Friday, May 24, 2002
CODE RED: Mark Steyn worries, as I do, that the Bush administration is giving up on the war. I've done my level best to look on the bright side, but the omens are awful.
RAINES WATCH: Howell's most reliable liberal flunky, Rick "DNC" Berke, has now become Washington editor. The Guardianization of the New York Times continues.
JOURNALISM'S NEW LOW: The always cogent Bill Powers nails the media's "Bush Knew" hype of last week. It's about the supremacy of scandal over truth.
KRUGMAN'S CLAIM: I know it's an aside, but it's a revealing one. Paul Krugman, whose criticism of the Bush administration on trade is largely right, still can't resist this cheap shot:
The administration insists that it is simply standing up for U.S. interests. Robert Zoellick, the trade representative — who used to be a genuine free-trader, but these days sounds like a broken man — declared that "Uncle Sam is not going to be Uncle Sap for these people." But if you believe that this is about the national interest, I've got a terrorist threat against the Brooklyn Bridge you might be willing to buy.Is he saying that the administration made up a threat to Brooklyn Bridge? For domestic political reasons? That's an extraordinary claim, a Michael Moore-type claim. Here's a challenge to Krugman and his editors (does he have editors?). Back that up or withdraw it. Or is the Times op-ed page now a place where Chomsky-like smears are now de rigueur?
BOOK CLUB UPDATE: I'll be posting the latest emails about Bjorn Lomborg this holiday weekend. Crack open a beer, munch a hot dog and get stuck into CO2 debates! We should have Bjorn's answers to your questions some time next week. Next month: real summer reading. I promise.
MICKEY'S WEIRD VENDETTA: I guess he's just being honest, but Mickey Kaus says it's "intensely disappointing" that Condit might be legitimately cleared in the Chandra Levy investigation. Excuse me? Wouldn't it be better, if facts warrant it, for the real killer, whoever he is, to be identified? But give the Mickster points for candor. Like many in the media, Mickey loathes Condit for other reasons and simply wants to nail him for murder. But doesn't Chandra deserve a little better than that?
- 12:27:17 PM
IS BUSH SURRENDERING? Dreadful news today that the president may be wavering in his intent to destroy the Iraqi regime. If true, then those of us who have supported the war on terror need to revise our assessment of this president. He told the German press yesterday that there is no plan to invade on his desk. He said it almost proudly. His military leaders, in a sign of their determination to risk nothing and achieve nothing, are now leaking to the Washington Post that they have all but scotched a serious military option in Iraq. The arguments they are using sound like they might come from a Gore administration. After all that this president has said, after all that he has asked, a reversal on this central question would be nothing short of a staggering betrayal of trust, a reversal of will and determination. Of course, there should be no peremptory, rushed or botched war. Of course, all options should be examined. But the signs are unmistakable. This president, having begun as an improvement on his father, is showing signs that he could end up as something even worse. It's time he heard from his supporters that this is a critical matter on which there can be no compromise. If he balks, it will be worse than his father's betrayal on taxes. It will be a betrayal of the very security of the American people.
THE WEAKNESS OF WEAKLAND: It might seem unseemly to pile on to Archbishop Weakland's admission of a $450,000 hush-money settlement he paid to a man whom he allegedly sexually attacked twenty years ago. But here goes. The story of the "date rape" seems extremely hazy and not-so-convincing to me. The real story is that a bishop had a long and difficult affair with another man, eventually found the strength to return to celibacy - but then used the Church's money to buy his former lover's silence. That's the scandal. What this is about is not sex as such. Weakland didn't abuse a minor and, so far as I can tell, committed no crime. That puts this in a different category than the other recent revelations. And the violation of his privacy in this, including the publication of a deeply personal letter, is appalling. But what he did do - and recently - was use the church's money to save himself some bad publicity. Not just any money - but almost half a million dollars! It seems to me that that money was stolen by the archbishop from his parishioners. It must be returned. More and more, these members of the hierarchy seem to think they're immune to even the most basic accountability, that they can use the authority of the Church to buy themselves and their friends and underlings out of trouble. Weakland deserves compassion in as much as he had an adult emotional relationship which he clearly eventually ended. But he should not be excused for abusing the power of his office to rob the Church to protect his own reputation. The problem, as I have tried to emphasize, is not so much the abuse of sex as the abuse of power. And solving that dynamic is exactly what Rome has no intention of doing.
