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Coming Out Of The Catholic Clerical Closet

Prominent gay priest and progressive theologian says clandestine gay networks are a big part of the problem

Recently, the ace Vatican reporter Edward Pentin of the National Catholic Register revealed publicly an open letter signed by nearly 50 Honduran seminarians alleging that a rampant culture of homosexuality had entrenched itself in Tegucigalpa’s major seminary. The letter had been sent to the country’s Catholic bishops, including Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa. Pentin wrote:

“Heterosexual seminarians are scandalized and really depressed,” one of the seminarians who drafted the letter told the Register.

“Many are thinking about leaving the seminary,” the seminarian said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of a fear of reprisals. “I fear that many will leave.”

Cardinal Maradiaga is in Pope Francis’s inner circle of nine hand-picked cardinals guiding him on church reform. He is a progressive who, in 2002, blamed Jewish control of the US media for reporting on church sex scandals, and said that the Church was being persecuted like in the days of Diocletian and Hitler. In other words, Maradiaga is not particularly reflective, or willing to yield when he feels threatened.

So, now the Honduran Bishops Conference has replied to the open letter. In short, they’re denying the allegations. More:

The Register’s article drew on the contents of the seminarians’ letter, the existence of which was confirmed by a Honduran bishop. The seminarians wrote that they were encouraged by their spiritual advisers to write the letter and give it to the bishops as a plea that the homosexual activity among seminarians be stopped and that the bishops adopt stronger admittance practices for choosing seminarians.

The Register article quoted directly from one of the seminarians who had signed the letter, and referenced both a copy of a suicide note from a seminarian involved in a homosexual relationship with another seminarian, and graphic homosexual texts verified to have been exchanged between seminarians.

Also contacted for the article were the offices of Cardinal Maradiaga, the archbishop of Tegucigalpa, the Honduran bishops’ conference and each of the country’s bishops. Only one of the bishops had replied to the Register’s queries at the time this article was published.

The bishops said they “regretted” the information in the article, adding what was reported “causes pain and scandal in those who supposedly it wants to defend.”

The bishops added: “With all certainty and truth, we affirm that there does not exist, has not existed, nor should exist in the seminary an atmosphere such as the one presented in the news report at NCR [the Register] which gives the impression that institutionally there is the promotion and sustaining of practices opposed to the norms and morals of the Church under the complacent watch of the bishops.”

And now, this latest from Pentin:


I offer you all that as a prelude to this essay from The Tablet, the English Catholic publication, written by James Alison. He is a Catholic priest and an openly gay theologian who focuses on LGBT issues (see his Wikipedia biography). His title: “Homosexuality Among The Clergy: Caught In A Trap Of Dishonesty.” Excerpts:

Would it shock you to know that the leading force behind the term “gender ideology”, and the campaign against it, was a gay cardinal? Or that a gay priest wrote the official 2005 explanation as to why gay men could not be priests?

I learned of the (now dead) Latin American cardinal’s reputation for violence towards the rent boys he frequented from a social worker in his home town, and later discovered that this and other outrages were open secrets in both his homeland and Rome. Paris-based Mgr Tony Anatrella was a Vatican expert on homosexuality, one of very few authors the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith recommended on the subject, alongside Drs Joseph Nicolosi, Gerard van den Aardweg and Aquilino Polaino, gay-cure proponents all. Anatrella had long been reported to have engaged in inappropriate touching with seminarians and others who came to him for help in dealing with their so-called “same-sex attraction”. As recently as this June, and after many years of shameful ecclesiastical obfuscation in France and Italy, those reports have been found to be credible, and Anatrella has been suspended from public ministry. If it does shock you that such paragons of homophobia-dressed-as-Christianity might have been “protesting too much”, prepare yourself for a rough ride over the next few years.

Maybe, maybe not. I had hoped that the McCarrick scandal would finally compel the mainstream media to examine the powerful network of sexually active gay priests — including cardinals and bishops — present in the Catholic Church. This is a network that has a lot to do with the abuse scandal, and why it has been covered up for so long. But this is the third rail of the secular media in this country. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that (so far), there have been no follow-ups into this aspect of how McCarrick and his tribe did business. I hope to be pleasantly surprised one day by the Washington Post or The New York Times. But to this point, the “lavender mafia” angle to the scandal has been kryptonite.

