Sunday, June 05, 2005

Results of my inquiries into topics (distantly) related to SSM

I started writing this in response to a fellow at this blog. The initial article post dealt with same-sex marriage (SSM), which diverged into an discussion of the Catholic priest sexual abuse scandal after he brought up the Church's diminished ability to be heard on sexuality issues in its wake. He was flabbergasted at some of the claims I stated, I think it's fair to say. I don't doubt that some of what I wrote was shocking, perhaps what I wrote isn't the way MSM has covered, for example, the crisis of sexual abuse by priests. To someone unfamiliar with genuinely Catholic sources, analyzing a problem in a very Catholic environment - the secular approach is quite different. It doesn't change the truth of the explanation I offered (I may have got some details mixed up, although his response didn't identify specific problems with my arguments - only broad strokes of incredulity at what I wrote). I promised him I would review a book called Pedophiles and Priests - In the midst of regular family life over the past few days, I ended up reviewing that book, several articles in Crisis magazine, and a portion of George Weigel's The Courage to be Catholic. Unless something more is offered in the way of refutation, I offer the following to back up the claims I made there, and, on the whole, to stand by them.

I've stated before that if marriage was a healthy institution in society, the SSM debate would be moot - "I think this, in itself, says something about what SSM really represents". This is not an anti-homosexual argument; rather, it is a statement about what marriage has become. If people are content with marriage as fractured as it is, that's one thing - if we wish to change that reality, that's another one. Part of strengthening marriage will necessarily mean turning around some of those things that lead us to consider SSM as a logical extension of our past actions. Referenced at another site is Andrew Sullivan:

"Likewise, though gay activists cite the very desire to marry as evidence that their lifestyle is not inherently promiscuous, Andrew Sullivan acknowledges that that desire arises only because of the promiscuity permitted in modern marriage. “The world of no-strings heterosexual hookups and 50 percent divorce rates preceded gay marriage,” he points out in the New Republic. “All homosexuals are saying…is that, under the current definition, there’s no reason to exclude us. If you want to return straight marriage to the 1950s, go ahead. But until you do, the exclusion of gays is…a denial of basic civil equality” (emphasis added). Gays do not want a marriage in the traditional mold, only the watered-down version that exists today."

This realization has hardly entered mainstream debate, which is part of the process that needs to happen before Canadians can intelligently decide on this issue through our elected representives. To push the proposed law through is ridiculous at this point. We're not dealing with an institution that suddenly appeared - we're talking about marriage-as-it-has-ALWAYS-existed, only recently redefined by 7 (?) judges in Canada, under an unclear authority (appealing to a Charter that explicitly rejected comment on this type of issue).

It's been a couple of years since I read the following, so to me it isn't a particularly innovative or outlandish explanation of a large part of the sexual abuse scandal:

"The media have framed the issue as one of pedophilia—that is, the sexual abuse of prepubescent children. But the large majority of the cases in question involve not pedophilia but the sexual abuse of teenage boys. Sexual attraction to male adolescents is technically called "ephebophilia." But don’t expect Mike Wallace to use this term on 60 Minutes. Not because it is a mouthful, but because the media prefer not to treat homosexual behavior as the issue. Still, it is the issue, and if the hierarchy does not root it out—if it takes the easy approach of instituting "new procedures" for dealing with abuse only after it has occurred—then the devastation is going to continue.

"I hope we are beyond the point where any discussion of homosexual behavior that is not entirely favorable is deemed "homophobic." We are not talking here about priests with a homosexual orientation who are struggling to live the virtue of chastity. We are talking about active homosexuals who have broken their vows. We are talking about a lifestyle that is often marked by compulsive behavior. Homosexuals have a more serious problem with promiscuity and lack of restraint than do heterosexuals (see, for example, Spence Publishing’s Homosexuality in American Public Life, edited by Christopher Wolfe). Forty percent of homosexual sex today is reportedly unprotected—this after two decades of safe-sex instruction. Active homosexuals also constitute a relatively high proportion of sexual molesters. And they have been welcomed into the Catholic priesthood.

