Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Cardinal O'Brien Isn't Going To Help Any Closeted Priests

I said last month that, were it not for the actions that led up to it, Cardinal O'Brien's very public fall from grace would've been the highlight of 2013 for me. What actions was it that made me a little more reluctant to gloat? Was it the fact he'd hurt so many people with his aggressive and hurtful language in opposition to LGBT freedom? Nope, though he did. 

My concerns with Cardinal O'Brien stem not from his textbook example of how to be a homophobic closet-case, but from the fact he hurt several men he was responsible for. From a position of power he made inappropriate sexual advances on men who clearly did not want them. I know how the media love a good "former homophobe comes out and makes good" story and I know I'm no fan of such narratives (see my distaste for people like Nigel Evans). But this is not even one of those stories. 

Cardinal O'Brien is a man we should be glad to have got rid of, a man whose story serves only as an example of how not to live your life. So why am I bringing him up again? Because Mary McAleese, former President of the Republic of Ireland, thinks Cardinal O'Brien telling his life story would some how assist priests struggling with their sexuality. 

I'm afraid Cardinal O'Brien has done enough damage as it is, unhelpfully feeding the homophobic stereotype of gay men as sexual predators. And when it comes to a group such as priests they didn't need any more bad press of that sort. It is, I've no doubt, far harder for a Catholic priest to come out post-O'Brien's downfall that it was before. 

And what would his story say? Would it paint him as the victim of his sexual desires? Is a man who takes out an internal conflict by making unwanted sexual advances against others really a man who has anything useful to tell us about overcoming fears of coming out? 

I cannot imagine a worst example. Though an example of how not to do things can be useful, the risk of making him some sympathetic character and of him overshadowing his victims (once again) is one I think is best avoided. 

Keep O'Brien away. Give the Catholic church a chance to make good on the pain he, and others like him, have caused to others. And offer real support to struggling priests with LGBT outreach and avoid tarring them with any connection to such an unworthy man as Cardinal Keith O'Brien. Give them hope, not hate. 

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