Alison is not worried about holding back. He writes:

And in general, despite what those who try to conflate “gay” with “paedophile” would have you believe, a knowing clerical gay milieu is shocked and baffled when minors are involved.

In all these cases, in as far as the behaviour was adult-related, plenty of people in authority sort-of-knew what was going on, and had known throughout the clerics’ respective careers. However, the informal rule in the Catholic Church – the last remaining outpost of enforced homosociality in the Western world – is strictly “don’t ask, don’t tell”. Typically, blind eyes are turned to the active sex lives of those clerics who have them, only two things being beyond the pale: whistle-blowing on the sex lives of others, or public suggestions that the Church’s teaching in this area is wrong. These lead to marginalisation.

Given all this, it seems to me entirely reasonable that people should now be asking: “How deep does this go?” If such careers were the result of blind eyes being turned, legal settlements made, and these clerics themselves were in positions of influence and authority, how much more are we going to learn about those who promoted and protected them? Or about those whom they promoted?

Alison talks about Ross Douthat and me, and how we urge action on this front, and he brings up the progressive, pro-LGBT Catholic journalist Robert Mickens, a Rome-based reporter who is fed up with the Vatican’s hypocritical silence on the presence of gays in the clergy.

Then Alison knocked me over:

How to approach this issue in a healthy way? As a gay priest myself I am obviously more in agreement with Mickens than with Dreher or Douthat. However, I would like to record my complete sympathy with the passion of the latter two as well as with their rage at a collective clerical dishonesty that renders farcical the claim to be teachers of anything at all, let alone divine truth. Jesus becomes credible through witnesses, not corrupt party-line pontificators. Having said that, I suspect that particular interventions, whether by civil authority or papal mandate, are always going to run aground on the fact that they can only deal with, and bring to light, specific bad acts, usually ones that are criminal.

This is an important point. But read this one, and keep in mind that this is a gay priest talking:

And so to some systemic dimensions of “the elephant in the sacristy”. The first is its size. A far, far greater proportion of the clergy, particularly the senior clergy, is gay than anyone has been allowed to understand, even the bishops and cardinals themselves. Harvard Professor Mark Jordan’s phrase “a honeycomb of closets”, in which each enclosed participant has very little access to the overall picture, is exactly right. But the proportion is going to become more and more self-evident thanks to social media and the generalised expectations of gay honesty and visibility in the civil sphere. This despite many years of bishops resisting accurate sociological clergy surveys.

During the last papal election in 2013 we did have hints that the Vatican and the cardinal electors were shocked at discovering from reports commissioned by Benedict how many of them were gay. Part of their shock has to have been their fear at how the faithful would be scandalised if they had any idea. They were right to be afraid, and the faithful are going to have an idea as the implosion of the closet accelerates. How scandalised – or accepting – the faithful will be is going to depend on how well we learn to talk about all this.

One more excerpt:

This is not a matter of left or right, traditional or progressive, good or bad, chaste or practising; nor even a matter of 25 years of Karol Wojtyla’s notoriously poor judgement of character, though all these feed into it. It is a systemic structural trap, and if we are to get out of it, it must be described in such a way as to recognise that unknowing innocence as much as knowing guilt, well-meaning error as well as malice, has been, and is, involved in both its constitution and its maintenance. To that I will turn next week.

I, for one, will be eagerly awaiting Alison’s piece. Read all of this one — it’s got a lot more important information than I can post here.

Alison is right: it is time for the lies, and the structure of lies, to cease. Can honest straights and gays, conservatives and liberals, agree on that, at least? There is no telling how this is going to end for the Catholic Church, though. I am sure that gays and their allies — in both the priesthood and in the laity — are sick of the hypocrisy. But are they willing to have the truth come out? I would like to think that Catholics who are not fans of Father James Martin and his pro-LGBT crusade would also prefer their clerics to live in truth — but are they really prepared to know the truth themselves, especially if it stands to take down conservative closet cases and diocesan structures and institutions?

This really does feel like the storm before the storm, doesn’t it?