Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Abuse Survivor Says Scapegoating Homosexuality for Clergy Sex Abuse is "Ill-informed, Ignorant, Corrupt and Dishonest"

Well, I guess it had to happen eventually in relation to the Irish government’s report on clergy sexual abuse: Clerical Whispers is reporting that a Roman Catholic priest, Father John Owen, communications officer for the Archdiocese of Cardiff and chaplain at Cardiff University, has expressed the view that the “majority of pedophilia [in the Church’s clergy sex abuse scandal] was being perpetrated by gay men.”

I thought statements like these were successfully quarantined to the right-wing Catholic blogosphere. But, no, here we have a Catholic priest sprouting this nonsense in the mainstream media – BBC1’s The Big Questions program, to be precise.

Following is an excerpt from Clerical Whispers:

Asked by the show’s presenter, Nicky Campbell, whether the church cared more about its own reputation than the welfare of children, Owen replied: “These matters are so ghastly that people don’t want to look at them, they can’t believe these things are taking place within the orbit of a Christian church, perversion of Christianity.

“Let me tell you of course before you go too far, most of the offences are being committed by homosexuals.”

. . . He said the “vast majority” of abuse cases in the UK affected teenage boys. “Now what does that tell you?”

I appreciate Colleen Kochivar-Baker’s response to Fr. Owen seemingly rhetorical question:

It tells us the Church has problems with an all male clerical structure (kind of like prisons) and that most abusers found themselves frequently in the company of altar boys. Pedophiles in mixed school settings were equal opportunity predators.

Thankfully Fr. Owen’s comments didn’t go unchallenged when he initially made them. Notes Clerical Whispers:

Despite condemnation from the other panelists, two of whom were sexually abused, [Fr. Owen] insisted he was stating the facts and told them to “be silent.”

. . . Colm O’Gorman [pictured at left], author of “Beyond Belief”, a book about his own experience of clerical sexual abuse, and who was on the program, described Owen’s comments as “ill-informed, ignorant, corrupt and dishonest.”

He said: “The church has created a link between homosexual sex and priests who rape and sodomize children. It scapegoats someone else and creates a side issue.


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: No organization of clergy sex abuse survivors places blame on homosexuality. They are capable of making the distinction between sexual orientation and sexual abuse; between homosexuality and pedophilia. It’s time the hierarchical Church made - and boldly announced - these distinctions as well.

And there are signs it is doing so. Clerical Whispers reports, for instance, the following bit of good news:


A statement from the archdiocese distanced itself from Owen, saying “his comments seeming to link abuse and homosexuality” did not reflect the “consistent views” of the Archdiocese of Cardiff.


Recommended Off-site Link:
An Abuse Too Far by the Catholic Church – Madeleine Bunting (The Guardian, May 21, 2009).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Fr. Thomas Doyle: “There is Something Radically Wrong With the Institutional Church”
Archbishop Weakland, the Clergy Sex Abuse Scandal, and Homophobia


26 comments:

Ray from MN said...

I don't know enough about the horrors that occurred in Ireland. I do know that physical punishment is still legal in public schools in twenty states in the U.S. and in the year 2000, over 340,000 instances of physical punishment were reported.

Can you imagine how many there were when twice as many states, including Minnesota, allowed physical punishment back say in 1960?

Can you imagine how much punishment occurred in reform school and orphanages back then?

I also know that the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, part of the public City University of New York, did a study for the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops on the clerical abuse situation. They were given total access to all of the documents that were then available.

They determined that about 81% of the cases of sexual abuse involved males with boys who were beyond the age of puberty, say 11 or 12 years old, and perhaps younger in some cases. See page 80 of their report.

The other 19% involved males with consenting male adults; males with females, girls and adults; males with pornography or soliciting; and a very few incidents where females were the perpetrators.

There were also some cases of real pedophilia where the victim was say ten years old or younger, quite often much younger. Psychologists, according to Wikipedia, define pedophilia as a psychological disorder in which an adult experiences a sexual preference for prepubescent children.

