The Elephant in the Bath-House

Mary Eberstadt’s Weekly Standard article
The Elephant in the Sacristy
shines a strong light on facts that
will discomfit many of the politically correct. I don’t completely
agree with her analysis; as Amy Welborn argues, Ms. Eberstadt is too quick to dismiss the role of the
doctrine of celibacy in creating an ingrown, perfervid, and corrupt sexual
culture among priests, and too easy on the culture of secrecy and denial
within which priestly abuse flourished.

I would go further than Ms. Eberstadt or Ms. Welborn; I think this
scandal is grounded in the essentials of Catholic doctrines about sex,
sin, guilt, and authority. This is not an accidental corruption of
the church, any more than Stalin was an accidental corruption of
Communism. Bad moral ideas have consequences, and those consequences
can be seen most clearly in the human monsters who are both created by
those ideas and exploiters of them. There is a causal chain that
connects loathsome creatures like the “Reverend” Paul Shanley directly
back to the authoritarianism and anti-sexuality of St. Augustine; a
chain well-analyzed by psychologists such as Stanley Milgram and
Wilhelm Reich. I suggest that any religion that makes obedience to
authority a primary virtue and pathologizes sex will produce abuses
like these as surely as rot breeds maggots.

One need not, however, attack the essentials of Catholic doctrine
to agree with Ms. Eberstadt’s main point: that the dominant media
culture seems bent on obscuring a central fact about the pattern of
crimes — which is that they are predominently homosexual abuse by
priests with a history of homosexual activity. Cases of priestly abuse
of females of any age are rare (though at least one horrifying tale of
multiple priests cooperating in the abuse of a teenage girl has
surfaced from California). The overwhelming majority of the cases
involve either pederasty (homosexual acts with post-pubescent boys and
young men) or homosexual pedophilia with pre-pubescent boys as young
as six years old. Yet you would be hard-put to deduce this from most
of the vague accounts in the U.S. media, which traffic in terms that
seem designed to obscure the gender and age of the victims and the
homosexual orientation of almost all the abusers. Why is that?

Apparently, because one of the rules of the U.S.’s dominant media
culture is that Homosexuals Are Not To Be Stigmatized (I think it’s
carved in stone right next to “Environmentalists are Saints” and “Gun
Owners are Redneck Nut-Jobs”). Gay conservative Andrew Sullivan
famously noted this rule in connection with the Jesse Dirkhising
. We are not supposed to think of either Jesse’s murderers
or abusive priests as homosexuals; that might reflect badly on a
journalistically-protected class by associating it with criminal

But more than that; the truth the dominant media culture really
doesn’t want to go near is that pederasty has never been a marked or
unusual behavior among homosexuals, and even advocates of outright
pedophilia are not shunned in the homosexual-activist community.

The public spin of gay activist groups like Queer Nation is that
most male homosexual behavior is androphilia, adult-to-adult
sex between people of comparable ages. And indeed, gay historians agree with
anthropologists that in the modern West, androphilia is more common
relative to pederasty and homosexual pedophilia than has been
historically normal. But another way of putting this is that in most
other cultures and times, pederasty and pedophilia have been more
common forms of homosexuality than androphilia.

Pederasty, at least, remains a common behavior among modern
homosexuals. The `twink’ or compliant teenage boy (usually blond,
usually muscled, depicted in the first dewy flush of postpubescence)
is the standard fantasy object of gay porn. By contrast, I learned
from recent
that the archetypal fantasy object of straight porn is a
fully-developed (indeed, usually over-developed) woman in her early
twenties. And a couple of different lines of evidence (including
surveys conducted within the gay population by gays) lead to the
conclusion that older homosexuals actually pursue boys quite a bit
more frequently than either older lesbians or older heterosexual men
pursue girls.

