Monday, June 26, 2006

Was There Really a Priest Pedophile Problem?

I knew a battled hardened, old Paulist debater, Fr. James M. Gillis, who used to thunder at priests-in-the-making that we must insist on definition before we discuss any matter of serious import. A basic finding in debate research, he taught, is that the victory belongs to him who frames the debate.

In striving for precise definition and intelligent debate, it is essential to know the difference between the connotative and the denotative meanings of words. The connotations of a word can range all over the verbal landscape and can apply to all kinds of marginal meanings, including that which the listener might wish to inject into a concept. It can be a kind of Rorschach journey, akin to looking at floating clouds and giving a personal meaning or perception to each. On the other hand, the denotative meaning of a word is specific and univocal. There is practically and usually no other meaning to it. A debater might unethically use a word in a connotative sense and hope that his opponent doesn’t pick up his somewhat sloppy intellectual behavior. This occurs more than we like to admit. Unless one is used to demanding definition, it is highly possible that exchanges move off into what has been called “airy persiflage.” There is no common ground achieved but only hardening of respective positions despite fancy talk and impassioned articulation. All of us, certainly including this writer, must be honest in the use of our terms if we are to be faithful to the Spirit of the Lord and be helpful to others.

One fascinating example of the misuse of language, deliberate or otherwise, surfaced many times in the priest scandal reporting. This was the imprecise use of the word “pedophile” which has a denotative and specific scientific meaning. The word itself, taken from Greek roots, in the world of psychology, refers to the sexual molestation of and attraction to pre-pubertal persons ---i.e. before puberty, roughly and denotatively prior to the age of 12. The philia or “love” is toward children, who are younger than the stage of puberty. This is vastly and substantively different from being sexually attracted to adolescent or teen age persons.

Hence, when the media or special interest groups refer to the priest “pedophile” scandal, they are inaccurate or, more precisely, incorrect. The overwhelming majority of these cases has involved persons in the teen years, anywhere from 14 to 19. The professional categorization for teen age sexual molestation is called Ephebophilia, again from Greek roots, specifically and denotatively, meaning sexual attraction to older adolescents.

This distinction is well known and easily verifiable. So, the blurring of the word-usage is somewhat puzzling. In a recent public lecture I gave on the roots of Same Sex attraction[1] (homosexuality), I attempted to clarify the distinction (using perhaps a barbed wire approach) that there wasn’t a pedophile scandal at all but a homosexual one. A person who apparently identifies himself as “gay” was deeply upset by my distinction and wished to peg the word “pedophile” on the unfaithful priests. In the dialogue with him, it became clear that since both sick heterosexuals and sick homosexuals are probably equally guilty of molesting little children, the gay world preferred to label the priest “thing” as pedophilia thereby shifting the focus away from homosexuality. The hype stance was: “Don’t blame us (gays)—blame the Church.”

Actually the media (and many gay-friendly lawyers) often employ a very elastic and connotative use of the word “pedophilia” to include anyone under the age of 21. However, when the studies (particularly the John Jay report) came out clearly indicating that anywhere between 80% and 90% of the cases since 1950 have involved homosexual priests, there was a wild scurrying about to fog up the findings. We were told that these were not really homosexual priests but only priests seeking some kind of sexual discharge and the young men were the nearest sexual experience they could have without women. Whatever the internal tensions of these priests were, the descriptive word generally applied to an adult male having sex with a teen aged male is “homosexual”. In the mood of the old story, perhaps the King does have a beautiful suit on but he looks stark naked, not only to kids but to most people whose eyes are open.

Occasionally, some courageous and independent-minded journalists break out of the conformist mold and dare to confront the facts. One such was Joe Fitzgerald of the Boston Herald on March 11, 2002 when he blatantly entitled his column “Homosexuality is True Plague of Priesthood” which, predictably, raised the proverbial hackles of the gay Catholic community. He wrote “…militant homosexuals and their timorous allies in the politically correct movement are hell-bent on perpetuating the disingenuous notion that the crisis engulfing the Catholic Church has its roots in pedophilia. It does not. It has its roots in homosexuality, and to call it anything else is to insult the intelligence of anyone who’s paying attention, especially anyone with access to a dictionary.”

Even granting a touch of paranoia on my part, I have noticed the media tendency to imply not only that this is an on-going problem with Catholic priests but that it is massive in nature. The accurate (honest and fair?) appraisal is that the tragedy of these homosexual priests reached its apex in the 1970-1985 period, that it is, in a real sense, unhappy ancient history and that the situation has improved enormously. Why don’t we hear such statements in the media? Is there an agenda signaled by the word blurring, e.g. pedophilia and the little remarks about priest “pedophiles” periodically sneaked into some piece of Catholic news?

