Celibacy and Scandals

    I've been reluctant to comment on the scandals involving allegations of sexual misconduct by Roman Catholic priests. I thought it might seem inappropriate or unseemly for me, a Southern Baptist layman, to talk about the serious internal problems of the Catholic church. But as I read the press coverage of the story and observe the spin being put on it by today's columnists and reporters, I can't resist one observation: The press is missing the real story, and Christians need to hear it. Both the accusations and the magnitude of the scandals are mind-boggling. More than fifty priests have been accused of having sexual relations with under-aged boys. Catholic dioceses have paid tens of millions of dollars to settle lawsuits brought by the victims of sexual misconduct. Shortly after reports of the scandal hit the national press, a consensus formed among the prestige media as to its cause: celibacy. Maureen Dowd of the New York Times summed up the consensus: "The vow of celibacy serves as a magnet for men running away from sexual feelings they are ashamed of." She added that "the allegedly celibate society these men enter . . . retards their sexual development, funneling their impulses in inappropriate directions." In essence, Dowd, and the people who agree with her, are saying that not acting on your sexual impulses will warp your personality. This is misleading nonsense. Celibacy is not the problem. The problem in the Catholic Church is a homosexual problem. In a recent article in the National Review, Rod Dreher writes that the pedophilia scandal "cannot be understood and honestly dealt with" without taking the homosexuality of the accused priests into account. As Dreher writes, "What we're seeing is gay men who cannot or will not keep their pants up around teenage boys. Not teenage girls. Teenage boys." Even the pro- homosexual book, The Gay Report, noted that seventy- three percent of gay men have had sex with teenage boys. This is why changing the rules on celibacy would have no effect. As Bill Bennett has pointed out, such a change will do nothing about a man's sexual interest in other men. Of course, you will search in vain to read any of this in the mainstream press. One columnist, who does understand, compares the New York Times's coverage to the children's book series, "Where's Waldo?" In thousands of words, there was little, if any, mention of the victims' sex and age. The fear of being labeled "homophobic" and sympathy with gay rights has left this crucial element out of the story. What's needed, as Bennett and Dreher point out, is a systematic examination of the way the Catholic Church selects and trains priests. Dreher writes about a "lavender mafia" within the church that perpetuates a gay subculture, and that's what must be rooted out. Of course, this will prompt cries of "bigotry" from the very same people who are distorting the issues today. We need to help people understand that it isn't discrimination to hold people to their vows and to uphold the virtue of chastity. We need to remind all Christians that we're all called to present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God. To say Christians can't be taught to live that way is the worst bigotry of all.   For further reading: Michael Novak, "The Culture of 'Dissent,'" National Review, 29 March 2002. Rod Dreher, "Mitered in the Mob?," National Review, 28 March 2002. Maureen Dowd, "Rome Fiddles, We Burn," New York Times, 27 March 2002. Ken Walker, "Homosexuals more likely to molest kids, study reports," 30 May 2001. Jeffrey Satinover, Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth (Baker Book House, 1996).


Chuck Colson


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