THE RAINES DOCTRINE: "We respect our readers' right to express their opinion." - Howell Raines, New York Times. Just not his writers'.
LEVY UPDATE: Well, we have now been told that, contrary to previous reports, the place where Chandra Levy's remains were found had not been searched last year. And we're told that the DC cops are playing down the idea that a man who had assaulted two women during the same period of time in the same part of Rock Creek Park had anything to do with it. Every time I criticize the DC police, I'm told that I don't know what I'm talking about, that such complaints are second-guessing from amateurs, and so on. Still, I'm only passing on what we're told. I hope the case gets another break soon.
THE CASE AGAINST EUROPE: I really should have linked to Michael Gove's recent dismemberment of European pretension in the Times of London. Better late then never. As Bush deals with these faint-hearted states, this is mandatory reading.
LETTERS: Why some bloggers are a pain in the butt; why I'm a lefty on the overclass; why George W. Bush shouldn't be let off the 9/11 hook; etc.
AN INTERN VENTS: A classic memo from an intern reprinted in the New York Post yesterday. I found it thanks to "Tapped," the American Prospect blog. Everyone who has ever been an intern will know exactly what she means. Hearst should be ashamed of firing her. They should give her a column.
THAT EMAIL: I quoted from about Alterman's narcissism was taken from an actual blog. I didn't notice that in the email. Apologies. Here's the site whence it came.
- 1:00:11 AM
Thursday, May 23, 2002
CURIOUSER AND CURIOUSER: Drudge reports that a serial attacker of young women on exactly the same jogging trail that Chandra Levy used is now being questioned again by police. I wonder what all those hacks and TV moralists and web-pontificators who all but destroyed any shred of Gary Condit's privacy last summer will say if it turns out he is completely innocent. Will Connie Chung apologize for one of the most sickening hours ever on television "news"? Of course not. The victims of these commentators pile up. The commentators merely pile on to the next one.
- 2:10:11 PM
WHAT ARE THE ODDS: In today's climate in France that the burning down of the Israeli embassy was the result of an accident? About as likely as president Chirac's suggestion that there are no anti-Semites in France.
FLAUBERT ON READING THE NEW YORK TIMES: "I go from exasperation to a state of collapse, then I recover and go from prostration to Fury, so that my average state is one of being annoyed." Or maybe it was Le Monde.
- 12:01:52 PM
MORE FAR-RIGHTISTS IN EUROPE: This time, a political leader wants to use the military to track down and deport people seeking asylum. The fascist right is clearly ascendant. Oh, hold on a minute, that's Tony Blair.
CHANDRA, CHANDRA, CHANDRA: How comforting that name now feels. So September 10. We now know that she was probably killed. But that's about it. We also know that the D.C. police combed that exact spot months ago - twice! - and didn't find her. As my long-time readers remember, I was a lone blogger defending Gary Condit's right to privacy and his right to innocence before being deemed guilty. But we'll see now, won't we? At least the grand jury investigation might get a new lease in life.
MORE PAPAL PRIORITIES: The Pope doesn't want to deal with the profound issues of priestly celibacy, ecclesiastical abuse of power and sexual morality that are wreaking havoc in the American church. He has far more important things to do - like complain about some celebrities wearing crucifixes and tend to his sparse flock in Azerbaijan. There are two priests in Azerbaijan. Two. This papacy is now descending into self-parody. While Rome burns ...