Recently, Cardinal Egan, the Archbishop of New York made the following public statement[2]:

“We must never lose sight of the fact the Archdiocese of New York has an extraordinary presbyterate and that our record is very likely the best in the nation. When compiling the list of allegations for the national audit, the Archdiocese amounted to less than 1% of the thousands of priests who have served and continue to serve the Archdiocese for the past 50+ years. The New York City Public Schools, on the other hand, had more allegations of sexual abuse of minors by teachers in the first semester of this academic year alone than the Archdiocese has had in more than fifty years.”

Dr. William Donahue, President of the Catholic Defense League and a professional sociologist, observes that in the year 2005, there were 21 allegations that involved minors as victims but only five were found credible, two were still under investigation and in two other instances, there was insufficient information. Ultimately, there were at most nine priest cases for the year. He notes that we had approximately 42,000 priests in 2005 which means that .02 percent had a credible accusation made against him. One unfaithful priest is too many for me but the facile implication of widespread abuse (by misuse of words and mindless statements) is dishonest and unjust. Why wasn’t it reported that in 2005, 99.98 percent of the priests in the United States had no credible accusation made against them? It was nowhere reported. Incidentally, Dr. Donahue sharply reminds us that the term ephebophile is never used to refer to heterosexual acts, only homosexual ones.[3] The term is probably ideologically coined and rarely used. But it is precise in its meaning. The overwhelming percentage of the heinous acts by those erring priests was with adolescent males. There have been feeble insinuations that priests will now molest altar girls but the interesting fact is that after 12 years of female serving at the altar, there are no such problems. As Donahue points out “…it is still the males that the molesters want.”

Dr. Donahue makes the bold assertion: “I am willing to bet that there is no institution, demographic group or profession in the United States today that has less of a problem with sexual abuse of minors than the Catholic Church…” So, from where come the vicious attacks? And why?

Obviously, there is some open, outright prejudice against the Catholic Church as Dr. Philip Jenkins of Penn State so brilliantly proved in his “The New Anti-Catholicism, the Last Acceptable Prejudice.”[4] This type of “enemy” is tolerable. The more serious and difficult to understand is the enemy within. In World War II, we were all familiar with the term of disgrace: “Quisling” which meant the Enemy within our own ranks, pretending to be loyal to our Cause but secretly working to destroy us, with full understanding or not.

It looks like we have the deepest problem with our own “troops.” One of the clear implications of the recent Vatican document establishing criteria for evaluating SSA seminary candidates, was the likely tendency of such candidates to have a false tolerance (such as that described by Rev. David Kennedy of Florida as the “last virtue of a degenerate society”) or even encouragement of intrinsically sinful behavior. The Catholic Church teaches that homosexual behavior[5] is intrinsically immoral and can, in no circumstances, ever be approved.

Yet, resistance from within remains a factor. How can one explain priest-confessors (in the sacrament of Penance itself) advising SSA penitents that they should not be hasty in breaking up same sex “relationships” (read sexual)? Or advising that God understands their sinning? How come a Pastor in a “gay” neighborhood will become visibly indignant when he is challenged by a Courage member on the Pastor’s refusal to discuss Chastity from the pulpit? How come that Pastor suggests to his challenger that he “go somewhere else for Mass”? How come another Pastor will sugarcoat the Catholic teaching because the gays in his parish give generously whenever he needs money? How come another Pastor, with reputed ambiguous gender identity, will call Fr. John Harvey, loyal son of the Church and real founder of Courage, “a Bastard” when Harvey will reveal, with permission, frightening information given by Courage members? How come a Catholic Bishop announces publicly that he will no longer discuss the Church’s position on homosexual behavior lest it bother gay sensitivity?

Is this masking? Or lying? Is it that gender confusion/arrested development are in the clergy itself? Asking challenging and even uncomfortable questions will not surface all the causation of the problem. Nor will it reveal forms of resolution. It will, however, reveal the name of the real problem.

This is a serious situation. It is more than mere semantics or arguing about verbal nuances. The meanings under the words carry huge social and spiritual import. So, the question in the title “Was there really a priest pedophile problem?” is rhetorical. If the reader followed the reasoning presented above, it is obvious. Homosexual, yes. Pedophile, no. No wonder Church leaders are concerned about the sexual identity of priest personnel. If I were Pope, God forbid, I would be extremely concerned. Wouldn’t you?

[1] Same sex attraction (SSA) is a modern term used to describe the sexual tendency towards one’s own sex. It is thought to be more respectful than “homosexual” in that SSA regards the person as ordered while his tendency is disordered. The term “gay” has more of a pervasive sense to it, moving the person to equate his personhood with this tendency. Such an equation is rejected by the Catholic Church.
[2] To New York Priests’ Senate, May, 2006
[3] Catalyst; June 2006
[4] Oxford University8 Press, 2003
[5] This can mean any kind of sexual behavior exclusively reserved for husbands and wives in marriage Catholicism does not accept any definition of marriage other than that between a male and a female as defined in Genesis and Scripture in general.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Should We Cohabitate Before Marriage?

