Monday, April 05, 2010

Blaming the Gays

Even though about 80 percent of victims were boys, the John Jay researchers and other experts on sex offenders say it does not mean the perpetrators were gay. Priests had more access to boys, which likely explains the high percentage of male victims, researchers say.

Andrew Sullivan has written a great piece that refutes the contention of Catholic League president Bill Donahue (right) that the Roman Catholic Church’s clergy sex abuse crisis is, first and foremost, a “homosexual problem,” and not a pedophilia problem or leadership problem.

I just wish that Sullivan’s piece had been published last Wednesday (March 31) when I was interviewed via phone on Rick Sanchez’s CNN show, Rick’s List – along with Donohue!

I was basically asked to counter Donohue’s controversial perspective. Unfortunately, I was contacted to do so just 30 minutes before the show went to air, and so it was difficult to gather my thoughts into good, hard-hitting “sound bytes,” which are pretty much essential for those types of fast-paced talk shows. As much as I dislike Sullivan’s often domineering manner when on talk shows, that’s exactly what was needed - especially when up against the equally domineering (and abrasive) Bill Donohue. I was way too measured and polite. Still, friends who saw the show maintain I did okay. And I even got to make Donahue rant and rave at the end of our time together – something that actually anyone could do with half a cogent argument!

Here’s part of the transcript from last Wednesday’s show.

Rick Sanchez: I've given you [Bill Donahue] ample time to explain your viewpoint. I want to bring Michael in, because essentially what [Bill is saying is that] the real problem in the Catholic church is homosexuality, not so much the other. And, Michael, I’d like you to respond to that.

Michael Bayly, Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities: Thanks for having me on the show, Rick, and hello to Bill, too. Yes, I read Bill’s piece in The New York Times, and I guess I had two issues with it. One of them was, of course, the scapegoating of gay men and the confusion of homosexuality with pedophilia.

Rick Sanchez: How would you disagree with what he just said? He tried to be very clear to say that not all homosexuals are pedophiles. What Bill seems to be saying – and, Bill, I don’t want to speak for you – was the statistics* show that many of the priests who are gay have acted as pedophiles.

Bill Donahue: That’s right.

Michael Bayly: Well, um, if that’s true, you have to ask why is it that it’s in the Roman Catholic Church that that’s happened. And I think if it is an over-representation [of same-sex abuse], we have to look at what it is about the Roman Catholic Church and its understanding and teaching on homosexuality [that keeps some gay men in the priesthood in an underdeveloped psycho-sexual state].

Rick Sanchez: So, if there’s a – you’re saying if there’s a sexual deviancy problem, it’s the church’s fault for causing that, for bringing that about in the men who become priests? Is that what I hear you saying, Michael?

Michael Bayly: Well, we are all ultimately responsible for our own behavior. But I think the structure of the church [and] its way of thinking and talking about human sexuality are very dysfunctional.

Anyway, Sullivan’s take on this issue greatly expands on what I was trying to get at last week on Rick’s List. And, as you’ll see, he does so in a very clear and concise way.


It’s the Gays’ Fault

By Andrew Sullivan

The Daily Dish
April 1, 2010

I figured we had gotten past this canard but since Bill Donohue is on every television and radio show loudly proclaiming that the church's abuses can be attributed to “homosexuals.” and therefore it is homosexuality and not the church that stands in the dock, it requires some unpacking.

Here’s Donohue’s valid point. In some of the reports on the sex abuse crisis, the impression is sometimes given that all the offenses are against children in the classic pedophile sense – pre-pubescent. The John Jay Report found that 22 percent of the cases of abuse in America were with children under the age of ten, 51% were between the ages of 11 and 14, and 15 percent were aged 16 or older. Eighty percent were same-sex abuse. So you can see how you can say that the majority of the cases were same-sex acts between men and male teens who were sexually past puberty. Hence, in Donohue’s blinkered eyes, the gays did it. And if we get rid of all the gays, we may be unfair to many of them, but at least we can get rid of the abuse.

