Democratic Underground  

The Gay Scapegoat
June 8, 2002
By Terry Sawyer

You would think that the recently uncovered hive of pederast priests would muzzle the gaudy self-righteousness of cultural conservatism. It does, after all, fit the slur of the Catholic Church as a corrupt institution with an appalling decadence at its core. More than that, it puts garter belts on the hypocrisy that our railing religious leaders subject us to from their anointed perches. Picture Jimmy Swaggart lecturing sinners from his slappy recline in a by-the-hour motel.

If thereís one thing conservatives have become masters of, itís ascribing the ills of the world to everybodyís freedom but their own. In fact, theyíve become virtuosos of the PR ricochet. So I guess itís no surprise to me that hiding pedophile priests within the catacombs of church bureaucracy would become the fault of the radical gay ďagenda.Ē It has long been a staple of the Rightist gutters to collapse sex between consenting adult men and sex between a male adult and child onto the axis of same-sex lust. Interestingly though, for a heterosexual rapist, it is still the rape and not the heterosexuality that is the most salient factor. For conservatives, homosexuality is just one lumpen heart of darkness, where sexual desire is directed like buck shot at animal, child, vegetable or mineral. If you can find a same sex practice that is abhorrent then gays by virtue of being a minority, are automatically impugned. Individuality is still the luxurious province of straight white men who can rape, murder and pillage with abandon and still have it be a question of character rather than kind.

Said in his usual brandy snifter tone, William F. Buckley muses about the problem of the Catholic Church as a subset of the apparently greater problem of increased tolerance. ďFifty years ago, in my college with an undergraduate body of 5,000 male students, one could not recall a single homosexual. Now, they are expected to march in the St. Patrickís Day parade. . . They were certainly not encouraged to give rein to their impulses; perhaps better said, they were intimidated in the matter.Ē Perhaps it gives him locker room comfort to imagine that there wasnít a single gay person in his undergraduate class. For Buckley, the sexual revolution freed a deviant sliver of the population who have, in turn, grafted their unnatural desires upon people who would have otherwise grown into the hunky, joshing, all-American types of Mr. Buckleyís imaginary time machine. The logic here is breathtakingly demented. Somehow the gay rights movement contributed to scandals that began twenty years ago. Somehow the gay rights movement forced the church to lie, abuse and suppress the victims of these crimes. Somehow Mr. Buckley forgot his own den-slippered admonitions against a culture where everyone finds a way to shift the blame for their own moral failings onto others.

A priest quoted in the Boston Herald goes even further saying, ďThereís a subculture of gay priests and everyone knows it. The media donít like talking about this because, by and large, they have come down on the side of gay rights, the advancement of the gay agenda.Ē Gosh, yíknow, thatís true, I have yet to see a journalist get on television and talk about how much God hates queers, and Iím rather thankful for that skew. On second thought, it that really true? I canít even count the number of times that Iíve been able to turn on the television and see Jerry Falwell or Reverend Phelps spewing invective that, if said about any other minority, would be relegated to the nether hours of cable access, where, frankly, I think these people belong. If the media have been silent, perhaps itís because those on the frothing Right havenít bothered to make the case that sex in the priesthood can somehow be connected to the legislative agenda of gay liberals or the lives of gays as a whole. Their hope, I gather, is that innuendo and strident bigotry will be enough to cast an entire segment of the population into the abyss as child rapists. And God knows that the Right has learned to simply evoke ďthe childrenĒ to justify a variety of draconian attitudes that one must assume in order to protect them from phantom or darkly exaggerated dangers. By all means, letís demonize liberal homosexuals because we all know that gay men with healthy attitudes about their sexuality must be flocking to the priesthood.

If the Church is correct and these scandals are decades old, itís hard to see how the gay rights movement could be to blame. In fact, if anything, the gay rights agenda has been responsible for giving people with doubts about their sexuality options other than celibacy for dealing with their desires. Gay Christians have worked hard to create pathways to God that arenít limited to self-hatred, self-negation, or self-abuse. If one must admit an affinity with these priests simply by virtue of being gay (and I donít), then itís impossible not to wonder if the repression involved in being a priest and in the churchís definition of sin arenít in some way deforming of the sexual impulse. After all, the priests who have left the priesthood in screeching droves in order to marry, have done so knowing that, for heterosexuals in the church, there is a picket fence smile waiting to bless their matrimony, their parenting, and their sunset ascent into heaven. Gays, on the other hand, can opt for hell and a lifetime of alienation from their communities of faith. Gays in the church are encouraged to stunt their sexual development, eschew the concept of having healthy same sex relationships, and deal with homosexuality like a crackhead forever recovering from those one-rock slip ups. Itís not surprising to see that, under these circumstances, someone might relegate their impulses to the realm of a dirty little secret needing partners to share in their quiet, trembling shame. This is not to excuse these priests, who shouldnít be shrouded from their culpability with the bogeyman of liberalism, since they could have left the church or fought to change the injustice that forces them to choose between being strangers to God or to themselves. This is only to point out that gays embedded in the hierarchy of the Church are hardly paradigmatic of gays at large and even further from us frothing crazies on the radical left of the gay movement. I donít want gay priests any more than the church does.

There are now cries that the media is intentionally misnaming this scandal in order to shroud gays from the ugly realities of their evil. Rod Dreher, in the National Review, notes ďThey are, rather 'ephebophiles,' adults who are generally attracted to post-pubescent youths, generally aged 12 to 17.Ē I wonít even trouble myself with the number of teen marriages in early America or even the 1950s, since to do so would be to be to leave us awash in ephebophiles, founding ephepobiles, and a genealogy rotten with those dastardly weevils. Even in light of the new-fangled diagnosis, I can still find no mainstream gay group that advocates being in non-consensual, statutory rape relationships with your parishioners. No matter which way I turn this, itís still a scandal that is a product of people not firmly planted within the political and moral philosophy of gay rights. Rightists respond by claiming that gay culture sexualizes youth far more than mainstream culture. I wonder if Bob Dole could stop tentpoling Britney Spears long enough to agree? Can anyone imagine that American Beauty would have won an Oscar had it been cast with a gay man fantasizing about a male teenager glued to the ceiling raining down roses? And any cursory glance through a porn store will show you more than a fair share of pigtails, lollipops and parochial school knee socks. Does that mean that heterosexual culture has institutionalized sex with minors so deeply that itís almost invisible? Or does it mean that youth is an ever-present fantasy and only the tiniest subset of human beings choose to literalize that yearning in vile violation?

Young people have always been sexualized, for their beauty, their vigor, and their undulled passion. And there have always been people who go bump in the night that seek to use power, authority and experience to dominate them for sexual ends. Conservatism always gives chatty lip service to the idea that we are all masters of our own destiny and not simply accumulated residues of oppression or historical inequity. Itíd be nice if, for once, they could step out of their reflexive hatreds and categorical denunciations and consider the case at hand in terms of the individuals and their unambiguous responsibility for their choices. That is, after all, what sin is supposed to be all about.

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