Somewhere I read a plea that we not say “they sexually abused” or “they molested” or “they are pedophiles.” These are “sanitary” words of many syllables. “No! They fucked, they raped, they groped, they grabbed, they snatched.” Even in my title, “sexual assault” is sanitary. Can we stipulate that what went on is rape, or at least the list of verbs that approach it? The Grand Jury Report describes a wide range of them:
Most of the victims were boys; but there were girls too. Some were teens; many were pre- pubescent. Some were manipulated with alcohol or pornography. Some were made to masturbate their assailants; or they were groped by them. Some were raped orally, some vaginally, some anally.
In my view, taxonomy—was this really rape? pedophilia is only pre-prepubescent, you know—is a distraction and fuzzes up the real point: All these verbs are not about sexual attraction. These verbs are about using sex as a weapon—to control, to intimidate, to subjugate, to terrorize. These verbs are about power, and nothing else.
Well, I will give you an obvious example. Male soldiers will often rape male POWs. Both soldier and POW are adult. But no one really thinks—do they?—that the solider is therefore gay and that this is a homosexual act. It is an act of torture, of subjugating an enemy. It is an act of hate.
I’ll give you another. I know this story. This happened in Cincinnati. A man in his twenties is working in a nursing home and rapes a woman in her eighties. She is in a wheelchair and only marginally aware of what goes on around her. He does this not because he is somehow sexually attracted to eighty-year-old women; he does it only because she is helpless and unaware, and he can assert power and control without any resistance. The ugliness goes far beyond a sexual orientation we might disapprove of.
Nevertheless, there has been a rush to blame all the verbs detailed in the GJR on a “homosexual subculture” in the Church. This feeds a stereotype about gay men: that they rape boys at a disproportionately higher rate than heterosexuals rape. You can find on YouTube PSAs from the 1950s warning boys not to take rides from strangers because they might be homosexuals who will rape you, and then you too will catch the gay. Old bigotries die hard.
Thus Matt Walsh blames a “gay cabal” and suggests, weirdly, that the Church defrock Fr. James Martin. (He’s a favorite scapegoat.) Walsh is particularly piqued by “effeminate priests,” a bogeyman that has its origin in gender stereotypes and yearnings for truly manly male masculinity, complete with militarized rosaries with bullets for beads or something like that.
Cardinal Burke says we need to “purify” the Church of gay clergy. By laicizing them? By dousing them with holy water and garlic, like they’re vampires? He even says that the “anti-life culture” and “contraceptive culture” are somehow to blame, without explaining precisely how he has discerned this.
Msgr. Charles Pope, at the National Catholic Register, blames “active homosexuality.” Bishop Morlino of the Westboro Catholic diocese of Madison has joined this chorus, and even goes as far as saying: “What the Church needs right now is more hatred.” (Sing with me: What the Church needs now is hate, sweet hate.) He’s a real disciple of Christ, that one. This won’t feed stereotypes of Christians as haters, at all. The name of God is definitely not blasphemed among the Gentiles because of Morlino. He’s the “gold standard,” I read on Facebook—a genuine doubloon of righteous Catholic hate.
Bill Donohue alone makes the novel claim that none of it actually happened, and if it did, it wasn’t rape.
Some, like Walsh and Deacon Jim Russell, attempt to blame Fr. James Martin. The aliens, the gays, the Patheos bloggers, Fr. Martin. It’s tic. On Facebook, Leila Miller went as far as to make the libelous charge that Fr. Martin’s “entire ministry is grooming.”
Leila Miller is not some random person on Facebook, either; she writes for Catholic Answers. And “grooming,” if you don’t know, is the time taken by a sexual offender to plan the event and manipulate the victim to comply. Miller says this is what Fr. Martin’s whole ministry is about. It’s libel.
