Tuesday, October 18, 2005
by Wayne Besen
A New York socialite who claims a priest turned him into a sodomite is suing the Catholic Church for $5 million. J. David Enright IV, 51, says Rev. Joseph Romano molested him as a 7-year-old boy at summer camp, and as a result he was unable to live as a suburban heterosexual.
"Romano bent my life," Enright told the New York Post
. "I believe my life would be very different now. I'd probably be married, living in Greenwich, with four children in boarding school. I had a completely straight life in business, socially on Park Avenue and Fifth Avenue. Then there was this other world, which was slinking around Greenwich Village gay bars, finding mates."
This story of self-loathing is horribly wrong on so many levels. But let's first cut Enright some slack, for he is clearly a traumatized victim of child abuse and internalized homophobia. He is spewing nonsense as he tries to make sense of a childhood stripped away by a priest who couldn't keep his clothes on.
However, his frivolous lawsuit must be addressed because it contains damaging assertions that erroneously tie homosexuality to child abuse. At the very heart of his claim is the notion that homosexuals are simply misbehaving heterosexuals who perform deviant acts because they were screwed up as a result of poor parenting or child abuse.
"Ex-gay" leader Richard Cohen best personifies this theory. He claims to have had a flashback of childhood abuse after banging a pillow repeatedly with a tennis racquet to release pent up anger.
"All of a sudden, I saw male genitals coming toward my mouth. I screamed. I felt shocked. I felt horrified." The accused perpetrator was a family friend, Uncle Dave, who allegedly molested him between the ages of 5 and 6. "I cried and the tears flowed for the next few years, as I worked through memories of sexual abuse…I learned that to be close to a man I must give him my body."
The truth is, there is no link between sexual abuse and sexual orientation. The vast majority of child abuse victims grow up to be heterosexual. The myth that abuse leads to homosexuality is kept alive because anti-gay political groups fear losing support if Americans believe that gayness is natural and inborn.
For example, a November 2004 Lake, Snell, Perry and Associates poll shows that 79 percent of people who think homosexuality is inborn support civil unions or marriage equality. Among those who believe sexual orientation is a choice, only 22 percent support civil unions or marriage rights.
If the right wing is to trick Americans into believing homosexuality isn't natural, they must invent an unnatural process by which people become gay. If they can assert a brokenness caused by abuse, this gives them a pretext to justify discrimination. It allows them to essentially say, "homosexuals don't need rights, they need rehabilitation."
What is hurtful about Enright's ludicrous lawsuit is that it revives disgusting stereotypes of gay men as pedophiles at the very time the Vatican is trying to pin their abuse scandal on faithful gay priests. Unfortunately, gay priests make an easy target because out of an estimated 10,000 minors molested, 80 per cent of the victims were boys.
But are these perverted priests gay? A glance at the available social science says that their orientation probably is not homosexual. A 2000 study by Dr. Michael R. Stevenson concluded, "A gay man is no more likely than a straight man to perpetrate sexual activity on children." A 1994 study by Dr. Carole Jenny found that less than one-percent of the children in her study were abused by a gay man or lesbian. In 1978, Drs. Nicholas Groth and Jean Birnbaum found that none of the 175 molesters in their study had an exclusively homosexual adult orientation.
So, why were boy victims overwhelmingly chosen instead of girls? It is likely that priests picked boys instead of girls because they had greater access to young men. The Groth and Birnbaum study shows that molesters are not particularly picky about the sex of their victims:
"Those offenders who are sexually attracted exclusively to children show a slight preference for boys over girls, yet these same individuals are uninterested in adult homosexual relationships. In fact, they frequently express a strong sexual aversion to adult males."
Molestation is clearly not a gay issue, but a problem that has cost the Roman Catholic Church nearly $1 billion for settlements and jury verdicts. Additionally, from 1965 to 2000, the number of priests in the U.S. dropped 30 percent, the number of nuns, 54 percent.
