Thursday, 8 April 2010

Gay Rights: The Catholic Church Sex Scandal Is Not a "Homosexual" Problem

by Michael A. Jones; April 01, 2010 09:35 AM (PT); Topics: Religion and LGBT Rights

Catholic ChurchThe Catholic Church is currently mired in a global sex scandal that spans all the way from Wisconsin to Brazil toGermany to the very corridors of the Pope's home (and many places in between). Saying that the scandal has reached epic proportions might even be an understatement. The truth is, this scandal is woven inside and out of the Church leadership in ways that continue to shock and awe on a daily basis.

It would be easy to jump on the bandwagon and bash the institutional Church -- after all, this is a church (at least the institutional wing of it) that has continually gone after LGBT people and tried to break apart LGBT families. But Catholic bashing doesn't really solve anything, and certainly doesn't do anything to alleviate the pain and suffering of thousands of people affected by the Church's complete and utter failure of leadership in holding criminal priests accountable for sexual assault.

But one thing most definitely deserves disputing -- the argument made by folks like the Catholic League's Bill Donohue that the sex scandal enveloping the church is a "homosexual problem." That's so far from the truth, it makes Scooter Libby look like Mahatma Gandhi.

Donohue has aggressively pushed the claim that the Church's sex scandal is not the problem of poor church leadership or the fault of rules imposed by the Vatican on clergy, but instead a few gay priests.Donohue went on CNN to argue this. He took an advertisement out in the New York Times to argue this. And he continues to write time and time again about how homosexuality is the root of the Church's evil.

Bill Donohue would be wrong. Here are five reasons why the Catholic Church sex scandal is not a "homosexual" problem, as Donohue might put it. But even that's a little misleading. No aspect whatsoever about the Church's inability to hold priests accountable for doing really stupid and illegal things with minors is the result of homosexuality. Perhaps it's better just to call this list "five things to keep in mind every time you hear the lie that gay people are to blame for the Catholic Church's woes." Here's looking at you, Bill Donohue.

5. Official studies have quelled the qualm that queer priests are to blame for the scandal.

Researchers from John Jay College conducted a massive study (completed last year) that squarely said, "Hey, you know, this sex scandal? Stop blaming the gays." Literally, that's just about word for word what the study's author, Margaret Smith, had to say this past November. In Smith's own words, she told the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, "What we are suggesting is that the idea of sexual identity be separated from the problem of sexual abuse. At this point, we do not find a connection between homosexual identity and an increased likelihood of sexual abuse." What finer point could be given? In other words, Smith suggests that it's not only misleading, but wrong to think that the priests involved in the majority of sex scandals are gay. They simply aren't, and it's dangerous and dishonest to continue to connect the two. And to top it off, Smith isn't a pawn of the liberal media. She's a researcher who was given money by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops themselves to conduct this study. And this was her finding.

4. Listen to your own Catholic leadership.

For all of Pope Benedict XVI's faults, he did get one thing right. As the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation notes, even Papa Ratzi understood that gays and lesbians have nothing to do with the Church's problem with holding sex abusers accountable. They cite Jim FitzGerald from the Catholic organization Call to Action. “Even the Pope during his 2008 visit to the United States said that this crisis is not about gays and lesbians,” FitzGerald said. “U.S. Catholics are tired of hearing about the false causes of this crisis from people like Bill Donohue and, instead, are ready for the Church to address the real causes of the crisis: lack of accountability and cover-ups.” Why limit that statement to just U.S. Catholics. Most everyone, regardless of faith, is sick and tired of seeing gays and lesbians thrown under the bus to justify bad institutional church behavior.

3. Maybe it's a celibacy problem?

People come in all different stripes and flavors. And while celibacy might work for some, it's pretty darn clear that forced celibacy doesn't work as a blanket rule. Yet the Catholic Church continues to hold to the fact that priestly celibacy is the only way to go. Think that stands to create a manic level of sexual dysfunction, whether you're talking about straight or gay priests? You bet. Andrew Sullivan hits this on the head. "Has it occurred to [Church leadership] that the repressed, contorted sexual teaching of the church leads so many priests, gay and straight, directly into dysfunctional and, yes, disordered sex lives, alone or with others?" So far that message hasn't seemed to sunk in -- either with Bill Donohue or institutional church leadership. Oh, but here's the interesting thing -- celibacy wasn't always the law of the priesthood land. Centuries ago, priests were free to date and marry. If they could do so a few hundred years ago, why not give them that chance again?

2. Bill Donohue is more into partisan politics than helping victims.

Look, no one should tell Bill Donohue what to believe or think. But let's be clear -- Donohue might be a revered talking head for cable news shows, but he does not speak for the institutional Church, nor does he speak for any sociological or scientific organization. He runs an organization, The Catholic League, that works vehemently to elect Catholic Republicans to office, and criticize people for following the tenets of Catholic Social Teaching (which are not only progressive, but if taken at their word, downright revolutionary). Instead, Donohue openly calls for Catholics to follow a few simple rules, most notably: stop abortion and eliminate gay rights. In fact, Donohue has a history of anti-gay comments so deep, they make Rick Santorum even look tolerant. So in other words, Donohue may be a talking head. But he's by no means an authority on faith.

1. The real problem? Secrecy, cover-ups, and a complete lack of accountability.

Ultimately, whenever someone like Bill Donohue goes to so much trouble to blame gay folks for sex scandals, one has to think: thou doth protest too much. Because what has lied at the heart of all of these sex scandals currently engulfing the Church are a culture of secrecy, a culture of placing more concern on priests and public relations than victims, and a culture of not conducting enough soul-searching to find out what lies at the root of this problem. The inflexibility shown by Church leadership, whether it comes to discussions around celibacy or discussions around women's ordination or discussions around welcoming LGBT groups on Church property, the Church has essentially put their fingers in their ears and screamed "LALALALALALALA." The result has been to create a church hierarchy so mired in dysfunction, it makes Lehman Brothers look like a well-oiled machine. Instead of falling back on tired and discredited talking points about homosexuality, wouldn't it be nice to see the institutional Catholic Church take this disgusting set of lemons, and make some productive lemonade out of it? Instead, what we're likely to see (and are already seeing) are more statements from Bishops sticking up for the way things have been run these past few decades, without any real solutions to deal with abuses present and past. Demonizing LGBT people is not a solution. It's only scapegoating.

See also:

Study declining the link between homosexuality and paedophelia:

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