I have received many comments regarding the article “Does the End Justify the Means?” which I posted on Tuesday 24 November 2009. Some people were grateful that I published this article and some people expressed mixed feelings and/or disapproval of what I wrote. The proposed outing of closeted gay priests raises serious questions both in terms of its efficacy as a strategy and of its ethics.
The questions of ethics aside, will the proposed strategy of outing gay priests be an effective means of forcing change and undermining the power of the hierarchy to attack LGBT people? Unless such outings were numerically significant enough to affect the Church on an operational level, no.
If every gay priest in the USA were to come out (or be exposed) in one coordinated act this would create a crisis for the Catholic hierarchy. If every LGBT member of the US Armed Forces were to come out (or be exposed) in one coordinated act, this would create a crisis for the Armed Forces. Is either of these scenarios probable, no.
What would be the probable effects of public outings of gay priests? In the short term, the hierarchy would most probably deploy permanent deacons to conduct Sunday Eucharistic services. There is already in place a ritual for “Eucharist in the absence of a priest.” In my diocese parishes were instructed to have lay people trained and prepared to conduct Sunday Eucharistic services if need demanded these. This in combination with the redistribution of clergy would insure continuing operation of all parish services.
In the long term, the hierarchy would probably step up the importation of priests from the Third World to fill the void left by ousted American priests. These imported priests tend to be theologically very conservative and would unquestioningly serve the interests of the hierarchy. They also come with an added bonus to the bishop, if he does not like them he can simply have their worker’s visa revoked. This would give the hierarchy even greater power to censor sermons and public comments made by priests.
Let us recall that the clergy pedophilia scandals in the Catholic Church have left the hierarchy still firmly in control. You would have thought that such an inexcusable violation and sacrifice of innocent children by the hierarchy would have led to criminal prosecutions of bishops and strip the hierarchy of any moral authority. It did not. In comparison, a scandal revolving around gay priests who engage in adult consensual sexual affairs is a piece of cake.
The hierarchy could simply say, thank you very much for helping us to “clean house.” They would probably spin this, and they have already begun to do this, as an attempt by militant homosexuals to attack and undermine religious liberty. The hierarchy would spin this further to portray themselves as “martyrs” for speaking up for “morality.” They could accuse LGBT groups of resorting to extortion.
The fact that individuals would be forced into making public statements, against their will, in favor of marriage equality, would invalidate such statements both ethically and in the public’s perception. It could very quickly become a public relations nightmare for LGBT people and our struggle for marriage equality and other civil rights.
Do you recall the attempted extortion of David Letterman? Letterman reported the whole matter to the District Attorney’s Office and the extortionist in that case now faces criminal prosecution. Letterman’s ratings and popularity soared as a result of the attempted extortion, even though many of his sexual encounters involved subordinates at work and could be construed as unethical and possible incidents of sexual harassment. Nevertheless, the public reacted very strongly in his support and against the extortionist. No one likes to be blackmailed, period.
In my case, I freely made the decision to make a public statement against what was, and remains, an immoral abuse of power and a grotesque attack on a minority group by the hierarchy of the Church. If someone had attempted to blackmail me into making that statement, I would have done what David Letterman did. To make that statement under a cloud of extortion would invalidate the statement.
What then can be done to help effect real change on the part of the Catholic hierarchy?
1) Introduce and pass legislation that extends existing labor laws and employee protections to clergy. Catholic priests are currently considered “self-employed” this means they are not protected by labor laws and the bishop can terminate them at will. Granting clergy the right to appeal to the Labor Board will act as a curb on the unrestrained power of a bishop over his priests. This will put sympathetic priests in a much better position to be able to speak their consciences to their congregations.
2) Revoke tax exemption status to any religious organization that uses funds collected from its members to conduct political campaigns. This will force the hierarchy to think twice before they write large checks.
3) Expose members of the hierarchy, and signatories of the “Manhattan Declaration,” who do not live by the sexual standards that they are attempting to impose upon American Civil society. This is not extortion, since one is not issuing an ultimatum to these people but simply exposing their hypocrisy publicly. These are the people who are making executive level decisions that victimize the LGBT minority in our society.
- Boycott the Knights of Columbus
- A wedding sermon.
- An open letter to my parish community.
- Why was a college student in the car of drunken Archbishop-elect Cordileone at 12:26 AM, when Cordileone was arrested for a DUI?
- When the Church married Same-Sex couples.
- How It All began
- The Supreme Court’s Decisions and the New Mason-Dixon Line
- What the Vatican & American bishops DO NOT want you (and Politicians) to know.
- The Morality of Sex, gay & straight.
- San Francisco in archbishop Cordileone’s sight