The celibacy and anti-gay rules are chasing out dedicated servants, while attracting unhealthy people with dark secrets who sometimes view priesthood as a 12-Step program to overcome their issues. The Catholic Church did not make J. David Enright IV gay. It did, however, turn him into an unhealthy victim who is sadly unable to accept his God-given sexual orientation. If the man were any more messed up, he'd be a perfect candidate for the priesthood.
J. David Enright IV is indeed a sorry-ass socialite/sodomite who belongs in a therapist's office, not in a courtroom. As you say Wayne, his suit will support right-wing attempts, including those eminating from the Vatican, to tie child abuse to homosexuality.
However, the words "faithful" and "dedicated servants" do not come readily to my mind when thinking about gay men who are in the Catholic priesthood.
Regrettably, the words "self loathing" do. Ditto for non-clerical LGBT folk who remain tied to a medieval institution that denigrates gays and our civil equality. It ought to bother gays as well that "their" church also marginalizes women, opposes abortion, baptizes US aggression, rails against medically assisted suicide for the terminally ill, opposes stem-cell research, and campaigns to return god to public school classrooms.
Gay priests and seminarians may be shocked at the Vatican witch hunt against them, but it ought to come as no surprise, given the strident antigay rhetoric of Karol Wotjila.
Although a few presumably straight priests have spoken out, the silence of gay priests and seminarians in defending themselves and condemning antigay church dogma continues to be deafening.
posted by Bob Schwartz, at
Enright is a sad case. Bitter and self-loathing, you give him a lot more compassion than he deserves. He went through a trauma in childhood, but this doesn't give him the right to spread ugly anti-gay bigotry.
Wayne, your compassion is admirable, and your article is right on the money.
posted by , at
There SHOULD be a suit against the priest who molested him. The problem is the faulty conclusions drawn from it, ie. that the molestation made him gay, and that being gay is a tragedy.
The tragedy was the molestation, the trauma, the fact that this man's childhood was taken from him. I can see how he would be unable to differentiate between the abuse experience and homosexuality per se, because he would have, wrongly, gotten the strong impression during the trauma that abuse is what homosexuality is about. We know it isn't, but this Enright fellow can't know because he hardwired his brain to believe those things. He is a very sad man, because he is probably one of those who will NEVER overcome the internal homophobia. That is an even worse tragedy than the abuse.
I wish the lawsuit would be pursued without the false conclusion that abuse makes you gay.
If childhood abuse or trauma caused homosexuality, there would be no heterosexuals. Everyone has had something painful happen when they were young, even if not as dramatic as what happened to Enright. That's also why so many gay folk are told their homosexuality was caused by a trauma, because most of us HAVE a trauma or two floating around back in the past, and all it takes is one anti-gay pseudo-psychiatrist to point it out and say Voila, THAT's why you're gay. Well then, explain all the abused straights. I challenge them. They won't be able to, because the entire argument is spurious. Abuse or other life events are irrelevant to sexual orientation.
posted by , at
I, too, was sexually molested at seven years old by my (then) seventeen year old uncle. However, even at that age - actually, by the age of four - I knew that I had an attraction to males. While I know that it may be unusual for someone so young to realize their sexual identity, yet I can say from experience that being molested does not make a person gay. When my family discovered that my uncle had molested me, they immediately began to use this to heap guilt on my head, saying that my homosexual identity was a result of my uncle's actions. I have never, from that day to this (I am now 36) believed that accusation, nor will I ever.
While it is true that molestation can warp a young child's mind in regard to sex (my own uncle, who molested me, was also in turn molested by his father his entire young life), and that it can open a door to things a person might not have ever considered doing before, the major confusion today is that the general public is under the assuption that if a male has sex with another male it makes him gay. Not so. Just as a right handed person will never become left handed no matter how many times he writes with his left hand, so a heterosexual never becomes homosexual regardless of how many men he may slep with and a homosexual will never become heterosexual no matter how many women he sleeps with. A person can PERVERT their nature and do ACTS which are contrary to their nature (i.e. a right-hander writing with his left hand, a heterosexual man sleeping with another man, a homosexual man sleeping with a woman), but flapping your arms like chicken wings will never make you a chicken.
