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Catholics Bishops Put Sex Obsession Ahead of Social Justice Mission (cont’d)
Sex and Secrets in the Church
There is no small irony in the church’s self-appointed role as the moral arbiter of human sexuality, whether in the areas of human reproduction or non-heterosexual sex. As an institution, it ranks among the world’s most sexually dysfunctional. Its demands for life-long celibacy from its priests and nuns attract no small number people who are uncomfortable with their own sexuality – be it something as benign and normal as homosexuality, or something criminal and predatory, as in the case of the priests who preyed on minors. Despite the high number of gay men in the priesthood – most of them likely celibate – speaking of their orientation publicly, while not expressly proscribed, is not exactly encouraged. The church addresses the sexuality of its own leaders by drawing a curtain around it, creating a culture of sexual secrecy that can only lead to dysfunction. By its actions, the church seems to say it’s not the sex that’s the sin, but evidence thereof. And that makes heterosexual sex primarily a woman’s sin, evidenced by pregnancy, a dynamic that feeds the misogyny of the church’s all-male leadership.
Many will argue that the church’s anti-abortion position is not about sex; it’s about the fetus, they will say. Yet if you take the church’s fierce opposition to abortion – without mercy even in cases of rape or incest – in the context of its opposition to contraception, it becomes difficult to accept the notion that the church’s dysfunction on matters of sexuality doesn’t enter into the equation.
The church has long excluded women from the priesthood for no reason other than their sex. Only a very naive or stupid woman would take church leaders at their word when they stake their abortion position on their purported love for the fetus. How many pregnant women will the Archdiocese of Washington abandon in favor maintaining a discriminatory practice against those LGBT people willing to speak the name of a love once denied them. How many babies born to mothers unable to care for them would the church prefer to see languish in foster care rather than place them in the home of a same-sex couple capable of raising them? Does love for the fetus end at the outer bank of the birth canal?
Getting Their Way?
At press time, leading members the city council of the District of Columbia seemed unwilling to yield to the church’s demands. If the church walks away from its contractual obligations to society’s less fortunate, it won’t be the first time it has done so. In Boston, where the sex-abuse scandal first came to light, Catholic Charities ended its adoption programs in 2006 when Massachusetts banned discrimination against same-sex couples. In 1991, the City of New York reached a compromise with the Archdiocese of New York after a threat to give back to the city thousands of teen-age children in foster care after the state passed a law mandating access to contraceptives for children over the age of 12.
But in the Congress, things are different. There a stand against the newly invigorated church can mean major policy losses, thanks to the efforts of conservative Democrats like Stupak, recruited by the Democratic National Committee to run in less-than-liberal districts, who are allied with the bishops on matters concerning women’s rights.
“So the bishops were able to get their way,” Kissling says of the anti-abortion measure added to the health-care bill. “And the thing with the bishops is, if they can get their way, no nuance or doubt enters their minds about whether getting their way is the right thing to do.”
This article was originally published at Alternet.org.
Adele M. Stan is AlterNet's Washington bureau chief. Her work has also appeared in The New Republic, the Village Voice, The Nation, The Advocate, Salon.com, the Washington Blade and Mother Jones magazine, as well as on the op-ed pages of the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and the New York Daily News. She began her media career at Ms. magazine, where she served both on staff and as a contributing editor.