Thursday, October 19, 2006

Mother Wants You Home


from the Associated Press, October 19, 2006…

“The nation’s Roman Catholic bishops said Wednesday they are developing new guidelines for ministry to gays, reaffirming church opposition to same-sex marriage and adoption by the couples, while condemning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”

Go ahead. Read it again. “While condemning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”

These rules/guidelines, AP tells us, “have been in development since 2002.”

“Catholic teaching is based on ‘objective moral norms,’ not prejudice.” But “gays should live chastely and celibately,” according to the drafters.

And who says catholics lack a sense of humor?

New guidelines? You mean, like when they start returning to the church in droves, best not burn them alive when there’s a newspaper reporter present?

And news? Jesus, this is news right up there with the fact that fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, and men tend to put their trousers on one leg at a time.

You gotta love these guys. New guidelines, my ass.


I’ve got a suggestion for you bishop people. Give us some choice.

How about this: To be catholic, you must agree to one of the following:

1. Loss of hearing in both ears;
2. Removal of the part of the brain which recognizes color and the faces of friends;
3. Life in a cell without windows;
4. Removal of taste buds;
5. Removal of both feet at the ankles;
6. Life without sex;
7. Life without affection; or
8. Life without Mozart.

There. Given a choice of sacrifices, your numbers might grow a tad faster.

Thanks, guys.

Monday, October 9, 2006

Corresponding with Maurice Healy

I don’t know whether you caught the news that the Vatican recently insisted that Catholic Charities stop placing children for adoption in gay families. The order came to the Bay Area through former Archbishop Levada, elevated only a couple days ago to Cardinal for his loyalty. Levada saw close-up that several hard-to-place children were placed successfully in gay households during his tenure here. His years in close proximity with the thriving gay community of San Francisco should have removed all doubt that the church’s merging of sexual aggression with homosexuality is an intellectually bankrupt notion, to say nothing of bitter injustice. For him to take the side of the doctrinaire church fathers over what he must have seen here with his own eyes is the story of the insidious psychological destruction of the weak and vulnerable by institutional religion in a nutshell.

San Francisco’s response has been to say screw you, Mother Church. If you can’t not discriminate against us, then don’t lay claim to public funds to do it. Gay people and straight people of conscience don’t need to fund your bigotry. Adoption services, which cannot operate without taxpayer money, will continue to be carried out by various agencies, those whose concern for getting children out of orphanages and foster care and into loving welcoming families has a higher priority than shaming some of the folk with the open arms.

Welcome to this little corner of America’s culture wars. The archdiocese’s spokesperson, Maurice Healy, had a letter to the editor published this morning claiming that that withdrawal of taxpayer money to his organization is itself discrimination.

Such horseshit makes your eyes water.

I just wrote him this letter:

Mr. Maurice Healy
Director of Communications
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco
One Peter Yorke Way
San Francisco, CA 94109

March 27, 2006

Dear Mr. Healy:

I’m writing in response to your appeal for the world at large to allow your church to continue unimpeded to discriminate against gay men and women in the public arena, I suppose in the belief this will bring you closer to God.

In your letter to the editor in the March 27 San Francisco Chronicle you suggest that “(t)he Church should not suffer intolerance or discrimination because of its religious beliefs.”

If this were a boxing contest for the best example of the pot calling the kettle black, I have no doubt you’d capture and hold the title against any challenger.

The world knows two catholic churches. One has given us torture, war and oppression, greed and the lust for power, the arrogance of Vatican I. The other has given us the caritas of Catholic schools and hospitals, the solace of confession and the Eucharist, and the ecumenism of Vatican II.

While the compassionate church seeks to stay afloat, the intransigent church reflected in your letter continues to punch holes in the sinking ship. Your clergy are leaving you in droves and whole parishes have already drowned. Yet you cling to the conviction that the decayed medieval body you are speaking for is the only real church and you choke the language of rights to fit your purpose.

The world at large is now finally awakening to the realization that the demonization of gay people belongs on the same trashheap of history as the demonization of Jews. My sympathy goes to those in the ecclesia, the ordinary people of the Catholic Church, who are struggling to root out this hateful doctrine based on a willful ignorance of the human condition.