Homosexual activists, when challenged on this point, like to retort
that older men nailing barely-nubile teenage girls is far more
common. And in absolute terms it is — but only because there are
twenty-five to a hundred times more straight men than there are gay
men in the world (reliable figures for the incidence of male
homosexuality range between 1% and 4%). Per capita among gays,
pederasty is more frequent than among straights by a factor of
between three and ten, depending on whose statistics you believe —
and the North American Man-Boy Love Association, actively advocating
pederasty and pedophilia, is welcomed at gay-pride events

If the prevalence of homosexuality in the Catholic priesthood is
the elephant in the sacristy, the homosexuality/pederasty/pedophilia
connection in gay culture is the elephant in the bath-house. No
amount of denying it’s there is going to make the beast go away.

But homosexual activists don’t want straights to see the elephant,
and no wonder. One of the most persistent themes to show up in
hostility towards homosexuals is the fear that they will recruit
impressionable boys who might otherwise have grown up straight. Thus
their insistance for straight consumption that homosexuality is an
inborn orientation, not a choice. Thus also their insistance that the
gay life is all about androphilia, none of that pederasty or
pedophilia stuff going on here. And thus, they’d rather not have
anyone thinking about the fact that most priestly abuse is in fact
classically pederastic and pedophilic behavior by men who behave as
homosexuals and identify themselves as gay.

That there is a pattern in the national media of political
correctness and spin on behalf of preferred `victim’ groups isn’t
news, nor is the fact that homosexuals are among those groups. But
get this: Richard Berke, the Washington editor of the New York
recently said “literally three-quarters of the people
deciding what’s on the front page are not-so-closeted homosexuals”.
There you have it in plain English; gays run the “newspaper of
record”. Berke made these comments before a gay advocacy group — not
merely admitting but outright asserting, as a matter of
pride, that the Times engages in gay-friendly spin
control. And it has already been well established by statistical
content studies that the national media tend to follow where they’re
led by the Times and a handful of other prestige
newspapers, all broadly similar in editorial policy.

The expected next step in this sequence would be for me to start
screaming about the evil of it all and demand that Something Be Done.
If I were a conservative, that’s what I’d do. But in fact it’s not
self-evident that this particular disinformation campaign is worth
anybody’s time to be concerned about, except as yet another example of
wearily predictable bias in the dominant media culture. Whether it is
or not depends upon one’s value judgment about consensual pederasty
and pedophilia.

NAMBLA and its sympathizers in the rest of the gay community think
they’re engaged in a worthy campaign for sexual liberation. If they
are right, then the anti-antigay spin on the priestly-abuse scandal is
arguably analogous to what pro-civil-rights sympathizers in the early
1960s might have done if there had been a long string of incidents of
incidents of black men seducing white women, both parties violating
the miscegenation laws still on the books in many states at that

The pro-spin argument would have run like this: interracial sex is
taboo for no good reason, so soft-pedaling the race of the people involved
as much as possible is a justifiable form of suppressio veri
not outright lying but being economical with the truth. Our readers will
be able to deduce the whole truth if they put in even a little effort, but
be needn’t pave the road for them. By doing this, we will avoid inflaming
racial bigotry and advance the worthy cause of civil rights.

For this analogy to hold good, we need two preconditions. First,
we must believe that almost all the pederasty/pedophilia between
priests and boys has been voluntary. Second, we must believe that
consensual pederasty and pedophilia are not, in fact, harmful to the
boys involved. Intellectual honesty (and, I’ll admit, a low delight
on my part in watching prudes and cultural conservatives turn purple
with indignation) demands that we not dismiss this case without
looking at the evidence.