A LOVER LOST FOR WORDS? Here's a device that Benedick could have used in his somewhat hapless "conventional wooing" of Beatrice. It's a surrealist compliment producer. My favorites: "Sir, what exquisite breasts you have!" and "My eyelids belch with effluvial afterthoughts when you tease me with jello and chicken rinds." Hey' it's a holiday weekend soon. Enjoy. (By the way, there are three more chances to catch "Much Ado." We close Saturday night, and perform tonight and Friday night as well. If you're in the DC area and feel like checking it out, click here for tickets.)
THE ABUSE OF MINORS - GIRLS: A reader sends in the following fascinating story from the Houston Chronicle. It's a year-old story about an epidemic of sexual abuse of minors by athletic coaches in Texas. Almost every one is of a male coach and an underage girl. What I want to know is why there isn't a debate about banning straight teachers from coaching opposite-sex students. I want to know why this hasn't been debated or discussed by social conservatives who allegedly care about the problem of minor abuse, but only seem to really care when they can use it as a weapon to tarnish gays. Well I know the reason for their silence. Still, the Chronicle's account is pretty devastating:
Bill Franz, who became director of the SBEC Professional Discipline Unit in March 2000, said he has been struck by the number of cases involving coaches and band directors. The insouciance of the abusers is similar to that among some priests (although I would argue that the priests' betrayal of their trust is even deeper than that of secular teachers. Here's a passage that set my hair on end:
"We don't do a survey, but it just seems like there is a higher percentage of those two groups involved with sexual wrongdoing with kids than any other group," he said. "And with coaches, you have the physical-abuse aspect. Maybe science teachers are represented at the same percentage. I don't know. It just seems like we get an awful lot of (cases involving) coaches and band directors."
Robert Shoop, a professor of educational administration and leadership at Kansas State University who has written extensively on the subject of sexual harassment in schools and has provided expert testimony in dozens of lawsuits, said he has gotten a similar sense from tracking cases on a national basis.
"I would say almost every case I've dealt with is either a coach or a band director," he said.
Shoop said the trend is rarely noted because the issue of educator sexual abuse in general is something that people often choose to ignore.
"It's incredibly destructive," he said, "but it's still pretty much the dirty little secret that hasn't really gotten to the light of day."
A similar perspective comes from Lorraine O'Donnell, who recently left her job as principal at Clint High School to take an administrative position at the University of Texas at El Paso. So am I. Those subversive heterosexuals. They really need help. How we let them into our schools and classrooms is beyond me. Hey, Messrs Dreher and Kurtz, get busy. Oh, never mind.
In less than two years as principal at Clint, 25 miles southeast of El Paso, she dealt with two cases in which male coaches were allegedly involved in sexual relationships with female students. She said both men acknowledged their actions but showed no remorse.
"Their lack of remorse and responsibility was truly stunning," she said. "They showed no evidence whatsoever that they had taken advantage of young people who could very easily have problems with boyfriends, husbands, sons."
Just as disturbing, she said, was the attitude of another coach at the school who had no connection to either incident.
"I had a coach come up to me and say, `Well, I see we've taken care of the situation,' " she said. "I said, `Yeah.' He said, `Well, what about the student?' I said, `Excuse me?' He said, `What are we going to do to the student? I mean, it takes two.' I said, `Look, that girl was a victim. I think enough has been done to her. So, no, we're not going to do anything to the student.'
"This was a God-fearing, clean-cut, family-man coach. His wife is a coach. A pillar in the community. And this is what he says, `What are we going to do to the student?' I was stunned."
NARCISSISM DEATH MATCH: A reader notes:
Between Eric Alterman's May 22, 2002 / 01:30 update and his first post, I count the word "me" 12 times, and the word "I" appears 62 times. Those posts total under 3,100 words (not counting the letters from readers). That means nearly 1 out of every 42 words is a personal pronoun.And he still hasn't corrected "incumbant."
