The Catholic Church Needs Its Gay Priests

When society looks for simple solutions to complex questions, scapegoats must be found. Scapegoats hide what the public supposedly cannot see on its own or what someone thinks we should not see. And certain groups of people make better scapegoats than others do.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people make easy scapegoats because society’s unrelenting problem with sexuality becomes our problem. And our problem is that we do not go along with the prescribed program to conform. So blame naturally falls on us for anything and everything, real and unreal.

The Rev. Jerry Falwell played the blame game after the September 11 attacks on America. His response, too quick and too easy, spoke of our country’s out-of-the-closet, religious fundamentalist‚ troubling relationship with LGBT people.

“I really believe that . . . the gays and lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle. . . I point the finger in their face and say, ‘You helped this happen.’”

While our power in society is, at best, marginal and, at worst, non-existing, LGBT people are scapegoated for many social issues related to the changing needs, values and mores of a growing society. We pose new questions to defunct age-old solutions. Our visibility in places that once hid LGBT people makes it easy to scapegoat us instead of trying to solve the challenges placed on us as a nation.

At present we are scapegoated for the deterioration of American family values, the erosion of the sanctity of the institution of marriage, the influence of the purple Teletubby, “Tinky Winky,” and the collapse of Enron. And I surmise if historians were to comb through ancient historical texts through a homophobic lens, we would perhaps be blamed for why Jesus never married and the fall of Rome.

Why else would the world be in the state that it is in?

This is the question that the Catholic Church has now asked of itself as it tries to grapple with its crisis of clergy sexual abuse of children, predominately prepubescent boys.

Disclosing sexual misconduct by members of the clergy not only shakes one’s faith, but it also shakes the very foundation where ones faith is housed — the church. As an institution that vows to protect the old, the sick, the downtrodden and all of God’s children, the Catholic Church has not only failed at its earthly mission, but it has also failed at recognizing the place where it has always been broken — sexuality.

Make no mistake, however, pedophilic priests — and the bevy of other priests that archdioceses across this nation conspired to keep silent about for decades — are criminals whose victims are innocent children. And I ask: Who among us does not flinch at the thought of a “holy man” preying on children instead of praying with them? And what faith can anyone have in a Church that says it stands on the teachings of Jesus yet violates his biblical mandate stated in Mark 10:14: “Let the children come to me; do not try to stop them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

The quick and easy answer coming from the Vatican this month is to simply not ordain gay priests. Such an order, of course, makes the assumption that all gay priests are pedophiles or, if not active pedophiles, are predisposed to it.

While common homophobic belief held in this country is that most pedophiles are gay, studies have proved over and over again that the overwhelming majority of pedophiles are heterosexuals. And most of these pedophiles are not only married heterosexual men, but are married heterosexual men with children.

The Catholic Church, however, thinks it has solved its problem of both pedophilia and homosexuality. With the Catholic Church rid of both social cancers, the spiritual and religious life of its hallowed sanctuaries can now go on with life as normal.

However, if the Catholic Church is to go on with life as normal, it couldn’t possibly ban gay priests.

The Rev. Donald B. Cozzens, author of The Changing Face of the Priesthood, wrote that with more than half the priests and seminarians being gay, the priesthood is becoming a gay profession. Many who know the interior of the Catholic Church would argue that the priesthood has for centuries been a gay profession, and not to ordain gay priests or defrock them would drastically alter the spiritual life and daily livelihood of the church.

“If they were to eliminate all those who were homosexually oriented, the number would be so staggering that it would be like an atomic bomb; it would do damage to the church’s operation,” says A.W. Richard Sipe, a former priest and psychotherapist who has been studying the sexuality of priests for decades. Sipe also points out that to do away with gay priests “would mean the resignation of at least a third of the bishops of the world. And it’s very much against the tradition of the church; many saints have gay orientation and many popes had gay orientations.”

The reality here is that as quietly as it has tried to keep it, the Catholic Church is a gay institution. And that is not a bad thing!

The problem in the Catholic Church is not its gay priests, and its solution to the problem is not the removal of them. The problem in the Catholic Church is its transgressions against gay priests. And I ask: Who will remove the church from itself?

Years of homophobia and years of church laws to maintain the homophobia have made the church unsafe for us all, young and old, straight and gay, adult and child.

Eugene Kennedy, a specialist on sexuality and the priesthood and a former priest, wrote in his book, The Unhealed Wound: The Church and Human Sexuality, that the Catholic Church “. . .had always had gay priest, and they have often been models of what priests should be. To say that these men should be kept from the priesthood is in itself a challenge to the grace of God and an insult to them and the people they serve.”

The Church’s edicts against LGBT people is a farce in light of its reality as well as of the gifts gay priests have given and continue to give to the Catholic Church. If the Catholic Church wants to solve its problem of pedophilia, it should not look at a priest’s sexual orientation but instead at his overall personality development.

Right now, the Catholic Church stands in the need of prayer.

Scapegoating all gay priests as pedophiles is a cheap and easy solution. It gives the Catholic Church an easy escape hatch that allows the Church to not own up to the reality that the reason it exists and will continue to exist is because of its gay priests.

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