Sunday, September 25, 2005

In the Name of Sex, Booze, and Celibacy

One of the most vivid memories I have of my freshman year at a Catholic university is that of a friend, Megan, standing in the boys' bathroom, tapping her black heels, and applying make-up thicker than most caulking. It wasn't unusual for a Friday night. She knew how to find the good parties and often left us all behind as she mixed with seniors at local bars, frat dens, or off campus housing. This time, however, she reached over every now and then between lipstick strokes to tug on my sleeve.

"You should come. You'd like these guys. They asked to meet you."

I leaned backwards out the bathroom door, throwing glances up and down the halls with a paranoia that only a recently decloseted homosexual possesses. "These are priests, right?"

An eye roll. "Noooo. They're in the seminary. They're going to be priests."

Confusion. "Is that . . . better?"

She knit her brow in puzzlement. "Well, they haven't taken their vows, right?"

"Uhm, right." Though I was already thoroughly convinced I was going to hell, going drinking with potential priests seemed like a final, clumsy vault into the inferno.

Three hours later, Daniel, a young seminarian, drunkenly leaning over me as we made out on the pier. It was a scene that would repeat itself throughout my freshman year.

I never went very far with Daniel. There is only so much Catholic guilt that may be assuaged by a fifth of rum. He seemed content to introduce me to other gay seminarians, and we'd often go as a group to Boystown to take in the bar scene. A little money and a well-connected would be priest gets you a fake ID pretty easily.

Whenever I hear about controversies like this, I think back on those days. Since then, I've often compared seminary stories with other gay friends who attended Catholic universities.

"My first was with a seminarian!"
"They always threw the best parties."
"It was like our own private gay club."

That seminaries are chock full of homosexuals doesn't seem like much of a controversy to me. They simply are. While there are no doubt many good, solid celibate gay priests, there also seem to be no small number who are decidedly not.

When 80% of sexual abuse cases reported since 1950 consist of adult men with adolescent boys, this seminarian subculture is worth more than an eyebrow raise or two. There is something deeply, deeply rotten involved in all this. It would be morally bankrupt for the Church to ignore the potential connections between seminaries full of gay men and the epidemic level of male-to-male pederasty incidents.

The Anchoress' thoughts on this matter seem to be my own. The Church must come down harshly on the seminaries to remove priests who do not seem predisposed to take their vows seriously. Sexuality ought to be a non-issue with a priest. It is the celibacy that is important.

In light of the Vatican taking a stricter look at a homosexual culture in seminaries, gay rights groups have - surprise, surprise - gone absolutely bonkers. When thousands of children have been irreparably damaged, this is not the time to get your PC freak on. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force could have chosen the constructive path by offering to work with the Vatican and the American Church to uncover and resolve the problem while still protecting celibate gay priests who honor their vows.

The NGLTF doesn't even get a full sentence into the press release before decrying the Catholic Church as "evil." The witch-hunt comparisons and medieval persecution metaphors come fast and furious.

Does this strike anyone as particularly helpful? Understandably, gay rights groups aren't exactly fans of the Catholic Church. However, thrusting sexually abused children aside to grind a persistently disreligious political agenda seems a little . . . misguided. Not only misguided, but disingenuous. I would be hard pressed to believe Matt Foreman doesn't know more than a few people who have experiences with seminarians similar to my own.

I do not blame those seminarians I had experiences with when I was younger. By then, I was an adult, capable of my own choices, even if they weren't always the wisest ones. However, the audacity, the sheer brashness of their behavior belies a religious organization that does not exercise control over the standards it is meant to protect.

I do not wish to conflate homosexuality with pedophilia as some might claim. Quite obviously, I do not believe there to be a correlation. However, in most of these abuse cases, we're discussing pubescent males. I'm sure there are a variety for reasons for this. My personal pet theory involves an arrested sexual development and entry into the Church as a method of self-control. However, that's all pop psychobabble bullshit.

The fact of the matter is, there is a subculture within seminaries full of gay men who are not celibate. Furthermore, the pederasty incidents are overwhelmingly male-to-male in nature. To attempt to separate the two seems irresponsible at best. People who do that are worrying more about their political sensibilities than the serious problems at hand.

When the Catholic Church finds out what is going on here, I fully expect them to go medieval on some asses.

It is, after all, what they do best.