The 81% of clerical abuse instances don't sound like pedophilia to me. In fact, acknowledging that many homosexual priest were chaste, the John Jay Study still called it a homosexual problem.

kevin57 said...

Ray, Bravo! It is inaccurate to call most of what occurred "pedophilia." It's been used to fan flames of indignation, and fanning shouldn't have been necessary. It was still an abuse of power, if nothing else.

Psychologically, the younger the victim, the more enduring and searing the effects of abuse.

Donna said...

Sounds to me like Ray still wants to scapegoat homosexuality.

Is that true, Ray?

He talks about "real" pedophilia, but fails to note that in law enforcement, the term "pedophile" is used to describe those accused or convicted of the sexual abuse of a minor (including both prepubescent children and adolescent minors younger than the local age of consent).

Along with the abuse survivor cited in this post, I find it "ignorant" and "dishonest" that Ray thinks that because a child is of a certain chronological age, say 12, that that then proves that any man who is sexually attracted to him can now be labeled a "homosexual" rather than (or along with) being called a "pedophile."

News flash: Gay men are attracted to men. Of course, as Michael notes, some are, due to their own stunted psycho-sexual growth, drawn to boys in their mid-late teens. These situations are often one-off and result more in what are called "boundary crossings" (and other inappropriate behaviors) as opposed to the type of ongoing sexual abuse we see in the behavior of pedophiles.

Also, Ray, your attempts to equate physical abuse (and that includes in my book sexual abuse) in the Church-operated Irish schools with the widespread practice of "physical punishment" in the U.S. school system doesn't cut it.

It's also odious. You seem desperate to blame anyone and anything else rather than confront and acknowledge the role played by the institutional Church (and its dysfunctional culture) in the clergy abuse scandal.

My last point: Remember, Ray, the reason that more boys were/are abused in the Catholic system than girls is because pedophile men within the Church have greater access to boys.

Michael J. Bayly said...

Interesting discussion taking place here.

I just have one thing to add: I agree with Donna that Ray appears to be downplaying the scope and level of abuse documented in the Irish report recently issued on the decades of pedophilia and other forms of child abuse committed by Catholic priests, brothers, and nuns. I find this troubling and sad.

It also reminds me of the efforts of Catholic League head Bill Donohue. Like Ray, Donohue refuses or is incapable of acknowledging the systemic aspect of this scandal.

Frank Cocozzelli has an interesting commentary on Donohue's recent remarks. It can be viewed here.

At one point, Cocozzelli observes that:

"Donohue has been one of several on the Catholic Right who have maintained that the pedophilia scandal was the result of the liberalizing effects of Vatican II. Instead of looking at the pre-Pope John XXIII authoritarian mindset, Donohue all-too-conveniently places the blame on modernity.

"As a Catholic I am angry at my church for first letting such abuses take place, and then trying to cover them up. I am even more incensed when Donohue and others try to defend the indefensible."

I hope Ray isn't one of these folks attempting to "defend the indefensible." Could you clarify your position, Ray? Thanks.

Peace,

Michael

neverwalkaway said...

I find it interesting that even when victims of clergy sexual abuse reject any link between homosexuality and the scandal, that it's still not enough for right-wing Catholics, who continue to blame homosexuals and so-called "liberals" for the scandal. I actually read a report that the majority of the sex abuse cases actually involved pre-Vatican II priests. It's a shame that the newer priests today are reverting to that model.

Sometimes I'm reminded of an old Nigerian proverb: "when you point a finger at someone else, notice that three of your fingers are pointing right back at you."

Ray from MN said...

I started my first comment by saying that "I don't know enough about the horrors that occurred in Ireland." And that is true.

I am half Irish. After having read the Executive Summary of the Report, I am horrified about and ashamed of the way children, many whose only offense was having been born to poor parents, were treated. I do know a fair amount about Ireland, but I'm not going to go into detail on things that I'm not really familiar with. But it was wrong.

