My latest from The Stream: July 31, 2018
We might as well call it the Perverted Priest Problem. Some men of homosexual inclinations are using their place within the Catholic Church to gratify themselves sexually. More disgusting than Cardinal McCarrick’s behavior is the widespread network of prelates who must have been covering for him. But even these men aren’t the whole story.
The very day the news about Cardinal McCarrick broke, the Vatican released the working document for the upcoming Synod on Youth.It used the “LGBT” acronym, the first such use in a Vatican document. This shows that high-ranking prelates are running interference for people like McCarrick.
As everyone knows by now, the Vatican removed Cardinal Theodore McCarrick from ministry, due to credible allegations that he abused a minor 47 years ago. As events have unfolded, more credible witnesses have accused the cardinal, each more revolting than the last.
Compared with horror of this magnitude, vocabulary in a Church document may seem like a trivial matter. But these two issues are related. Ideas matter. Words matters.
In its official documents, the Church has distinguished the person, the inclination, and the actions. Homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered, … under no circumstances can they be approved.” Regarding inclination, the Catechism states, “Men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies … do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial.” CCC#2357.
And the person himself or herself? Feelings, and even behaviors, do not define a person. The Church has refrained from using language that suggests otherwise. The Catechism uses “homosexual” as an adjective, not a noun. The word “gay” does not appear in the Catechism. The Church holds that God created us male and female, not “straight” or “gay.”
In contrast to this precision, the politically-correct “LGBT” is a philosophical and scientific mess. The L’s, the “Lesbians,” are at war with the “T’s”, the “Transgenders.” Speaking of “Transgender:” that is blatantly a political term, not a medical or psychological one. The “G” term, “gay,” has no precise and commonly accepted scientific meaning, as I have discussed elsewhere. “Gay” has embedded within it unsupported ontological and scientific claims. Daniel Mattson, a member of the Courage International Catholic apostolate for same sex attracted persons, made these points in his highly acclaimed book called “Why I Don’t Call Myself Gay.”
Given all this, what in the world is “LGBT” doing in a Church document?
The document in question is the working document (so far available only in Italian, relevant passages translated here by Vatican correspondent Edward Pentin) for the Synod on Youth, a meeting which will be held in October. Working documents form the agenda for the meeting. As any sensible person knows, controlling the agenda of a meeting greatly increases the control of the outcome of the meeting. Or as we used to say in political science, “the agenda setter always wins.”
Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, had a ready answer. He claimed in a press conference that the acronym “LGBT” had been taken from the pre-synodal document compiled by young people at their pre-Synod meetings in March. Synod organizers, he said, were “very diligent in taking into account the work done by the bishops’ conferences, but especially the results of this meeting with youth.”
Baldisseri’s statement is not true. The document from the Synod did not use the ‘LBGT’ acronym. Nothing new happened at the Synod on Youth to change human reality. Every single person, regardless of their sexual inclinations or behavior, finds their identity as a beloved son or daughter of God, redeemed by Jesus Christ. Nothing happened at the Synod to change the philosophy, metaphysics or theology that maintains this ancient position.
So, no fair blaming the young people. The ‘LGBT’ acronym is in the working document because some adult put it there for reasons of his own. If the Cardinal and others mean to say that adopting a ‘gay’ identity is a good step for a young person to take, let them say so plainly.
What’s the Connection?
What does this have to do with the McCarrick revelations? During the 2002 round of Catholic clergy sex abuse news, the media described the issue as a “pedophilia” scandal. This framing allowed people to cordon off the crisis from homosexual activity, with the mantra: “pedophilia has nothing to do with homosexuality.” Anyone who was so inclined could gloss over the overwhelming preponderance of illegal homosexual activity with under-aged teenage boys. Not surprisingly, quite a few people were so inclined, including the bishops’ conference itself. The Dallas Charter made no mention of sexual harassment of subordinates such as seminarians and young priests.
Because of this history, astute faithful Catholics are not likely to let themselves get suckered into calling Cardinal McCarrick a “pedophile.” We should be equally diligent about not giving philosophical ground away by referring to him and his scandal with the term “gay.” I respectfully suggest different, more precise, vocabulary. We need to use words with no ontological baggage. We need words that make no pseudo-scientific claims, such as the widespread claim that “people are born gay.”
People of faith should refer to this whole sequence of events with the term I opened with: The Perverted Priest Problem. That’s the word we should use to should call men who nurture and cultivate “deep-seated homosexual tendencies,” especially those who secretly exercise those tendencies on other men and boys under their care.
This matches Vatican directives, recently reinforced by Pope Francis, that “those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called ‘gay culture’” should not be ordained. Now that the Church has not followed its own rules and has ordained some such men, the criminals among them should be defrocked.
And some men “who support the so-called ‘gay culture’” have been messing around with Church doctrine. The LGBT sleight of hand in the Youth Synod document shows as much.
Memo to Cardinal Baldisseri: bad timing on that whole slipping-the-LGBT-political-terminology-into-an-official-church-document thing. You can’t slip that term by an unsuspecting public anymore. We’re watching now.
How about you just slip it back out, ok?
Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., is the Founder and President of the Ruth Institute, and the author of The Sexual State: How Elite Ideologies are Destroying Lives and How the Church was Right All Along, forthcoming from TAN Publishing.