The modern West condemns pederasty and pedophilia. Our cultural
ancestors did not always do so; among the Athenian Greeks consensual
pederastic relationships were praised and thought to be a good deal
for both parties. Pederasty is socially normal in Afghanistan and
other parts of the Islamic world; pederasty and pedophilia are also
un-tabooed in parts of Southeast Asia and in Japan. Where pederasty
and pedophilia are not taboo, the boys who participate in it
frequently grow up to form normal heterosexual relationships and marry.
In fact, it’s the modern West’s hard separation between straights
who never have sex with other males and gays who
never have sex with females that is anthropologically

Of course, the fact that pederasty and pedophilia have been an
approved practice in other cultures does not automatically mean we
should give them a nod. Cannibalism, slavery and infanticide have
been approved practices too. But the anthropological evidence doesn’t
suggest that boys who have voluntary sex with men automatically turn
into traumatized basket cases; indeed some present-day cultures agree
with the ancient Greeks that such liaisons are good for the maturation
of boys. There are real secondary risks, starting with the fact that
anal sex is a much more effective vector of venereal diseases such as
AIDS than is vaginal sex — but given a cultural context that doesn’t
stigmatize the behavior, clear evidence that consensual pederasty and
pedophilia are intrinsically damaging is remarkably hard to find.

Accordingly, NAMBLA may well be right on one level when they argue
that what matters is not so much which tab A gets put into which slot
B, but whether the behavior was coerced or consensual. According to
this argument, the elephant in the bath-house can be lived with —
might even be a friendly beast — if it’s docile-tempered and won’t
give the tusk to unconsenting parties.

Gay men, or at least the sort of university-educated gay men who
wind up determining what’s on the front page of the New York
and spiking stories like the Dirkhising murder, know
these facts. How surprising would it be if they interpreted most
victims’ charges of abuse as a product of retrospective false
consciousness, implanted in them by a homophobic and gay-oppressing
culture? By suppressing the homosexual identification of most of the
accused priests, gays in the media can protect their own sexual and
political interests while believing — perhaps quite sincerely — that
they are quietly aiding the cause of freedom.

The trouble with this comforting lullaby is that, even if NAMBLA is
right, coercion matters a lot. As Ms. Eberstadt
reports, the pederastically and pedophilically abused often become
broken, dysfunctional people. They show up in disproportionate numbers
in drug and alcohol rehab. They have a high rate of involvement in
violent crime. Worse, they end to become abusers themselves,
perpetuating the damage across generations.

Voltaire once said “In nature there are no rewards or punishments,
only consequences”. Gays experimented with unfettered promiscuity in
the 1970s and got AIDS as a consequence. The mores of gay bath-house
culture turned out to be broken in the way that ultimately matters; a
lot of people died horribly as a result of them.

It may turn out that the consequences of sympathizing with NAMBLA
are almost equally ugly. If a climate of `enlightened’ tolerance for
consensual pederasty and pedophilia tends to increase the rate at
which boys are abused, that is a very serious consequence for which gay
liberationists will not (and should not) soon be forgiven.
The homosexual gatekeepers at the Times may be making
themselves accessories before and after the fact to some truly hideous

And this is where we come back to the priestly-abuse scandal.
Because a theme that keeps recurring in
of the worst abusers is that they were trained in
seminaries that were run by homosexual men and saturated with
gay-liberationist subculture. Reading accounts of students at one
notorious California seminary making a Friday-night ritual of cruising
gay bars, it becomes hard not to wonder if gay culture itself has not
been an important enabler of priestly abuse.

Now it’s time to abandon the catch-all term abuse and speak plainly
the name of the crime: sexual coercion and rape. It is very clear
that pederasts and pedophiles in the priesthood have routinely used
their authority over Catholic boys not merely to seduce them, but to
coerce and rape them. In a few cases the rape has been overt and
physical, but in most cases it has been a subtler and arguably more
damaging rape of the victim’s mind and self.

The single most revolting image I have carried away from the
priestly-abuse scandal is victims’ accounts of priests solemnly
blessing them after sex. That is using the child’s religious feelings
and respect for authority to make him complicit in the abuse. If I
believed in hell, I would wish for the priests who perpetrated this
kind of soul-rape to fry in it for eternity.