I did read the chapter of the report on the St. Joseph's Home run in Tralee, County Kerry, by the Christian Brothers (not the same as the Christian Brothers of St. John the Baptist de la Salle who taught in the Twin Cities). That was very near to where my some of my greatgrandparents were born.

Most of what I read dealt with physical violence and the way it was rampant, repetitive and tolerated. It was sickening.

Even though there are reasons that this situation came about, those reasons are no excuse. But we should be aware of those reasons to ensure that the situation does not happen again.

But the principal purpose of my original comment was not to make a statement about the events in Ireland.

One purpose was to point out to all the people expressing horror about something they learned in a newspaper account, that physical punishment of children in schools was and is not unknown in the United States even today.

The second purpose of my post was to reply to the main theme of Michael's original post: Abuse Survivor Says Scapegoating Homosexuality for Clergy Sex Abuse is "Ill-informed, Ignorant, Corrupt and Dishonest"

I pointed out that the John Jay Study ( http://tinyurl.com/qfj8lb ) of American clerical sexual abuse pointed out that 81% of the abuses were of post-pubescent boys by men.

Then I made the distinction that "pedophilia" applies only to pre-pubescent children, before the age of puberty, say, less than 11 or 12.

The John Jay study concluded that the Church had a "homosexual problem." See page 80.

I reiterate that I only read the report on the Tralee school which just tangentially dealt with sexual abuse.

Inasmuch as most of what the Irish report talked about was physical violence, it may very well be that that situation did not involve homosexuality.

But it is my understanding later this Summer there will be an additional report concentrating on the Dublin area dealing with sexual abuse of children. It will be horrifying and revealing to see what that report says.

Ray from MN said...

Donna thinks I'm trying to scapegoat homosexuality.

All I know is what I read in the report.

She wants to use the law enforcement definition of pedophelia which applies to people as old as 17, I suppose, depending upon the state.

Suppose we do that? So those 81% of priests (and other Church agents) committed acts of pedophelia.

Why did they do it only to boys?

"Gay men are attracted to men?"

Ever hear of the Man-Boy Love Association, Donna? I think they have a new name now.

I'm not particularly trying to blame anybody. Most of the perpetrators have been accused, tried and or punished.

I'm just trying to point out what happened and perhaps make it more clear why the Church no longer will accept homosexual pedopheliacs as priests and why the Boy Scouts will no longer accept them as scout leaders.

Ray from MN said...

Kevin:

Thanks. You're absolutely right that the word "pedophelia" is used to make think that the victims are babies.

And you're also absolutely right that it is an abuse of power. Often by people who were abused as children themselves, by the way.

Clayton said...

I actually read a report that the majority of the sex abuse cases actually involved pre-Vatican II priests. It's a shame that the newer priests today are reverting to that model.What model of the priesthood are you referring to? And what is your evidence that there is a reversion, rather than a progress, happening?

The model of the priest in persona Christi is not just a cultural construct... it's simply resurfacing after being suppressed for a time by ideological forces after the Council. What would such a model have to do with sexual abuse?

Michael J. Bayly said...

Hi Ray,

In saying that the John Jay College Report concludes that the Church had a “homosexual problem,” you cite page 80. Yet I wonder if you could tell me in what numbered part of the report that actually is in relation to its posting on the USCCB site. Thanks.

I ask this because your interpretation of this report's findings doesn’t jive with those of Louise Haggett’s or Richard Sipe’s. And as I’m sure you’re aware, Sipe is probably the leading expert in the studying of clergy abuse.

Anyway, following are some excerpts from Louise Haggett’s article, “Clergy Sexual Abuse, Mandatory Celibacy, and Homosexual Priests.”

Writes Haggett:

Nowhere in the John Jay College Report is it indicated that homosexuality is a factor. Conclusions drawn about homosexuality were merely commentary by clergy panel members on EWTN the day the report was made public. There is no basis for the argument that homosexual priests were responsible for the majority of the abuse, and there are too many arguments against it.