Let us contrast this with Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish. Taking the first 3,100 words from his page today, we're left with entries between "Eric's Spell Check" and part of "Now Take Gay Priests." "Me" appears only three times, while "I" has 32 hits. In other words, by this objective test, Alterman is more than twice as self-absorbed as Sullivan.
CAN KURTZ READ?: In his latest attempt to justify the exclusion of gay people from most mainstream institutions, Stanley Kurtz wheels out the old line that I secretly want marriage to be non-monogamous, and back same-sex marriage in order to undermine this vital social institution:
By far the most important thing about Sullivan's reply, however, is not anything he says, but what he does not say. Sullivan has not availed himself of the opportunity to clarify his own position on marital fidelity. That is a tremendously significant omission, which leaves standing my characterization of his position. If, as seems evident, Sullivan still believes that the "open sexual contract" [from "Virtually Normal"] that characterizes many gay unions will actually strengthen heterosexual marriage, then the worst fears of conservative opponents of gay marriage are entirely justified. Sullivan criticizes me for characterizing the gay-marriage movement as self-consciously subversive, but if he cannot convincingly disavow his earlier views on monogamy and fidelity, then it seems to me that Sullivan himself clearly exemplifies the way in which proponents of gay marriage mean to subvert marriage itself.There is a simple reason for my not stooping yet again to rebut this lie about what I have written about marriage. It stems from a single, poorly worded statement in the epilogue of my book, Virtually Normal, which was pounced on by conservatives at the time as meaning I wanted monogamy abolished. I denied it, and apologized for my sloppy writing. In the afterword of the paperback, I even explained unequivocally that this interpretation was wrong, that I support monogamy as a principle in marriage - gay or straight. Here's the passage on page 221 of Virtually Normal:
These reflections have been interpreted to mean that I want to incorporate into legal marriage the practice of adultery. So let me be clear: nothing could be further from the truth... In case my point is not clear enough, let me state it unequivocally so that it cannot be distorted in the future: it is my view that, in same-sex marriage, adultery should be as anathema as it is in heterosexual marriage. That is clearly the implicit argument of Chapter Five. Now it's explicit.Now what does it tell you about someone's intellectual honesty that even after those words have been in print for years, he still argues that I meant the opposite in my book? If Kurtz did not know this, he is simply negligent of basic reading and research skills. If he did know this, he is being deeply disingenuous. I emailed to ask him to make a correction. It will be a simple test of his intellectual honesty if he doesn't.
- 1:47:29 AM
Wednesday, May 22, 2002
ERIC'S SPELL-CHECK: The day after a blogger boasts that, unlike the other blogspotters out there, he has editors, he should probably avoid using spellings like "incumbant." I'd forgive a lone blogger, and I make some spelling errors and typos myself. But then I'm not edited. Can't the mighty editors at Newsweek or MSNBC spell-check Alterman? He's also waxing lyrical about privacy rights. I agree with him about David Brock's privacy. But here's his harrumph: "And I say shame on those who claim a right of personal privacy for their own lives but then jump all over Brock’s life to advance their own political agendas. (One more cute move like that one, Drudge, and you’re off my links list. So there!)" But where was Alterman last year when my privacy was being destroyed by his ideological friends and allies? Joining in with the best of them - gleefully. Figures.
- 4:16:27 PM
THE STANDARD AND THE CHURCH: A reader sends the following email:
A couple of days ago you mentioned how the Weekly Standard hadn't said boo about the scandal in the Catholic church. I just looked back a couple of issues where they did AN ENTIRE COVER STORY on religion in America today. They mentioned the Catholic priest scandal NOT ONCE! These McCainiacs are outrageous! Why isn't the rest of the media calling them on it?So tell us, Mr Enron, I mean Kristol, when is the Standard going to recognize reality? Or is its religious coverage deputed to Opus Dei?
I've been a Standard subscriber for forever, and the Catholic slant in their Books and Arts section never bothered me, but this see-no-evil in the Mother Church is just ridiculous.
