Saturday, May 05, 2007

McGreevey Update

That's "FATHER Gay American" to you. The former governor and A GAY AMERICAN has started his studies to become an Episcopal priest. Predictably, the New York Post had a field day, with their front page "A-Men" and "gay love gov" headlines (at the right) and the inside headline of "Heaven Help Us."

I know there is an argument for silence concerning the affairs of another Christian denomination, but this is so ... beyond parody. There's a detail buried in the Post account that had me on the floor:
McGreevey will attend the seminary, the oldest of its kind in New York, four days a week, on top of teaching his evening ethics class at Kean University in Union.
Well ... I would definitely agree that McGreevey has the morals of the evening.

All sarcasm and denunciation aside, this NY Daily News account mentions something worth detailing:
McGreevey first thought about entering the clergy when he was an altar boy at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Carteret, N.J., the source said. "This is something [he's] always wanted to do as a kid," the source said.
McGreevey briefly attended The Catholic University of America in Washington before transferring to Columbia University in the 1970s. While attending Georgetown Law School, McGreevey was enrolled in a Jesuit candidacy program.
I really do sympathize with McGreevey in some matters. No Catholic boy growing up with "that" was unmarked by it, no matter how things turned out. He told Oprah when pushing his own book of his boyhood uncertainties, from the end of this article.
On The Oprah Winfrey Show last year, McGreevey recounted looking up homosexual in a dictionary when he was a boy. When he read terms such as perverse and psychiatric disorder in the definition, he realized he didn't want to be that and quickly learned to repress his feelings, he said.
In his 2006 book, The Confession, McGreevey wrote that he had resorted to anonymous homosexual trysts at highway rest stops as he wrestled with desires frowned on by his faith and family.
Every article about this "Father Jim" tale has noted this, as if it were a contradiction but really isn't -- McGreevey's longtime self-presentation as a devout Roman Catholic. I could tell a very similar story to McGreevey in a lot of ways. I learned the basic mechanics of sex from looking up an encyclopedia when I was 17 or so (and frankly found it ... icky). I too reacted with revulsion at my first suspicions about myself. As an adult, I too have engaged in dangerous behavior when I've chosen to act out. My confessor has said "you've been running away from this all your life" (though he doesn't mean the same thing Dignity et al do). Psychologically, this all makes sense -- revulsion leading to self-destructiveness.

Like McGreevey, I would be considered devout by most people. I suspect most such Catholic boys (and single men) consider being a priest, at one level of seriousness or another for some period of time or another. In fact, I'd say that McGreevey even thought he might have had a calling to the priesthood not in spite of, but because of the celibacy requirement, which (though I support it) bears some ill fruit in this detail. It makes it easy for a devout Catholic boy to see the priesthood as the ideal hiding place. He won't have to deal with the "when are you getting married" question or have the girlfriend/wife for show.

If the Catholic boy is genuinely devout, this can even shade over into seeing same-sex attraction as confirmation of his calling: "after all, I'm definitely NOT called to marriage, and I have to be celibate anyway," the thought goes. I'm not saying this is a good reason to think you're called to the priesthood, but it is a common one, particularly since the Church doesn't have a very developed notion of the single, secular life as a vocation. The first person not wearing a Roman collar whom I told about "that" was an orthodox Catholic law professor with a national reputation, with whom I was taking a class. He published something about homosexuality that I thought was grossly incomplete and I wrote him a lengthy note saying what I thought the article didn't grasp (although nothing in it was exactly "wrong"), and we discussed it for a couple of hours. He suggested to me that perhaps God was "blessing you" (his term) with a calling to celibacy and perhaps the priesthood as well.

But I'm as confident as a single man can be that I'm not called to the priesthood (or cannot answer soon), because I struggle with compulsive sexual behavior. The Diocese of Arlington wouldn't take me now, and for reasons I am not convinced are strictly about the Church's celibacy requirement (which I support, though it is not directly at issue for McGreevey).

Here's the deal -- McGreevey is pushing 50 and only outed himself three years ago, so he had been struggling with this emotional whirlpool for about 30 years, before deciding to give up on it three years ago and enter the gay lifestyle. I know what that is, and you can't leave it behind. Even if you think McGreevey's living the gay lifestyle is the right path (though it is not), what theory of human personality says that a man three years removed from a lifetime of self-destructive compulsion can be a morally suitable candidate for the priesthood? Can his character really have left behind such depths of sexual immorality, compulsiveness and self-destructiveness so quickly (and I guarantee you that if he's admitting to anonymous pickups at highway rest-stops, he's done a lot more)? Human beings are just not that plastic, that quick. I expressed skepticism of Ted Haggard's claims about his sexuality on the same grounds (admittedly Haggard was making a more-radical claim).

It's not the morality of homosexual acts per se, but what a difficult job conquering the habits of a lifetime is for a 50-year-old man. Human beings become set in their habits, regardless of whether they are good or bad habits to have, and this has been old hat since Aristotle. The gay activists constantly insist that the closet is soul-warping (and I would not deny that it has its costs), so on their very logic McGreevey should be badly warped. Or is character not a requirement for even a gay priesthood?

What does all this say about the Episcopal Church's standards? McGreevey formally joins their church on Sunday and on the subsequent Wednesday, it's reported that he is accepted into their seminary and already has begun the discernment process. And just three years removed from habitual compulsive sexual behavior. Catholics priests are required to have a demonstrated ability to live according to the sexual rules. Admittedly, they are not the same rules as an Episcopal priest, but do the Episcopalians have any requirements whatever? Are they that desperate? Or that nihilistic?

According to one orthodox Episcopalian friend of mine (who had been a seminarian also), the discernment process usually takes months and often years and *then* you're accepted into the seminary (and many are weeded out; or graduate, but decide against ordination). Even the vicar at his "gay-affirming" church says this isn't supposed to be an insta-decision.
This process that he's in right now, is not going to be some snap of the finger, overnight process. That will not happen. That's not how it works. He knows that ... everyone knows that this is a process that ... intentionally is deliberate. You don't enter into it unadviseably.
Deliberate ... my tookus. If this is a "deliberate" decision, I'd like to see the Episcopalians' idea of a hasty one. And is there ... at all ... potentially unseemly in the fact that "Father Jim" has dumped two wives already and pissed away a governorship. Sexual behavior aside, how can McGreevey possibly be considered a man of good general character -- based on the known public facts of his life, plus the kinds of things he's suspected of doing as chief executive of the state with perhaps the nation's sleaziest government culture, and the credible claims in his divorce. And so soon after 30 years in what homosexualists say is a character-warping closet? Nobody says priests need be saints (most of them are not, in fact). But character is even a formal requirement for seminarians in my diocese. Do the Episcopalians have ANY prior character test AT ALL. According to his ex-wife:
His actions over the past two and a half, three years, are not the actions of someone who was remorseful…he’s always been self-absorbed and it is all about him. I think he has lived in a state of denial for so many years. He doesn’t know what is real and is not.
Ugly divorces are what they are, but this does mesh with what IS publicly known about McGreevey. I loved this bit about ... well ... here's the quote:
He told me, "You have to be Jackie Kennedy today." And I'm thinking, Jackie Kennedy? Her husband was murdered. You cheated on me and I have to be Jackie Kennedy?
For sheer self-dramatization (unless the ex-wife is outright lying), this is flabbergasting.

But wait ... I'm forgetting what church we're talking about. The Episcopalians are reinventing themselves as the High-Liturgical branch of the Metropolitan Community Church, so heck ... McGreevey will fit right in. Maybe one of the dioceses bordering New Hampshire will also need a bishop soon.

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