Join them, Mr. Healy. The love of God lives in gay people and their families. Don’t work to turn that love into something sordid. Find your church less in old men stuck in a darker time and more in the common decency of ordinary catholics, and your church will stay alive. Defend the faith and stop trying to conserve the inquisition.

Yours truly,

Alan J. McCornick


To this e-mail, I received the following response:

From: Maury Healy <[address deleted]>
Date: Mon, 9 Oct 2006 08:40:23 -0700
To: "Alan J. McCornick" <[address deleted]>
Conversation: Your letter to the Editor - October 6, 2006
Subject: Your letter to the Editor - October 6, 2006

You are mistaken. The Vatican document you refer to concerns solicitation during the sacrament of confession.

The Catholic Church is composed of human beings, and the faults of human beings will sometimes bring shame upon all.

Dear Mr. Healy:

Thank you for making the effort to correct my understanding. I will look more deeply into Crimen Sollicitationis. I know attempts to see it as the grounding for a policy of circling the wagons have failed in Worcester, Massachusetts, and other places.

You may have surmised my information came most recently from the BBC’s Sex Crimes and the Vatican. CNN had a similar program several years ago, I believe. I will be watching to see how this conflict plays out. Your work would be a lot easier, I’m sure, if the church had not given priority to protecting its reputation over healing its victims.

Thanks again for your response.


Alan McCornick


Your message to: HealyM@ <[address deleted]>
was blocked by our Spam Firewall. The email you sent with the following subject has NOT BEEN DELIVERED:
Subject: Re: Your letter to the Editor - October 6, 2006

Reporting-MTA: dns;
Received-From-MTA: smtp; ([])
Arrival-Date: Mon, 9 Oct 2006 09:42:21 -0700 (PDT)

Final-Recipient: rfc822; HealyM@ <[address deleted]>
Action: failed
Status: 5.7.1
Diagnostic-Code: smtp; 550 5.7.1 Message content rejected, UBE, id=16335-02-4
Last-Attempt-Date: Mon, 9 Oct 2006 09:42:22 -0700 (PDT)

Sunday, October 8, 2006

How to Shoot a Pink Elephant

Mark Leibovich, in today’s New York Times, tells us the Gay Republicans are having a rough time of it. Well boo freakin’ hoo, do you see a tear in this eye?

Party of Lincoln, my ass. How long has it been since Republican meant anything but getting out your rifle and shooting at the little critters in the road, those who couldn’t live by don’t-ask-don’t-tell included.

Leibovich’s piece has that line in it which hits me like an electric wire to the nether parts: “(Some) equated homosexuality with pedophilia, a link that has long outraged gay men and lesbians,” he writes. Long outraged us? Long outraged us? Are you on drugs? Slander is not something one should compare to a fashion with a time duration. But that's another story.

According to Leibovich, Gay Republicans are on the run, thanks to the bad judgment of one of “their own,” Mark Foley, whose attraction for the newly muscled caused him to commit political suicide.

Anybody who knows the actual figures knows this claim of a direct connection between homosexuality and child abuse is the “blood-drinker” lie of the age. Look it up. The figures are plain. Child abusers have a psychological disorder independent of their sexual orientation, to use that silly expression for lack of a better one.

We’re in a day and age when the big Goebbels lie is all the rage. Bush can tell us Iraq had weapons yadayada, the war is going swimmingly, and Rumsfeld, like Brownie, has done a helluva job. The Fox Network can put a picture of Mark Foley on the screen identified as “D-FL” in a program taped two hours before showing, not fix the error and never apologize for the mistake (Hey, Mac. I’ve got a great idea about how to pick up a few Republican votes from some of our dumber viewers.) And the religious machine is cranked up and running the lie that to be homosexual is to be sexually interested in children. Pick a source; they’re too many to cite, but just so you don’t think I’m making it up, try Tony Perkins, of the Family Research Council. “The real concern about Foley's sexual predatory behavior toward an underage congressional page (turns out he was first thought to be 16, which is legal age, but now apparently he was 18, but that, too, is another story) is "the link between homosexuality and child sexual abuse."

Politics being the art of the possible, I understand compromise. Republicans who believe in small government (by which they mean small controls over robber barons and a giant military), like Israel, which thought it had to sell arms to the South African apartheid government to survive, have to do lots of things just to hold on to power, and nobody should expect it to be pretty.