THE ONION AND THE CHURCH: The best story yet: "Pope Forgives Molested Children."
THE FRIGHTENING REYNOLDS: I meant that facetiously, Glenn. He's a wonder. I'm frightened the way that mortals should be frightened in front of the Terminator. He blogs as often as most people blink. He will prevail. There will be no stopping him. By the way, the tedious Eric Olsen has been whining that I'm not a blogging team player by responding to his every email (they come almost every other day and I got exhausted responding, especially when they keep having URGENT in the contents line). Memo to Eric: reprint any 1000 words you like from my blog for your warblog book. Good luck with the project. Now please stop spamming my email tray. But can I say a word about the notion of a "blogging community" to which we allegedly owe obligations, deference and respect? Phooey. The reason I'm a blogger is because I'm a pesky individualist who simply wants to write what I think and have a great interaction with readers in real time. Every time I hear the word "community," my bullshit detector goes off. And when I hear about "obligations to the community" blah blah blah, I wanna retch. I have nothing but respect for my fellow bloggers. I read them; I've encouraged others to blog; I link whenever I find something I find interesting; I believe in the genre; I've lost lucrative jobs for the medium. But please don't start creating some sort of community of bloggers, and calling us on our dues. This is the Wild Web, buddy, not a condo association. Don't tread on me. (As for the permalinks, I'm such a loser I didn't even know what these were. Thanks to Eric and others, I do now. I'll add them ASAP.)
- 1:19:04 PM
TELL THAT TO MAUREEN: Tom Friedman says the administration should cool it on warnings of a future attack. I fear he's too blithe about the risks. But he cannot blame the Bush administration for now doing what the press has hounded them for not doing in the past. How can they win? If they don't sound the alarm, they have Maureen Dowd accusing them of being on vacation. If they do, Tom Friedman tells them to cool it and Tim Noah suggests they're faking it. They can't win. Which, of course, is what the Bush-haters in the press, still seething at the president's sustained popularity, have intended all along. I say: give them what they want. Scare the bejeezus out of MoDo. Day after day after day.
NOT JUST IN AMERICA: Another pedophile priest in England. This one, mercifully, didn't physically harm any children.
AND I THOUGHT I WAS TOUCHY: A reader writes: "Skinny pouty faced kiddies with teen angst written all over their faces in $3,000 business suits as featured in men's magazines have amused and irritated me for years. I've simply refused to do business with any company that presents its products in that way. I don't buy or wear children's clothing. Circumventing that whole load of crap, I've had my suits, shirts, ties, etc. made to order for years. Is the fashion industry wising up? We'll see." Now tell us how you really feel ...
INSTAPUNDIT REVAMPED: This guy frightens me. He should frighten you all.
FORGET GAY MARRIAGE: Dave Barry has discovered a threat to the marital order that National Review has somehow missed: teachers and cops.
ERIC COME LATELY: For many months, Eric Alterman referred to weblogs as "vanity websites." The he trashed the concept. Then he sharpened his criticism to say he loves weblogs, he just can't stand mine, with all its narcissistic (code-word for gay) preening, and so on. He just can't tolerate the idea of someone in a free country occasionally writing about his actual life, as well as public matters of comment and interest. But now, lo and behold, lovable Eric has decided to get his own blog. Imitation and all that. And the comrades at "Tapped," the only readable product to come out of the American Prospect, have welcomed their brother-in-arms to the fray. I welcome him too, vanity and all.