And we must call it rape; do otherwise is to suppose that
most of the thousands of known victims wanted to be sodomized. Even
if we discard the victims’ and witnesses’ reports, this is highly
unlikely; there were simply too many victims. Some priests had sex
with hundreds of boys, far too many to fit into the 1-4%
cohort of homosexual orientation in the population they had access to.
And we are not entitled to dismiss the victims’ protests in any case,
not given the corollary evidence that the trauma of abuse reverberated
through the victims’ lives, continuing to damage them years and
decades afterwards. Comforting gay-lib delusions about false
consciousness won’t wash here.

Continuing our civil-rights analogy, the correct parallel would
have been with an epidemic of interracial rape, rather than
cohabitation. Had there in fact been such an epidemic, civil-rights
proponents would have faced the question of whether black men had a
particular propensity to rape white women. The analogous question,
whether homosexual men have a particular propensity to rape boys, is
precisely the one that homosexuals and their sympathizers in the media
don’t want anyone to examine — and precisely the question that the
priestly-abuse scandal demands that we ask.

It’s easy to sympathize with gay activists’ fears that opening this
question will expose them to a firestorm of prejudice from people
who will prejudge the answer out of anti-gay bigotry. But the
pattern of homosexual abuse by the Catholic priesthood has been so
egregious and so longstanding that we need to understand the relative
weight of all the causes that produced it — whether those
causes are specific to Catholicism or more general.

Are gay men biologically or psychologically prone to rape boys at a
level that makes a gay man even without a known history of abuse into
a bad risk around boys? Does queer culture encourage a tendency to
rape in gay men who are put in authority over boys?

Here is where the question becomes practical: were the Boy Scouts
of America so wrong to ban homosexual scoutmasters? And here we are
with a crashing thud back in the realm of present politics. After the
numbing, horrifying, seemingly never-ending stream of foul crimes
revealed in the scandal, even staunch sexual libertarians like your
humble author can no longer honestly dismiss this question simply
because it’s being raised by unpleasant conservatives.

The priestly-abuse scandal forces us to face reality. To the
extent that pederasty, pedophilic impulses, and twink fantasies are
normal among homosexual men, putting one in charge of adolescent boys
may after all be just as bad an idea as waltzing a man with a known
predisposition for alcoholism into a room full of booze. One wouldn’t
have to think homosexuality is evil or a disease to make institutional
rules against this, merely notice that it creates temptations best
avoided for everyone’s sake.

Blogspot comments

Categorized as Culture


  1. one thing you seem to have skipped is that they are all catholic priests as well as gay. Catholicism has a long standing hatred of all sex, especially the gay variety. In order to want to become a priest they are going to have a very powerful urge to be ‘good catholics’, and yet there is also a deep seated biological (look at the studies of homosexuality in animals, and the brain differences noted in sheep indicating it is biological) urge towards gay sex. So you have two very powerful physiological impulses driving in opposite directions. No wonder some physiological damage is going to happen leading to their using there power to get what they need when it becomes overpowering even if it is not consensual.

  2. Surfing around, found your site. Interesting stuff. Glad to see you’re not afraid to think. Might I suggest light letters on a dark background? Also, I’ve found that I can read more of someone’s stuff if he/she uses bigger font, bigger than your microprint for example.

    I’ve read all or most of four of your articles so far, and will read more.

    Along the way, I had specific comments, some pro, some con. I guess my major point would be this: I like your site enough to have read four or five of your articles, though I had to skim a couple of ’em because the print was too small viz. the amount of enjoyment I was receiving from continuing reading.

  3. My dear heavens, ESR. I find it impressive that you waste that much text in attempting to paint homosexuals with as much tar as possible. Your entire piece is essentially arguing by correlation; at no point did you actually cite figures to support the purported mass pedophelia by homosexuals to which you so readily allude. Not to say that pedophelia among homosexuals doesn’t occur; indeed, I’m sure it does — just as it does in essentially every segment of society, both now and in the past (go read your Bible).

    Nutshell? I think you’re a two or three on the Kinsey scale, but pulling the all-too-characteristic right-wing kneejerk shame-faced response to such a possiblity, and, therefore, need to excoriate those wild and crazy homosexuals.