. . . The vast majority of male adolescent victims were altar servers when they encountered their priest perpetrators (Haggett 2005). Until the late 1980s, all altar servers were male. In his first clergy abuse presentation to some 300 priests at the National Federation of Priest Council, Fr. Canice Connors, head of St. Luke’s Treatment Center, told the priest audience that sexual abuse addiction was due to “immaturity being encouraged in seminaries. Seminarians are told to not look into a woman’s eyes – beware of [the] feminine. The feeling then becomes one of ‘if girls are off limits, maybe boys are OK’” (Connors, 1993).

The John Jay College Study reports the highest percentage of clergy abuse incidents occurred in 1970. 63% of the victims who responded to the Bingo study had been abused prior to 1970, a period in which Sipe concluded that only 30% of the priesthood had a homosexual orientation. I would therefore argue that homosexuality was not a factor in clergy sexual abuse in the 60s, 70s or part of the 80s, and John Jay College indications were that the abuse slowed down beginning in the 80s when the homosexual factor may have been getting stronger.

. . . The John Jay College Study excluded all victims above 18 years of age. 36.6% of the Bingo Report female victims were over 20 years old. Only 1.8% were adult males. Had adult women been included in the John Jay College study, a different demographic pattern would have resulted.

. . . Finally, according to Richard Sipe, “there is not one scientific investigation that justifies a conclusion that there is a connection between orientation and sexual abuse of minors.”

Sipe also says that: “The Vatican’s focus on homosexual orientation is a smoke screen to cover the pervasive and greater danger of exposing the sexual behavior of clerics in general.”

Peace,

Michael

Ray from MN said...

Michael, I don't doubt that you had difficulty in finding the report. I had downloaded it sometime ago but it was difficult to find it on the internet.

First of all, there were more than one report. Frankly, I have not seen a complete list of all of the reports. But this one seems to be the longest.

The report I referred to was entitled: A Report on the Crisis in the Catholic Church in the United States. It was 4.39mb in size and 158 pages long (that may or may not include the introduction pages).

Page 80 of the report includes the following two sentences: However, we must call attention to the homosexual behavior that characterized the vast majority of the cases of abuse observed in recent decades. That eighty-one percent of the reported victims of child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy were boys shows that the crisis was characterized by homosexual behavior.

Most of what I found in my initial Google search were pdf files and it is hard to figure a URL for them.

But I just found a text file with page indications.

http://www.bishop-accountability.org/usccb/causesandcontext/report-2004-02-27.htm

Here's a tinyurl:
http://tinyurl.com/qad2hg

As I look at the information that Haggett wrote, I see that my guesstimate as to the composition of the 19% of victims needs more work by me. Frankly, I just went by memory on that part of my comment.

Ray

Michael J. Bayly said...

Ray,

The links you provided are to a USCCB report that summarizes and comments on the results of the John Jay College Report.

It seems to me that a lot of the homo-negativity and misinformation that we’re hearing in relation to homosexuality and the clergy sex abuse scandal stem from these types of commentaries and not from the John Jay College Report itself.

After all, as Louise Haggett notes, the actual report does not indicate homosexuality as a “factor.” As I noted in my previous comment, the John Jay College Report can be found here. If you can find anything in it that contradicts Haggett, please let me know.

Peace,

Michael

Joe said...

Donna, lots of men find teenagers attractive; some even marry them.

The rage against Donohue is over the top, because it partly stems from insecurity. Very few have read the Ryan Report in its entirety, and there is an embargo on criticizing it just now. But there are lots of critical questions that could be asked about it. One problem is that it seems to treat milder cases of mismanagement in the same tone as entrenched conditions of systemic and grave abuse in notorious schools like Artane and Greenmount. The Brothers shut these down around 1960; they failed to think of redress until forced to. A question: 216 schools were investigated and only 21 or so are named in the report (and not all of these are convicted or grave abuse). Why does no journalist seek to give a clear and differentiated picture of the landscape of abuse, with an account of its quantitative incidence proportional to the totality of Irish schools?

Michael J. Bayly said...

Thanks, Joe, for sharing your perspective.

Peace,

Michael

Clayton said...