DU BOIS AND THE GAY PREDICAMENT: A reader sends the following quotation from W.E.B. Du Bois in "The Souls of Black Folk," that casts a shadow over the difficult emergence of gay men and women into the sunlight of actual visibility and formal equality. DuBois noticed how quickly others saw the problems of newly liberated African-Americans not as functions of their terrible experience of slavery and oppression but as proof of their inferiority, the threat they posed to marriage, to the military, to civilized society. I quote:
"[The Negro] felt his poverty; without a cent, without a home, without land, tools, or savings, he had entered into competition with rich, landed, skilled neighbors. To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships. He felt the weight of his ignorance,--not simply of letters, but of life, of business, of the humanities; the accumulated sloth and shirking and awkwardness of decades and centuries shackled his hands and feet. Nor was his burden all poverty and ignorance. The red stain of bastardy, which two centuries of systemic legal defilement of Negro women had stamped upon his race, meant not only the loss of ancient African chastity, but also the hereditary weight of a mass of corruption from white adulterers, threatening almost the obliteration of the Negro home.The analogy is inexact. Homosexual Americans have not endured physical slavery and the obscene repression once meted out to African-Americans. But they have endured a slavery of the heart, an expunction of the deepest longings of their souls, the constant scrutiny of those always looking to find fault and never dignity, and the knowledge of their own failures, which can, if unaddressed, lead to a collapse of self-confidence and self-esteem. That's why it is important not to acquiesce in the scape-goating of the moment, but to resist it, overcome it, and prove it wrong.
A people thus handicapped ought not to be asked to race with the world, but
rather allowed to give all its time and thought to its own social problems. But alas! while sociologists gleefully count his bastards and his prostitutes, the very soul of the toiling, sweating black man is darkened by the shadow of a vast despair. Men call the shadow prejudice, and learnedly explain it as the natural defence of culture against barbarism, learning against ignorance, purity against crime, the "higher" against the "lower" races...
But the facing of so vast a prejudice could not but bring the inevitable self-questioning, self-disparagement, and lowering of ideals which ever accompany repression and breed in an atmosphere of contempt and hate. Whisperings and portents came borne upon the four winds: Lo! we are diseased and dying, cried the dark hosts; we cannot write, our voting is vain; what need of education, since we must always cook and serve? And the Nation echoed and enforced this self-criticism, saying: Be content to be servants, and nothing more; what need of higher culture for half-men? Away with the black man's ballot, by force or fraud,--and behold the suicide of a race!
- 12:57:44 AM
Tuesday, May 21, 2002
WHAT THEY KNEW: The National Catholic Reporter reprints the 1985 church report on the problem of child abuse in the priesthood. It gives the lie to the notion that the hierarchy was unaware of the problem until recently or that some people were unaware of the need for drastic action a long time ago. The paper comments:
Among the insights in this document are clear statements that while help can be provided for abusive priests, there is “no hope” for a cure for some of them, that a bishop “should suspend immediately” a priest accused of sexual abuse when “the allegation has any possible merit or truth,” and that “In this sophisticated society a media policy of silence implies either necessary secrecy or cover-up.” It said, “clichés such as ‘no comment’ must be cast away.”But Law will keep spinning, won't he?
BUM RAP ON BUSH: Don't miss Will Saletan's excellent dissection of second-guessing in Slate. Will just keeps getting better. A word about my criticisms of the Clinton administration's policies aganst terrorism. My criticism was never that they could have anticipated something like 9/11; my criticism was their relative insouciance and incompetence in attacking, deterring and undermining al Qaeda over eight long years, despite being well aware of the potential danger OBL posed. On that, the evidence is pretty damning.
REAL MEN COME BACK TO THE FASHION WORLD: Good news from the New York Times. All those pale-faced, anemic, anorexic male models are making way for guys who look like guys. Some of them even have lives and careers. Imagine. Next up: chest hair?
THE REAL BASIL FAWLTY: Yes, he actually existed, and his widow is mad at the calumny directed by John Cleese et al in the comedy classic, "Fawlty Towers." Alas, her defense was somewhat undermined by the testimony of a former waitress at the hotel that the model for Fawlty, Donald Sinclair, was indeed "bonkers." There also followed a flurry of letters to the editor of the Telegraph, recalling horrific treatment at the hands of Sinclair. Here's my favorite:
Sir - In the 1970s, my late wife booked a holiday for four of us at the Gleneagles Hotel. We arrived on the evening of the Thursday before Easter and went for a pre-dinner drink. Donald Sinclair (the original for Basil Fawlty) poured the drinks, remarking: "You had better drink up - my wife doesn't spend her life in the kitchen preparing good food to have it spoilt because you can't get here on time."Well at least he didn't assault his Spanish waiters.