But how low do you have to go? Foley had pictures around the house of himself with women. Is that political survival? You bet. Brian Bennett worked for Robert Dornan, one of the more conspicuously homophobic congressmen. One can only wonder what cognitive dissonance he must have experienced hearing Dornan routinely refer to gays as “sodomites” during the twelve years he worked for him, not just as “consultant” as some would have it, but as chief of staff.

Then there’s gay Kirk Fordham, who worked for Senator Mel Martinez (also a Republican from Florida) before working for Foley. I suppose in the land of Jeb Bush if you want access to power there’s little question how much crap you have to swallow, but Mel Martinez went after his political enemies for trying to include gays as victims of hate crimes.

Then there’s Rick Santorum, the nastiest homophobe of the lot. Dead set against gay rights. One of the strongest advocates for an amendment to prohibit gay marriage, an amendment which he referred to as the “ultimate homeland security.” And Santorum’s references to gays often imply a connection with bestiality and incest, as Leibovich points out. And who’s he got working for him? Robert Traynham, a gay man who thinks of Santorum as “a man of principle.” Probably he is. Just don’t let it matter that one of them is your destruction, fellah.

Back in the days when Republicans of honor and decency... Lowell Weickert comes to mind. So does Alan Simpson. John Danforth. Hell, there used to be gobs of them... it made some sense to be in the Republican Party even if much of it was against you, if you really believed in what it stood for.

Not any more. Not since the big lie has become the modus operandi of the boys on top. Now it’s “the base” which is coming for your souls, you poor pink Elephants, you Velvet Mafia enablers of this unspeakable mess we’re in. The Dobsons and the Falwells and the Robertsons – and the Santorums – they’re comin’ to git ya with the same broad brush with which we blame Arabs for the work of the Taliban, Al Qaeda and the perpetrators of 9/11. You’re a fag and you like little boys. Out. Out. Get out of God’s own party, out of God’s own Homeland.

What am I supposed to say? Stay in? Continue to work in this wagon with one wheel already off and two coming loose? Work for this party which rescinded Clinton’s executive order allowing you to get a security clearance? Stay in the closet? Keep your date-a-model subscription current?

How about this instead. How about you come clean about being gay. Show a little personal integrity and stop working for those who would plough you into the ground to lower the tax burden on the top 1%. Find another group of folk to call your own – people who won’t take your way of loving and make it into something dirty, won’t call you names and make you out to be a molester of children despite all the evidence that you are not.

If you can’t work for the Democratic Party, at least don’t work against its never-ending struggle for civil rights and equality. At least stop working so hard for the party of liars your party has become.

Some day go back if you must when you will not be ashamed to be a Republican. May you and the rest of us all live long enough to see the day.

October 8, 2006

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Letter to J. Doyle

Dear Mr. Doyle:

I read your article in this morning’s Chronicle, “Pedophilia treatment is available but scarce – stigma a big hurdle” (10/4/06) with great interest. Since Mark Foley’s blunder and its devastating consequences have hit the front page, pedophilia has reentered the national consciousness and it is appropriate that you should take it on in your column. But I think you’re caught up in a terribly mistaken take on the topic.

I’ve been combing the news looking for evidence that Mark Foley ever had sex or put the make on pages under the age of sixteen. If such evidence comes to the surface, it will of course weaken my argument here, but the point will be the same. The age of consent in the District of Columbia is sixteen. Foley’s actions, unethical and distasteful as they are, do not constitute pedophilia. By blurring the line between pedophilia, or taking sexual advantage of a child, and sex with sexually mature young people whom the state has recognized as legally responsible for their own sexual behavior, you are driving into the ground the rational thinking that should surround the topic of pedophilia.

We can assume Mark Foley’s reasons for hiding his homosexuality certainly include the fact that it would keep him from a political career in the Republican Party. They probably also involve no small amount of self-loathing. Possibly the shame was induced in part by being molested as a young teenager. But your conclusion that it has made him the pedophile he is being taken for at the moment is all wrong. Mark Foley’s e-mail correspondence, which we seem to believe we have a right to read, is a conversation between two physically sexually mature males, one a 50-year old making a fool of himself, and one a normal horny teenager who likes the titillation of sexual innuendo. Where’s the pedophilia in this!