Actually, according to Philip Lawler in his book The Faithful Departed, the USCCB played down the National Review Board's conclusions re: homosexuality as a factor.

"Vatican officials had been alert to the question of homosexuality from the earliest days of the scandal. When Pope John Paul II summoned the leaders of the American hierarchy to Rome in April 2002, one of the key points on the agenda for discussion was the influence of a homosexual culture in the American seminaries. The joint statement released by the participating bishops at the end of that Vatican meeting also called for new emphasis on the moral teachings of the Church regarding sexuality, a message that could be read as a mandate for the American hierarchy to be more forceful in condemning homosexual behavior. But... that aspect of the discussion in Rome was quietly dropped from the bishops' agenda before the Dallas meeting.

In Dallas the USCCB concentrated exclusively on the sexual abuse of minors. The final document produced at that meeting was awkwardly entitled a Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in a tacit acknowledgment that the victims of abuse could not all be classified as "children." The Dallas norms set out disciplinary standards for priests who were involved in any sexual relationship with people, male or female, under the age of eighteen. But the bishops did not discuss, and the norms do not address, sexual misconduct by priests involving partners over the age of consent."

Lawler also quotes a passage from the National Review Board report which reads: "In the 1970s and 1980s, in particular, there developed at certain seminaries a 'gay subculture,' and at these seminaries, according to several witnesses, homosexual liaisons occurred among students or between students and teachers. Such subcultures existed or exist in certain dioceses or orders as well. The Board believes the the failure to take disciplinary action against such conduct contributed to an atmosphere in which sexual abuse of adolescent boys by priests was more likely." (p. 172)

Later, Lawler provides this analysis of the John Jay data:

"From the earliest days of the scandal, when stories of abuse first appeared in the media, liberal Catholics and their friends in the world of journalism took pains to emphasize that there is no known connection between homosexuality and pedophilia. That is true, but irrelevant to most of the cases that the Church was confronting. The more relevant question was whether homosexual priests were more likely than heterosexual priests to become involved with teenagers.

On that question, the report from John Jay College provided an interesting perspective. If 81 percent of the abuse cases involved male-to-male contacts, it would seem difficult to avoid the conclusion that homosexual priests -- those attracted toward males -- were disproportionately responsible for the abuse. In a fascinating study of the crisis entitled After Asceticism, the Linacre Institute used Bayes' Theorem -- a standard statistical tool for studying the spread of epidemic diseases -- to estimate the likelihood that homosexual priests would be involved in abusive behavior. The study concluded that if men with homosexual inclinations account for about 30 percent of the priests in the US, then the John Jay figures suggest that these homosexual priests are about nine times as likely as their heterosexual colleagues to be responsible for sexual abuse.

The number of homosexually inclined priests active in America is not an unknown factor, the Linacre study noted. If 81 percent of American Catholic priests are homosexually inclined, then the ratio of male-to-male abuse in unremarkable.... If the proportion of homosexual priests is very low, on the other hand, then the disproportionate number of male sex-abuse victims is all the more noteworthy." (pp. 224-225)

Michael J. Bayly said...

Thanks, Clayton, for sharing the perspective of Philip Lawler. As a counter-perspective, here's what Richard Sipe says in a 2005 Mercury News commentary entitled "Sex, Lies, and Priesthood.

_____________________


[S]ome church leaders have assumed that the large number of priest sex-abuse cases reported in recent years can be blamed mainly on gay priests, even though there is not a shred of scientific proof to back that up.

Part of the fuel for that mistaken belief is a recent study of the sex-abuse crisis in the U.S. church. The study, ordered up by the church and conducted by John Jay College of Criminal Justice, concluded that at least 4 percent of priests were alleged to have abused minors in the 52 years ending in 2002. (That translated to almost 4,400 priests.)

John Jay also concluded that 81 percent of the alleged victims were boys. Some people assumed, as a result, that sexual abuse is a homosexual problem.

Not so. First of all, there have been no studies in the general population that have even suggested gays are any more likely than heterosexuals to be pedophiles.

