Thursday, March 25, 2010

Game Over

For Benedict XVI and the "vast and twisted criminal conspiracy"
he has overseen, the "game is all over," writes Andrew Sullivan.

As difficulty as it may be to read, I nevertheless appreciate the
perspective of Andrew Sullivan, a fellow gay Catholic man, as he bravely and honestly writes about the tragic and unprecedented level of criminality of Roman Catholicism’s clerical leadership in the ever-burgeoning (and worldwide) child sexual abuse scandal.


Sin or Crime?

By Andrew Sullivan

The Daily Dish
March 25, 2010

What’s fascinating in the steady onslaught of new incidences of previous cover-ups of child rape and molestation in the Catholic hierarchy is the notion that the hierarchs tended to see child rape as a sin rather than a crime. Hence the emphasis on forgiveness, therapy, repentance - rather than removal, prosecution and investigation. Obviously, there’s one reason for this: they were defending the reputation of the church by hiding its darkest secrets, and they were using the authority of religion to do so. But I suspect it’s also true that this is how they genuinely thought of child rape or abuse.

How could that be, one asks? Well: imagine you are a young gay Catholic teen coming into his sexuality and utterly convinced that it’s vile and evil. What do you do? I can tell you from my own experience. You bury it. But of course, you can’t bury it. So you objectify sex; and masturbate. You cannot have sexual or even emotional contact with a teenage girl, because it is simply impossible, and you certainly cannot have sex with another teenage boy or you will burn in hell for ever ... so you have sex with images in your own head. Your sex life becomes completely solitary. It can be empowered by pornography or simply teenage imagination. Some shard of beauty, some aspect of sensuality, some vision of desire will keep you sexually energized for days.

Now suppose your powers of suppression and attachment to religious authority are also strong - perhaps stronger because you feel so adrift you need something solid to cling onto in your psyche. And you know you cannot marry a woman. But you want to have status and cover as a single man. If this is the 1950s and 1960s, it’s into the Church you go. You think it will cure you. In fact, it only makes you sicker because your denial is buttressed by their collective denial. And the whole thing becomes one big and deepening spiral of lies and corruption.

Many of these tormented men have arrested sexual and emotional development. They have never had a sexual or intimate relationship with any other human being. Sex for them is an abstraction, a sin, not an interaction with an equal. And their sexuality has been frozen at the first real moment of internal terror: their early teens. So they tend to be attracted still to those who are in their own stage of development: teenage boys. And in their new positions, they are given total access to these kids who revere them for their power.

So they use these children to express themselves sexually. They barely see these children as young and vulnerable human beings, incapable of true consent. Because they have never had a real sexual relationship, have never had to deal with the core issue of human equality and dignity in sex, they don’t see the children as victims. Like the tortured gay man, Michael Jackson, they see them as friends. They are even gifted at interacting with them in non-sexual ways. One theme you find in many of these stories is that until these screwed up priests’ abuse and molestation is revealed, they often have a great reputation as pastors. As emotionally developed as your average fourteen year old wanting to be loved, they sublimate a lot of their lives into clerical service. But they also act out sexually all the time.

And they know that many around them have the same patterns, and so a truly sick subculture perpetuates this. In the end, it is all about themselves and their pathologies, how to express them and how to hide them. As social sexual tolerance advances, and as fewer straight men are prepared to give up sex for life to become priests, the proportion of screwed up pastors increases. In this self-protective environment, these priests do not even see the children as fellow humans. They remain like those solitary abstract images in their heads. So they cannot fully grasp the enormity of the crime they are committing and see it merely as another part of the vortex of their sexual sin.

So they cover up for one another; they fear that if one of them falls, they will all fall; even those who are not totally screwed up about sex are eager to prevent the church's secret from being exposed. But the more they cover up, the bigger the calamity when it all emerges. And when it’s clear that at the center of this kind of pathological secrecy and shame is the current Pope, then it is clear that the entire institution is corrupt from the top down.

These men are too objectively disordered to run a church. They bask in self-denial, while they wage a culture war against gay men who have actually dealt with their sexuality, who have owned it, and celebrated it and even found ways to channel it into adult relationships and even civil marriage.

