A couple of readers have pointed out that Your Working Boy comes up in this piece by Kaya Oakes in The New Republic. That passage is here:
In May, when Francis told a gay Chilean sexual abuse survivor that God made him gay and loves him anyway, American Conservative columnist Rod Dreher said the pope was destroying the church like a “wrecking ball.” Conservatives like Dreher maintain that gay priests are the main perpetrators of child sexual abuse, and that their powerful supporters within the Vatican—whom Dreher calls the “lavender mafia”—are responsible for harboring them.
She’s not wrong, but here, from that post of mine, is the context:
What do cardinals and bishops of the Roman Catholic Church do when the Pope teaches something unambiguously contrary to authoritative Catholic teaching? Because that’s exactly what Francis has done here, if Juan Carlos Cruz is accurately transmitting Francis’s words.
Now, be careful: According to canon lawyer Cathy Caridi’s commentary on the meaning of “heresy” in canon law, that wouldn’t make Francis a heretic, strictly speaking. But still, if the Pope has said that homosexuality is morally neutral and/or willed by God, then that is a massive thing. As Father Martin correctly understands. On the single issue dividing Christian churches in our time more than any other, the Pope will have taken the side of the modernists and progressives, against 2,000 years of consistent Christian teaching based on the clear meaning of Holy Scripture.
A conservative Evangelical pastor friend of mine told me some time back that whatever his differences with the Roman church, he was grateful to be able to count on Rome being a solid rock on pressing questions of moral theology. Under Francis, he told me, he has come to believe that Rome cannot be counted on to hold the line. The rock is crumbling under repeated blows from the Bergoglian wrecking ball.
Kaya Oakes’s piece is a standard bit of liberal Catholic flim-flam. In the case of the citation from my blog post, she doesn’t engage with the substance of my claim; for her, it’s enough that ermagerd, he’s a homophobe! That is to say, she reasons fallaciously that because the conclusion is unacceptable, the reasoning must be corrupt.
She deploys the same technique in this passage:
Conservatives like Dreher maintain that gay priests are the main perpetrators of child sexual abuse, and that their powerful supporters within the Vatican—whom Dreher calls the “lavender mafia”—are responsible for harboring them.
Of course, there is no evidence of a higher rate of abuse among gay clergy; in fact, abuse, religious and secular, is most commonly the result of “situational generalists” who abuse whoever is in their control, male or female, children or adults. But that hasn’t stopped conservatives from arguing that gay men are responsible for the abuse crisis.
Who you gonna believe, Kaya Oakes, or your lyin’ eyes? From the authoritative John Jay Report studying abuse of Catholic clerics between 1950-2002:
The story Kaya Oakes and her sort need to tell themselves to avoid the elephant in the sacristy is that the abuse was only “situational.” This is an ideologically useful lie, but it’s easier to believe than the ugly truth of the matter. Similarly with the “lavender mafia” — the concept may offend Kaya Oakes’s sensibilities, but the evidence that gay priests in some instances have formed networks within dioceses — even the Roman Curia — and used those networks to protect and promote other gay priests, is substantial. Here’s a lengthy report about how this worked in the Archdiocese of Miami. If the full truth about Cardinal McCarrick’s rise is ever made public, I am confident we will see this same dynamic at work.
Finally, Oakes theorizes:
The conservatives attempting to blame gay priests for sexual scandals appear to have two main objectives. First, they hope to purge the church of its gay clergy. And second, they want Francis out. Because he has softened the church’s stance on LGBT issues, his opponents can accuse him of sheltering gay priests and, in their minds, saddle him with responsibility for the sexual abuse crisis, despite the fact that it began long before he was elected pope.
Well, look, there are lots of conservatives with opinions about the scandal. I don’t know any serious Catholic conservatives who believe the scandal is entirely about gay priests. They understand that clericalism — a disordered view of the priesthood that sees priests as somehow higher and holier than ordinary Catholics — played a role.
And there are other factors: for example, the very conservative Catholic psychiatrist Richard Fitzgibbons, who has written critically of homosexuality, was alleged to have traveled to Rome back in the early 2000s to warn the Vatican not to elevate McCarrick, because he was a serial molester of seminarians. When I phoned Fitzgibbons in 2002 to ask if this was true, he said to me, “If that were true, I wouldn’t tell you for the same reason that Noah’s sons covered their father in his drunkenness.” In other words, I would keep it to myself to protect the image of the Church.
Whether or not Dr. Fitzgibbons actually traveled to Rome to warn about McCarrick — something he could clarify right now, if he wanted to — is not the point; the point is that he was prepared to keep the ugly truth quiet out of what he mistakenly believed was protecting the Church. In fact, that mentality has been devastating to the Church.