"How did this happen? At some point in the early 1970s, a gay insurgency within the Church began to gain control of at least part of the official Catholic apparatus. Once in place, this network expanded. Many seminaries were turned into "pink palaces" where young, devout, heterosexual men felt distinctly vulnerable. And this is not just a diocesan problem: Many religious orders run seminaries with openly homosexual cultures.

"Is it surprising, then, that these scandals have occurred? If you allow into the priesthood men who in many cases have already chosen to flout Catholic moral teachings and are disposed to mix sodomy with their ministerial rounds, which include contact with teenage boys, there are going to be incidents of sexual abuse."

You can read the entire article here.

Philip Jenkins' book identifies many of the same points:

"When considered in detail, the cases often suggest sexual liaisons between priests and boys or young men in their late teens or early twenties. This behavior may be reprehensible in terms of violating ecclesiastical and moral codes of sexual conduct, and breaching vows of celibacy, and the power relationship between priest and young parishioner renders it difficult to speak of the behavior as fully consensual. However, it is not properly pedophilia."

"The difference between ephebophilia and pedophilia may seem purely semantic, but it has many implications in terms of the potential for treatment and therapy. In the prevailing psychiatric opinion of the 1970s and the early 1980s, it would have been quite appropriate to return to a parish setting a man who had been successfully treated for ephebophilia but not for pedophilia, and it was precisely this issue of employment of past offenders that led to [some of the scandals]. It was dangerous for church authorities to permit a known pedophile [...] to be in unsupervised contact with children, but such a decision would have been defensible with an ephebophile of homosexual." (p. 78-79)

If I remember correctly, Jenkins is not Catholic, and so can hardly be accused of arbitrarily defending the Church.

I would also like to quote from Weigel's book, mentioned above, who approaches this discussion from a theological angle:

"[T]he combination of clergy sexual abuse and failed leadership by bishops clearly and unmistakably demonstrates that the Catholic Church in the United States is in crisis. It is a crisis because any sexual misconduct by persons placed in positions of trust and responsibility for the young is wicked and scandalous." (p. 21)
"It is a crisis because Catholic priests and bishops should know better; and the people of the Church have every reason to expect that their pastors will know better." (p. 22)

One last quote from Crisis magazine again:

"The Catholic Church in America is at a watershed. The current crisis is the culmination of decades of bad management, errant theology, and sinful behavior. It is partly about sex and partly about bishops. It is also about deluded therapies and an institutional Church that often goes flopping along with the mainstream on moral issues. The crisis is mostly, however, about active homosexuals in the priesthood. Anyone (including an archbishop) who does not admit this is simply part of the problem."

My arguments were hardly novel.

I used 3% as the number of adult homosexuals in society - a number close to this, or less, can be found from many reputable sources today. The most recent, Canada's census statistics, identified 1.3% of adult males as homosexual, and 0.7% of women. I admit that my generalized numbers of 1/3 of pedophilia cases perpetrated by homosexual men is from memory, and a fairly blurry one right now. I haven't sought out these numbers in my few days of research, and would welcome them if someone could find a reputable source.

When arguing about the numbers of this or that, it's important that we're taking into account the relative numbers of each population. I need to verify some numbers (such as my # from memory above) before I can calculate the comparative likelihood of such and such occurring in such and such a situation.

Anyhoo - one of the nice things about blogging is that corrections can be made as they're brought to one's attention, and I can get on with my life until such time as I, or somebody else, finds any pertinent information.

Thanks for dropping by.

Other articles related to the discussion on that other blog can be found here, here, here, and here. These articles deal with fairly diverse parts of that conversation.

UPDATE: a fellow at the other blog identified a site with the stats I mentioned. I'll track the info down and post it here. He argued that the stats were bogus - which will need to bear further scrutiny (and hopefully, accurate stats to replace them if they turn out to be wrong).

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