Leila Miller aside (Matt Walsh too), when clergy as high ranking as Monsignors and bishops and cardinals put the blame on gay men in the Church, this confirms Catholics in the scapegoating and, as a consequence, the fear and the hatred of LGBT people. (We need hate, says Emperor Morlino. Let the hate flow through you.) It also leads many to make a false leap, namely, that if Cardinal Burke has said this, then it must somehow be Church teaching. He must be speaking for Truly-True True Catholicism. If you don’t accept, you’re probably losing your faith, you’re in the cafeteria, you’re a leftist, you’re a heretic. But in fact, Burke and Pope and Morlino are telling us their private opinion. Even if many people buy into it, that does not make it so.
And in fact, this argument—that all these verbs come of having gay men in the priesthood—is only asserted. It is never actually proven. People like Pope assume that, if a majority of victims are male, the perpetrators must be gay. This is called begging the question: It assumes the very thing that is in dispute.
But the GJR does not tell us that the priests who verbed—who raped, who grabbed, who groped, who snatched—were gay. The GJR does not speculate on why they verbed. It tells us their names, and what they did. It stops there. The GJR details fewer than five (of over 300) priests as having used gay porn, but apart from knowing a great many more details, one can only speculate about what that means. The GJR gives a lot of data, but draws no conclusions—at least in this particular regard—about what it all might mean.
Here’s a guess. A lot of porn, and particularly a lot of gay porn, involves violence and fantasies of subjugation. This strikes me as, potentially, much more about sadism than homosexuality. There is something peculiarly dark in this; it’s not just attraction to people of the same sex.
But even if we assume that these particular priests were gay (the ones who had the gay porn), the GJR names fewer than five of them. To assume that if they verbed they were sexually attracted is to do just that: assume. In other words, to make that argument—homosexual subculture in the Church is to blame for the verbing in Pennsylvania—one would have to know a great deal more than what is in the GJR.
Msgr. Pope notes that “the vast majority of the cases involving both the sexual abuse of minors and of adults involve male victims.” He must think this proves something, but it doesn’t. “If the victims were male, the priests must be gay” is an assumption in want of evidence. He cites the John Jay Report, which “found that 81 percent of the victims were male and 78 percent of all victims were post-pubescent.” Msgr. thinks he knows what this means.
Thus, though legally still minors, they were sexually mature in the physical sense. So, the large majority of cases involved attraction by homosexuals to young men who, though legally minors, were physically and sexually mature males, not little children. This is not pedophilia. It is homosexual attraction.
That does not follow. Do male soldiers who rape male POWS do so because they have a “homosexual attraction” to them? Does a man who rapes a helpless eighty-year-old in an old age home do so because he has a sexual attraction to eighty-year-old women?
What Msgr. is saying here is that, if the victim is sexually mature, the perpetrator must be sexually attracted to him. (Or her.) He just must. Why? Because he must. This is an assertion. Msgr. does not bother to try to prove this. But it’s the same bias that makes some people believe that only attractive (or slutty-dressed) women get raped.
And two facts are inconvenient for Pope here.
- The very John Jay report that he cites concluded that the presence gay men in the priesthood does not explain the verbing.
- The GJR tells us that “many” of the victims in Pennsylvania were pre-pubescent. Only “some” were teens.
So the GJR and the JJR are studying different data and incidents. But if the data varies so much—if in one study a majority are post-pubescent and in another a majority are pre-pubescent—then that should tell us it is impossible to assign any single cause to verbing.
And if Msgr. Pope takes such great pains to point out that the victims in the JJR were mostly post-pubescent, and that this was not pedophilia, it must be that he believes that pedophilia and homosexuality really are different. So why is he insisting that homosexuality is the cause of what we find in a different report altogether, in which the majority are pre-pubescent? Shouldn’t he be saying, “Pedophiles in the priesthood caused this crisis”?
