Sunday, June 16, 2002

There's been a bit of shell game afoot played by those who want to blame the current crisis in the Catholic Church on gays. When they want to draw outrage, they call it pedophilia; when they want to focus it on gays, it's ephebophilia, or a natural consequence of homosexuality.

If we remember when this story broke, it was all about priests abusing children (or boys, I'll admit). Priests were molesting children, then moved to another parish after a little counseling where they would molest again. We were filled with righteous anger. The "blame gays" crowd wanted us to focus that anger on gay priests.

Then, we were told that most of the victims are teenagers past puberty, not little children. So this wasn't really a case of pedophilia, it was more like "ephebophilia," which we were told was a big part of the gay culture. And since the victims are mostly boys, that suggests it must be connected to homosexuality. Rod Dreher on several occasions scolded the press for calling it a "pedohpilia scandal" even though he used the word pedophilia to drum up outrage.

But something else happened on the way to driving gays out of the priesthood. People's sense of outrage softened a bit. Yes, it's still evil and wrong for a grown man to seduce a minor, especially when the grown man is sworn celibate who is supposed to have some religious authority. But this seduction is not as disturbing to us as the forced molestaion of eight year olds. And I think most of us would consider it a lesser offense. So, we weren't as willing to adopt draconian measures like defrocking all gay priests, or barring them from admission to seminaries.

But then the blame gays crowd shifts back to "pedophilia" position to stoke our outrage up again. How can we be so casual when boys are being raped every day?

William Saletan captured this conflict well when he wrote:

The gay-blamers can't figure out which way to go. If they say homosexuality is distinct from pedophilia, they can't blame the latter on the former. On the other hand, if they say homosexuality is just one manifestation of waywardness, they can't assure the public that getting rid of the former will get rid of the latter

We need to decide what's going on. If it's "pedophilia," it's clear we need to take drastic action, but it's also clear that gay priests aren't the problem. If it "ephebophilia," then less drastic measure are called for, including training our children that priests cannot let them do anything.

Why the incosnistency? Because post-pubescent teenagers have the ability to say "no" and to defend themselves if we help them do it. This isn't an effort to "blame the victims" -- the clerics are clearly the ones responsible for the abuse, and it must be absoultely clear that sexaul relationships by clerics with anyone, especially minors, are entirely unacceptable, but I don't think that removing and preventing the ordination of many good gay priests is the best way to do this. I just think we all have to accept the responsibilty to help train kids that they don't have to something they don't feel right about just because Father says so.

Of couse, this is a lot more difficult than just hanging a "No Gays" sign outside all rectories, monasteries, and seminaries. But it's the work we must do, the Cross we must bear. Banning gays is a shortcut, and an unjust one at that.

P.S.: I don't think that this was some coordinated effort to "get" gays; there's just some dishonesty in the effort to pin all the blame for this one them.
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