April 03, 2009

The pink cassock

Cherry ChurchPractical Ethics: Ecclesiastical gaydar: should churches be allowed to discriminate priests? - I blog about the latest instance of Catholic backwardness.

As a libertarian I must tolerate that various institutions discriminate, it is actually often within their rights. That doesn't mean they are right or that we should keep silent about it. But if we allow people to believe pieces of bread to be (for strange meanings of "be") divine or that performing certain rituals will purify or sully you in ways that cannot be detected yet are supremely important, then it is not stranger to think that arbitrary properties like gender, sexual orientation or being of a certain height could be highly relevant for one's ability to be a priest.

However, it is very likely that the "testing" of suitability is going to be inaccurate and prejudiced, and this is something the Vatican is unlikely to want (of course, if they had real faith they could use any method - dice, tea-leaves or polygraphs included - and expect Providence to ensure the right outcome).

A curious aspect is that as far as I know the church thinks homosexuality is a choice. So while it might be reasonable to tell would-be priests that it is doctrinally incompatible, it would not make much sense to test for it. And how to prevent priests from changing their choice once they are appointed?

The anti-gay stance is largely a response to the abuse cases that has shook the church (they tend to mix up paedophilia with homosexuality). But even here they seem to mess up their signal detection theory. Unless the majority of priests are gay, or that gay priests are extremely likely to molest congregation members, most molestation is going to be done by non-gay priests. It might not cause equal uproar, but it has a long historical tradition (In Swedish there is even an old word for a bastard child of a (catholic) priest, "prästkläpp"). As a caveat, this report (pdf) does seem to imply that more homosexual abuse takes place; however, a reporting bias could well be causing it. In any case, what would make much more sense than any attempts to determine sexual orientation of candidates would be to attempt to determine their "sexual predatoriness". But given past experience it seems unlikely: surface symbolism is more important.

Posted by Anders3 at April 3, 2009 11:29 PM