August 15, 2018

Pennsylvania Priest Sex Abuse News

::sigh:: I've been reading the news from PA (priest sex abuse scandal) with both interest and sadness. So many of the small towns and parishes in Central PA (Diocese of Harrisburg) were my grade school stomping ground; our school basketball team often went to the regional finals, so towns like Shamokin and Carlisle and Camp Hill and Ephrata - imprinted onto my memory.

Despite a life time of proximity to the Roman Catholic clergy (serving mass, making music) I recall nothing untoward - priests were sadistic to altar servers, demanding, grumpy, alcoholic - but that's been the limit of my experience. At least I hope so. I cannot imagine repressing something like that (especially considering how deep into my childhood and psyche I've journeyed and how much I wanted to find a cause for my case of "the trans") but who knows. Predators seems to know the vulnerable, confused kids and I was certainly that. But I also had attentive parents (Dad was active in the Knights of Columbus, was the Monsignor's bridge partner, and dutifully came to early morning mass every day that I served) so perhaps I was a little too well protected.

But still. There on the list, my childhood best friend, who always seemed destined for the priesthood - distributing Necco wafers as communion, or fastening a towel around his head pretending to be a nun. I still remember his birthday (born 14 days apart), and probably could dredge his childhood phone number out of my subconscious if I tried hard enough.

Looking at dates and times, it does not seem to be the typical long term predator situation. As a deacon in his mid 20's (1986-87), he had a relationship with what I suspect (and hope) was an older but not legal teen. He was expelled within a year of the event (1988), post-ordination, and laicized (defrocked, as it were) many years later. This was not really a surprise to me this week; after watching "Spotlight" a few years back I dug out a website listing priests accused of sex abuse (figuring I'd find some priest from childhood or high school) and was shocked to come across my friend's name.

A gay male of my acquaintance once differentiated for me the difference between pedophilia (young children) and ephebophilia (adolescents) and while both problematic, they are not the same. But in this roiling mess of priest sex scandal, it's all one big ball of evil and dysfunction.

As a proto-queer catholic kid in those days, I got the "have you ever considered that you might have a vocation" speech by pretty much every adult I ran across. They could read the signs (gay, trans, lesbian, all problematic and verboten, a problem in need of a solution) and wanted to steer those little femme boys and butch girls into acceptable roles. I resisted (thank goodness). I've encountered many LGBT friends who were not so fortunate (coming through short or long lived careers as priests, brothers, nuns, etc.). So there's a little "there but for the grace of god (ironic, that) go I" aspect to all this, both as a potential victim as a child, and as a conflicted and confused young adult who could have ended up in a problematic, same gender environment. 

So yeah, a sad and confusing news story. I continue to carry a torch (not quite literally) of anger towards the roman catholic church (did I mention I've been just short of excommunicated in terms of sacraments, having been asked to refrain?). On good days (weddings, baptisms, funerals, etc.), I can suck it up, say the prayers, put the kneeler up and down at the right time in a way both familiar and nostalgic. I sit back when it's time for communion without a lot of attachment, good or bad.

Unlike a lot of my "raised up catholic" peers, I really do not yearn to be brought back into the fold. My spiritual journey has taken me much deeper than a simple monotheistic religion; christianity is just one more filter that lies between this particular life experience and the truth.

Instead, I mourn for all involved. The young people (boys and girls, of all ages) molested, traumatized, damaged. The repressed and damaged men (and women as well) who found no place for their sexuality in their spiritual home, were steered into these positions, and who acted out in ways both evil and inappropriate. And so many of my family members and friends who found community, solace, and a spiritual in this church, and have been so deeply disappointed and estranged. 

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