We are paying too big a price for this insanity.

It doesn't make any sense to laicize and excommunicate Fr. Roy Burgeois because he participated in a woman's ordination while letting criminal pedophiles maintain their status, not just as Catholics still fully in communion, but in the case of our bishops, as priests. I understand the Canonical issues, but this speaks more to the fundamental injustice of Canon Law, than it does to my understanding of it.

We keep priests who impregnate women in the active clergy and on our payrolls if they denounce the women and abandon their child. And this says what about the sanctity of the family relative to the priesthood? Or for that matter, how much bigger statement is there to be made about the real status of women and the importance of children?

We instantly remove from ministry open and honest gays, heterosexual clergy who come clean and do the right thing about their 'illicit' love affairs, but raise self promoting hypocritical frauds to the episcopacy, virtually canonize known seminary abusers, and turn a blind eye to cardinals and bishops who surround themselves with young attractive priests. Why do we tolerate this?

Maybe because one skill Catholics pick up very early is the ability to feign innocence. We value innocence, whether it's real or not, above honesty and transparency. Or maybe it's we willingly substitute ignorance for innocence and willfully refuse to see what's plainly in front of our noses. We are paying, and forcing other Catholics to pay, too high a price to maintain our prized innocence when it comes to the sexuality of our clergy and our clergy are paying an even higher price.

This weird attitude also includes the lay hypocrisy of ignoring so much of the Church's sexual teaching without demanding, really demanding, the right to be taken into account in the promulgation of those teachings. Apparently we accept that the only rights our baptism gave us with regards to the teaching authority of the Church is the right to ignore the teaching authority. Sometimes I can't help but feel the real pastoral spirit which pervades this Church is the spirit of don't ask, don't tell.

Cardinal Rode and Archbishop Burke can engage in their version of a Broadway theatrical and parade around in their cappa magnas to their hearts content, but it isn't innocent and it isn't about exalting the Kingship of Christ. It's about taking, as in desperately hanging onto, the center stage role and the sole spotlight. It's all part of a masterfully executed charade. Catholicism can't afford this charade much longer. Too many people, for too many centuries have been corrupted or harmed by it.

It's time to blow open the doors of the secret clerical closet, not drag more clerical clothes out of it.


  1. Sometimes in my more evil and uncharitable moments, I wish gay activists would out bishops. If nothing else, it might clear the air, much like opening windows on a nice day.

  2. Seems to me khughes1963 has the solution.

    I so well recall, years ago, when Mr. TheraP and I had gone to a lakeside resort area in upstate NY, near where we used to live. To our surprise, we ran into our pastor! Out of his clerical garb! Right on the street! He seemed to blush... and hastily told us he had a "post office box" in the town and had come to get his mail.

    "Hmmmmm...." we thought! "Here's slender guy, obviously always preening...." Hmmmmm.... Suddenly we knew more about our pastor than we cared to know! Yes, there's that secrecy issue. He clearly had secrets. We pictured him on his days off... After that we kinda dropped away from that parish...

    These people are all over, I have no doubt! Mind you, homosexuality does not bother me in the least. I have infinite respect for each person. And each one, we are assured, is "made in God's image".

    So... WHY HIDE THE IMAGE? The image should indeed be outed, God forgive me for saying it, if it is being hidden from the flock!

    Because how can the flock follow any leader who is a hypocrite???? No, as I think I wrote here a couple days ago, TRUST - on both sides - is essential for leadership (and followership). Service and trust. They go hand in hand.

    Thank you for this tremendously helpful blog!

    To those who are hiding their homosexuality from their flocks: Come out! Come out! Wherever you are!

    Come out. Or be found out.... (or resign...)

    It is only right and just.

  3. I've no idea why your talking gay when the link is about pedofiles .Being homosexual , the celibacy issue has absolutely nothing to do with people having sex with children . Totally different issues but all need addressing by our church
    Polices still are in place to hide abusers and keep abuse hidden etc. Our current Pope is the person who was in charge of writing & putting these policies in place You can learn more about it on the documentry by the passionette eye sex crimes and the vatican . You will absolutely not be able to not cry when you watch the story of the 5yo boy who was the last victim of a priest in Brazil who was moved over and over again . I think it was 15 different towns & villages .
    In the yr of the priest I am praying for conversion ( change ) big time . We've 4 boys all who think of the priesthood at some point but issues of celibacy and secracy etc. I pray as a mother if they do ever make the choice they will be working to help with conversion within the priesthood especially regading hiding abuse & protecting children .They would be a beautiful gift and blessing to our church as two of our young adult sons are survivors of abuse themselves but right now a church that wishes to keep secrets etc. Our young men do not feel accepted nor welcome to help our church truely heal .
    sad ain't it

