Of sexual immorality and impurity, St. Paul says, “Let them be not so much as named among you” (Eph. 5:3). He further counsels that we think on those things that are noble, pure, lovely, and admirable (Phil. 4:8); but there comes a time to look into the Abyss and call it by name.
The specific act of male homosexuality is repeatedly described in Scripture as abomination (Leviticus 18:22, Ezekiel 16:50, 1 Kings 14:24), and the town that gave the act its name was cataclysmically eradicated (Genesis 19:24). Now, a priest should be virile—must be virile—and the vocational rejection of matrimony is a lifelong sacrifice for men of God. It’s hard not to sympathize with those who might stumble at the alluring beauty of Eve, like the frailly saintly “whiskey priest” of Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory. But the Horrible Question remains to be asked: why are the current scandals of abuse so overwhelmingly skewed toward sodomy?
This is not a minor issue. When did we last hear an outcry over some lonely cleric taking a mistress or engaging the service of a prostitute? Granted that a soul-shaped sinkhole like McCarrick would have greater power and proximity with seminarians than with, say, conventual postulants; but there’s a preponderance of deviancy among these grotesque predators that goes far beyond anything explicable by mere convenience. According to Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons of the Catholic Medical Association, cases of pastoral abuse are a flabbergasting 80% same-sex.
I would argue that the key lies in the word “abomination.” A rather large number of practices merit this rebuke in the Bible, notably including cult prostitution (by either gender), human sacrifice, and idolatry; a list in Proverbs 6 of traits abominable to the Lord, such as haughty eyes and a lying tongue; even transvestitism dates back far enough to be canonically abominated (Deut. 22:5). The word is our translation of the Hebrew toevah, which apparently occurs over 100 times in the Old Testament, even for the seemingly non-moral act of eating shellfish (Lev. 11:10). It begins to remind one of Godwin’s Law regarding internet debate (inevitably, someone will compare you to Hitler), and thus of Gresham’s Law regarding a flooded economy (bad money drives out good). Does the word retain any value at this point?
Well, let’s ask the holy visionary Daniel. When he utters the terrifying phrase, “the abomination of desolation” (Daniel 9:27), he uses the word siqqus rather than toevah: a variant that is used only in reference to idolatry. Daniel was speaking of the Greek despot Antiochus IV, who forcibly replaced Hebrew worship with heathen practices in the very heart of the Temple. But the prophet’s phrase is quoted by Jesus Himself (Matthew 24:15), warning us of the coming End of Days—and He goes on to catalogue the signs of His imminent return, along with the blood-chilling remark that if those days were not shortened, “no one would be saved” (Matt. 24:22). And it all begins with the enthronement of blasphemy in the holy place.
Two points must be made clear. First, the sin of Sodom is, in plain irreducible fact, an offense against Creator and Creation. Even to a pure atheist, it cannot be “natural,” because every species naturally seeks to reproduce itself. It is one of only four acts named by the Church as “sins crying to Heaven for vengeance.” It is, quite simply, an abomination. Secondly, we have to remember that, in that holiest of moments, when the priest holds aloft the Host and says with Him, “Hoc est corpus meum,” that priest is indeed present at the very Foot of the Cross, participating in the single supreme Sacrifice which is once and for all (Hebrews 10:10). Every chalice is the Holy Grail. In short, any Catholic altar anywhere, however humble, is truly “the holy place.” Thus:
Every sodomite priest fulfills the prophecy of the Antichrist.
An objector might say that by this logic, the same would be true of a priest who ate shellfish. I reply that those who hold Love Himself in their hands and then put those hands upon trusting boys are guilty not only of toevah but of siqqus (idolatry), for a plotter of such filth is absolutely in league with Damnation. He may well think himself a clandestine pagan or even a secret nihilist, but somewhere in his decomposing soul, however tacitly, he is a worshiper and slave of the Apocalyptic false messiah. That is precisely why his lust will manifest not as an ordinary desire for attractive women, but a sickening perversion against the innocent. In other words, he becomes a molester because he is already an idolater: perversion flows from blasphemy.
I grew up in the ’80s, when perhaps some of the most egregious excesses of post-Vatican II delirium were beginning to cool; but I still hear accounts of priests who substituted prayers to “Earth-Mother” and “Star-Spirit” for the words of the Sacred Mass, or used such sacramental material as brownies and potato chips as an ersatz host. It makes perfect sense that it was quite soon after the heyday of these pagan practices that we began hearing whispers of priestly abuse. G.K. Chesterton spoke several times about the noble pagans of the past, who reached the greatest heights that mere humanity could attain—but he also demonstrated resoundingly that, ever since the time of the Incarnation, it has been impossible for any form of paganism to remain free of insidious corruption. “What they sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils” (1 Cor. 10:20). It was in the ’80s that mainstream culture became volubly obsessed with saving the environment—which, like every heresy, is a pursuit founded on a real and valuable truth, rigorously sequestered from all other truths. This sort of neo-Pantheistic “tree-hugging” seems fairly innocuous, until one remembers which individual is described by Scripture as king of the earth (2 Cor. 4:4) and lord of the air (Eph. 2:2). This world is not our home.
Clearly, the roots of our present bedlam go back at least a few generations, and have had copious time to wind themselves around the ventricles of today’s Church. Pope Benedict, from what we’ve been given to understand, toiled as best he could to uproot them, but just wasn’t equal to the fight. It is not heartening to see his successor honoring the Earth-Mother Pachamama. It’s not encouraging to hear him almost literally say he’ll tackle the abuse scandal when he’s done fretting about the ozone layer. And it does not inspire confidence to hear rumors that he is now working to suppress the triumphant resurgence of the Latin Mass. But at this point, I think our post-Christian pontiff is more of a symptom than a cause.
The answer to the Horrible Question is: predator priests are so often sodomites because they are so rarely men. They’re liars, cowards, hypocrites—haunted sepulchers, damned spirits in shepherd’s clothing. Of course they can’t make love. They can only defile, betray, corrupt. They are animated by anti-life, anti-nature, anti-God. Natural sex, even outside of matrimony, is at least a facsimile of the Creator’s love that makes fruitful the earth. But these molesters make barren the fields where Christ has sowed. They desiccate the harvest and they desecrate the altar. They are the Abomination of Desolation.
J.B. Toner studied Literature at Thomas More College; He has contributed to First Things, Dappled Things, National Catholic Register, The Remnant, The Wanderer, Catholic Lane, America Magazine, and numerous secular venues.