By Diogenes ( articles ) | Mar 12, 2008
Wisconsin's Bryan Hathaway is a Thinking Catholic. That's to say, he doesn't check his brains at the door and conform to the Church's one-size-fits-all morality, but creatively explores non-traditional and holistic ways of expressing his sexual self. As a consequence (Wisconsin being an lamentably backward state), he's currently doing nine months in the slammer:
Wausau (AP) -- A state appeals court upheld a Superior man's conviction for having sex with a dead deer. The 3rd District Court of Appeals rejected Bryan Hathaway's argument that the charge should be dismissed because the law against committing an act of sexual gratification with animals does not apply if they are dead. ... Hathaway told investigators that he saw a dead deer in a ditch near Superior in fall 2006 as he rode a bicycle by it. He then dragged it into the woods and had sex with it. ...
Hathaway was found guilty in April 2005 of felony mistreatment of an animal after he killed a horse with the intention of having sex with it. He was sentenced to 18 months in jail and two years of extended supervision on that charge as well as six years of probation for taking and driving a vehicle without the owner's consent.
So the obvious question is: when he's finally released, should Hathaway be admitted to the seminary?
Now before you respond with a knee-jerk negative reaction, think how intellectually flimsy are the obstacles that stand in Bryan's way. Do you feel visceral repugnance at this particular libido (let's call it "phorbyphilia," i.e., sexual attraction to road-kill)? If so, your revulsion disqualifies you as an impartial judge of the matter, since you're projecting your own childhood fears onto the phorbyphile. Are you up-to-date with the scientific literature on phorbyphilia, the DSM-IV debates, the 40-year-longitudinal studies, the proceedings of psychiatric congresses devoted to the subject? Of course you aren't, because there is no such literature. All your data is anecdotal, and therefore scientifically worthless.
Perhaps next you'll cite religious objections. But where does the Bible condemn this attraction? Oh sure, you can quote Leviticus 20:15 ("if a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death"), but scripture scholars tell us this passage was part of the "Holiness Code," intended not for moral guidance but simply as a list of taboos to keep Israel distinct from surrounding pagans. And as for Romans 1:24ff, Andrew Sullivan's got you checkmated there. St. Paul was opposed to acts "contrary to nature"; but if it's your nature to be inclined to dead deer, then (Sullivan assures us) you're acting contrary neither to this nature nor to God's will by indulging your urge to violate the venison.
Bigotry, it grieves me to say, has further clouded the matter by forcing many talented and generous persons to conceal their phorbyphilia, so that their true number remains unknown and the gifts they bring to the Christian community -- and to society at large -- often go unrecognized. Closer reading of classic works and less reticent biographical studies will show that many of our greatest artists shared this libido. Skeptical? Jane Austen died unmarried at 41. Well there you go.
Indeed, enlightened corners of Catholic Christianity are showing more openness to persons with paraphilias. The U.S. Jesuits developed a profile of the desirable novice-candidate that included this trait: "He has the ability to identify and accept his own sexual orientation and to live comfortably with people of different sexual orientations." Not only is "orientation" a limitlessly inclusive term, note, but in this perspective the disqualifying factor is discomfort: it's the man that recoils from his otherly-loving brother who is suspect. Further, the American interpretation given the Holy See's demand for "affective maturity" insists that anyone who can go 36 months without shagging Bambi is archbishop material.
We are an Antler People.
OK, back to reality. All nonsense aside, Christians believe that a man like Bryan Hathaway must be accepted with "respect, compassion, and sensitivity" (see the Catechism at para 2358). Why? Because, like all human beings, Hathaway was made in the image and likeness of God. Does that mean we affirm him in his sexual orientation? On the contrary: to confess he is made in the image of God is to admit that he smirched that image by his abominations. Nor can we extend him respect and compassion without wishing him well, and wishing him well entails the hope that he desists from his enormities and eventually puts his sickness behind him (a hope that Hathaway's own parents would share, and that he himself must retain at some level).
We're instructed, and we believe, that Hathaway is to be "accepted." But were he defiantly to embrace his sexuality and demand to be hired as a junior high teacher, we accept him not by acceding to his demand but by insisting all the more strongly that he seek healing. This is the point: it's precisely our obligation to show "respect, compassion, and sensitivity" that requires us to dismiss his sexual-identity bluster and to refuse the attendant demands. As Catholics, we can still react justly and charitably to a Hathaway because, like the state of Wisconsin, we are still largely sane on the issue. We are still sane on the issue because we have not been targeted by decades of ideological artillery in a softening-up barrage. The same cannot be said about all areas of controversy.
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