Monday, 25 February 2013

Is the Vatican preparing a gay purge?

Things are happening at warp speed over in Rome where history is usually measured in centuries. But the startling developments of the last few weeks seem to be just the beginning.

First, we had the Pope himself calling it quits in a nearly unprecedented pre-death retirement. Then today, the top cardinal of Great Britain followed suit after being hit with sexual harassment claims by a group of former seminarians.

And in between there was the curious and somewhat flimsily sourced report in the Italian papers about a secret report on pervasive sex-and-corruption ring within the Curia that has to be rooted out.

So the question is, Will it be?

Not, Does it exist? because the burden of disproof is on those fellows. Convince us that it doesn’t.

The ultimate in forbidden fruit—sex among the celibate—has to be awfully tempting, especially if you can get away with it consistently. We’ve all known sexually active priests, including many gay ones, and though it seemed like an odd life choice, one could exercise a certain degree of tolerance toward individuals despite the relentless, deadly hostility from outfit they served.

But the pedophile scandals have pushed the hierarchy in all sorts of twisted directions, including trotting out the truly unspeakable line that modern tolerance for homosexuality caused the pedophilia outbreak, thereby resuscitating that old libel that gay men are all kiddie-diddlers at heart. No, that’s what you guys are.

However, the gathering storms may lead to a most interesting denouement. What if there really is a gay mafia inside the CC world built on emotional or erotic ties and access to worldly goods (of which they have plenty)? What if Benedict sees it as the enemy of the church’s future, an inner rot that needs to be pruned away like so many liberation theologians?

Getting O’Brien and possibly Mahoney of Los Angeles to stand down just before a papal election is pretty rough play. And among the discussed candidates, there are several cardinals like those of Canada and Ghana who uphold a ferociously homophobic line. Might Vatican circles be leaning towards one of them, not so much to do more damage to the world lay movement for sexual emancipation but to clean its own house?

If so, it might not be entirely a bad thing though accompanied by all sorts of nasty rhetoric. Getting an unhealthy retinue of closet gay homophobes out of the way, even at the cost of reinforcing ancient prejudices, paradoxically might enable the retrograde center of world Catholicism to face the modern world more coherently, unburdened by the cognitive dissonance of condemning loudly in public what one indulges privately. And it might even, in the process, enable them to figure out that being gay has nothing to do with abusing defenseless minors who have been taught to trust you.

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