Gone were the jokes and smiles. He sat in a puddle of self-pity at a meeting held, fittingly, in a shabby rectory that smelt of mothballs, telling how a crafty, over-the-hill hustler and freelance bodega robber had attempted to blackmail him, sending the priest immediately to his monsignor with a full and contrite confession, determined to nip this thing in the bud — his AA sobriety had given him enough sharp clarity to do that.
Yet instead of the tough-love and stern slap on the wrist he had expected, that the straight priest had gotten for his hot tumble, the gay priest was stripped of his parish, barred from performing mass and shuttled off from one “retreat” house to another, the fate of senile, incurable or fatally reprobate priests.
The man he had slept with, I should add, was no parish child but a con-artist sunk well into his greasy 30’s.
Two priests. Same problem. But only one was treated as a pariah. Only one was beyond the pale. And only one was gay.
Today, the Catholic Church imagines it has a crisis with its gay priests. It has, in fact, a crisis with what longtime Vatican-watcher Gary Wills calls its “bad faith” toward the entire spectrum of human sexuality, a flinty distrust that begins with its celibacy requirements for priests and its equation of holiness with sexlessness.
The Times continues: “Expectation for such a [gay purge] rose this year with the election of Pope Benedict XVI, who has spoken of the need to ‘purify’ the church. It is unknown how many Catholic priests are gay. Estimates range widely, from 10 percent to 60 percent.” In this context, the Times repeats an oft-heard caveat:
Experts in human sexuality have cautioned that homosexuality and attraction to children are different, and that a disproportionate percentage of boys may have been abused because priests were more likely to have access to male targets — like altar boys or junior seminarians — than to girls.
This is a dishonest gloss. This is not a responsible assessment of what was going on. These priests were homosexual. Most of them were involved with boys in their teens — that is, nearly grown men. Pedophiles are attracted to children and usually make no distinction between the sexes — the body of a little boy being not very different from that of a little girl.
The priests in these cases employed cunning and opportunism, often insinuating themselves into the family life of recently widowed young mothers. As a spare, unattached male — one consecrated to God — the priest was above suspicion, giving him nearly as much access to budding girls as boys … or, in fact, to the young widow herself. But it was boys who were the overwhelming target — 80% to quote the Times. This is simply a fact. We’ll get nowhere by denying that. This is plainly a crime of homosexual predators.
That said, the Catholic Church has chosen to believe that theirs is a crisis primarily caused by the perhaps 60% majority of gay priests in their midst, rather than a byproduct of the church’s blinkered war on sex, its entrance requirement to the priesthood geared for only the most extraordinary — or desperate — sexual profiles.
The men who committed these crimes are no more typical of gay men than of gay priests. To understand this, the Catholic Church would have to extract and examine the mote in its own eye. Instead it has cast its gaze on the usual suspects.
It was not lost on me that of the two priests with sex addictions, the one who was gay had to go around and around the mountain for months before he could even begin to climb it, or simply acknowledge in a closed Men’s Only Meeting what that mountain was.
Some of the men in these photo are professional models, others are actual priests. They appear here for illustrative purposes. No claims are made about their sexual orientation.