But here’s why Donohue’s attempt to blame the crisis on homosexuals as such is so wrong. First, the critical issue is abuse, not orientation. The abuse of a young or teenage boy is no different in its nature than the abuse of a young or teenage girl. The sin is the abuse of power, and the use of religious authority to subject the defenseless to an adult’s sexual gratification. It’s about the power differential, and the still fragile nature of a developing psyche and sexuality. The sexual orientation of the perpetrator is, strictly speaking, irrelevant to the matter at hand: an institution that sought to cover up, and protect rapists and molesters of minors. If we were talking about adult sexual relationships here, we could have a discussion about sexual orientation. But we’re not. We’re talking about abuse.

Secondly, and obviously, homosexuality is not abuse. It is an orientation that for the overwhelming majority involves consensual sex with adults. Some obvious attraction for teenage boys is as prevalent among gays as the obvious attraction for teenage girls for straight men. But there is no reason to correlate homosexuality with abuse, pederasty or pedophilia.

The real question is: what kind of gay man molests children and young teens? Just as: what kind of straight man molests children and young teens? What leads to this kind of behavior which is far from the norm among homosexuals and heterosexuals? And why does the Catholic Church priesthood seem such a magnet for child rapists and molesters? Why has it seemed to attract so many gay men who are psychologically disturbed or sick when it comes to their sexual orientation?

I find the answer pretty straightforward.

The church teaches first of all that all gay men are “objectively disordered”: deeply sick in their deepest soul and longing for love and intimacy. A young Catholic who finds out he’s gay therefore simultaneously finds out that his church regards him as sick and inherently evil, for something he doesn’t experience as a choice. That’s a distorting and deeply, deeply damaging psychic wound. Young Catholic gay boys, tormented by this seemingly ineradicable sinfulness, often seek religious authority as a way to cope with the despair and loneliness their sexual orientation can create. (Trust me on this; it was my life). So this self-loathing kid both abstracts himself from sexual relationships with peers, idolizes those “normal” peers he sees as he reaches post-pubescence, and is simultaneously terrified by these desires and so seeks both solace and cover for not getting married by entering the priesthood.

None of this is conceivable without the shame and distortion of the closet, or the church’s hideously misinformed and distorted view of homosexual orientation. And look at the age at which you are most likely to enter total sexual panic and arrest: exactly the age of the young teens these priests remain attracted to and abuse.

That’s the age when the shame deepens into despair; that's when sexuality is arrested; that’s where the psyche gets stunted. In some ways, I suspect, these molesters feel as if they are playing with equals – because emotionally they remain in the early teens. I’m not excusing this in any way; just trying to understand how such evil can be committed.

Ask yourself: how many openly gay and adjusted priests have been found to have abused minors? Or ask yourself another question: if straight men were forbidden to marry women, had their sexual and emotional development truncated at the age of 13, and were forced into institutions where they were treated by teenage girls as gods, an given untrammeled private access to them, how much sexual abuse do you think would occur there? Please. This is not that hard to understand.

I think it’s compounded by the shame gay bishops feel about their own sexual orientation. They, like Bill Donohue, secretly associate their homosexuality with dysfunction, disorder, chaos, evil. So when they come across a fellow priest found to have molested teenage boys or children, they associate it with homosexuality – not pederasty – associate themselves with it, and try to cover it up – partly because they want to protect the church (which is their sole refuge) and partly because they want to protect those they wrongly associate with themselves. My own view is that Ratzinger fits almost perfectly into this paradigm, just as Weakland did. Which means there will be no change until this generation dies off. If Ratzinger were to face the truth on this, his world would collapse. He is not giving up on denial yet. He is a prime example of the walking wounded. Crippled, in fact, in the sole area he cannot be crippled: moral authority.

I don’t believe, in other words, that you can tackle this problem without seeing it as a symptom of a much deeper failure of the church to come to terms with sexuality, sexual orientation and the warping, psychologically distorting impact of compulsory celibacy in the priesthood. If women and married men were allowed to be priests, if homosexuality were regarded in Catholic theology as a healthy and rare difference rather than as a shameful disorder, this atmosphere would end, and these crimes would for the most part disappear and the cloying, closeted power-structure which enabled them to go unpunished for so long would finally crumble. And the church could grow again.

