A friend e-mails, about the current scandals:
I have some liberal-ish Christian friends who seem to be losing the scales from their eyes. “Wait, you mean to tell me all that stuff fundamentalists said about gay men being disproportionately likely to molest minors was actually true? What are we to do?” One friend in particular woke up to this after reading [Mary Eberstadt’s 2002 essay] “The Elephant in the Sacristy.” He could hardly believe that the figures were so well established, so long ago.
By now you readers should know that I do not believe that homosexuals in the priesthood are the sole explanation for the chronic scandals in the Catholic Church. I believe that celibacy and clericalism both play roles here, as well as homosexuality. The three are tied together in a synergistic bond. What seriously makes me angry is the unwillingness of the secular media to pay attention to the homosexual dynamic present in the phenomenon. You cannot understand the scandal without it, any more than you can understand the scandal without accounting for clericalism or celibacy.
According to the 2004 John Jay Report, 81 percent of the victims of clerical abusers were male. The overwhelming numbers of those were not children (pedophilia), but older boys (ephebophilia). It is unjust and inaccurate to say that all gay men seek sex with boys that age, but it is foolish to say that it’s not a big part of gay male culture.
This 2017 essay from Chad Felix Greene, an out gay man in his 30s, sheds a lot of light on this phenomenon, and is well worth reading in context of the abuse scandal. Here’s how it starts:
I had sex with man as a teenager for the first time when I was 14. I was alone in a familiar library while my father worked and as I browsed an older man noticed me and began following me. I became aware of him but assumed I was safe in a public place and I simply was not prepared for when he approached me and grabbed my crotch. My reaction, as I remember, was somewhere between utter shock and dizzying fear as I imagined I would get in trouble if I made noise or pulled away. I remember believing as an adult he had authority over me even though I had no understanding of what he was doing. He engaged in sexual activity as I stood frozen, confused and afraid of anyone walking by and then left shortly after.
I remember waiting for my dad to take me home in a daze, convinced he must have known and preparing for punishment. But he didn’t know and I simply rationalized it and moved on. But it also made me curious about why a man would do that to me and what it meant that I enjoyed the experience. I went back to the library again a few weeks later and this time I encountered what I thought was the most beautiful man I had ever seen. I hadn’t quite grasped the idea of what being gay was, but I instantly responded to him. He was probably in his early 20’s. What I remember is after some eye contact, darting back and forth between the stacks and obvious awkward staring at books I had no intention of reading he approached me directly and kissed me. His kiss was passionate and I felt a sense of being overwhelmed that I did not know was possible. He guided me through various sexual activities and I remember how absolutely enthralled I was at the time with his every touch and look. I fell absolutely in love.
This is how he entered into the world of anonymous gay sex. More:
I found that once a man touched me and began guiding me I felt helpless, even if I didn’t want to do anything with him. There were times I felt disgusted and yet I never backed away or said no. The occasions when I enjoyed myself I imagined I had made a friend who cared about me because why else would a man kiss me, touch me in such a way and be so intimate with me? For weeks I continued this remarkably dangerous journey with my parents often a floor or two above me never knowing and I felt so grown up and attractive. Everyone told me how beautiful I was, how sexy and how perfect. I thought this is what being an adult was like.
He says he wanted those men to love him, and that’s why he kept going back to the bathroom to have sex with them. More:
The compulsion never left me and throughout my teen years I engaged in astonishingly reckless behavior in my attempts to both satisfy my sexual urges and my deep desire for love and acceptance from a man. As the internet evolved, so did my sexual experience and I went so far as to meet men I only chatted with for a few moments online with absolutely nothing to go on but their brief self-description and instructions to wait in a nearby parking lot for their car, make and model, to arrive. At 15 I was standing outside, alone, in empty parking lots at 1AM waiting for complete strangers to pick me up for sex in their cars.
At 15. More:
I remember believing myself odd and damaged when I left high school and began making friends with other gay guys my own age and I was shocked to discover nearly all of them had experienced the same thing. Accidentally discovered ‘cruising’ spots, online chatrooms and other methods of accessing sex with older men were common. The TV show Queer as Folk, the American version, discussed this experience in great detail even portraying groups of young teenage boys as prostitutes. Another show, The United States of Tara had a storyline in which the gay teenage son of the main character was introduced to a cruising spot at a local park by an openly gay student his own age. They were 15 I believe. In one episode the young man, usually sarcastic and witty, becomes vulnerable for a moment describing an idealized fantasy with a random strange man in which he kisses his eyelids in a show of affection.
As much as the LGBT world seems to ignore this reality, it seems fairly universal and unfortunately not time-bound to a period when young gay men had fewer options. There is an uncomfortable truth here that I never had sex with anyone my own age as a teenager. Every single man was an adult who recognized my youth and chose to engage in sex anyway. As a 34 year old man today I cannot conceive of doing this with a teenager. I genuinely struggle to understand how it was possible at all.
Our culture is obsessed with youth, this is true and the ‘barely legal’ standard of pornographic excitement is not exclusive to gay men by any means. But in many ways we are different. Men who are attracted to teenage girls are far less likely to have the opportunity or willingness to act on their interests. But gay men seem to hold a generational view that sex with teenagers is a rite of passage and a necessity as teenage gays have no other option to explore who they are. As a culture we seem unwilling to consider that what we experienced ourselves as teenagers should not be the acceptable norm.
We need to ask to what extent the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church — which, as we’ve seen, is overwhelmingly, though not exclusively, a problem of the sexual abuse of teenage and adolescent boys — is a function of gay priests reproducing this aspect of gay male culture. The reader of this blog who posts as Matt in VA is a civilly married gay man who has written bluntly about the exploitative side of gay male culture. In fact, I found that Chad Felix Greene essay because a reader posted a link to it on the comment thread under Matt in VA’s post.
Writing for Get Religion, the veteran religion journalist Julia Duin observes that there has been very little original reporting on the Cardinal McCarrick story since the NYT broke its two big pieces back in July. There are lots of leads all over the place. Plucky little Catholic News Agency published a blockbuster piece about the homosexualization of Newark seminary culture under McCarrick and his successors. There are all kinds of leads out there. You would think that trying to find out how a serial sex abuser rose to the senior ranks of the Roman Catholic Church, even though his predation was an open secret for years, would be a hell of a story. It’s about sex, it’s about money, it’s about power, secrets, and lies. But it’s also about a vicious gay subculture, which means it violates the media’s preferred narrative.
On this blog yesterday, reader Gabe Giella, now an out gay man, published a piece about his own experience in a minor seminary. He described a place where the trappings were quite conservative, but which was actually a hothouse of gay sex, rivalry, and emotional combat. His ideas for how to combat that destructive dynamic are not consonant with what an orthodox Catholic would prescribe, but I believe that all honest people, whatever their theological position, would agree that the lies and hypocrisy have to end.
The only way that’s ever going to happen is to start telling the truth, no matter whose peace it disturbs.
(Readers, I’m going to be away from the keys all morning. There will be a second post going up in a bit, but I’ve pre-scheduled it. I’ll be back in the early afternoon, and will approve everybody’s comments. Thanks for your patience.)