You take up a topic which you are not particularly well informed about. That’s forgivable, of course. You’re a journalist, not an expert in sexual disorders, and you don’t need to be an expert to tell an important story. But as a journalist, I’d expect you to spot your own limitations. Mentioning a district attorney who talks about the “danger” of “sexually violent predators” in the context of an article on the Foley debacle is not shedding light on the topic; it’s muddying the waters. “Taylor attributed Foley’s behavior to mental illness…Now he’s writing things to the child pages…Major mental disorders are not being diagnosed...” you write. Mr. Doyle, a 16-year old may be immature and vulnerable, but he’s not a child when it comes to sex. You are aware, I take it, that some places have lowered the age of sexual consent to as low as 12. Why have you ignored that fact in this discussion of pedophilia?

Please don’t mistake me for a defender of the Republican Party. My right arm would fall off if I ever pulled the lever for a Republican candidate. But the issue here is not pedophilia. It’s closetedness, it’s sexual immaturity, and ethically shady behavior including insincerity, hypocrisy, abuse of power, cover-up for political gain and possibly more. If you make this about turning a sexually immature man into a mentally ill man, you help scapegoat some poor sap and make this a problem of individual illness when this really ought to be a story about the abuse of power. Seriously, what’s your best guess about what will happen in time — that Foley will come to be treated as mentally ill? Or that he will come out like so many gay politicians (James McGreevey comes to mind) before him, make a pile on a book confessing his sins (David Brock?), tell us how he has grown, and who knows, maybe even follow Arianna Huffington into the Democratic Party! You will have written a story about something that went up in a puff of smoke and missed a story about power abuse, something that needs our constant close attention.

I think this country suffers terribly from its inability to distinguish between marijuana and heroin and its framing of drug dependency as a crime rather than an illness. Your framing of Foley’s bungle as pedophilia rather than abuse of power is a similar category error.

You’re a good journalist. You can do better than this.


Alan J. McCornick

in response to:

Jim Doyle, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 4, 2006

The scandal involving former Rep. Mark Foley's solicitations of a Capitol page points to the difficulty of diagnosing and treating adults who are tempted to act out their sexual fantasies involving children, mental health and law enforcement experts said Tuesday.

And the recent sexual assaults of teenage girls and the slaying of one at a Colorado high school, as well as the killing of five young girls by a gunman in an Amish schoolhouse on Monday, highlight an issue that is equally vexing: how to prevent senseless acts of violence and sexual aggression against minors.

Both types of exploitive behavior toward children can be fueled by sexual orientation, depression, boredom or rage -- or a combination of these elements, experts said.

Undiagnosed or untreated mental illness is a common thread in pedophilia and violence against children. But often, those who need treatment feel stigmatized and don't know where to turn.

"What all these incidents have in common is a focus on minors as the objects of sexual coercion or sexual violence," said Rhonda James, executive director of Community Violence Solutions, which offers sexual-assault prevention, intervention and treatment in Marin and Contra Costa counties.

"These were not impulsive acts. (The gunmen) had to plan this out," she said. "There was probably an erosion of their mental health condition. ... For Foley, he kind of leveraged his power. I'm concerned that no one interrupted his overtures to young pages."

Foley, a Florida Republican, resigned amid news reports of his sexual advances toward a young male page. He is now seeking treatment for alcoholism and could face criminal charges.

Dr. Fred Berlin, founder of the Sexual Disorders Clinic at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, said there is very little being done to prevent pedophilia and other sex-related crimes from happening in the first place.

"When it comes to pedophilia and other sexual disorders, we're still in the pre-Betty Ford era," he said. "We feel we can send them to prison and nothing else. We treat the alcoholic, even though he can get into a car and kill a family. But we've so demonized the word pedophilia that we don't recognize these individuals as human or deserving of treatment."

Pedophiles, who have a sexual orientation of being drawn toward children, don't necessarily act out their fantasies, and those who do may not have a history of prior criminal acts. Similarly, those who commit acts of extreme violence and sexual aggression against juveniles may not be pedophiles.

There has been little research into the causes of pedophilia.

"Many adults with pedophilia are victims grown older," Berlin said. "Their early exposure has warped their sexual development. Through no fault of his own, the person with pedophilia discovers who he is attracted to. It's not his fault, but he has a responsibility to do something about it."