Often when I have questioned the prudence of young people considering cohabitation before marriage, I am met with the quizzical look and the “now” remark: “C’mon, Father, get real.” I am told that living together before marriage is a good way for couples “to find out whether they really get along.” I am reminded of the high cost of living and how two can live more cheaply than one and that everyone is doing it. Marriage is just a piece of paper, anyway. What’s the difference? Besides, it’s good preparation for marriage. And all the facile, mindless bromides and rationalizations that pass as “street smarts.” This is popular “thinking” as evidenced, for example, in a National survey of high school seniors which found nearly 60% approving this trend. In fact, a new report shows that half of all first marriages are now preceded by cohabitation.

The Catholic Church, however, has traditionally insisted that marriage is a “holiness producing institution”, a sacrament, and that the sexual component is truly holy but strictly reserved for a man and a woman in this specific state of marriage. Cohabitation is, in this view, inappropriate (or more bluntly, sinful, as is any use of sex outside of marriage). Obviously, such a stance in this era is counter-cultural, almost radical. Of course, some young Catholic couples disobey their Church and do cohabit before marriage and sometimes even substitute such a relationship for marriage. They join the 4 million unmarried couples now living together (compared with less than half a million 40 years ago.) Clearly, they act counter to Catholic teaching.

But it is heartening to read of the monumental study out of Rutgers University (Feb. ’06) which challenges the popular thinking by publishing the opposite viewpoint. This study runs utterly opposite to the cheerful illusion that it doesn’t really matter whether or not couples cohabit before marriage. I have heard some uninformed Catholic priests make such observations (perhaps I should say non-confrontational or peace at any price priests). But this professional challenge is based on sociological and psychological grounds, not on religious ones. Somehow, the voices of the secular are heard long before the Clarity of God’s will.

It is entitled “Should we live together before marriage? What young adults need to know about cohabitation before marriage.”[1] As part of the New Jersey schools’ National Marriage Project, researchers David Popenoe and Barbara Dafoe Whitehead conclude that “cohabitation does not reduce the likelihood of eventual divorce; it fact it may lead to a higher divorce rate.”

Their major findings include the following:

1. Living together before marriage increases the risk of breaking up after marriage.
2. Unmarried couples have lower levels of happiness and well being than married couples.
3. Living together outside of marriage increases the risk of domestic violence and the risk of physical and sexual abuse for children.

While these findings are factual, the reasons for their reality are not clear. What underlies the findings? Why is this so? The authors state: “Although cohabiting relationships are like marriages------they typically differ in the levels of commitment and autonomy involved.” The results obviously did surprise many people but the report stated: “Perhaps the most obvious explanation for the striking statistical association between cohabitation and divorce is that the people willing to cohabit are more unconventional than others and less committed to the institution of marriage.” Professionally, I can recall from my many marital counseling cases how often the roles of commitment and autonomy formed the fundamental core of interpersonal discord. But how much more so must it be with cohabitating couples who have anemic commitment and infantile notions of autonomy?

I submit the glaring case of two Catholics living together for a year with huge interpersonal problems. She, with a fancy Catholic college background and desperately wanting marriage, he, an inactive lawyer with a comfortable trust fund on which to live, with an obsession for roller skating, expensive restaurants and no interest in marrying. They had low commitment and high self-centered autonomy. When they consulted me for some kind of mediation, he blatantly stated to her: “I have no responsibility to you. I owe you nothing…” This after a full year of living together with required sexual intimacy. With an infantile idée fixe, he insisted that sex was better without marriage. Marriage, with all its added responsibilities, would only spoil the pleasure. He asks: Why rock the boat? Does it take a Henry Kissinger I.Q. level to predict the future of this “relationship”?

The shrill ever present modern battle cry “I have a right to happiness” rings hollow here. Their “happiness” level was abysmal even as their grim sexual life was rapidly becoming jaded.

Apparently, the pattern of low commitment and high autonomy is hard to unlearn. Popenoe and Whitehead, along with other researchers found that the cohabitation attitude which is pervasively operational in these couplings, changes people’s view of marriage itself. The study suggests that cohabitation moves people either to make marriage less likely or if marriage takes place to make it less successful.

That specter lurking in the background of cohabitating life is always whispering sotto voce the “anytime breakup” possibility. With no strings attached either partner can pack up and steal away into the sunset seeking the elusive “Mr./Ms Right”. Should this occur, the battering and bruising of the psyche (especially of a woman) can be incalculable. Obviously, there are no real assurances in cohabitation where commitment is so essentially tenuous. This is particularly problematic in the case of the “serial” cohabitor. The authors have concluded “the experience of dissolving one cohabitation for another generates a greater willingness to dissolve later relationships…” - hence, less real commitment and greater risk for a future marriage.

