Tom put this in a comment box below, but it is so important I thought I would highlight it in a separate blog. As Berger points out, traditionalists priests are disproportionately homosexual, and traditionalist laity are homophobic – a bad combination. This is from Pray Tell.
I have read with interest the lively discussion at Pray Tell about my book Der heilige Schein. Als schwuler Theologe in der katholischen Kirche. (“The Holy Illusion. Being a Gay Theologian in the Catholic Church,” 3 reprints within 4 weeks). After reading through all the comments, I thought it might be helpful to respond to some of the main points raised, and to expand upon the reporting provided so far.
Am I trying to discredit traditionalists by linking them to homosexuality? No, not at all.
First, there is no reason for me to get even. I have benefitted greatly from my academic career with traditionalists. They generously opened their publishing media to me and made possible my habilitation (a sort of second doctorate – Ed.). I owe my knowledge of classical philosophy and theology, especially Thomas Aquinas, to conservative clergyman.
Second, for me homosexuality is no devaluation of the person. Every person has an inalienable dignity apart from their sexual orientation. Indeed, I have observed that homosexual males have particular gifts which have very much benefitted Catholic liturgy, sacred music, and the liturgical arts in general. To say that there are many homosexual men in the Tridentine scene is, if anything, a compliment.
Homosexual Priests and Laymen
Do I really think there are more troubled homosexuals in traditionalist liturgical circles than elsewhere? Yes. All my experiences tell me that this is the case.
For one thing, this is endemic to traditional liturgy, in which one can sublimate homosexual feelings very well. This is a technique that even the Catechism of the Catholic Church seems to suggest to homosexually oriented men. When these men sublimate in this way, this is nothing reprehensible from the Church’s perspective. This has happened throughout history. Much mysticism is animated by such sublimation.
For another thing, these conservative circles cultivate an extreme homophobia. This leads people not only to sublimate their orientation, but also to hide it and to live it out in anonymous situations. This way of living it out falls victim in turn to repression, and this repression gives birth in turn to homophobia for these people.
I should be clear that I am speaking more about homosexually oriented clergymen here than laymen. The proportion of homosexual laymen who prefer the old liturgy is only a bit higher than in the general population. But among clergymen it’s about half of them. This is tied to the reality that in traditional Catholic families there is only one way out for dealing with the shame of a homosexually oriented son: becoming a priest. Thus one makes a virtue of necessity. Repeatedly people in these circles said to me, often with a smug smile, “You’re still not married? You should become a priest. That would be wonderful!”
Why should anyone think I’m a trustworthy source of information? It is true, as some of my critics have pointed out, that my book is merely anecdotal and not based on rigorous social research. It is a report of my experiences. However, this report attains a certain credibility because of two aspects:
1. For over ten years I was completely at home in every possible traditional quarter. I edited German’s most important traditionalist journal, Theologisches, for seven years. Internationally, I had close contact with the Opus Dei university in Pamplona and also, through my position as corresponding professor of the Papal Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas, with the Vatican. (This is not the Angelicum, as an American traditionalist site mistakenly portrayed it!) During this time most everyone knew of my homosexual orientation, which opened my path into traditionalist gay circles.
2. Since my outing and the appearance of my book, I have received basketfuls of letters and numberless emails from Catholic priests, seminarians, and religious from all parts of the world. 95% of the submissions confirmed to me that my story from my book is very representative. Some have even written to me, “You have portrayed everything much too mildly. The reality is much more extreme!” Even to the point of a tale of two homosexual priests who were “married” in the traditionalist rite, with exchange of rings and the whole business. I have been pleased that my book found affirmation from the commentators in all the large (inter)national German language newspapers. They pretty much were in agreement in their judgment, which was pointedly expressed by the Tages-Spiegel (Zurich): “The promise in the book’s blurb to offer the key to the scandals of the Roman Church is almost an understatement. It offers the key to the Ratzinger pontificate as a whole.”
The Way Forward
What advice would I give to the hierarchy to address the problems I discuss in my book? How can the Church be made more healthy and holy?
The Vatican document of 2005 which states it is impossible for a homosexually oriented man to become a priest must be replaced as soon as possible and shelved. It has practically dogmatized dishonesty and lying among the clergy. Nowhere are there as many lies as when seminarians are asked if they are homosexually oriented.
The Church must finally face the reality that it has a very large group of homosexually oriented priests. Only when we allow these priests to speak about their orientation without fear or condemnation can we offer them help, so that they can hold to their celibacy the same way that their heterosexually oriented brother priests can. Only then will we have that honesty which the Pope has made the highest commandment in connection with abuse cases.
Pope Benedict’s Legacy
Above all history will speak of a tragic Pope who, because of his love for the aesthetic of the traditional liturgy and its milieu, and for whatever deeply personal reasons, lavishly pulled extreme forces to the very center of the Church. For this he has accepted that Catholicism in Europe and the U.S. is increasingly transformed into a fundamentalist sect, a “holy remnant,” and distances itself ever more from the rest of society.
Where I Am Now
I have as much admiration as ever for the great tradition of the Catholic Church. It is most amazing how the Church was able through the centuries, right up until the Enlightenment, to adapt itself and to play a role in the development of art and culture. Only with antimodernism did the Church lose this capability.
I am as fascinated as ever by the magnificent philosophical-theological synthesis of Aquinas – although I have increasingly learned to read this synthesis from a historical-critical standpoint and not as a timelessly valid intellectual structure.
I still attend the traditional liturgy, but only in places where nobody knows me. After several murder threats from traditionalist quarters, I have been advised to stay away from such liturgies for security reasons.