There are relatively few sexual disorder clinics in the United States.

"You hear all the time where you can go for any other problem, but you virtually never hear where you can go for this kind of act," Berlin said. "Given the stigma we've attached to it, the last thing someone is going to do is ask for help. They may find themselves arrested rather than treated."

Treatment is aimed not at curing sexual disorders but at helping the person stop the unacceptable behavior. Patients are taught to resist giving in to such triggers as depression, to develop a positive support system including family and friends, and to make changes in their lifestyle to avoid situations of temptation.

With pedophilia, there is also medication. The most common drug used is Depo-Lupron, which lowers the patient's testosterone and decreases his sexual activity.

The U.S. Department of Justice has determined that, contrary to public perception, sex offenders generally have a lower rate of recidivism than others who commit serious crimes. But sometimes there are crosscurrents between pedophilia and violence.

Before he opened fire on the Amish schoolgirls, Charles Carl Roberts reportedly told his wife he had molested two young relatives 20 years ago. Police said that Roberts' elaborate gear suggested he might have been planning to sexually assault the girls.

"Not all sexual offenders are equal. Some are radically more dangerous," said San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Stephen Taylor.

Of the more than 100,000 registered sexual offenders in California, fewer than 600 are classified as sexually violent predators.

"When you have that combination of violence and sexual disorder, or a history of attacks on strangers, that's the worst of the worst," Taylor said. "These people should never see the light of day."

Taylor attributed Foley's behavior to mental illness rather than pedophilia.

"When people of that age suddenly get into trouble, their brains are not working well," he said. "Foley may have certain issues, but he got to a certain age without having priors. Now he's writing things to the child pages at the House? Regardless of the sexual interest, that is irrational behavior or manic behavior, without heed to the consequences."

Taylor attributed the recent school shootings to mental breakdowns rather than sexual motives. Both gunmen took their own lives.

"We have a mental health problem in this country," he said. "Major mental disorders are not being diagnosed, treated or controlled before something terrible happens."

E-mail Jim Doyle at

Monday, October 2, 2006

An Empire Run by Children

Front page news is the story of Mark Foley’s lust for young male flesh and what it’s doing to the Republican Party. There’s blood in the water and what a shark-feeding frenzy it is. I make no secret of my loathing for the Bush Administration and I’ve joined the Bush bashers routinely with almost every opportunity. This time, though, I want to reflect on what it means to be one of those sharks at lunch. Or, to use perhaps a better metaphor, I feel like the world is following the spotlight to one part of the stage, and missing action of much greater consequence being played out in the dark.

Look what’s happening here. Mark Foley is being institutionalized for having a drinking problem “and other behavioral problems.” A euphemism for pedophilia. To take anything less than quick decisive action at this point would only work against him. But let’s take a look at those so-called “behavioral problems.” The age of consent in Washington, D.C. is 16. Any monkeying around with a 16-year-old is not pedophilia; it’s sex between consenting adults. Even if Foley had actually engaged in sex with pages, and even if we grant that e-mailing messages with sexual innuendos is a form of sexual behavior, the issue is not pedophilia; it’s abuse of power and hypocrisy. But hypocrisy only to the degree Foley is a closeted homosexual and not forthcoming about the fact he misrepresents himself to his rightwing constituency, many of whom would tar and feather him for his sexuality if they could have at him.

Foley is being ridiculed for having stated publicly that he found pedophiles disgusting. This isn’t hypocritical. It’s not even insincere, necessarily. An adult who engages in sexual activity with willing teenagers over the age of consent can be just as readily disgusted as the next guy by adults who engage in sexual activity with unwilling or unknowing nine-year-olds. What this means is that once again we’re back hiding under our beds, hiding from one of America’s more prevalent native monsters – its infantile view of sexuality.

Foley is not psychologically disordered for getting turned on to young guys, for Christ’s sake! He’s feeling what any of the rest of us might feel under certain circumstances. Teachers, priests, boy scout leaders – any adult who works with young people – can discover an attraction for them growing out of close contact. There’s nothing wrong with that attraction and pretending it doesn’t happen keeps us from coming to terms with it. Things go awry, however, if we don’t stick to two hard and fast rules. First, you don’t use your power over a young person to make them do things against their will that they could conceivably come to regret. And second, you don’t break the law. Those rules, it strikes me, are pretty close to absolute, and if you can’t follow them, you ought not to be working with young people. To these rules I would strongly recommend two additional rules, not of law but of professional ethics. You don’t allow yourself to give preferential treatment or otherwise make an ass of yourself, and if your work involves representing the wishes of a particular constituency, you live up to the expectations of that constituency.