It is stated that the study may hold the answer to the question why pre-marital cohabitation should affect the stability of a later marriage. Despite its intrinsic narcissism, the “I owe you nothing” message is the warp and woof of cohabitation. When the young guy says to me “Get real, Father” how can I help him see the reality of the dangers of cohabitation? I’m sure no one is totally immune from his environment so how could this underlying sense of instability not influence a cohabitating relationship?

The “elephant in the living room” of this problem is assiduously avoided by those who beat the politically correct drum. The “elephant” is the low level of happiness of the cohabitors! This study courageously faces what happens within the relationship itself. Get this surprising finding! “Cohabiting couples report lower levels of happiness, lower levels of sexual exclusivity and sexual satisfaction, and poorer relationships with their parents.” It is also noted that within two years, about half of all cohabiting relationships are terminated. It is either complete breakup or marriage. And after five years, only about 10% of couples are still cohabiting.[2]

It is noted that the annual rates of depression among cohabiting couples are more than three times that of married couples. Further, women in these relationships are more likely than married women to suffer physical and sexual abuse. These statistics indicate that aggression is at least twice as high among cohabitors as it is among married people.

A Great Britain study (quoted by the authors) found that “compared to children living with married biological parents, children living with cohabiting but unmarried biological parents are 20 times more likely to be subject to child abuse, and those living with a mother and a cohabiting boy friend who is not the father face an increased risk of 33 times. In contrast, the rate of abuse is 14 times higher if the child lives with a biological mother who lives alone…”

Those who are concerned about the welfare of children might well ponder the concluding statement: “….the evidence suggests that the most unsafe of all family environments of children is that in which the mother is living with someone other than the child’s biological father. This is the environment for the majority of children in cohabiting couple households…”

Where is the outrage from the Media? Where are the flamboyant champions of children’s rights? Why has this information not been publicized? I thought that the public has a right to know the truth. Is there some kind of slanted, selective reporting at work here? I recall the outcry when the Catholic Church opposed the use of condoms in Africa as the means to contain AIDS. While a detour from the focus of this paper, the example illustrates my bewilderment. The Church was assailed by the usual invectives: Backward. Anti-progressive. Un-real. Non-compassionate. All the usual pejorative adjectives. But why, in this case, wasn’t I told the whole truth? For example, that South Africa has reached a 22% infection level of the entire population in spite of a massive inundation of condoms? Or that Botswana where condom sales rose from 1million to 3 million now has a rise in HIV infection cases from 27% to 45% among pregnant women? Or that Uganda with a 43% Catholic population has 4% HIV-infected adults following not condom use but abstinence? Uganda uses the National motto: “Change your behavior, change your behavior.” Why am I not told the truth? Was the repression of the facts based on personal bias?

This media selectivity “covers up” the truth about Cohabitation. The truth is: “If you want to be married for a lifetime, then you should know that cohabitating promotes the opposite outcome.” And as the Rutgers report says: “Despite its widespread acceptance by the young, the remarkable growth of unmarried cohabitation in recent years does not appear to be in children’s or society’s best interests. The evidence suggests it has weakened marriage and the intact two-parent family and thereby damaged our social well being, especially that of women and children.”

If current society were to have no real interest in maintaining a fairly healthy level of the marriage state, we would not only have gone collectively insane but we would also be committing massive social suicide. It would mean the end of the American Experiment as we have known it. The perspicacious among us are fueling the movement to educate American youth not only about the dangers of cohabitation but also about the drive for same sex “marriage.” Both of these corruptions are serious enemies of Marriage. The country should know this. The hypothesis of the study follows: “...society wide, the growth of cohabitation will tend to further weaken marriage as an institution...particularly if one or both parties had cohabitated with some one else or brought children into the relationship.”

Can we get the word out? Can we stop institutionalizing cohabitation and get back to revitalizing marriage? How do we publicize the findings of sociology and psychology as they try to catch up with the Wisdom of God? After all, it was the Lord Jesus Who made marriage a Sacrament. I don’t recall Him ever attending parties for fornicators or sodomites! When the Lord God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses, He did not stipulate a time limit or statute of limitation after which Cohabitation and Same Sex unions would become holy. C’mon, USA, get really real!!!!!!

[1] Available from the National Marriage Project, Rutgers—the State University of New Jersey. 25 Bishop Place, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-1181
[2] The caveat: cohabitating couples living for a short and immediate prelude to marriage can be the exception providing one or both partners have not cohabited with someone else or brought children into the relationship.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Puzzling Case[1] of R.: Homosexual, Transsexual, Transgendered or What?