    Bah. I’ve wasted enough cycles; you’re happy in your little corner, and nothing I say or do will ever contribute to you taking a wider worldview than yourself.

  4. >My dear heavens, ESR. I find it impressive that you waste that much text in attempting to paint homosexuals with as much tar as possible

    I find your lack of ability to comprehend plain English even more impressive. I find consensual gay sex aesthetically icky but I don’t have a moral issue with it, so I have neither the need nor the desire to ‘tar’ homosexuals. Gayness is a congenital defect, just like the cerebral palsy I have; it doesn’t make gays bad people any more than my CP makes me a bad person.

    On the other hand, I am not going to avert my eyes from the possibility that like the genetic tendency to alcoholism, gayness is a defect that puts people who have it at significantly higher risk of engaging certain sorts of bad behavior. If you can’t cope with that kind of objectivity, that’s your problem and not mine.

    You are also wildly off the mark in describing me as “right-wing”; I am a radical anarchist and not any flavor of conservative. That misattribution is your knee jerking.

  5. “On the other hand, I am not going to avert my eyes from the possibility that like the genetic tendency to alcoholism, gayness is a defect that puts people who have it at significantly higher risk of engaging certain sorts of bad behavior”

    The evidence of which you haven’t presented (and, I am sorry to tell you, haven’t been produced to these days).

    The fact that you don’t have a moral issue with consensual homosexual acts between adults doesn’t mean you don’t show evidence of hostility to homosexuals in your text, anymore than the fact that I believe Christians should be able to practice their rituals and cults as long as their principles are not enforced on the secular populace doesn’t mean that I don’t have serious intellectual objections to Christianity and similar forms of Platonic moralism, and personal objections to the ways of some such Christians.

    There is literature on sexual preferences of sex offenders against children, including, of course, the priest offenders, and how their preferences relate to, and are distinct from, the sex preferences of men in the general population (amongst whom gay men), and a throughly study of such works is preferable over the reading of a Weekly Standard conservative in order to write on the subject you’re dealing with. I believe knowing the scientific evidence on the matter of sex preferences of different groups of males (see the works produced by Kurt Freund, who for decades tested sexual reactions of gay and straight men, and heterosexual and homosexual pedophiles, to a wide range of stimuli, and found that homosexuals were no more attracted to underage people than heterosexuals, and that only a few of the sex offenders against male children are typical gay men, the majority being fixated pedophiles) should melt the positions expressed in your text, were they not so ingrained in emotional hostility to homosexuals, that you actually spectulate, or perhaps even assume, gay men — “or at least the sort of university-educated gay men who wind up determining what’s on the front page of the New York Times” — conspire to delude poor heterosexuals in tolerance to the point they may accept the divine status of man-boy “relationships.” Doesn’t smell like objectivity to me either.

    Your attitude goes to the point you define what are the sex preferences of gay men by pointing to “twinks” in homosexual pornography; have you heard of Lolitas in heterosexual pornography, or the overuse of Catholic schoolgirl types in hetero-porn productions? Yeah, you have conducted a “research” on the women in heterosexual pornography; but from someone who honestly expresses that “gay sex [is] aesthetically icky”, I doubt a research on homosexual on line erotica is on the way soon.

  6. Um, you do realise that one of the reasons why many of the abuses were against men was probably because it’s a lot easier for the priests to victimise them right? Ever heard of altar girls? (Evidentally the Catholic Church has approved them but they’re still a rarity.) Ever considered that a priest spending time with a boy or young man would be considered ‘helping him grow up to be a good Christian man’ where as a priest spending time with a young woman would raise many eyebrows and many parents would object.

