Friday, September 23, 2005

Enemas hurt

The last few days have frankly been very difficult for me, with every news outlet in the country following CWN in reporting that sometime this fall, the Church will bar all men with homosexual tendencies from seminary.

I've said that I can understand a temporary ban in given cases according to a bishop's prerogative. But I posted on Mark Shea's site last night that this still hurts, partly because of its universality and partly because of the reasoning. Even though I saw it coming. David Morrison put his finger on "why" I can be depressed at something that I saw: "it's a vote of 'no confidence'." It's like any other rebuke or punishment -- no matter how much you steel yourself on the way to the woodshed, no matter how you tell yourself you can take it, no matter how reconciled you might be to your deserving it, no matter how much you tell yourself to be Christ-like and accept an unjust punishment that might be for the greater good in the overall sacramental economy -- whippings still hurt; votes of no confidence still humiliate. But here's what I wrote in Mark's comment field. The first, italicized, paragraph is from another poster.

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I'd put the alleged ban on SSA ordinations in the same genre as the Charter -- an overly zealous zero-tolerance policy intended to make up for decades of pastoral neglect.

Y'know, I understand that. And the overall need for the priesthood not to be seen as a "gay thing." And that we're in a crisis/mobilization situation, which sometimes requires measures you would never take in ordinary times. And I can see with my brain the overall legal-theoretical legitimacy.

But after this past week of news reports, I still have to say ... this effing hurts. Effing. Hurts. Not because I want to be a priest and see this as an "infringement on my rights." No. I do not, and I have no such right. But because the Church I love and cannot leave -- "Master, to whom shall we go," and all that -- is betraying its own Catechism. And betraying its teachings on sexuality. For as long as I've been with the Church, it has said: that however I sinned (and I have), I was not beyond God's grace and the chance of at least some improvement; that I was not compelled by my condition to cruise bathhouses or bars; that the pangs of conscience after buying a prostitute or having an anonymous hookup (I have done both) proved I wasn't completely dead to sin; that God saw me as something other than a perverted sodomite.

I know this rumored document, assuming the reports are accurate (a big "if"), doesn't strictly speaking repudiate any of that. But it does deny its underpinnings, which is that temptations are not character- or soul-defining. (The glee some are taking in it is no help either.) Or in David's words, the teaching is neither reductionist nor deterministic. This document appears to treat people as a class, uniformly and always, as defined by a nonsinful temptation. To quote the military aphorism: This is not what I signed up for. I get that from the gay activists or the secular culture: "self-hating repressed homo" and all that. I just expect better from Christ's Church.

Despite my anger, I'm not gonna pull an Andrew Sullivan. I've never denied the Church teaching on sex or withheld something from my confessor. Or even tried to use the "addiction" line to minimize my compulsive self-abuse (I frankly wonder how he can stand to listen to me at times). And to be fair, the situation on the ground isn't bad: my SSA has never been a problem with any Catholic or Christian who knows about it (though I have cherry-picked, I admit). I went to the Courage Conference for the first time this year and it was one of the happiest weekends I've ever had.

But enemas hurt, and what Mr. Shea calls the Great Enema is no exception. Stoking my anger and succumbing to despair (a constant problem I have, quite apart from Topic H) have gotten a lot easier in recent days.

So to those priests who committed the acts of sex abuse that contributed to the situation; to you I say: "I sure hope it was a great orgasm."

And to those bishops and chancery rats who covered up the acts, shuffled around the perps, intimidated or hoodwinked parents, etc.; to you I say: "I sure hope you enjoy purgatory or worse."

5 comments:

Dad29 said...

You have my sympathy--getting kicked around is not fun; being told to take your capability and quietly disappear is hard to take.

Try being a responsible church musician, for example...

Having said that, I think there's a bit more to the thinking behind the ban.

The disorder involves the whole person, psychologically; thus the representation of Christ which should be found in His priests, is not truly present. It's certainly not a matter of "just" chastity or celibacy.

elmore said...

Hi CourageMan,

There are always going to be men who want to be priests but aren't chosen. Should they view themselves as defined by the fact they aren't chosen? Wouldn't it feel even worse for them if the rejection is based on some lengthy individual inquiry rather than some per se rule?

People responsible for evaluating candidates for priesthood have problems too. Do they have to think of rejection of a candidate as rejection of the person? Why say they can't use set rules if it appears that set rules are likely to work better?

I don't see that a per se rule treats people as a class, uniformly and always, as defined by a nonsinful temptation. A decision that it's not prudent to make men sexually attracted to other men priests doesn't define what those men are. It doesn't even say that some of them would not in fact be good priests. It just says that based on experience, and on the impossibility of knowing the human heart and the necessity of acting in ignorance, things will most likely work out better for the faithful as a whole if those who don't seem to have that difficulty aren't chosen.

Why is that more insulting and against the Catechism than any other decision not to accept someone as a seminarian?

CourageMan said...

Elmore said:

Wouldn't it feel even worse for them if the rejection is based on some lengthy individual inquiry rather than some per se rule?

No ... precisely because nobody has a right to be a priest. It's like being cut from an NFL team during training camp. So, you didn't make the cut, but if it was because you weren't good enough, that's how it goes.


A decision that it's not prudent to make men sexually attracted to other men priests doesn't define what those men are.

Sure it does, if it applies to all SSA men, regardless of their particulars. I agree that homosexuality can underlie legitimate grounds for refusing a particular man (myself, for example -- I torture myself into depression and mood swings over it, and have behaved recklessly). But blanket rules that cover all are the very essence of what it means to define a man in the reductionist way condemned by then-Cardinal Ratzinger.

elmore said...

" But blanket rules that cover all are the very essence of what it means to define a man in the reductionist way condemned by then-Cardinal Ratzinger."

Spoken like a post-'60s American, I think. Suppose though it's not about you? Suppose the intention is not to define anybody, but to come up with the best practically-effective way to get a tolerable result in a worldwide organization run by imperfect human beings dealing with something obscure and often very hard to measure and evaluate that as it happens has indeed caused large and intractable problems? Why impute a meaning not evidently intended when some other explanation is more obvious from the point of view of the person responsible for devising the rule?

All of this is likely moot since it appears the rule will not be so categorical. Still, it strikes me as an important point since it has to do with a way of thinking -- "everything is fundamentally about me" -- that I think is absolutely basic to how Americans look at things today.

CourageMan said...

No, spoken like that hippy flower-child Cardinal Ratzinger.