R. consulted me, a Priest/Psychologist, after reading some Sexuality articles on my Website. Even after a series of frustrating and unhappy meetings with well-meaning, but somewhat uninformed Catholic priests, R. was still seeking some kind of functional relationship with the Church from which she felt estranged. It is difficult, presuming sensitivities and the lack of an absolute judgment reserved to the Lord alone, to know how to refer to R. Should I say “he” or “she”? While R. was born with XY Chromosomal structures (male), R’s behavioral history has been functionally feminine, as if there were a basic XX Chromosomal structure (female). I opted, for psychological and compassionate reasons to use female pronouns in my dealings with and writing about R.

R. was born routinely, but from a mother whose estrogen levels, R. claims, “surged” to 3 or 4 times the normal pregnancy level. This factor has not been identified by anyone (so far) as important in the ultimate personality formation of R. Is it Nature? Or Nurture? Or some kind of mix? The infant was born with undescended testicles and normal phallus and was immediately identified as a male child. It is important to state that all data in this article are exclusively from R. as she shared the specifics of her life via e-mail. Truth or falsity or calibrations thereof are not really known. Any prudent appraiser must be aware of the possibility of distortion or exaggeration. It would be appropriate to remember the ancient wisdom: Quidquid percipitur, percipitur secundum modum percipientis (What is perceived, is perceived according to the mode of the perceiver). How did (and does) R. see her “reality”? Through what lens?

One of the shrewd observations of Freud was his axiom that “things are rarely only what they seem.” It is difficult surely to be apodictic about the underlying factors of the symptoms listed below but it is very clear that R. suffers from pain, confusion and anger. And it is in that emotional/ spiritual area in where the Church can be helpful.

After an early childhood which was troubled with difficulty interacting with male children, the adolescent R. wondered whether or not he was homosexual. He did private research and began questioning his possible transsexuality. He had no body hair, and unlike his brothers hardly ever shaved. His voice did not “shift” as those of his peers. He grew “breasts” in college while his skeletal structure did not “masculinize”. He did poorly as an undergraduate, dropped out of college and attempted suicide by overdosing with sleeping pills. All medical attempts to move him to a more male level failed. Even massive doses of testosterone injections made no difference. He remained gender dysphoric.

Gradually, he moved emotionally and socially to “presenting” himself as a woman. The word “presentation” is significant in that nowhere does she use the common parlance of the transsexual. The usual TS (transsexual) refers to self as a “woman trapped in the body of a man” or vice versa. R’s self concept at least hints that this has been a tentative move. Surgery or estrogen injections are not mentioned. There were weak attempts in the past to enter the male/masculinity world with the help of R’s father. It almost sounds like she “backed” into her ambiguous sexual identity. It is also significant in such a self presentation, that she dresses more as a unisexual person. She does not own a single dress or high heels. She wears male underpants alleging this to be a widespread practice among young contemporary women. Her hair is long. However, in her present role as a “presenting” woman, she does not have to compete with males or engage in any form of male to male quasi-combat/competition. She can now have friends of both sexes without the stress of her earlier life.

She went back to college “presenting” as a woman, gained a Master’s degree, and is now enrolled in a Ph.D. program. The current “she” insists that she is presently peaceful, more compassionate, more able to help others and more at ease with herself. However, R wrote me basically for one reason: “The only worry I have is with my Church which from what little I have been able to find, seems to say I am condemned for what I am doing. …….my Church has seemingly isolated and exiled me…I have tried for many years (to assume the male role) and I failed every single time.”

So, what will a priest (who is a psychologist) say about this tangle? There can be no question, from a Catholic point of view, of the value of the soul of R. Jesus died for her as He did for millions and millions of others, in a most horrific manner, on a cross around two thousand years ago. Her value, before God, is beyond any doubt. Hence, she is to be treated with compassion and sensitivity and never to be mocked. It is essential that, at least cognitively, she knows this. It is unfortunately possible that an emotional awareness of this spiritual truth might evade her because of her interior confusion. But, condemned? In no way does her Church condemn her. Frown perhaps, but with loving hope of her moral stabilization.

Further, one might, with some degree of psychological sophistication, understand that much of what is so socially abnormal, is, in fact, a response to a huge inner conflict probably far beyond the awareness of even the conflicted person. Unconsciously, the conflicted one seeks a compromise solution to achieve some kind of inner peace—to be freed from the terrible inner turbulence which tormented her[2]. The external “anomaly”, weird as it appears to the average person, can be at least a temporary comparative “bliss” and relief to R.

