A few years ago, I applied for a teaching position at a Catholic University's law school. Although the faculty eventually voted to give me an offer, the school's seemingly devout Catholic Dean vetoed that decision. Knowledgeable sources later told me that the Dean did so because I was openly gay and because of my writings in support of LGBT rights. Several years later, that same Dean resigned abruptly after the police raided a house of prostitution which he was visiting during his lunch hour.
I have been reminded of this incident while reading the slew of recent media reports chronicling, yet again, how the Church hierarchy, including the now Pope, failed to take firm and effective action against child-abusing priests. What happened to me, of course, was nothing compared to the horrific psychological harm inflicted on innocent children by predatory priests. But it is illustrative of the hypocrisy that seems to afflict the Catholic Church in matters of sexuality.
The Catholic Church has led the opposition to same-sex marriage in the recent political battles that have transpired in places like California, Maine, and Washington, D.C. Ironically, those battles have frequently turned on the impact of the recognition of same-sex marriage on children. Last fall in Maine, for example, the Church's spokespersons were instrumental in arguing falsely that the recognition of same-sex marriage would mean that teachers would be required to talk about homosexuality with young children in the schools. This tactic of scaring the public by suggesting that the gay rights movement wants "to expose" young children to gay sexuality unfortunately worked as Maine voters, by a small margin, approved a measure overturning a law passed by the state legislature recognizing same-sex marriage.
It is both incredible and sad that the same Church which sees itself as a protector of children in the context of same-sex marriage, has failed so miserably in protecting children who have unfortunately found themselves under the pastoral care of predatory priests. Indeed, while there is a broad consensus among social scientists that having gay parents does not harm children, it is now indisputable that hundreds of children around the world have been harmed in tangible ways by the failure of Catholic Church leaders and administrators to remove sexually abusive priests.
If the Church hierarchy for the last twenty years had tackled the problem of predatory priests with the same vigor and moral outrage that it has deployed in warning society about the so-called dangers of same-sex marriage, many of these horrific incidents of abuse that continue to come to light would not have taken place. If the Church ever wants to regain the moral authority in matters related to sexuality and protecting children from harm, it will have to first come clean on its role in allowing predatory priests to retain contact with young children.
What is at issue in all of this is nothing less than hypocrisy. In the same way that it is hypocritical for a Catholic Dean at a Catholic law school to rely on considerations of sexual morality to deny a job to an openly gay person while at the same time paying women to have sex with him during his lunch hour, it is hypocritical for the Church hierarchy to warn us about the perils of same-sex marriage to children when it has done so little to protect children from its own abusive priests.