    Ever considered that societal norms of the times, and Christian norms in particular mean that a complaint from a girl (particularly a virginal prepubescent girl) that she was abused would be a lot more likely to get serious attention (albeit a lot less likely then it would be nowadays) and she’d be treated largely as a victim whereas a complaint from a boy or young man, a lot less so and people would be saying it’s probably his fault, blaming him for being gay, saying he’s forever tainted, trying to fix him for being gay, unChristian, affected by the devil etc (and many would know that would happen). Boys and young men of course even nowadays are usually expected to be strong and deal with things themselves whereas the same expectations are often not made of girls and young women (or even older women).

    In fact it wouldn’t surprise me if a priest abusing a young woman would have been kicked out of the priesthood even if the investigation decided that maybe it was partly ‘her fault’ (as may have happened in those days) because he violated his vow of celibacy whereas a priest abusing a young man, well he’s just got a problem that we can fix, since no one is supposed to have ‘homosexual’ sex anyway. (The victim in both cases may be left in the cold, but as anyone analysing the whole sorry affair knows, one of the big problems is many of the abusers were just moved around and allowed to continue to be priests).

    Many of the abusers undoutedly knew that for so many reasons abusing boys was a lot safer and easier then abusing girls and acted accordingly. A 40 year old man (including a priest) abusing a (14 year old post pubescent girl is going to be called a ‘paedophile’ by most yet many people including the Catholic church call a 40 year old man abusing a 14 year old post pubescent boy a ‘ephebophilia’. And can you imagine the outrage if the Catholic church dared to issue many of the statements they are issuing now about the ‘gay priests’ and how they aren’t ‘paedophiles’ because of the ages of their victims?

    Of course sexual abuse against females happened a fair bit too. I don’t know if anyone has ever tried to collect stats, such things are fraught with difficulties anyway. For example, may be the female victims are less likely to be willing to come forward (e.g. they feel they’ve gotten over it because they had better support or maybe they’re more likely to be afraid of how their family will react) may be they’re more likely to have commited suicide or otherwise are no longer able to speak of their experiences.

    But at a guess I would say it’s over 10% which is quite high considering how much easier it was for priests to abuse boys and young men than girls and young women.

    Or do you think the reason why most prisoner sexual abuse involves males only is because most prisoners are ‘homosexual’ too?

  7. An obvious fact is that teenagers, both male and female, are at their sexual prime. They are also “most beautiful” during these years. So why should anyone question their attractiveness to adults? Teenage boys have a quite rational reason to have sex with a priest: they can trust him to treat them with kindness and compassion.

    There may indeed be priests who abuse boys but I would say that there are many more instances where the boys wanted the sex as part of their exploration of the homosexual side of their nature. It is well documented that many teenage boys go through a phase of “homosexual exploration” which does not mean they are homosexuals. But a priest is an excellent person to do this exploration with because he can be trusted and because he is trained to “keep secrets.” ( confessions ).

    I believe there are many men who have had sexual experiences with other men when they were boys, particularly when they were in the teenage years, and have avoided any serious mental, physical or emotional harm from the experience(s). But you won’t likely hear about them because of the stigma and taboos associated with sex between men and boys. There are also some opportunistic men who claim abuse because they know the church will “pay them off” for their silence. Therefore I believe our perception of the issue of “priestly abuse” is skewed and incorrect.

    A much healthier approach to the whole issue would be “what constitutes healthy sexual experience?”
    This is probably a very uncomfortable issue for the Catholic church heirarchy because the teachings they poffer are UNhealthy. Fear, guilt and shame are UNhealthy when it comes to normal sexual experiences. There is a difference between “abusive relationships” and “healthy relationships” which transcends sex, sexual orientation and age differences. Healthy relationships are virtuous. They are honest, loving, kind and compassionate. Abusive relationships, on the other hand, tend to be dishonest, unkind and lacking in love and compassion.

    We should keep our “eye on the ball” and focus on healthy relationships. Then some of the prejudice against homosexuality and/or intergenerational sexual relationships will be seen in a new light.
    Enlightenment, after all, is more about truth than prejudice. The truth is always larger than my opinion, or yours, of what it is. Seeing the larger truth yields a more complete understanding.

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