Plus, there are other, more likely explanations for why the majority of abused children were boys.

Studies of the priesthood have indicated that 66 percent of priests are psychosexually underdeveloped or maldeveloped. Part of the reason is that clerical culture encourages the idealization of adolescents (for their purity and passion), as well as encouraging dependency and conformity in its priests.

When adults -- gay or heterosexual -- function on a level that is equal to most adolescents, it's not surprising that the people they're sexually attracted to are adolescents. And in general, the adolescents whom priests spent time with were boys -- mainly altar boys. No one was suspicious when priests spent time with those boys -- even after Mass -- because part of the priests' duty was to mentor boys they thought would make good priests.

In the end, the root of the sex-abuse problem may well be the church's demand for celibacy without adequately training for it and responsibly supporting it. That's not to say that many men cannot choose to remain celibate and be happy with that life. But for those who joined the priesthood failing to make such a decision, or because they were confused about their sexuality, celibacy can become too difficult to sustain.

In my own ethnographic study of 1,500 priests from 1960 to 1985, I found that only 50 percent, at any one time, were practicing chastity. Gays do just as well -- or poorly, take your pick -- as heterosexuals in observance.

The structure, if not the intent, of the Vatican's seminary investigation -- combined with the possible ruling against gay seminarians -- is a smoke screen to cover up the fact that too many priests and bishops, gay and straight, are not practicing the chastity they promised and did not protect the children in their care.

So if you really want to be a Catholic priest, when you go to a seminary and they ask you what your orientation is, tell them it doesn't make any difference. You want to be an honest and trustworthy celibate, dedicated to the work exemplified by men like Francis, Ignatius, Pope John XXIII, and even John Paul II, who initiated the idea of a ban on gay priests.

NOTE: To read Sipe's commentary in its entirety, click here.

Peace,

Michael

Clayton said...

When adults -- gay or heterosexual -- function on a level that is equal to most adolescents, it's not surprising that the people they're sexually attracted to are adolescentsSipe still hasn't addressed the question of why immature heterosexual priests would be sexually attracted to adolescent men, so as to contribute to the 81% of cases in which the victims were boys. Would he be suggesting that an immature heterosexual priest of adolescent psychosexual development would thereby manifest homosexual attractions and engage in homosexual behavior?

Michael J. Bayly said...

Hi Clayton,

Maybe it's a combination of greater access to young males plus the Church's misogynist attitudes towards women.

Perhaps a comparison is helpful: Why, for instance, is there more male homosexual activity in male prisons and in, say, the navy? The answer isn't that there are more homosexuals in these environments but that (as terrible as it sounds and is) the men in these environments often make use of whoever is available so as to satisfy their sexual needs. The problem, as I see it, isn't human sexuality or the reality of sexual needs - gay or straight - but the dysfunctional environments we create that foster exploitative and dishonest sexual activity. And I include in such environments the Roman Catholic priesthood.

Also Louise Haggett nots

". . . The vast majority of male adolescent victims were altar servers when they encountered their priest perpetrators (Haggett 2005). Until the late 1980s, all altar servers were male. In his first clergy abuse presentation to some 300 priests at the National Federation of Priest Council, Fr. Canice Connors, head of St. Luke’s Treatment Center, told the priest audience that sexual abuse addiction was due to 'immaturity being encouraged in seminaries. Seminarians are told to not look into a woman’s eyes – beware of [the] feminine. The feeling then becomes one of "if girls are off limits, maybe boys are OK"' (Connors, 1993).

It seems to me that what's needed is a theology that doesn't start with the presupposition that homosexuality is a disordered behavior, a deviation - one that retards human maturity and spiritual development.

While ever you're operating from that basis you're going to be looking for the worst in homosexual behavior and always trying to lift that up as the norm. I would argue that that perspective is increasingly being viewed as unfair and problematic by the majority of Catholic theologians and lay people. Which, of course, is good news in a round-about sort of way, as it is evidence that the Spirit is at work in the Church, drawing us to a greater awareness and appreciation of the truth of our LGBT brothers and sisters. And it's a truth that is very different to that of the hierarchical church.