No matter what that priest did (and yes it was horrific and contemptable), the victim will always retain his natural identity. If the victim were inherently gay, molestation by a priest had nothing to do with it. If the victim were straight, the molestation of the priest could never change that. To say that he has become gay because another male molested him is absurd as a white man insisting that he has turned black because he was raped by a black man.
Now, the victim, if he were inherently hetero and of a weak constitution, may dabble with other boys for a time after being exposed to same-sex sex acts, attempting (as all children do) to guage what is right. However, if such a person finds contentment and peace AS A WHOLE by being with a male instead of a female (all self-loathing aside), then he is a homosexual and not the result of any outside influence.
posted by Rev. Jim Cunningham, at
This is really interesting. So, how will the Catholic Church defend itself? I mean, it would be pretty easy for them to cite all the data that supports the fact that homosexuality is not caused by trauma. But then that would inadvertently help the gay activists, huh?
Hmmm... well, Wayne, I think the Catholic Church is more in a bind here over this case than the LGBT communities, don't you?
posted by Ryan Grant Long, at
This article totally misses the point. For a better understanding, I recommend the book PEDOPHILES AND PRIESTS by Philip Jenkins. Lawyers found a scheme where they could exploit Catholic homophobia, public fears of child molestation AND gay priests to make millions of dollars. If the age of sexual consent was 14, as it once was, the vast majority of priest child abuse cases when evaporate. Self-denying Catholic gay teens, a sexually supressed group of men and prudish Church goers made the Church perfect for the plucking of millions of dollars.
posted by , at
Interesting reading your article.
To add to the above comments:
Among those who believe sexual orientation is a choice, only 22 percent support civil unions or marriage rights.
Those stats don't back up your argument. All it says is that the people who swing to being sympathetic to gays back civil unions or marriage.
Those who do not, don't.
(Thinking homosexuality is inborn, is a sure tell on their favourable opinion of gays.)
So, why were boy victims overwhelmingly chosen instead of girls?
Well, there is more of an issue here than just having a preference for the genitals. It has to do with identifying with the person. Priests are men and they identify more with boys. There is also the emotional state of priests, those that have not been able to evolve with time, but are stuck in an adolescent stage.
Adult relationships, those we get into after mid-teens, help us move into an adult emotional stage. For many priests they have not experienced this, and their emotional stage is stayed in their teens, often early teens.
So they act out on boys, often in their early teens.
It is not gayness as most gay men understand it. Where there is an equal sharing or, if not equal, a learning experience between partners.
It becomes a top down power play, much as an adolescent gets pleasure from being able to control a weaker person his own age.
That there is sexual satisfaction for the priest is an add-on. Something to compensate him for his lack of a satisfactory sexual experience with someone same gender or not.
Most 50% 60% 70% of priests, monseigneurs, bishops, archbishops and cardinals, and likely popes, are emotionally undeveloped, and the irony is that people go to them for counselling, for sexual advice and many other issues.
It always amazes me why people cannot figure this out.
I suppose the fact that these people are supposed to be vehicles of a deity, and a spokesperson, blinds the issue.
It isn't gayness you are talking about, or heterosexuality with this issue of Catholic priests. It is merely emotional undevelopment.
Other religious faiths who practice the belief of no sex for their representatives (priests) suffer with the same results. Much which is hushed up. But the Catholic church, being the largest such faith with such a practice, is the most observable. Also it is within our sphere of knowledge - these past few years at least - unlike the Eastern and various Indian (from India) creeds etc, which we do not hear about, and within their groupings is treated as something not to be spoken to strangers about.
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