Wednesday, April 28, 2010

M. Cook: The Vatican, gay Americans, illusions of acceptance and Newburyport

After what happened in Chile on Monday, April, 12, what I'm about to say will no doubt irk and unsettle some in Newburyport's gay community, their supposed liberal, Democratic, straight friends and allies, and all those still swooning over President Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and so many other Democratic pols who love the gay community's campaign contributions, volunteer energy, and strong voting history, but who also often leave us high and dry if they think being seen as too concerned about gay rights and gay issues might cost them politically.

In Santiago, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Holy See's Secretary of State, in a desperate attempt to deflect attention from the latest international sexual abuse scandal engulfing the Church of my childhood, and perhaps even Pope Benedict XVI himself, claimed the odd and unnatural tradition of celibacy was not what had fueled the Catholic priest sex abuse scandal. The scandal had been caused by homosexuality.

His exact words were, citing data from studies conducted exclusively for and by the Vatican; "Many psychologists and psychiatrists have demonstrated that there is no relation between celibacy and pedophilia. But many others have demonstrated, I have been told recently, that there is a relation between homosexuality and pedophilia. That is true. That is the problem".

The problem with Cardinal Bertone's statement, beyond its lame attempt to put responsibility for the scandal on the backs of homosexual men, as opposed to the pedophile priests the Church hierarchy aided and abetted by simply moving them around from parish to parish and country to country, is that virtually all credible psychological and psychiatric studies make a clear distinction between pedophilia and sexual orientation.

Pedophilia, whether directed at male or female children, has nothing to do with sexual orientation. It has everything to do with power and control.

I suspect a big reason why so much of the Church's pedophilia scandal involves young boys is because young girls, especially in the days when I was a kid, were not allowed to participate in the rituals of the Mass.

Had the pedophile priests been given the same access to little girls as they were to little boys, I'm sure you would be seeing many more women coming forward with tales of horrific abuse at the hands of men who were likely neither gay nor straight, but simply sick.

Sadly, the Vatican's attempts to place the blame for its mishandling of these heinous crimes against children on gay men, and to make this a "homosexual" issue as opposed to a "pedophilia" issue, only minimizes and diminishes the very real suffering many girls and women have endured as a result of being mistreated by pedophile and sexually abusive priests.

But back to the Newburyport gay community, its liberal "friends", and Democratic politicians.

Their silence, not just in relation to this latest assault on the humanity of homosexual people by the Vatican, but on so many other issues pertaining to our lives, is truly deafening.

Months passed, for example, before either President Obama or Secretary of State Clinton publicly condemned legislation proposed in Uganda, legislation that was encouraged and promoted by a number of American fundamentalist Christian leaders by the way, that called for gay Ugandans to be sentenced to life in prison, and even death, for engaging in sexual activity with another consenting adult.

The leaders of all the countries of the European Union condemned the Uganda initiative months before the Obama administration even mentioned it publicly.

When President Obama and Secretary Clinton finally addressed the issue, their condemnations of the legislation were, for lack of a better word, toothless in comparison to their European counterparts.

In the wake of Cardinal Bertone's recent comments in Chile, a spokesperson for the French Foreign Ministry, Bernard Valero, said, "France reiterates its resolute commitment to fight against discrimination and prejudice linked to sexual orientation."

As of this writing on April, 18, there has been not even a mention, let alone a repudiation, of Cardinal Bertone's attempt to scapegoat homosexual men for the Church's crimes against children by anyone in the Obama administration or the Democratic or Republican parties. Not that the silence of the GOP is any great surprise.

Even in the American gay community itself, there have been few voices raised to challenge what is just the latest attempt by a powerful institution to scapegoat and blame gay people for social ills and problems that are, when all is said and done, none of our makng.

Anyone who doubts this scapegoating isn't both deliberate and carefully thought out, whether it's done by the Vatican, Christian fundamentalist extremists in this country, or right wing politicians like Sarah Palin who appeal to the most ignorant and base instincts of the electorate in pursuit of power and self-aggrandizement; and anyone who thinks this kind of scapegoating isn't resonating loudly in some quarters with some people here in America, is a fool.

After nearly two decades of involvement in the fight against AIDS and for the civil rights of gay people, I thought, when I stepped back a little more than a decade ago, the worst of the fight was behind us.

But with all that is happening today, I would say another intense round in the fight is well underway - at least here in America and countries like Uganda, Iran, and China.

Sadly, I think too many gay Americans, especially those affluent enough to live in a community like Newburyport, have grown complacent and more interested in assimilation and "fitting in" than they are activism.

In some ways they are not so different from middle, upper middle class, and affluent Jews in Germany in the waning days of the Weimar Republic who also thought they had "arrived" and been accepted.

And we all know what an illusion that turned out to be.

Michael Cook
Nbpt, MA
& PV de Limon, Costa Rica

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I for one thank you for reminding all of us that silence in the face of homophobic words and actions is not acceptable. We all still need to be reminded -- unfortunately.

There is a virulent undercurrent of this type of mentality that is in some cases explicitly displayed without apology--other times it is not so obvious. Either way--it often comes to the fore when a scapegoat becomes the easy way to avoid looking at what is really going on--such as in the pedophilia that has been going in the Catholic Church for so long.

It is this silence that is still the pervasive response -- the tolerance -- to the bullying and worse that many kids have to endure in our schools because of sexuality issues.

We should be ashamed. We need to do much better.