Nasty Letters To Crooked Politicians

As we enter a new era of politics, we hope to see that Obama has the courage to fight the policies that Progressives hate. Will he have the fortitude to turn the economic future of America to help the working man? Or will he turn out to be just a pawn of big money, as he seems to be right now.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Scapegoating no answer to moral failure

Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Some years ago I had an unsettling interview with the pastor of a gravel-road fundamentalist church in deep East Texas. A magazine had dispatched me to cover a passionate controversy the fellow had stirred up among the local citizenry. The preacher had taken to delivering sermons on an AM radio station denouncing the local VFW post for serving alcoholic beverages. He said the organization’s initials stood not for
Veterans of Foreign Wars, but “very foul and wicked.” This aroused a disabled Korean War veteran over in Louisiana. The vet wrote a letter to the newspaper telling how much VFW fellowship meant to an old, crippled soldier. Two days later, a barn roof collapsed on the veteran, killing him in his wheelchair. The preacher took to the radio again, claiming that God had struck the veteran dead for his defiance. The community
erupted; everybody took sides. The majority seemed to think the preacher a self-righteous fool who ought to have sense enough to apologize. When I interviewed him, the fellow hardly made eye contact. He answered every question by rummaging furiously through his Bible for a scriptural citation. Most were Old Testament verses about Yahweh smiting sinners.

I came away thinking that actual human beings weren’t as real to him as the words in that book. My story quoted the town’s police chief saying the preacher ought to remember what Jesus said about judging not, lest you be judged.

I had a similar reaction to the Roman Catholic Church’s newly announced policy against ordaining gay priests.

“The church, even while deeply respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to seminary or Holy Orders those who are actively homosexual, have deepseated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called gay culture, “ reads a key passage on a Vatican Web site. “ Such people, in fact, find themselves in a situation that seriously obstructs them from properly relating to men and women.”

Unlike the doctrine of priestly celibacy itself, of course.

Having grown up in a boisterous Roman Catholic family hearing men and women argue furiously about whether priests could possibly have anything useful to say about marriage, I’m inclined to agree with my friend Richard, a communicant who wonders, “What’s the difference between a celibate heterosexual priest and a celibate homosexual priest? Not doing the deed is not doing the deed.”

For centuries, the church operated under a tacit “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that worked reasonably well. In recent years, it’s been arguing internally about whether homosexuality is an intrinsic, if not exactly “God-given,” human condition, as contemporary psychologists believe, or a grave moral disorder.

The late Pope John Paul II urged chastity. His successor, Benedict XVI, has long been among those arguing that homosexuality is closer to being an infectious disease than a sin. Although many say the new policy will make little practical difference—the church’s worldwide bureaucracy being as difficult to turn as the proverbial aircraft carrier—others fear a purge of persons with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies,” an ominously vague phrase lending itself to malicious use.

What’s truly sickening about this latest example of the church’s inability to deal with adult sexuality is how much it looks like an attempt to scapegoat gays for its own catastrophic moral failures. For more than a generation, bishops and cardinals in the U. S. and elsewhere placed the church’s political and financial standing ahead of the safety of thousands of boys and girls molested by serial pedophiles among the priesthood.

So you’d think the Catholic hierarchy might lay off the sexual pronouncements for a decent interval. But no. Meanwhile, the only American Catholics who appear well-disposed to the new teaching are those who mistakenly equate homosexuality with pedophilia.

Pedophiles, most themselves molested as children, aren’t motivated by adult desire. Like rape, pedophilia’s more about rage than sex. The big turn-on isn’t gender—plenty of little girls were molested along with the altar boys—it’s about innocence and powerlessness. “Big wicked me, little defenseless you.” In every account I’ve seen, the perpetrators convinced their victims that nobody would take a child’s word over a priest’s. One of the saddest things I’ve ever read was a column by a friend disclosing how deeply ashamed he’d been in adolescence to realize he was gay. Desire came to him as it comes to everybody, like gravity, a force he could resist but not deny. He’d have given anything not to feel it as he did. I urged him to strike those paragraphs as too emotionally revealing for a newspaper column. Now I think my advice was wrong. What sustains homophobia in the church hierarchy and everywhere else is a failure of moral imagination. The smug majority find it far too easy to condemn a temptation they do not feel. I don’t believe Jesus thought that way at all.

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