Cardinal McCarrick’s well-known proclivities have finally become public. The related issue of homosexuality in the priesthood has therefore received more attention.
Andrew Sullivan discusses McCarrick’s sexual abuse of both boys and adults, and concludes:
But one small note about this particular scandal: McCarrick was described by many as “Uncle Teddy.” But he had another nickname among his associates: “Blanche.” In that single appellation, you get a glimpse not of a church culture in which tortured homosexuals are struggling with love, intimacy, and celibacy, but one in which a fully developed subculture of camp was thriving, internally unapologetic, and psychologically warped. The cynicism and hypocrisy behind that kind of culture is a function of Catholic homophobia, of course. But it’s also reflective of a protective, insular, closeted clerical subculture in which sexual abuse was obviously able to flourish, and was clearly enabled. It has to end. And at some point, the core questions of homosexuality and celibacy in the priesthood need to be discussed openly, fully, in the plain light of day. I’ve been trying to enlarge that conversation for some time, along with many others. It’s now up to Pope Francis to untangle this knot that has long been strangling his church. There is no ducking it now.
Matthew, a commentator on Rod Dreher’s blog, recounts his experience:
I don’t know that celibacy per se leads to an increase in homosexuality or gay priests. But it certainly limits the pool. I don’t know if you read Andrew Sullivan’s column today but I feel that he hit the nail on the head. We also have to consider what the church (and society) said about homosexuality and same-sex desires throughout the 20th century. That has to be part of this discussion. Blaming gays without looking in the mirror won’t work. As for me personally, I am a very effeminate man. I cannot tell you how many times I was told growing up that I would be a good priest/minister because of how sensitive I am, and empathetic and that women loved me. Manliness (or some traits such as aggression) are not seen as ideals for ministry because they are not how “Jesus would have acted.” I think that is why this problem is so hard to fix.
One nephew who went to Harvard had a Catholic roommate who decided he was a homosexual. He agonized about coming out to his family but finally had the courage to do it. They were not shocked. “That’s OK, you can become a priest.” He fortunately had no inclination to follow that advice.
Michael Sean Winters at the National Catholic Reporter is having an anxiety attack that McCarrick may somehow taint the liberal bishops and cardinals whose promotion he championed, and that somehow gay priests will be blamed for homosexual abuse. There is in Winter’s mind obviously no connection between homosexuality and homosexual abuse.
There is much the church needs to do to confront the ecclesial cancer that is eating at its entrails. NCR’s editorial endorses some of those things, as do I. The McCarrick case especially points to the need for some process by which rumors are distinguished from allegations but also, somehow, looked into. But, as long as conservative writers are more interested in distorting the crisis for ideological purposes, we should beware what they counsel.
But even Sullivan says there needs to be an honest discussion about this.
The problem is not a scattering of homosexual priests who are sincere about their intention to remain continent even if they fail occasionally. The problem is a large clerical subculture of homosexuals who tolerate one another’s failures, even when it extends to boys and unwilling adults.
And beyond that is the problem that most men in the Western world regard religion as not really suitable for men, as somehow not being masculine. That is a complex question which I try to answer in my forthcoming book. But a priesthood marked heavily by homosexuality makes matters worse.
PS McCarrick has just resigned from the College of Cardinals: “You can’t fire me. I quit.”
PPS At least the letter of resignation purports to be from McCarrick. He has been moved to an unknown location away from prying reporters. Perhaps the Vatican fears that he might join the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and the songs would not be pleasing to all his bishop friends and enablers.