Prejudice, priests, and gay marriage

I’m getting opinionated today – inspired (and in some cases incensed) by news, facebook postings, a comedy podcast, wikipedia and google. Strange bedfellows indeed.

Anyway, if I’m going to categorise this post at all I’d say it is inspired by prejudice – perhaps a strange inspiration, but if we don’t stand for our beliefs then they are often subtly eroded.

Consider this sentence:

Priests abuse choirboys because they’re afraid of the commitment of marriage.

It was, more or less, a line from a comedy standup routine. It was followed by the comment that Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) threatened to excommunicate any Bishop who revealed details of clergy paedophilia outside the church. (At first I didn’t believe it, but I found enough online references to confirm it as true. Appalling but true.)

So, now suitably interested, I deconstructed the line and looked rather more seriously at the subjects presented:

  • Priests molesting children: fundamentally and always wrong. A breach of trust, a wicked and hideous crime. I don’t support capital punishment, but life in prison on sex-offender segregation is as good.  (Could we spot one of these heinous perverts in advance? Almost certainly not because con men are almost always charming and likeable.)
  • Protection of paedophile priests: just as bad, if not slightly worse because the guilty clergy know they’re almost safe! For the Roman Catholic church to have threatened its most serious punishment for anyone reporting a paedophile priest is dreadful – and it is gratifying to see the Vatican now distancing itself from that position.
  • Gay marriage: what we have in the uk today is a political kludge, not quite the worst of all worlds but not a satisfactory position either. Whilst “Civil Partnerships” are a legal nicety I’m pretty sure the majority thinks of them as a marriage – so why don’t we just do the decent thing and call it a marriage. I don’t really care if the Church supports it.
    I should have been Peter’s best man in his civil partnership, and had I not had an exam I would have been honoured to do so. People have relationships so let them be happy – and I suspect the majority are with me (except, perhaps, the politicians who fear the vocal minority!).
  • All priests are kiddy-fiddlers, all are latently homosexual, and all fear any sort of commitment: absolute poppycock. They’ve all committed to a calling which, frankly, I could not. The vast majority are fine individuals bringing support, structure, teaching, and guidance to innumerable lives. If we exclude those who glad-hand for big bucks, or those who use the Church for personal gain, then the bad apples form a tiny minority – just enough to destroy public confidence.

So today I salute the 99%+ of clergy (and non-ordained missionaries) who do a genuine job. I say to all lawmakers: if it looks like a marriage and acts like a marriage then call it a marriage. And to anyone helping to conceal paedophilia: you’re tainted and guilty and should be in prison alongside those you are protecting.

Comments, as always, most welcome.

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