A Post-Script to Yesterday's Post

Last night, reports surfaced that the shooter in Orlando had patronized the club several times prior to the shooting, and had an account on at least one dating app for gay men.  Some suggested that this represented a long-running "scouting" operation, where the shooter wanted to get intelligence prior to committing his massacre.  However, if the reports are true, I think it is far, far more likely that the shooter was gay or bisexual, deep in the closet, and deeply conflicted about his sexual orientation.

It is becoming almost an iron law of history--the most vocally and demonstrably anti-gay zealots often turn out to be closeted gay men who channel their confusion and fear into lashing out against those who are willing to accept who they are.  We have example after example, from George Alan Rekers, to Larry Craig, to Ted Haggard, to dozens more.  We are coming to the point where when we hear some public figure foam at the mouth about the "gay agenda," we can start the clock that will tick down to the day when we find out that he is in fact gay himself.  What once may have been seen as a schoolyard taunt ("you say I'm gay?  I know you are but what am I?") has turned into an impossible to ignore empirical fact.

We should also acknowledge another fact--the largest closet in the world is the Catholic priesthood.  I can speak only based on my personal experience, but I think the percentage of Catholic priests (at least in North America) who are gay men is at least 50%.  Many of these are good, dedicated, loving men who are trying to find a way to serve God and God's people.  But many of them are also deeply psychologically scarred.  As I mentioned before, for a very long time I thought their brokenness was a function of being gay, which somewhat reinforced the line that homosexuality is "intrinsically disordered."  But I see little of this brokenness in the open and out LGBT people I know, especially those that are in loving, supportive relationships, both romantic and otherwise.  Or, at least, I see no more brokenness in them than in see in the median straight person, whereas the scarring among the gay men in the priesthood I know is orders of magnitude more.

And these are the better ones.  There are also many priests who fit squarely in the Ted Haggard/George Alan Rekers camp.  It is generally known in internal priest circles that many of the "big names" on the conservative side are gay, up to and including many assertions that former Pope Benedict is gay.  But to me the ultimate example of this phenomenon is Monsignor Tony Anatrella, who became the Vatican's go-to expert on all things gay.  This is a man who loudly proclaimed that homosexuality was a kind of narcissism, that the sex abuse crisis was the fault of "the gays," and that he could counsel people into "overcoming" their sexuality.  Well, surprise, surprise--that "counseling" consisted of trying to have sex with them.  Think of the damage he did to LGBT Catholics--first telling them that they were broken, then offering them hope they could be fixed, and finally exploiting them for sex.

We can argue back and forth about the theology of homosexuality, or the half-dozen Biblical passages that arguably speak to the issue, until we are blue in the face.  But far more important to me is the fact that we have what I believe to be overwhelming evidence that the traditional position on LGBT issues, and the corresponding closet it inevitably creates, is empirically harmful to the well-being of LGBT people.  Advocates point out how harmful these positions are when they cause LGBT people to be ostracized from family, friends, and church, and they are right to do so.  But it may be even more harmful to the people who internalize these messages and try to live in a manner consistent with them.  I see the harm it is doing to friends of mine.  I can hear the hurt in their voices.  It breaks my heart.

And it makes me wonder about my responsibility to them.  I cannot tell them what to do, as they have to walk their own path.  But there are times when I feel complicit in their, frankly, self-abuse, insofar as I am part of an institution that mandates that they walk this particular path.  I am not so egocentric to believe that I can single-handedly change the theology of the Catholic Church, but I could choose to no longer be a part of something that I believe is affirmatively doing harm to people.  And because I can, I wonder if I should, or even if I must.

To be clear, I don't think that simply because you have internalized the idea that homosexual behavior is a sin you will inevitably mow down 50 people in a gay bar.  Mateen was clearly a highly disturbed individual on a number of dimensions, and was influenced by several different inputs.  But if he came to hate himself for being gay, and that self-hatred contributed to his decision to lash out at the patrons of that club in Orlando, then that is the same dynamic I have observed in connection with the Catholic Church and Catholic priests.  The magnitude is certainly far less than in Mateen's case, but the underlying dynamic seems to be the same.

I am genuinely conflicted about these things.  I don't have a clear answer in my own mind, and I am not sure what I should do.  Right now, mostly what I do is pray for those who are struggling, far more than I will ever know.


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