In Catholic thinking, there can be a basic tension between what is considered to be objectively sinful (intrinsically evil) and that which is considered to be subjectively acceptable to the troubled person in terms of her personal insight or pressure or experience. Moral guilt might well (before God) be alleviated by subjective tensions or drives. Hence, a common pastoral practice is to throw the possible moral guilt (or judgment) back on the Mercy of God --- a variation on how “God sees it.” Of course, each of us has to bear personal responsibility to some degree but each of us can expect some understanding from the Lord. But how far does such an approach go? Where is the “mix”? Well then, what is viewed as “objectively evil” by Catholics? Seeing the official positions might throw some light on a possible pastoral approach to R. and similarly conflicted persons.

It is the position of the Church that the plan of God is laid out very clearly in Scripture (beginning with the Genesis blueprint: “Male and Female He made them”). There are, in spite of the protestations of radical feminists, substantive differences between the sexes. The French had a word for it: “Vive la Difference!” The difference is far beyond the anatomical, the biological, and the psychological. It is profoundly teleological, i.e. it has meaning and Divinely planned function. Hence to disguise or mask the Scheme of God is a violation of His Will. Even in terms of how we dress. In Deut. 22,5, it is plainly taught that men who dress in women’s clothes are “Toevah” or abominable, disgusting before God. This is the only place in Scripture where the problem of Transvestism is addressed, but it is addressed in terms of violating the Divine Plan.

Obviously (to most people of Faith), sexual behavior of the same-sex level blatantly transgresses God’s plan. Twice in Leviticus the act of two men lying with each other “as if with women” is unequivocally condemned. Such behavior, similarly, is explicitly blacklisted by the Blessed Apostle Paul in Romans, 1 Cor. and 1 Timothy. Incidentally, nothing is said of orientation or inner feeling, even of inner compulsion. The traditionally strong moral condemnatory position, prima facie, (particularly in Judaism) is specifically about external behavior[3]. Additionally, the whole tradition of Catholicism has officially supported the condemnation of same-sex behavior, as has most of mainline Christianity, and traditional Judaism and Islam as well.

Were conflicted persons to seek relief from SRA (surgical re-assignment), objectively he sins because of an act of unnecessary significant mutilation, unlike excision of a diseased appendix, uterus or gangrenous leg where excision or amputation is vital for the survival of the person. If one applies the notion of subjective morality here, it might be possible to understand the behavior of the conflicted person. It is also interesting to note that many of the Centers which had performed the so-called sex change operations have slowed down their previous enthusiasm. Where before the axiom was “since we can’t change the psyche to fit the soma, we will change the soma to fit the psyche,” the stance is presently more cautious. There have been too many unsatisfactory consequences to the radical SRA with a multitude of new maladapted cocktail waitresses, alcoholics, melancholies, suicides or attempted suicides and street prostitutes. There have been multitudinous serious failures in adaptation to the “new” personhood. Of course, there are a few “stars” like Christine Jorgensen, Renee Richards and Jan Morris. But out of this statistically minimal population, it has been mostly deep depressions and enormous regrets. Of course, it is deeply puzzling since there does exist huge gender dysphoria in this unhappy group before psychological and medical intervention. For the most part, however, it is clear that the SRA has very serious inherent reasons for caution.

There was the recent misfortune of a new SRA Australian person suing the medical profession (post surgery) since he/she claims that he was not “rational” when requesting the procedure. The aftermath has been devastating and irreversible. He is now doomed to living as a mutilated male and reports deep unhappiness. However, he blames others for his misery! He claims that they should have seen his “irrationality”. Perhaps, medical personnel mean well and perhaps the procedure was done by well-intentioned, tender-hearted surgeons whose goals are to alleviate human suffering. But good intentions in the face of very hard realities ought to be rigorously rethought.

Arno Karlen points out in his monumental “Sexuality and Homosexuality”[4] that SRA persons are well aware (in their own depth levels) of their own XX or XY chromosomal structure, regardless of what society or the law proclaims or what public bathroom they use. When a man has been castrated and equipped with a vagina, is this person really a woman now? Karlen suggests that only he (the patient) thinks so - and then with reservations. Unconsciously, the “new” re-make knows that chromosomes don’t ever change.

Dr Paul McHugh, a psychiatrist from Johns Hopkins Hospital, a leading pioneer Institution in the study and research of transsexuality, wrote in his article “Sex Change”[5] that the practice of SRA is under deep scrutiny at that Institution. He suggests that many bad judgments were made and that the staff would have been more helpful if they worked on psyches rather than on gonads. The pathetic experience of the aging transsexual with his coarsening male features protruding from under the desperate fake female mask has made many a SRA surgeon think again. The forced and highly contrived TS[6] struggle to maintain the microbehaviors so automatically and effortlessly learned by little females is sad to observe. These second thoughts of Medicine occur after many years of observation and evaluation of sex change adaptation. Are clinicians catching up with Catholic wisdom? Is it a case of “the King has no clothes on”? Have SRA people been simply missing the obvious all these years? Aren’t people wired for gender?

