Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview

andrew sullivan's own-goal

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Nov 05, 2009

Andrew Sullivan formidably strengthens the case against gay priests. How? By coming to the defense of gay priests. His petulant door-slamming and rhetorical flouncing in response to an imperturbable Church exemplifies that juvenile recklessness she insists is incompatible with the priesthood. Sullivan begins his most recent tiff with a message from a sympathetic reader:

I know so many gay priests, all over the country, and indeed, the world who are disgusted with the double life and the lies and the fear -- I used to be one of them. One of my 50-ish priest friends said, "If I won the lottery, I'd leave in a heartbeat -- but as it is, I'm too old to start over, and I can't afford it financially."

So just where is the Church at fault? No one has to be a priest, and no priest has to live with lies, fear, and a double life. Only, in fact, if a priest believes the Church is wrong about herself would lies, fear, and duplicity enter the picture. That's to say, either you're a subversive or you're not. If you're a faithful priest, there's no problem to begin with. If you're a subversive priest, then the Church is right that you don't belong. Are we supposed to feel gifted in being served by hostile gay clergy who remain in the job only because they can't afford to defect?

In order to divert our attention from the obviously self-serving argument, Sullivan pretends to believe that it's the Church that has changed by deciding to exclude gay priests -- not one of his more adroit maneuvers:

One option used to be to come out. If you were celibate, what did it matter? And you could then prove the hypocrisy in the Vatican. But Benedict knew this and so shifted the church's position (as he does a lot when it's in his interests but defers to the Holy Spirit when it isn't) to one in which homosexual orientation itself is a bar to the priesthood, regardless of conduct. Even if this cannot be fully enforced, it creates a chilling atmosphere in which gay people are slowly purged from the priesthood and the pews. Which is the point. The undesirables are to be cleansed, or forced to recant their very being.

"Gay Catholic," like "Presbyterian Catholic," is a contradiction in terms, because to declare oneself gay means, not to experience same-sex attraction, but to embrace such attraction as a positive constituent of one's identity, in defiance of what the Church has taught on the matter. Whereas some persons struggling with a same-sex libido are heroically faithful Catholics, by simple entailment no gay is or can be. This applies a fortiori to gay priests: because they believe it's the Church that has it wrong, they're playing for the wrong team. Back to Andy:

The profound injustice and cruelty of this is hard to overstate. Meanwhile, the priesthood becomes narrower and narrower -- since women are barred, heterosexual men cannot marry (unless they're former Anglicans), and gay men are required to enter a suffocating closet that destroys their mental health.

Just don't get it. The Church tells all candidates for the priesthood, moving her lips ve-ry slow-ly so that none miss the message: "Do NOT embark on this difficult life unless you are externally and internally free to do so, unless it enlarges your personal freedom." Yet gays defy this warning, enter the "suffocating closet" for covert reasons, gamble that they can make the Church change her mind on sexual doctrine, and then call her unjust and cruel when she doesn't. Give Sullivan credit where credit is due: no one could reinforce the Church's wisdom in excluding gay clergy more succinctly than he.

A gentler, more compassionate Catholic than your Uncle Di would not end the conversation at this point. He would point out that all men, not only homosexuals, have to struggle with sinful dispositions and must work for most of their lives to put them to death. Perhaps he might even quote from Cardinal Ratzinger's 1984 address to German seminarians, which is so apposite to Sullivan's concerns that it could almost have been written in response to them:

The ability to accept and weather suffering is a fundamental condition for succeeding as a human being. Where it is never learned, existence is doomed to failure. Being up-in-arms about everyone and everything contaminates the ground of the soul, so to speak, and turns it into barren land. The priest must learn how to cope with pain -- formerly one spoke of asceticism in this context. No one likes this word any longer; it becomes more palatable when we translate it from Greek into English -- training. Everyone knows that without training and the will-power that goes with it there is no success. Nowadays one trains for all kinds of skills with enthusiasm and persistence, and in this way record performances in many areas are possible that were once deemed inconceivable. Why does it seem so outlandish to train for real life, for the right life -- to practice the arts of self-denial, of self-control, and of freeing ourselves from our addictions?

Lies? Fear? Duplicity? Don't see it, folks.

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