Peace,

Michael

Ray from MN said...

Michael:

"The links you provided are to a USCCB report that summarizes and comments on the results of the John Jay College Report."

I'll stand corrected on the attribution I gave to the report I cited. It was from the independent "National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Young People" established by the USCCB. The Board engaged John Jay College for the study.

Note the distinction that they made in the name of the Board: "Children and Young People."

I stand by my assertion that sexual abuse of teenage males by adult males is a homosexual problem.

Ray Marshall (tired of Blogger making me log in all the time).

Clayton said...

The problem, as I see it, isn't human sexuality or the reality of sexual needs - gay or straight - but the dysfunctional environments we create that foster exploitative and dishonest sexual activity.So if we did away with the current sexual mores in the Church, this would lead to greater self-mastery and reduce sexual abuse?

I can understand that in a world without a demanding moral code, there are fewer deviations, since there's nothing to deviate from. But is that really the freedom of the Gospel, or just a new form of slavery?

Anonymous said...

Clayton, how does your source calculate that only 30 percent of priests are gay? Why not 60 percent? Why not 80 percent?

Clayton said...

The source quoted by Lawler is After Asceticism by the Linacre Institute.

Here's a link.

Michael J. Bayly said...

Clayton,

Who's saying we have to dispense with a moral code? Who's suggesting one big sexual free for all? It appears you've made some mighty leaps here!

Catholic theologians and lay people who are talking about and working for the reform of Roman Catholic sexual theology aren't jettisoning the core moral principles of respect, justice, and compassion. Instead, we're questioning why these can't and shouldn't be recognized as applicable to the relationships of all - regardless of sexual orientation.

Peace,

Michael

Clayton said...

Michael,

You wrote:

It seems to me that what's needed is a theology that doesn't start with the presupposition that homosexuality is a disordered behaviorBut that would mean abandoning the tradition on this matter. At that point, one asks: why hold on to any of the tradition, if some parts can be discarded at will?

Michael J. Bayly said...

It seems, Clayton, that your overriding focus is in maintaining the "tradition" no matter what. This is problematic for me as it assumes the tradition is stagnant and unchangeable around moral issues. Church history and human development show otherwise.

I've come to recognize my focus, on the other hand, as seeking and celebrating God's transforming presence in the lives and relationships of all.

Ultimately for me, people and their experience of God take precedence over tradition. And if respecting and loving real people means abandoning a previous way of thinking and talking about an issue, so be it. I take my lead from Jesus who put people before even the rules of the Sabbath - the traditions of his day.

Of course, that's not to say that there is no place for traditions or that we shouldn't look to them for guidance. But in the final analysis, we shouldn't be afraid of allowing our overall Christian tradition, our collective way of embodying Christ in the world, to live and grow in response to our ever-growing awareness of the sacred in human life.

In light of all of this it shouldn't come as a surprise that I don't see revelation as being over and done with - especially when it comes to the complex area of human sexuality.

Rather, I think it's clear that we're still learning and growing in our understanding of a range of issues related to gender and sexual orientation - and I find such a journey exciting and hopeful. This is another significant difference in our perspectives, I feel. And that's okay. I still recognize and honor you as a fellow pilgrim. And I trust that the Spirit is leading you, I, and the entire Church in the ways of justice, compassion, and truth.

Peace,

Michael

Clayton said...

Michael,

You wrote: It seems, Clayton, that your overriding focus is in maintaining the "tradition" no matter what. This is problematic for me as it assumes the tradition is stagnant and unchangeable around moral issues.
Just to clarify: I don't think the tradition is stagnant. I think it's living, and developing, as the Holy Spirit continues to unfold all that has been revealed to the Church. The way Fr. Robert Barron describes it in his homily for Pentecost is a good articulation of this view... very much along the lines of John Henry Cardinal Newman.

I simply question whether this 'continuing revelation' contradicts itself along the way.