In any event, R. has factually violated some norms of Catholic morality and has as such committed, at least, objective sin and, at present, intends so to remain. How the good Lord judges her is not within human comprehension. Our approach for ostensibly good hearted people[7] like R. is simply “Take the next best possible step.” Her decision does not absolve her from basic obligations of worship. This means that R. should attend the Holy Mass every Sunday, even as a “presenting” woman. I suggest her attending Mass even during the week when, perhaps, she can make quieter contact with Jesus. I suggest that she begin serious affective[8] prayer with strong emphasis on listening to the promptings of the Holy Spirit of God. I suggest that she investigate the “sense” of the Mother of God wherein R. might experience the beauty and joy of accepting God’s Holy Will. R. needs to read spiritual literature chosen with the help of some spiritual director who is knowledgeable and realistically accepting. Of course, R. needs to talk with someone who can supportively challenge her without scolding and judgment. She needs to know that God does not give up on us! In His own time, He will touch R. with His calming grace.

She looked me up by e-mail which was a good idea. Unfortunately, for practical reasons, I cannot be her face-to-face guide. I will pray for R. that she will find peace and God and a capable spiritual director. Whether she is homosexual (same-sex attracted), transsexual, transgendered --in a sense-- is secondary. Primarily, she needs Hope and a surety that God will never desert her even in the darkest of her times.

[1] I use the word “case” reluctantly since it has such a cold clinical sound to it. This study involves a human being with a serious problem and in no way do I belittle the pain by using such a technical sounding term.
[2] Perhaps, this “torment” is discoverable only by depth pastoral therapy
[3] Jesus would include the fantasies of “lust” as sinful, in se, even without external behavior. There is a moral dimension even should the “activity” be restricted solely within the mind.
[4] W.W. Norton, New York City
[5] “First Things” New York, 2005.
[6] transsexual
[7] R. did try valiantly, according to her testimony, to assume the male role
[8] Meaning: great opening of the heart to God

Sunday, June 4, 2006

Are There Any Limits to “Free” Speech or Good Taste?

It is an alleged dogma taught in Journalism schools that while all Americans have the basic right to speak out as our insights indicate, we (especially professional journalists) do not have the right to change the Facts. This seems a fair and tolerant position which we all cheerfully uphold. The fledging journalist is pummeled to “check the facts”. He is reminded repeatedly to double check before he commits to publication. Further, the schools cling ferociously to the Sacred First Amendment rights of Free speech and freedom of the press. It is heartily believed that Americans have almost an absolute right to express themselves at will. But the important and cautious word is “almost.” It is consensually held, I think, that shouting “Fire” in a crowded theatre when there is no fire is beyond freedom of speech. The shouter knows that his shout is untrue and that others stand to suffer significantly because of his distortion and irresponsibility. He is not constitutionally protected in his “shouting.”

Likewise, inciting a crowd to a “lynching party” by twisted or untrue allegations is not constitutionally protected. Nor is a rebellion, fueled by untrue propagandistic material, against a justly installed government legitimate. There are limits to what we call Free speech.

Recently, however (May 27, ’06), the usually ethical cable station A&E aired a program which seriously overstepped the bounds of honest journalism, (and I personally believe) of constitutional freedom and flagrantly offended the spiritual sensitivities of many Christians. The program, meant to focus on some esoteric group called “The Illuminati”, significantly highlighted a totally one-sided position which was not only anti-Christian (and heavily anti-Catholic) but, in my mind, worse in that its scholarship was sophomoric and its tonality was bitter. And some of it was blatantly false.

For example, a woman “scholar” -with a straight face- asserted that the Catholic claim to Petrine primacy was untrue because Catholicism bases its position on the historical fact that Peter was the first to see the Risen Christ. She went on happily stating that John and Mary both saw the risen Jesus before Peter did. Hence, the papal claims are bogus. If she had bothered to check, she, hopefully, would have discovered that the claim is not based on John’s Gospel but on Matthew’s, 16:19. The most unsophisticated Catholic child in the 4th grade knows this. How come our “scholar” did not? Or does my psychologist’s “nose” smell something else? Perhaps, she is not interested in the truth or the facts. Is old Sig Freud right again when he suggests that “things are rarely what they seem?” Is the agenda more of hate than light?