I bring it up here to point out that Church conservatives who pay close attention are aware that clerical homosexuality is not the sole factor at play here. In fact, the shady dealings of the Papal Foundation — see this great report — seems to have awakened some influential US Catholic donors as to how McCarrick and other prelates have used the charity (co-founded by McCarrick in 1988) as a way of advancing their own Church careers. It is becoming clearer that the sex part of the scandal cannot be cleanly separated from the money.
When I was in Rome recently, someone said to me that under John Paul II’s papacy, three clerics always came to the Vatican bearing lots of money for the Church: Marcial Maciel (the disgraced sex criminal founder of the Legion of Christ), Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, and Cardinal Ted McCarrick. We may never know how the money affected the ability of men within the Roman curia to see evidence of corruption within those men. But it’s probably a factor.
Finally, there is the matter of not being willing to see what is right in front of your eyes, because it’s too painful psychologically. This was reportedly the case with John Paul II, when personally confronted with cases of abuse. If you’ve ever had to deal with that personally, you know how frustrating it is. In my own family, I tried to warn my late father, towards the end of his life, about a seriously threatening situation, one that he (and only he) could have done something about. He refused to believe me. It wasn’t because he was old and weak and losing his grip; it was because the facts violated his deeply held views of how the world worked, and who were the good guys and the bad. He left the situation unaddressed, and disaster followed.
I don’t know who Kaya Oakes has in mind, but I am unaware of any conservative Catholic who thinks the sex abuse scandal is entirely Francis’s fault. Any Catholic who has more than a superficial knowledge of the history of the phenomenon knows that it goes quite far back. John Paul II bears a lot of the blame. Even Benedict XVI must shoulder some burden, though the evidence shows that he recognized the problem before he became pope, and worked to reverse course. His effectiveness was limited, probably because of his own scholarly temperament, and almost certainly because the corruption was far too widespread in the Curia for him to deal with. I say that not to let him off the hook, but as a matter of understanding. I’ve heard from too many people who either know BXVI personally, or who are in his circles. that he felt defeated by the sexually corrupt within the Curia, and resigned in hope that the next pope would have more strength to fight those particular dragons.
Francis has not been good on this front. Progressive Catholics like Kaya Oakes are making the same mistake that many conservative Catholics made in 2002-03, when the scandal broke big the first time. They instinctively rallied to protect a conservative Pope and a conservative cardinal (Bernard Law), and blamed the media and others they believed were corrupted by bad morals, and out to get the Holy Father. One of the most embarrassing examples of this genre was the infamous March 2002 item by Richard John Neuhaus (scroll down to “Feathers Of Scandal”) in which he absolved the Legion of Christ of guilt in the accusations made against their founder, Father Marcial Maciel. Neuhaus wrote:
Having said that, I expect that most readers, and especially those who, with good reason, admire the Legionaries, instinctively recoil from the story about Fr. Maciel, finding it both repugnant and implausible. There is something to be said for consigning it to the trash bin and forgetting about it. Nobody should feel obliged to read on, for the subject is decidedly distasteful. At the same time, the story is out there, and”as Berry and Renner and the complicit publications surely intended”it has no doubt done some damage. Forty and fifty years after the alleged misdeeds, there is no question of criminal action. Even were there any merit to the charges, which I am convinced there is not, the statute of limitations has long since run out. And what can you do to an eighty-two-year-old priest who has been so successful in building a movement of renewal and is strongly supported and repeatedly praised by, among many others, Pope John Paul II? What you can try to do is to filch from him his good name. And by destroying the reputation of the order’s founder you can try to discredit what Catholics call the founding “charism” of the movement, thus undermining support for the Legionaries of Christ.
It turned out that Maciel was guilty of everything his accusers said he was, and that it was Father Neuhaus who slandered the journalists Jason Berry and Gerald Renner, who told a story that Neuhaus did not want to hear. Neuhaus was a conservative Catholic and a good man, but on the scandal, he was blinded by ideological convictions.
So too, in our own day, are those progressive Catholics who instinctively rally to Francis, and who are certain that homosexuality cannot have anything to do with the sex abuse scandal, because ideologically, they cannot accept facts that violate their preconceptions. They are like Father Neuhaus, and like John Paul II, in that earlier era. Even good men can be deceived. The question is, Did they want to be deceived?
Here’s what I mean by that. Whether you count yourself on the Catholic Left, the Catholic Right, or somewhere in the middle, if your view of the sex abuse scandal fits all of your ideological preconceptions, believe me, you are not seeing the whole truth. And if you want a feeling of peace more than you want the truth, then you might as well just give up now, because you will sacrifice any principle, and any person, for the sake of that false peace. Think about it. Look for that inside of yourself, and if you find it, despise it, and resist it. No man consciously wants to be deceived, but all of us have the capacity to believe a story that confirms our own biases. I’ve been guilty of it, and so have you. We should ruthlessly interrogate ourselves, seeking to know whether or not we really want the truth, or prefer a narrative that eases our anxieties. “If that were true, I wouldn’t admit it to myself, because I need it to be false to continue to live an untroubled life.”