Friday, March 5, 2010

A Worm By Any Other Name

I get a daily feed from the New Oxford Review, a traditional Catholic publication.

Admittedly, this publication has a very strong point of view: while it is traditionalist, it is also decidedly anti-SSPX. So it seems to walk a fine line between opposing many of the innovations within the post-Conciliar Church, and also opposing outright defiance of them.

Lately, there have been a number of headlines in my daily feed about scandals that reach the inner sanctums of the Vatican.

Now, this has long been the fodder of fiction - just read anything Dan Brown ever wrote. In his book, all puns intended, the Vatican is the one and only villain in the world, its tentacles reaching down and out and into the very fabric of the Universe.

But when the New Oxford Review passes along these headlines, it makes me cringe, and it makes me worry.

But then, traditionalist Catholics have been warning for a long time that there is a worm in the rose of the Church, and that that worm is closely related to the "pinking" of the seminaries in the sixties and seventies -  perhaps even earlier. Whether this was a deliberate plot, or simply a sign of the times, I can attest to the fact that the nature of the priesthood changed. Now, granted, I would not have known, as a young child, whether my priest was gay or not. But I can assure you, there was no "funny business" going on in our parish. Our priests acted like priests, and were very much involved with the kids on a weekly, if not daily, basis.

In fact, the boys used to talk about their experience as altar boys, and there was never anything but bragging about how much they had learned, and complaints about how difficult it was. Being an altar boy was definitely something to be proud of, and I can also attest to the fact that the girls never felt jealous of it. We had our own thing, namely, the choir. Choir was its own challenge: we sang the Missa Cantata, and had to learn the Latin and the chants. And some girls got involved in decorating the altar with the seasonal changes.

Today, I personally know three gay priests. One, while clearly gay, also seems to be reverent and living a life dedicated to the church. The others - I'm not so sure. But I guess the point is, what are the odds that I, who am not particularly involved with the mainstream Church, would know three gay priests? If the numbers are accurate, 2% of the American population as a whole is gay. That would make the odds astronomical that I, who know about six priests altogether, would have encountered three gay priests. Three openly gay priests.

Let me back up a bit and say that I don't have an opinion about being gay. I have no idea why people are gay. But I also know that the "pedophile" scandal that rocked the Church and delighted anti-Catholics was not  a "pedophile" problem at all; it was a gay euphebophile scandal. Older men with adolescent and young adult males. As compared to the population as a whole, fewer priests, predictably, were preying upon children (of either sex). For the most part, what was going on was priests initiating young boys into gay sex.

There is a whole other question of whether this is "wrong" in the bigger picture. What is indisputably true is that a) this is wrong from the standpoint of the Church, for a whole host of reasons; and b) it is not well-tolerated by the public as a whole.

We have a very conflicted view of this, and there has been an active campaign to try to make what was going on be about adults using children for sex, rather than it being about adult male priests getting involved, whether consenting or not, with pubescent boys. On the one hand, the PC position is that there is nothing "abnormal" about gay sex, and there is nothing abnormal about adolescent sex. We're not even sure how we feel about young female teachers having sex with their pubescent (male) pupils.

So, we want to be sure that what we're incensed about (publicly) is the adult-on-child nature of it.

A larger problem for Catholics is what appears to be an undeniable fact that the Vatican needs a good house-cleaning. This isn't the first time; it won't be the last. There have been periods of time when what's going on now would probably seem like blips on the radar rather than wholesale corruption. Somehow, the Church survived, righted itself, and continued on.

But it's also clearly the case that there are some pretty vile people deep in the heart of the power structure of the Church, and they need to be identified and weeded out. Sooner rather than later.