BUCKLEY FOR GAY SEX?

How else to interpret the following passage from William F. Buckley’s latest piece in National Review? Here it is:

A commitment to First Amendment rights requires the protection of religious freedom, and the Catholic Church, while not condemning the man or woman who has homosexual inclinations, does condemn the practice of homosexual sex. This inevitably gives rise to a level of prejudice that the Catholics have to come to terms with. If all Catholic homosexuals are expected to be celibate, then the Church is in effect imposing on the entire Catholic homosexual community standards of behavior reasonably demanded only of priests who take voluntary vows.

Buckley is intellectually honest and personally unimpeachable. His prose can be hard to understand at times (and there’s a chance, reading this piece, that he means something different). But he surely makes a good point. The church tells us gay Catholics that it’s not our fault we’re gay, but we should be completely chaste and without any physical or emotional intimacy, even if, unlike priests, we have no higher vocation to make sense of it all. Got that? A life utterly without real intimacy – as a Christian vocation. In practice, I know of no priests who can tell real, breathing gay men that this is a feasible way to live without going nuts or turning into the kind of twisted neurotic that turns out to be typical of some gay priests. Anyway, thanks, Bill, for at least a modicum of compassion and an attempt to see things from the uniquely difficult position of the gay Catholic. Such honest empathy is a sign of a civilized and decent soul.

SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE: “These people are for the most part rip-off artists. Notice that they’re all gas and oil men from Cheney, to the two Bushes; I think Rumsfeld also. And what this is really about is oil, and it’s Central Asian oil, which is what we’ve got our eye on. We do have practical motives every now and then. It’s not just for the sheer glory that we get into a war like the Afghanistan. Afghanistan is the entranceway to Central Asia and five republics that used to belong to the Soviet Union that are now the largest suppliers of gas, natural gas, and oil. He who gets his hands on that will really control the world for a while… As long as it’s somebody else being killed, they don’t mind that as much as if they might be put at risk. But when we gave up the draft after Vietnam, and it’s-it’s a mercenary army, basically, and one of the conditions is, no member of Air Force, Army, Navy, is to be hurt. [Laughter] And this is difficult to do, but one result is the Air Force planes fly at 35,000 feet…. Where you can’t see anything. That’s why orphanages and schools are the targets whereas the military supply centers might not be so easy to get at. It’s a weird world. A mercenary army that is not to be hurt, blowing up innocent countries, relatively innocent, like Afghanistan. But we do it.” – Gore Vidal, as quoted on Brink Lindsey’s blog.

IN A BOX – FOR NOW: I was walking the beagle today up 16th Street when an emaciated little beagle with distended teats (nipples?) limped towards us from the other side of the road. She nearly got run over. A woman chased her down, while I looked for an owner. None in sight. The woman, who lives in a nearby building, said the dog had been loose for days, and she’d been feeding it a little and had de-loused it. Perhaps, the dog had produced the required puppies and been abandoned. What to do? I couldn’t leave the little thing there, so I brought her home. I gave her a bath, offered her food (which she politely declined) and tucked her into a box with some blankets. Now what? So far, Dusty hasn’t minded. But I’m not sure I can take on another dog right now. Do I give her to the pound where she’ll almost certainly be euthanized? Do I put up posters for possible owners? I’ll take her to the vet tomorrow for a check up and see what they say. But if you live in DC and have lost a beagle, let me know. If you want to adopt one, ditto.

MACIEL AND NEUHAUS: I should have known that Richard John Neuhaus, who has been leading the charge for equating homosexuality with the abuse of minors, might find some accused child molesters worth defending. Here’s his essay – written earlier this year – dismissing all of the serious charges against Father Maciel, the influential conservative cleric now credibly accused by many men of molesting them in the past. Neuhaus, a close theological ally of Maciel and Ratzinger, circles the wagons. The allegation of abuse against Maciel, according to Neuhas, is “both repugnant and implausible. There is something to be said for consigning it to the trash bin and forgetting about it.” Thus speaks the voice of the current hierarchy. How dare anybody, let alone people who might once have been victimized, raise their voices against someone so eminent? At least, that’s Neuhaus’s attitude: “You don’t want to know the specifics of the charges, although Berry/Renner go into salacious detail about rude things allegedly done with young men, things that have become all too familiar from sex abuse stories of recent decades.” Neuhaus doesn’t factually rebut the charges – except to say that one out of nine alleged victims subsequently recanted their tale (that leaves eight former Legionaires of Christ, Maciel’s order, sticking to their guns). Such issues of evidence are not as important as issues of authority:

It counts as evidence that Fr. Maciel unqualifiedly and totally denies the charges. It counts as evidence that priests in the Legion whom I know very well and who, over many years, have a detailed knowledge of Fr. Maciel and the Legion say that the charges are diametrically opposed to everything they know for certain. It counts as evidence that Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger and others who have looked into the matter say that the charges are completely without merit. It counts as evidence that Pope John Paul II, who almost certainly is aware of the charges, has strongly, consistently, and publicly praised Fr. Maciel and the Legion. Much of what we know we take on trust. I trust these people.

The trouble is, from what we now know, trust is not enough. People (including Neuhaus) used to trust Cardinal Law. We now know that trust was misplaced. False accusations are still possible, of course. But in the current atmosphere – with eight former members of his order making the allegations – it seems to me that dismissing these serious allegations simply because of Maciel’s high-powered conservative friends and allies doesn’t pass the sniff test. Not even close. Or are the theocons only interested in investigating abuse cases when the priests involved might be liberals?

DEMOCRATS AND TAXES: A pretty devastating account of the state of the opposition on the tax question from TNR’s always-valuable Michael Crowley.

SILVER LINING WATCH: Nick Lemann, in an insipid New Yorker profile of John Edwards, seems to think that a millionaire trial lawyer is the kind of populist the country now wants. No, I’m not making that up. (Alas, it’s not online.) In fact, Edwards isn’t simply running as a populist trial lawyer. He’s almost entirely funded by them. Take it away, Wally Olson!

WHAT AMERICAN CATHOLICS THINK: We’ve long known that American Catholics were more liberal than most other Americans, but the discrepancy is really quite striking. Newsweek’s poll this week finds the following: 59 percent think screening out gays from the priesthood would not make much difference in curtailing abuse; 44 percent back legal same-sex marriage, compared to only about a third of the general population; 51 percent would have no problem with an openly gay priest; 73 percent favor married clergy; 65 percent favor women priests. Many more Catholics would be happy with a gay priest in a committed relationship than non-Catholics. This is the gulf the current hierarchy is struggling to bridge. No, the church is not a democracy, and shouldn’t be. But when it reaches this level of cognitive dissonance between official doctrine and actual belief, you’ve got a real problem.