Through the truth, not around it. But it’s exactly that truth that this pontiff and his enablers refuse to acknowledge. It would kill them.

* The statistics Donohue cites are from the John Jay Study. For an excellent analysis of how he misrepresents what this study actually says in full about homosexuality and the clergy abuse crisis, see William D. Lindsey’s post at Bilgrimage, “John Jay: No Correlation Between Sexual Orientation and Catholic Clerical Abuse.”

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Game Over
Keeping All the Queens Under One Roof
Let the (Blame) Games Begin
An Offering of Ashes
Remembering the Real Victims . . .
The Roman Catholic Pyramid is Crumbling
What Is It That Ails You?


Mareczku said...

Wow, Michael, I am so proud of you. It must have been interesting standing up to that windbag. That Bill Donahue is one scary dude in my opinion.

kevin57 said...

I enjoyed Sullivan's piece as well. It is a cogent and measured, as well as blunt, assessment. I especially liked the "what if the situation was reversed" argument. Those sorts of arguments give the greatest pause to the other side, or more importantly, to those who are just confused by it all.

Mareczku said...

You talk about priests being in an underdeveloped psycho-sexual state but how would one be in a highly developed psycho-sexual state and also be celibate? That would surely be a challenge. Speaking from personal experience (I am somewhat older than you) my own orientation is something that until a few years ago, I never even discussed with myself. It was just who I was in a biological sense. People like Bill Donahue challenge my thinking but I'm not buying what they are selling.

Michael J. Bayly said...

Hi Mark,

I think people can be psycho-sexually mature and also celibate - that's if, of course, celibacy is freely chosen. That's not the case currently in Roman Catholicism where, as you know, it's mandatory.

I know of many well-grounded and psycho-sexually healthy priests who are celibate. I believe Tom Doyle is one such priest. In a recent interview on Australian TV he talked about the issue of celibacy. Colleen Kochivar-Baker has posted the transcript of this interview here on her blog, Enlightened Catholicism. It's well worth reading.



Mareczku said...

Thanks, Michael. I read that article (and several more). Father Doyle is the greatest.

Mareczku said...

Michael, I watched a clip of the show with Bill Donahue. It was great to hear your voice. You did well. It is strange. Is it me or does Bill Donahue have a slight resemblance to Dick Cheney?

Michael J. Bayly said...

Hi, Mark!

Yes, Bill Donohue does look a bit like Dick Cheney!

Thanks, by the way, for your kind words re. my presence (I can't really say "appearance") on Rick's List. I'm still a little disappointed that I didn't refute Bill with some of the facts and insights that have come to light since then.

For instance, check this article out. In it, one of the John Jay Study researchers takes Donohue to task for the "unwarranted" claims he made based on her work.



Mareczku said...

Bill Donahue said that most of the victims were post-pubescent males but I checked out the John Jay study. Only 52.7% of the victims were teens (13-17 years old). Less than 1% of the victims were under 5 years of age but 46.5% were 5-12 years of age. So almost half of the cases involved pedophiles. And I think you mentioned that adult women are not included in this study and a significant number of priests have been or are involved with adult women. This is probably much larger than the number of priests involved with children or teens.

Michael J. Bayly said...

Thanks for sharing these statistics, Mark.

The thing also to remember about sexual relationships between male clerics and women is that in many cases the women involved are taken advantage of when, in a vulnerable state, they come to "Father" for counseling and/or pastoral care. In other words, it's an abuse of power (and trust) on the part of the priest.

I think it's fair to say that these types of abuse cases don't get the same level of attention as others. Why? Well, the inherent sexism of our church and (to a lesser degree) society no doubt plays a part. Plus in these types of cases the victims are adults and not children or youth, and therefore perhaps not considered to be as "innocent" and/or thought to be able to "get over it" more readily.