  4. Colleen, you will know already that you and I are at one on this. It's worth quoting once again the figures given by Jamie Mason at NCR last week:
    A. W. Richard Sipe, a former Benedictine, found that 20 percent of Catholic priests were involved in continuing sexual relationships with women, and an additional 8 percent to 10 percent had occasional heterosexual relationships.”
    Fr. Donald Cozzens, an author, psychologist, and former Catholic seminary president, estimates in his book, The Changing Face of the Priesthood, that 50 percent of Roman Catholic priests have a homosexual orientation. He adds, “Beyond these estimates, of course, are priests who remain confused about their orientation and men who have so successfully denied their orientation, that in spite of predominately same-sex erotic fantasies, they insist that they are heterosexual.” Other estimates are that possibly a third of these gay priests are sexually active, much the same as their straight counterparts.

    There is no doubt at all in my mind that this myth of clerical celibacy is dangerous to the health of the church. We need to encourage our priests to lead healthy sexual lives, not to force them into a clerical closet - straight or gay.

    I agree absolutely that where we can, we need to out those gay bishops - I have already written about this at queering the church:

    But it's not only the gay bishops who need to be outed. There are just as many scandals involving women - which are even worse when they end up producing children.

    The church regularly singles out gays and lesbians as scapegoats to deflect attention from the real problem, which is a fundamentally disordered sexual theology. We must not let them continue to get away with it.

  5. Rox, I'm talking gay because so much of the cover up of the sexual abuse of boys was done by gay bishops, perpetrated by a gay Vatican.

    Catholic sexuality as understood and taught makes no distinction between gay sex, masturbation, co habitation, and pedophelia. It makes no distinction amongst these categories even going so far as to equate sex between consenting adults as the same as sex between an adult and a child.

    I find this an abomination, but I also know that we won't truly address the causes of pedophelia until we address the prevalence of closeted gay clergy.

    The Church needs priests like it sounds you sons could be, but your sons don't need the priesthood the way it's currently constituted. I too pray for a conversion of attitude in this year of the priest.

  6. Small addition to previous post. I don't want anyone to think I'm equating homosexuality and pedophelia. They are hardly the same and not related.

    What I am pointing to is when all clerical sex is to be kept in the closet, all clerical sex is covered up in the interests of protecting the myth.

    It's tough to point fingers when fingers can be pointed back at you.
    If the numbers are correct, and at any given time 50% of the priesthood are in some sort of sexual relationship, that's a lot of potential finger pointing and a lot of covering up.

  7. That Richard Sipe article, like much of his writing, is a must-read.

    The hierarchy will let the priesthood disintegrate before they seriously reckon with their sexual issues. It's already happening.

  8. It looks to me like they will let the whole church disintegrate and still not deal with clergy sexual issues.

  9. Colleen, I am out of pocket these days and slowly catching up on postings. Any online time I have, I've been trying to use to post on my blog--and those postings haven't been well thought-out.

    I just saw your note here about the discussion on your Hans Kung posting, which was an outstanding posting, as is this one. The entire church pays a huge price for all the pretenses and game-playing that surround the clerical system.

    I'm glad you're calling for honest discussion of these issues, though I suspect that this discussion will still be resisted bitterly in official quarters. And we'll continue to see those quarters--chock-full of closeted gay men as they are--using homophobia to try to keep critical questions about the clerical system at bay.

    Please keep on speaking truth to power. The opposition to some of your statements on the Kung posting tells me you're speaking truth very effectively.

  10. cardinals and bishops who surround themselves with young attractive priests.

    This rings so true to me. I see a great deal of homo-eroticism in the Catholic clergy almost daily.

    I see priests who pay special attention to the men (young men) around them, who love the "all boys club" and seem distraught when women are even around at all.

    This may come across as anti-woman, but I think it really is repressed homosexuality. Women are simply going to draw attention, especially from other males, and that is unacceptable to someone trying to maintain this faux image.

    Maybe because one skill Catholics pick up very early is the ability to feign innocence.

    Maybe. But I think Catholicism also has an earthy realism that comes from our agrarian roots, as celebrated by Peter Maurin of the Catholic Worker movement.

    My eastern European immigrant family never had any hesitation throwing the proverbial tomato at any Catholic clergy who was being an idiot.

    My theory is that the obsession with being a "good Catholic" and all the "clergy worship" is related to the degree of jansenism found in the culture, most notably among Irish and French Catholics. I say this not to offend but just to suggest there may be a cultural difference in Catholicism this way.