From Damian Thompson at the UK Spectator. The reader who passed it on remarked: typically glib and gossipy piece from Damien Thompson in the spectator. contains enough sweeping generalisations to carpet vatican city.
For the time being, therefore, you can believe what you want to believe. Left-leaning media outlets such as the New York Times and the BBC, which have so far been starved of evidence that Pope Benedict is a wicked reactionary, are quite certain — one might almost say optimistic — that a total ban is in the works. For them, the story presents a stark contrast between the tolerance of ordinary Western Catholics and the anti-gay bigotry of the Vatican. To which one can only reply that their Rome correspondents must have been wandering around with their eyes closed, shutting out the sight of ‘conservative’ curial officials sashaying through Bernini’s colonnades in Gammarelli’s latest figure-hugging soutane.
In addition to being Europe’s smallest state, the Vatican also boasts the highest proportion of homosexuals per square foot. To be sure, they are overwhelmingly chaste, but that is precisely the point. A blanket ban on homosexuals would mean that the Church would be saying to some of its most senior and obedient prelates: if you were to present yourself for ordination today, you would be told to go away and become a social worker or something. To put it another way, if the ban were retroactive, many of those Catholics who have been agitating for it would have to sit back and watch their favourite traditionalist cardinals resign their orders. So this is not a simple issue of Left versus Right. There are plenty of homophobes among the older generation of ‘progressives’: only the other day I heard a leader of the quasi-Marxist pressure group Pax Christi compare homosexuality to bestiality. And there are ritualist Catholic churches all over the Western world whose priests are mostly celibate homosexuals (though they have not necessarily been so in the past). Again, unless you are exceptionally naive, you would have to close your eyes — and block your ears — not to realise this.
Second, the epicentre of clerical abuse is in Africa, not Europe or America, and it involves young women. If the Church wants to root out misbehaviour, it might start with the East African teachers’ training college where dirt-poor girl students routinely sell their bodies to (by local standards) well-off seminarians. But it won’t, because Third World vocations are regarded as a gift of the Almighty, and many African priests are allowed to do pretty much what they like, including entering into polygamous ‘tribal marriages’.
It goes without saying that any formal exclusion of celibate gay seminarians will shock liberal public opinion; but, for once, the shock will be justified. An automatic ban of this sort is built on the assumption that bishops and seminary rectors lack the God-given power of discernment, and that gay seminarians and priests will be unable to observe their vows of celibacy; in other words, it is predicated on a pretty comprehensive failure of the power of the Holy Spirit. If enforced, it will deprive a struggling Church of the ministry of future priests, bishops, cardinals, popes and saints, while leaving untouched the predatory womanisers of the developing world. Genuine paedophiles, meanwhile, will regard it as just another obstacle to be tiptoed round on their way to little Johnny’s bedroom.