Father, Forgive Them

And one more question. How long will it be before a New York Times columnist condemns Buddhist monks as “twisted?” Last time I checked, the Dalai Llama was not married.

But I should give Tierney a chance, because he exhibits an interest in accuracy. In his column of March 22 he corrects some of his earlier statements. He has been in touch with (non-Catholic) Dr. Philip Jenkins, who explains that most incidents of so-called “child abuse” are not cases of pedophilia (sex with the pre-pubescent) but of ephebophilia, or sex with sexually mature minors. This comes two days after Dowd’s column in which she said that the Catholic Church was “subsidizing pedophilia.” Perhaps she will issue a correction and claim that the Church is “subsidizing ephebophilia?” Tierney is honest enough to quote Dr. Jenkins: “The experience of the Catholic Church suggests there will be problems if you send gay scoutmasters on camping trips with teenage boys.” Now we have a problem. When the Boy Scouts of America made it clear that they were going to retain their “no gay scoutmasters” policy, the New York Times censured them severely. Will the New York Times now reverse its editorial position? Will its editors say, “The Boy Scouts are absolutely right not to accept gay scoutmasters. What were we, nuts? The Times regrets the error.” Don’t hold your breath.

Speaking of holding your breath. The New York Times Book Review of March 17 offers a full-page review of a new novel called At Swim, Two Boys. The reviewer, Michael Pye, enthusiastically recommends this story of two Irish boys of about 16 who, in 1916, discover their homosexual love for each other with the assistance of a “mentor,” a grown man who had to leave England because of his own homosexual liaisons. Of this menage Pye observes, “The triangulation of love is exactly true to the making of gay families, to their heady muddle of protectiveness and lust, but it also gives us a close, adult view of what the boys are living.”

Heady muddle, indeed. Pye also assures the concerned parents among us that the author does a good job handling “the ticklish business of celebrating under-age lovers and a grown man’s entanglement with them both.” The Times reviewer leaves us with a compelling summation. “A dangerous, glorious book: the kind that is likely to make absolutely anyone cry and laugh in public places.”

At this point I have some questions. Would John Tierney characterize the events of this novel as “ephebophilia?” Will Maureen Dowd read this book and be outraged? Are “gay families” exempted from the condemnation she leveled against other all-male groupings such as the Catholic priesthood, the Taliban, and the boy’s club running Enron?

Everyone seems to agree that more psychological screening of candidates for the priesthood is a good idea. But since we now know that most cases of so-called “child abuse” or “pedophilia” are actually cases of ephebophilia perpetrated by homosexual men, what do we ask the psychologists to look for, since the psychiatric profession no longer counts homosexuality as a disorder?

And one more question. Having read my account of visits to the drugstore, supermarket, and public library, do you accept or reject the theory that American culture is characterized by pansexualism and libertinism?

Thursday evening. During the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the priest removes his beautiful white chasuble, kneels down, and washes the feet of 12 men in the congregation. First commandment: Wash each other’s feet. Then he receives the offerings of bread and wine and repeats the words of Jesus that make these offerings into the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ. Second commandment: Do this in memory of me. Tomorrow is Good Friday, and there will be no Mass. After all have received Holy Communion, the Eucharist is gathered together, then carried slowly through the Church in solemn procession, then laid to rest in a bronze box called a tabernacle. The priests and deacons kneel before the tabernacle, one priest incenses the Sacrament, and the tabernacle door is closed. Many parishioners will stay behind after the end of Mass, praying before the tabernacle until Thursday ends. On Good Friday, they will enter the church to find the tabernacle empty, the doors left open to emphasize the absence of the Bread of Life. After Mass, the priest and deacons retire to the sacristy to remove our vestments. Before I can get my chasuble off, one of the deacons, who is 20 years my senior, hugs me and says, “Thank you for being a priest. Without our priests we would not have the Bread of Life.”

He is a good man, and has said a good thing, and it is a good feeling. I doubt that anyone like him has ever said anything like that to an Afghan warlord, a member of the Taliban, or an Enron executive. I am ready for Good Friday now.

Wait—I almost forgot to mention page B4 of the New York Times of March 18. It seems a well-loved priest, pastor of a parish in Brooklyn, has been accused of having sexually abused a young man who—get ready—is now a priest himself. The headline says that the accused priest “denies old claim of abuse.” But for me, the real story is the accompanying photo. It shows eight teenage boys, three black and five white, blocking the entrance to the church, preventing any reporter or photographer from entering. The story says, “In one incident, the group and several adults surrounded a New York Times photographer’s car, banging on the windows and threatening to get a baseball bat if he did not leave.” At this point I have just one more question. Should I move to Brooklyn?

Fr. Thomas Buffer has a doctorate in theology from the Gregorian University in Rome and teaches at a seminary in Columbus, Ohio.


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