It wasn't the welcome we expected. On the Saturday morning, he explained that there would be two sittings for dinner because they had a dinner-dance. If we wouldn't mind having the second, we could pre-order to ensure that we received our choice.
When we arrived at the bar that evening, the band was in a heated discussion with Mr Sinclair, after which two of them packed their instruments and left.
In the dining room, we found that some of the items we had ordered had run out, and we had to take alternatives.
On complaining to Mr Sinclair, I was told that the kitchen was not his responsibility and I should speak to his wife. It was clear from her that our order had not been passed on. It then took three attempts before we found a wine on their list that was in stock.
By this time, we had decided our holiday was turning into a mini-war and we might as well call it a day. On the Sunday morning, we calculated how much we owed and packed our bags. Mr Sinclair said that, unless we paid for the full period, he would sue.
In due course, my wife received a summons.
USING THE CHURCH'S CRISIS AGAINST GAY RIGHTS: In a sign of some desperation, Stanley Kurtz has now argued that the collapse of the Catholic Church in America - and it is, indeed, a collapse - is an augury of what would happen to civil marriage if you let those promiscuous child-abusers - i.e. gays - into the institution. The premise here is simple: gays are for the most part unable at all times and in all places to act responsibly; and they are prone to child abuse. Therefore they must be barred from important social institutions. It's not homophobic to say this: it's true. I will try not to be personally offended by my friend Stanley's generalizations. Being offended isn't an argument. So let me tackle a simple premise in Kurtz's argument that bears examination. This is the notion that all homosexuals are alike, that the expression of homosexuality in society at all times and in all contexts will be the same, i.e. depraved at best, irresponsible at worst, and that therefore the best policy toward homosexuality is to marginalize and stigmatize it, by denying it any status equivalent or even similar to that accorded heterosexuality. What Stanley doesn't seem to get is that this is exactly what the Church has been doing to its gay members and gay priests for centuries. For centuries, the civil authorities also kept gays in jail or the closet or at the margins. But now the Church stands almost alone in its inability to confront or even discuss the matter of homosexuality, while the broader society has changed beyond recognition. The result is the current catastrophe. Gay Catholics - priests and laity - are caught between these two worlds. One world is pushing them toward liberation, self-esteem and responsibility; the other is still infantilizing, pathologizing and marginalizing them. In such a context, human beings can lose their way - especially when the Church refuses even to articulate or discuss its own doctrines about homosexuality - or indeed any sexuality. In recent years, I have spoken at Notre Dame, Boston College, Georgetown, and many other catholic universities and colleges about Catholicism and homosexuality. To my amazement, my own presentations were often the first time anyone on those campuses had publicly opened the debate. It's that inability to grapple with a real social change and a real pastoral concern that lies behind some of the chaos in the American church today, and the stunning lack of guidance and care that gay priests and laypeople have had to deal with.
NOT TAMING: The broader argument that I and others have made is not that civil marriage or equal civil rights will somehow "tame" homosexuals. We're not animals and we don't need taming. The argument rather is that much of the dysfunction in gay lives stems from social marginalization and the deep psychological wounds of childhood, where same-sex orientation is stigmatized to this day. The effect upon the sexual and emotional development of gay kids can be brutal, and it is this experience - not homosexuality - that accounts for some of the social and psychological problems many gay men have. Imagine, say, that your first heterosexual feelings and crushes were simultaneously understood to be disgusting, threatening and vile. Now imagine suppressing all of those feelings for years, and living with layer upon layer of shame, guilt self-doubt, self-hatred whenever you found yourself falling in love or feeling the first lure of sexual and emotional intimacy. Do you really expect the adults who emerge from this psychological hell will be as adjusted as those whose sexuality and emotional lives have been affirmed from the very beginning? But when these adults have difficulty constructing relationships or maintaining monogamy, some social conservatives use that failure not to argue for a change in the way gay kids are brought up, or for involving gay people in mainstream society and institutions, but as an argument to reinforce the very social ostracism that helps create the dysfunction in the first place. And those gay men and women who, mirabile dictu, do manage to have viable, healthy lives and relationships are effectively dismissed as an insignificant fringe, or, when they struggle and fail, as examples of how depraved they all are anyway.