The facile assertion that what are claimed to be the bones of Peter “might” be the bones of an animal is nowhere countered by even a suggestion to the contrary. For fair investigations, the excavations called the “scavi” under the Basilica of St. Peter, with 55 years of serious archeological study, at least should be mentioned. Apart from the pervasive tentative and ambiguous language throughout the whole presentation such as “might”, “could be”, “some say”, “it has been said” (and generally without references), the quick juxtaposition of clips from the Nazi era, subliminally linking the Holy Father with the Fuhrer, clearly suggested a common obsession to “control” the masses. Both are Dictators. Both demand total obedience with no room for individual conscience. The Pope and Hitler, despite the difference of language and garments, are the same. We saw the goose-stepping, seig heiling Nazis one second, and the crowds in St. Peter’s Square applauding the Pope in the next. So, the theme and tone ran. My old Irish Grandmother who was educated only to the 3rd grade, taught me constantly thusly: “Never make fun of what is sacred to someone else.” This is elegance and “class”. What I saw on A&E was inelegant and crass bad taste. It almost shouted the primitive and low class.

I expected to see the clumsy insertion of the “wealth” of the Vatican brought out for our consideration. It, of course, popped on the screen—with all the old 19th century anti-Catholic implication. The Poor. The sick. The world’s poverty. Why isn’t it all sold to do “good”? It is the old Judas Iscariot question. Of course, we never heard, as presented by Dr. William Donahue, of the Catholic League, that the priceless art of the Vatican can not be translated into dollar signs. It is not “sellable.” It can’t even be used as collateral.

Nor did we hear that the annual operating budget of the Vatican is less than that of Notre Dame University in South Bend. It would be impolite, I suppose, to mention that the wealth of Harvard University is astronomically vaster than the Vatican and Notre Dame combined. Since we are on the track of what is clearly anti-Catholic bias, we could hardly omit the Galileo case. The “scholars” on A&E blandly asserted that the real reason for the suppression of this scientist was the Church’s fear that Catholics would leave the Church and become sun worshippers -- a loss of control. It is clearly implied that Catholicism is basically anti-science. I heard no historical context nor did I hear of the apology given by Pope John Paul II on behalf of the whole Church. Nor did I hear of Pope John Paul II’s encyclical: Fides et Ratio on the convergence of religion and science. Nowhere was there any indication of the Academy, the Vatican’s worldwide gathering of scientists.

The case of some early Pope mysteriously dying only 13 days after his election (with dark implications of foul play), the pompous presentation of the worldly Innocent X, the super serious tone in presenting the secular ambitions of warrior Popes, all implied Catholic corruption and deceit. Nowhere did we hear of John Paul II or John 23rd or Gregory the Great or Pius VII. Or any of the many saintly and compassionate Pontiffs of our history. To make such an unbalanced presentation is more than bad taste. It is bigotry.

However, the most outrageous example of this unscholarly presentation was the tentative possibility that perhaps the mummified Body of Jesus Christ is kept in a catacomb in Rome which is off limits to researchers. With an incredible violation of Logic 101, it is stated that, because of the limitation, perhaps there is something to this possibility. I recall the old saw that, since the burned body could not be absolutely verified to be that of the Fuehrer, perhaps Adolph Hitler escaped the bunker to live out his days in Argentina with Eva Braun. He dyed his mustache, grew it longer and wore dark glasses. Some people believed it, fearing that he might return. Others, unconsciously, wanted it to be true. Most people said: “Baloney. It is an obvious fantasy.” The interest in the touted novel, Da Vinci Code, is huge even though it is obvious fantasy. Some people might want it to be true. But for a journalist to assert its authenticity knowing that it is sheer imagination is to be dishonest.[1]

The possibility that any one can be mistaken is taken for granted. However, professionals are supposed to be adult enough to acknowledge an error, to accept the new proven information and make the correction. But knowingly to mislead the gullible is not only dishonest but evil. The “misleading” is not necessarily frontal but, more insidiously, oblique. For example, the program noted, with a critical tone, that when researchers are given access to priceless documents in the Vatican Archives, they are carefully watched by a “cleric”. The “show” made an obvious and false implication. They don’t want you to know the real truth. What does one expect when viewing priceless documents? Beer and bagels? The Magna Carta would not be available for any college undergraduate at his simple request without some kind of serious supervision.

If this A&E presentation were just shoddy research, it could be easily overlooked as the awkward attempt of some historical or theological bumpkin to make his mark in modern television. This presentation has all the penumbras and emanations of bigotry. The errors and distortions might be understandable in 1858 in the days of Know Nothingism. Today, there are too many opportunities to check assertions before any kind of serious publication. Otherwise, the presenters of this program might be suffering from some kind of unresolved juvenile repression surfacing today as uncovering the “real” truth of Christianity. It sounds a lot like embedded teenage rebellion. Perhaps, they had better look me up professionally for psychotherapy. My number is in the New York telephone directory. My fees are light and my burden is Truth.

[1] It is hilarious to observe that Dan Brown features an Opus Dei “monk” in his book. Opus Dei has no “monks” at all. It was just made up to fill out the fantasy of the author.