A Hypocritical Church's Sex Lessons


One of the most sexually repressed institutions in human history has been caught with its pants down yet again but still insists on wagging its disapproving finger at the rest of us.

Last week, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange released more than 10,000 pages of letters, handwritten notes and other documents from the personnel files of 15 priests and teachers as part of its $100-million settlement of another in a numbing series of class-action sexual abuse lawsuits against the Catholic Church.

Despite the horrific drumbeat of child molestation revelations, however, sensible Catholics hoping for a more transparent and less sexually repressed church shouldn’t hold their breath. The new pope is not only a longtime leader of vicious church attacks on “evil” gays, he also has shamefully blamed the molestation scandal on the media.

“In the church, priests also are sinners. But I am personally convinced that the constant presence in the press of the sins of Catholic priests, especially in the United States, is a planned campaign, as the percentage of these offenses among priests is not higher than in other categories, and perhaps it is even lower,” said Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — now Pope Benedict XVI — in 2002 when he was the head man of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

There is nothing holy about shooting the messenger.

The leader of the world’s largest religious denomination apparently doesn’t understand the essential truth of the molestation scandal: It was the church’s breathtakingly systematic cover-up over many decades that so horrified followers and outsiders alike.

And so on.

This is all especially outrageous considering that the openly gay community has offered a model of honest and socially accountable behavior, while the Catholic Church — secretive and unaccountable — has provided exactly the opposite. In fact, the church’s history of sexual abuse by “celibate” priests and nuns makes the case that the repression of natural impulses leads to, rather than discourages, sexual abuse. Is it too much to ask that a religious institution sporting such an abysmal record in dealing with these matters stop dictating the bedroom behavior of its millions of followers?

Sadly, it probably is. The church will continue to face eruptions of sexual scandal because of its renewed insistence on a sanctimonious medieval morality ignoring the main lesson of this sorry affair: Sex is natural, becoming ugly and exploitive only when denied healthy outlets.

For our civil society, the message is even more compelling: Yes to the life decisions of responsible adults, gay or heterosexual; no to the sexual dictates of a church that cannot be trusted to monitor its own behavior.

That sounds much too reasonable.