Action Alert!

gods that rot

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Jul 17, 2004

Michael Rose rightly scores the Austrian Bishop Kurt Krenn for attempting to dismiss photos of gay times at St. Poelten seminary -- including several purporting to show his vice-rector and a male student sucking face -- as "childish horseplay." This kind of "horseplay," sometimes described as education for celibacy, has been endemic in seminaries and other houses of religious formation for at least twenty years, and we have no reason to think that the complaints provoked by the present scandal will not take the usual course -- remanded to a committee for two weeks and then tabled for lack of interest -- and that the laddies will not be back next semester celebrating diversity at full throttle.

But for the photos.

It's a funny thing about a jpeg, but it can accomplish what a mountain of documentary evidence cannot. Absent the pictures, your Aunt Margaret would simply be confronted with conflicting testimony: the lurid report of the (editorially anti-Catholic) news media, and the sanctimonious denial on the part of the bishop. Given her biases, chances are she'd believe the bishop. But when she sees Fr. Wolfgang squeezing his toy boy and slipping him the tongue, even Aunt Margaret knows the journalists were right and Bishop Krenn is lying through his teeth.

Or isn't he? Perhaps he really believes normal men normally exchange french kisses at moments of relaxation -- such as the Sign of Peace or halftime at the Fiesta Bowl. This certainly was the considered opinion of the late Cardinal Basil Hume, who insisted that same-sex love was inherently noble and that all acts short of genital contact were permissible. The eerie tone of puzzlement with which Church authorities mouth the moral doctrine on homosexuality -- contrasted with the heat with which they condemn rigidity in seminarians -- suggests they, as a body, are deeply confused about manhood and that they just don't see what St. Peter Damien and Aunt Margaret are in a stew about. But the photos, at minimum, make the discussion concrete. This is what the experts mean by "ongoing formation in sexuality." This is what you're buying with your collection-plate dollars. This explains why your parish priest reacts and speaks and carries himself as he does.

Unmentioned by articles on the St. Poelten scandal (but almost certainly in play) is the troglodyte minority of students who were repelled by the gay scene at the seminary and attempted to get the ear of sympathetic authorities. If the experience of the English-speaking Church is any guide, many of these men would have been dismissed as refractory or would have left in exasperation and disgust. Perhaps a few others remain, having despaired of being believed, who are allowed to go their own way in exchange for silence: a mutual non-aggression pact. Imagine what it must be like for a naive and honest man to discover a gay cabal at his seminary, and then to discover that his rector and vice-rector are party to it. What chance is there that anyone higher up the ladder will take his word against that of his rector -- or, if they should believe him, will intervene on his behalf?

The photos, at least, should compel a response. But suppose the public pressure mounts on the Vatican and the Austrian bishops to the point that the bishop, rector, and vice-rector of St. Poelten are replaced -- will an apology be forthcoming to those seminarians and others who complained over the years and were ignored or counter-attacked? Will the successors try to locate and contact the men whose vocations were broken or maimed by vindictive gay superiors? Don't bet on it. Yet the fact is that the ecclesial battlefield is littered with the wounded who tried to fight the Fr. Wolfgangs, and lost. OTR commenter Charles had this to say on the subject last May:

Not everyone who's been booted from a seminary (or two) ends up happily married and gainfully employed. Some wander for years wondering what the hell happened to their vocation and where they should go from there. The "good-bye good men" guys don't just vanish; they're still around and a lot of them are rather shell-shocked. There's very little (by which I of course mean none) support available for this group.

The media are engrossed by the juicy bits of the St. Poelten Affair and will lose interest once this aspect has been squeezed dry. But corruption of this nature and scale cannot exist without manifold acts of injustice committed or abetted by ecclesial superiors -- acts whose effects continue to do injury to innocent individuals and to the larger Church. These crimes -- even more than the sexual delinquencies they protect -- call to heaven for vengeance. But how to capture them on a jpeg?

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