If it is true that rape is a crime of opportunity rather than a crime of sexual attraction, it’s easy to discern why a disproportionate number of victims of Catholic clergy abuse are male. Priests have disproportionate access to boys. Many more boys than girls are altar servers, for example. And during the time a majority of these assaults took place, pretty much all altar servers were boys. Priests also have disproportionate access to boys because it is boys, not girls, who discern a vocation to the priesthood. And they need the guidance of priests to do so.***
But the John Jay Report, which Msgr. Pope puts such stock in (because it was commissioned by the bishops), concluded that verbing does not come of having gay men in the priesthood. Read anyone who says that this is a homosexual crisis, and you will find that they just assert it. They just assume it. Sometimes people will utilize data in a report like this one in an effort to prove that there is a homosexual cause behind all the verbs. Fitzgibbons and O’Leary tell us, for example, that in a 1988 study, W.D. Erickson found that “86 percent of the offenders against males described themselves as homosexual or bisexual.”
Now, I have known straight people—the novelist John Irving is one—who have said that, when they discovered they like anal sex, the first thing they feared was, “That’s it! I must be gay!”
Could it be that a man who rapes a male merely fears, “Dear God, maybe I’m gay” (or bisexual) and repeats this fear to a researcher as though it were indeed true?
This may strike you as anecdotal, but I have to question how reliable someone’s words are after the fact. One would really need some evidence of a homosexual inclination prior to the rape. And even then, one would need to show that the rape was itself an act of homosexual attraction. If a heterosexual man rapes a woman, this does not prove a sexual attraction toward her. Why should it do so with gay men?
And this claim is simply ridiculous:
[M]en with homosexual tendencies find it particularly difficult to live out the demands of chastity. The vast majority of scandals in the Church since 2002 involve homosexual priests profoundly failing in chastity. This is no surprise to me. Chastity, I’m convinced (and the evidence bears this out), is much harder for men with a homosexual inclination than for others.”
Actually, the word is “celibacy,” and heterosexual men are well-known for finding it very easy indeed.
Now, none of this means thinking that gay men should be priests. None of this means denying that homosexual activity is grave matter. All it means is that we must not make scapegoats out of gay priests, as though this is a problem of priests who are gay as opposed to priests who have some different predilection (independent of whether they are also gay or not).
The rape of men in wartime has been shown (by Lara Stemple of the University of California) to be an act of terror, not sexuality. Stemple, according to the UK Guardian, is one of the few researchers who has studied this in any detail. “A study of 6,000 concentration-camp inmates in Sarajevo,” the article says, “found that 80% of men reported having been raped.” This is exclusively an act of terror, of taking another person’s humanity away from them.
Now, what POWs, concentration camp inmates, eighty year old women in wheelchairs, and boys have in common is that they are powerless. The one common element in all of this is not that a verber has a sexual attraction, but that the verbee can’t fight back. It’s about terror; it’s about power. It is these things that arouse.
The APA (2004) found that children are not more likely to be verbed by homosexuals than heterosexuals.
Groth (1977) found that offenders against children are regressive in their sexuality—they are neither gay nor straight—and that a majority were actually heterosexual in their adult relationships. He identifies an anger rapist, a power rapist, and a sadistic rapist—but no such animal as a same-sex-attracted rapist. Probably because rape is not about sexual attraction.
Others note that acts of verbing children are largely crimes of opportunity. Ninety percent of verbers attack family and friends. (And thus priests attack boys because boys are more accessible to them than girls.)
And the John Jay Report, touted by Msgr. Pope, concluded that priest verbers were “situational generalists.” They verbed who happened to be around them. In a majority of cases, it so happened to be boys.
So what we have here is not a case of men verbing people of the same sex because they are gay. We have priests verbing those who were weaker because they were younger and easily manipulated and could not fight back.
What we have are priests so aroused by power, and violence, and sadism, that they turned the Church into a concentration camp and their victims into inmates.
In fact, their victims were not verbed at all. They were nouned. They were turned into objects to serve a power trip, a fantasy of violence and subjugation.
And in fact, the victims are being nouned again, they are being used, by those—including bishops who say the Church needs more hate—who are working to stir up hatred and fear of people who are innocent, or to beat the drum of some culture war hobbyhorse dear to themselves but that has nothing to do with the victims. None of this addresses or solves the actual problem, which is assault, not icky icky gayness. In the process, such prelates are nouning gay people too—objectifying them to serve hate, or private obsession.
The victims, and the innocent LGBT, deserve better.