Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Hoist On Your Own... Whatever

Here's an interesting news item: Village Voice.

The upshot is this: There's this priest, Bob Hoatson, who's long been an advocate for survivors of clerical sexual abuse. He was recently relieved of his position as chaplain for Catholic Charities in Newark. He feels, not surprisingly, that this suspension of his duties is related to his work with survivors. So he filed a lawsuit against Cardinal Egan and nine other Church officials, claiming a pattern of "retaliation and harassment."

Buried somewhere in the middle of the document outlining the charges, the suit alleges that Egan is "actively homosexual". He also names Albany's bishop, Howard Hubbard, and Newark's bishop, John Myers, as homosexuals. OK, this is getting interesting.

For one thing, what does actively homosexual even mean? For the non-Catholics among us, here's the Cliff's Notes version of this. Bear in mind that it's hard to explain because, well, it doesn't make a lot of sense. The idea is that there is no sin involved in being attracted to a person of the same gender. The attraction can be seen as "disordered", since one of the reasons for sexual activity is the creation of children, which obviously isn't going to happen with same sex couples. But it's not a sin, any more than being a hemophiliac is a sin. Weird enough yet? Hang on to your hats then. We are encouraged to believe that people with homosexual orientations are "called to celibacy." So, being homosexual isn't the problem; acting homosexual is the sin. The rest of us are called to compassion and charity. And men who are homosexual are excluded from the priesthood (yeah, right), in spite of the fact that all priests take vows of celibacy. Let the church say "amen". I can't hear you! Yeah, that's pretty much what always happens. Deafening, stunned silence.

So, does the lawsuit allege that these bishops are homosexuals in action or just in orientation? In other words, are they violating their vows of celibacy? To say nothing of the order refusing entrance to seminaries to men who are homosexual? On the one hand, homosexuality is clearly not illegal in the civil (as opposed to clerical) world. So why even mention it in a legal document? I'm not sure that's sporting behavior.

On the other hand, these bishops have certainly used homosexuality against other people -to keep them out of the priesthood, to make them feel unwelcome in the parishes, and on and on. So to be on the receiving end of that weapon, is that necessarily a bad thing? It is awfully entertaining to find these guys hoist on their own... well, we'll leave that metaphor aside for now ;) And I'm personal witness to the mayhem and devastation that John Myers left in his wake when he was a bishop in Illinois. So, a little turnabout is fair play, and all that. I'm not above loving that, directed at him in particular.

I wonder where this is going to go, if any good can come from it... or if we're becoming the thing we hate. I just don't know.

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