the oldest profession

By Diogenes (articles) | Nov 07, 2006

Raymond Gravel started out as a gay hooker. He next became a Catholic priest -- if not in doctrine, at least in paycheck. Recently he announced his run for public office. There's scant evidence that Gravel's beliefs have changed since his leather-bar days, but he seems to be moving away from private and voluntary sources of income toward collective and involuntary ones. For services rendered.

Two weeks ago, headlines in Canada trumpeted the story that Gravel had the Vatican's permission to run. Under pressure, his astonishingly insouciant bishop has denied it. Now some of Gravel's opponents are calling foul:

When he announced in a Montreal newspaper last month that he intended to seek the [Bloc Qu├ębecois] nomination, Gravel said he would wait to see if Rome would give him permission.

However, in the official statement that he was the only candidate seeking the nomination, the Bloc indicated he had gotten the required permission.

Conservative candidate Stephan Bourgon criticized Gravel in a statement Monday, saying that Gravel had misled voters and that telling the truth is vital in politics, without exception.

Gravel was not available for comment on Monday but the Bloc pointed out that it is up to the bishop to approve or reject a request by a priest to enter politics.

They're both right. Gravel and the Bloc Qu├ębecois did mislead the voters (and the suspiciously unsuspicious media) in letting it be understood that he had Vatican permission, and the Conservatives are right to charge them with chicanery. But the Bloc's rejoinder, while it doesn't address the Conservative criticism, is not without point. Gravel could not have entered politics as a priest in good standing without the active or passive acquiescence of his bishop.

As noted earlier, the bishop in question, Gilles Lussier, has up to now made no public statement of his stance towards Gravel's candidature and has given the faithful no help whatsoever in forming their attitude toward the campaign of this doctrinally anarchic priest. Lussier did state that Gravel may not exercise priestly ministry while politically active, but this bit of legal formalism tells no one the extent to which Gravel is part of the Church or to which the Church is behind Gravel. By pointing to the bishop's silence, the Bloc is wagering Lussier's bluff won't be called, and it looks like a bet they're going to win. In the eyes of the public -- precisely because Catholic priests are perceived to be kept on a short leash -- non-interference is indistinguishable from permission.

So once again, from the murk of bureaucratic evasion and double-talk the question presents itself: why would Lussier put up with the personal consequences of abetting Gravel, unless the personal consequences of crossing him were even worse?

Richard Cross holds a doctorate in psychology, who has taught at the university level, including at Franciscan University. He is currently an educational researcher and consultant in the field of psychology and related disciplines.
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