There Are Problems With The Catholic Priesthood, But Agenda-Driven Claims Aren’t The Solution

A rebuttal to the logically fallacious argument made by The Federalist’s Maureen Mullarkey

“person wearing white cap looking down under cloudy sky during daytime” by Nacho Arteaga on Unsplash

Following the revelation of further child abuse from the Catholic Church, many of the faithful experienced a wide range of emotions and are currently struggling to come to terms with the scandal. Some have held firm in the need for direct action while others have been simply destructive to the cause.

A clear example of the latter is the recent article published in the Federalist, titled Pedophilia Isn’t The Main Problem With Catholic Priests, Homosexuality Is. The article’s author, Federalist art critic Maureen Mullarkey, sends a message that is both false and harmful.

Mullarkey’s argument is rooted in the false conclusion that pederasty, a sexual relationship between older men and boys, is “endemic” to homosexuality. As a result, for Mullarkey, calling it pedophilia seems to be ignoring the true problem: homosexuality’s impact on the priesthood.

“With few exceptions, sexual abuse by priests has been visited overwhelmingly upon pubescent boys, and young men, most often teenagers. This is pederasty, not pedophilia. And pederasty is endemic to gay culture.”

It is worth pausing here to consider this key component to her argument. Let’s begin by defining the two terms at the core of Mullarkey’s point: pedophilia and pederasty. The first, simply, is the sexual desire for children. Pederasty refers to sexual aspirations between a man and a boy. To make clear the obvious point, pederasty is a subset of pedophilia. That is, when an adult male figure (a priest, in this case) takes part in sexual acts with a boy, he is both a pedophile and a pederast. To suggest otherwise would be to reject the meaning of the words themselves.

Although there is a minor distinction between the two — that being, pedophilia could be an adult’s sexual desires towards a male or female child, while pederasty is strictly between an adult male and a male child or adolescent — pederasty is still pedophilia. The pederast may, in fact, be homosexual, but making the claim that pederasty is a symptom of homosexuality is as intellectually obtuse as suggesting that pedophilia is a symptom of heterosexuality.

It seems clear that Mullarkey’s argument is driven by dogma rather than science.

After all, Mullarkey not only laments the removal of homosexuality from the list of sexual disorders in 1973 by the American Psychological Association but seemingly also the loss of “inhibiting” sanctions against homosexuals in centuries past:

“Moreover, sanctions were inhibiting. Outside rarefied court culture — and such elite precincts as the Platonic Academy of Renaissance Florence — consequences were severe. (Our word faggot evokes the kindling used to burn heretics or embroidered onto a miscreant’s clothing as a badge of infamy.) Forces of disapproval were powerful agents of deflection and redirection, or sublimation, as we like to say today. Virtues were forged in the furnace of interiorized prohibitions.

Those constraints are gone, the brakes shot. They have been psychologized and conjured out of existence. Western man lived between God and Satan until relatively recent times.”

It seems strange to make note, in a clearly pejorative tone, the loss of these barbaric practices. Her evergreen symposium of stagnant scientific conclusions seems bizarre in many ways, first of which is the strenuousness it takes to construct. Why would we want to uphold the ways in which humanity considered homosexuality during the time just before the Reformation, or even in the early 20th century?

If you don’t believe her dedication to positional historical memory, consider her account of the AIDS epidemic:

“A rhetorical smokescreen has been up since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic … In the early ’80s, the first move was a name change. GRID was changed to AIDS, or “Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.” A spreading lethal disease was dissociated from its cause, from specific sexual practices peculiar to a limited population.

Referring to AIDS as such was not a form of secularizing or political correctness, but a response to scientific discovery which showed that homosexual men were not the only people at risk. Additionally, AIDS and GRID were both used interchangeably as early as the 1982 New York Times article describing the disease making her argument of a name change moot.

This firm fundamentalism that Mullarkey’s words maintain beam light onto the apparent ineffectual relationship she has with nuanced, rational thinking. In her view, science seems to serve as a tool to reaffirm her worldview — never as one to initiate adjustment.

Mullarkey’s blame crusade against homosexuality goes deeper than the Church’s sex abuse crisis. More severely, she suggests that homosexuality is one of the “ambitions destructive of the Judeo-Christian ethos on which we depend” and that clergy must have the “grit” to call out the cause of the Church’s troubles.

Her willingness to wage a war on an entire subset of the population to avoid criticizing the quality of structure, practice, and teachings within the Catholic Church reflects the pitfall of orthodox religiosity.

A true cure for the woes facing the Catholic Church can only be founded in truth, not in prejudice or blaming games that avoid uncomfortable issues that have allowed for these evil practices to take place within the priesthood and the Church at large.

Interestingly enough, Mullarkey invokes the musings of the scholar and theologian Romano Guardini to further illustrate the need to remain stout in stagnant faith. However, Guardini was a man of faith and reason — a scholar who outlined the importance of human dignity through works such as The End of the Modern World, so much so that it was the standard by which he judged an epoch.

“Truth is power, but only when one has patience and requires of it no immediate effect. And one must have no specific aims. Somehow, lack of an agenda is the greatest power. Sometimes it is better not to think in terms of plans; here months may mean nothing, and also years. Truth must be sought for its own sake, its holy, divine greatness.”

This is the advice Guardini parsed out. I hope Mullarkey and all Catholics have the patience and desire to take it.

Anthony DiMauro is contributing and podcast editor for The Corridor and writer at BoldTV. He lives in New York City.

Anthony DiMauro is a freelance writer in New York City. J.D. Candidate. NYU philosophy alum. You can follow him on Twitter @AnthonyMDiMauro