NOW TAKE GAY PRIESTS: Here you have, for many, a particularly harsh form of the psychological torment (and that is not too strong a term) that many gay men experience. Stanley speaks as if in the 1970s, liberal gays suddenly decided as a matter of policy that they would all join the priesthood. But of course, this is extremely silly. Gay men had dominated the church for centuries before that. And, from Cardinal Spellman to many of today's Cardinals, the most orthodox were often the gay ones. These were not social revolutionaries. Their reactionary theology was the inverse of their own sexual panic. Conservatism was their means of self-control and control of others. Many of the closeted gay priests they protected hadn't even begun to deal with their sexual orientation. They sought the church as a refuge from themselves and from reality. The celibacy requirement was a firewall for them against the desires they feared and alternately revered. Their emotional development, stunted and perverted by the very attitudes Kurtz wants to reinforce, got arrested in their teens. They often had mother complexes, in which they attempted to appease their mothers' desire for them to be married by becoming a priest instead. And then the sexual revolution happened - and these men's bifurcated lives and psyches began to unravel. As the Church's teachings on non-procreative sexuality were rigidified, as the sexual freedom and options of straight potential priests multiplied, and as more prosperous Catholics left the tight-knit communities of their parents, two things happened. Vocations, especially among straights, declined dramatically. And the gay plurality within the Church began, in a vacuum of leadership, to experiment with their lives - often (but not always) to disastrous effect. So you had a priesthood still full of screwed-up gay men but with fewer and fewer straight men and far more sexual temptation. And the arrested development of these men also led them into the pathologies of pedophilia or the infantilizing desire to relate to teenagers. Again, this was not a function of their homosexuality. It was a function of their psychological dysfunction. And the response of the hierarchy was the worst of both worlds. What they needed to do was either end celibacy in order to encourage more straight men into the priesthood, or stop gay ordination (and watch the Church go down the tubes), or, better still, deal openly and candidly with gay priests, to provide psychological counseling, support, and openness in order to help them live chaste lives. Instead, the Church did nothing. Worse, it looked the other way. So all sorts of terrible abuses occurred - ranging from the more benign sexual exploration of some priests to the horrifying instances of pedophilia and ephebophilia that we're now hearing more of. Like a family with a teenager acting out (and many of these screwed-up priests had the emotional development of teenagers), the father refused to talk, refused to see what was in front of him, and refused to deal. And now the kid's in jail.
UNTIDY TRUTHS: How tidy it would be to see this crisis as a function of a group of malign ideologues and libertines 'flooding' into the Church to destroy it, and now begging to be admitted to civil marriage so they can destroy that too. Tidy, but wrong. Not just wrong, in fact, but a further ratcheting up of the sexual denial and incoherence that really exists on the social right. They believe that if you ban or stigmatize something, it will go away. It won't. It will simply re-emerge in sad or perverse or self-destructive forms. What many of us are trying to do - in politics, in culture, and in our own lives - is to find a way to heal the wounds of the past and bring gay people into the family of society and the church where we belong. We are not without failure or sin. But we are also not without hope and virtue. And our witness is something that the Church desperately needs, if it is to end the rigid, callow and incoherent account of sexuality it still clings to as much out of fear as conviction.
WHAT THE WEB CAN DO: If you have nothing better to do with your time than track down old movie quotes.
- 12:34:54 AM
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