Could Openly Gay Priests Rekindle the Catholic Spirit?
And why the church has been so bad at dealing with child abuse
THIS week’s sentencing of Australian Cardinal George Pell, former third man and treasurer to the Vatican, for demanding oral sex in a sacristy with two drunken choir boys, has obviously done nothing to endear the church to the general public.
But Catholics are an intrepid lot, and many are already debating how the institution will evolve in the post sexual abuse era.
A hard-line minority still hold the anachronistic view that homosexuality itself is the root of all child sexual abuse problems, and must be weeded out of the fragrant Catholic garden.
But a far more nuanced and compassionate view is also emerging.
In an extraordinary series of articles in the British based International Catholic magazine Tablet, openly gay Jesuit priest and leading theologian James Alison recently outed the Church’s lavender mafia culture and called for major reform of the profoundly dishonest sexuality that he says has pervaded the church for centuries
In a case not dissimilar to that of Cardinal Pell (whose denial of guilt throughout his trial was frighteningly absolute), Fr. Alison cites a late South American Cardinal who was known for regularly beating up the rent boys he frequented as a classic result of a church culture in deep denial.
Harvard academic Mark Jordan describes Catholic clergy as inhabiting a tormented “honeycomb of closets” that often results in a dysfunctional ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ attitude towards any sexual inclinations among the supposedly celibate.
The tragic consequence, writes Alison, has been an inability by the vast majority of responsible clergy to distinguish between healthy same-sex attraction and criminal pedophilia.
Where Alison’s story gets even more intriguing is his claim, backed by the Church’s own secretive surveys, that a “massively disproportionate” number of Catholic clergy are gay.
Some estimates put the number around 40 per cent, while one priest recently told the New York Times that “a third are gay, a third are straight and a third don’t know what the hell they are.”