We all know this game is now over. The current Pope is now found directly responsible for two clear incidents of covering up or ignoring child abuse and rape. As head of the organization that took responsibility for investigating these cases for so long, his complicity in this vast and twisted criminal conspiracy is not in dispute. If he were the head of a secular organization, he would have already resigned and be cooperating with the police.

But he is the Vicar of Christ on earth.

It’s hard to imagine a deeper crisis for the Catholic hierarchy than this. If the church is to survive - and it will because it is the vessel of eternal truth - it will have to go through a wrenching transformation.

Beginning with the resignation of this Pope and an end to priestly celibacy.


There’s a local connection to this unfolding story, as the St. Paul, MN law firm of Jeff Anderson and Associates is representing five people in a lawsuit against the the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Lawyers at the firm say they have uncovered documents implicating Pope Benedict in the cover-up of sexual abuse by a Wisconsin priest. It's one of the "two clear incidents" cited by Sullivan of covering-up by the pope.

Attorney Jeff Anderson (pictured at right) said, "All trails involving the cover-up and concealment of sexual abuse by Catholic clerics lead to Rome and the pope."

In a news conference earlier today Anderson said that Vatican and church documents show that Archbishop Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee sent a letter to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger - now Pope Benedict - back in 1996 asking how to proceed with the Rev. Lawrence Murphy, a priest accused of sexual misconduct. At the time, Ratzinger was in charge of the Vatican office that determined whether accused priests should be removed from the priesthood.

According to the documents, Weakland sent a letter to another church official a year later complaining that Ratzinger never responded.

The Associated Press notes that "Vatican documents also show Wisconsin bishops urged Ratzinger's office to let them hold a church trial against Murphy. But, the church trial was halted after Murphy wrote Ratzinger a letter saying he was ill and infirm.

"The church never formally punished Murphy. He died in 1998. He was accused of molesting some 200 deaf boys in Wisconsin in the 1960s. A statement from the Milwaukee archdiocese Thursday says Murphy’s actions were criminal and that it apologizes to those who have been harmed by Murphy."

NOTE: For updates on this issue, check the News Links at The Progressive Catholic Voice.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
An Offering of Ashes
The Roman Catholic Pyramid is Crumbling
Rome Falling
Eugene Kennedy on Roman Catholicism's "Post-Hierarchical Blues"
No Patriarchy Hierarchy, No Rigid Conformity
Keeping All the Queens Under One Roof

Recommended Off-site Links:
Pope Accused of Failing to Act on Sex Abuse Case - BBC News (March 25, 2010).
Pope Implicated in Cover-Up of Wisconsin Sex Abuse Case - Associated Press (March 24, 2010).
Sex Abuse Scandal in US, Italy Taints Papacy - Nicole Winfield (Associated Press, March 25, 2010).
The Church as Sexual Predator - Emilie Townes (The Huffington Post, March 19, 2010).
A Reporter’s Insight Into the International Clergy Abuse Flare-Up - Marian Wang (, March 24, 2010).
Can the Pope Be Fired? - Christopher Beam (, March 17, 2010).

Image 1: Photographer unknown.
Image 2: Michael J. Bayly.


Mareczku said...

This certainly is difficult to read. The line that really hits me in the stomach is, "These men are too objectively disordered to run a church." I know that 30-40% of priests are gay. I have been listening to many of the right wingers say the same thing as this. They only want well-adjusted straight men as priests. It is horrible that kids (mostly boys) were abused. But this was 5% of the priests that did this. What about the gay priests that are faithful to their vows of celibacy? In my opinion, it is not right to blame the innocent for the sins of the guilty. This is what the right wingers are doing. I think that the Church has to accept married priests and allowing married Episcopal priests into Catholic priesthood is the start of that. But where does this leave the gay priests and gay seminarians? Homosexual priests have always been an important part of the Church. Some want them out. And if married priests are allowed it makes it easier to get rid of the gays. Some want gay priests, gay seminarians and some even all gays out of the Church. So where does that leave us?

kevin57 said...

If the right-wingers want only wel-adjusted straight men as priests, they'll have to adjust to a Church with at least a 60% drop of the current number (at least in this country). Considering we are a sacramental Church, this would mean that most Catholics here would not have regular access to the Eucharist. Makes for an interesting experience of Church.

Mareczku said...

Kevin, if one only includes "WELL-ADJUSTED" straight men, it might be even more than a 60% drop.