Clinton is being trotted out by the right these days for any number of purposes. Bush and Company are now trying to get out from under the failure to capture Osama bin Laden by claiming Clinton should have caught him first. In connection with the Foley case, at least one right winger, Brit Hume, is trying to put a positive spin on the affair by pointing out that Gerry Studds, Barney Frank and Bill Clinton all got away with it, while the Republicans took quick action. Never mind the inaccuracies in that statement. Look at the reminder of what happens to people who have sex and note that while nobody here is talking about sex with kids, we’re focusing on sexual behavior instead of on abuse of power. The reason Gerry Studds and Barney Frank “got away with it” is that their constituents did as I suggest we should do now. They asked whether it was about sex or power, decided on power, saw no abuse, and moved on. Ultimately, that’s what happened to Clinton, as well. Hume’s trumpeting Republican superiority because here, in Foley’s case, they’re nailing him for being sexual, is repeating the same mistake we make when we fill our jails with the drug addicted whom we put in a framework of criminality rather than a framework of illness.

Clinton, by doing the naughty under his desk in the Oval Office, was not guilty of my first two (hard and fast) rules. That explains why the impeachment proceedings were such an outrage. You don’t impeach people for ethical shortcomings, but for breaking the law. Foley, too, has not yet been determined to have broken any laws, and if it turns out that he has, they will probably be technicalities. He, like Clinton, needs to take full responsibility for letting his constituents down, for being unethical, possibly stupid, definitely imprudent, but not for illegal activity. What they both show is how readily Americans can go at people with the full force of the judiciary when what we ought to be doing is remarking on their immaturity and wishing we had elected people to office who were a little bit more grown up.

But here we go again, focusing on sex when the real wrongs being done are hypocrisies involved in grossly inappropriate behavior followed by clumsy and barefaced deceit in covering up the problems. When, oh when, will we ever get to the place where we can allow sex to be just another appetite which, like greed for sugar, carbohydrates and money, does not make us monsters, but simply not-ready-for-prime-time players.

Foley is being labeled by the Christian right (and quite a few others besides) as a sexual predator. I don’t want to take Foley’s side. He appears to have gone over the line in getting sexual. But what is truly offensive is the blame being attributed to his homosexuality. The inability to come to terms with one’s sexuality is a social problem that many homosexuals suffer from, but the problem lies in being out of step with social attitudes toward sexuality and not in sexuality itself. More importantly in this instance is that the lie is being repeated once again that sexual abuse of children is inherent in homosexuality, a lie as foul as the claim that blacks are given to laziness and violence and Jews to greed. If you want to know what gay-bashing looks like, here it is. Couldn’t be plainer or simpler or writ more large. Not to say more simple-minded.

These misrepresentations that minorities regularly have to contend with, like pepper thrown in the eyes, are hurtful and shameful. But the real damage is in the way they cast the light on the wrong issues. It’s not about sexuality. It’s about abuse of power.

Amy Berg has recently completed a documentary film which takes on Los Angeles Cardinal Mahoney for his part in hiding child abusers in his diocese for over twenty-five years. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) will not give her a permit to show a trailer for the movie to general audiences because of the content, even though the content of the trailer is careful about how the topic is presented. The latest incarnation of Texas Chainsaw Massacre will make it into the regular theaters, but Amy’s film may be restricted to art houses. Amy invited 600 members of the community to a showing, including members of the US Supreme Court, the District Attorney and City Attorney, but nobody showed up. They all showed up for Mahoney’s “Red Mass” , however, and Mahoney’s status as member of the ruling class continues unabated. The Catholic Church has moved on. Homosexuals are now being scapegoated for the scandal and hounded out of the priesthood, and scant attention, if any, is being paid to distinguishing between those who preyed on children and those who, in no way different from heterosexual priests who find sexual opportunities with women of the parish, simply broke their vows of chastity and often expressed a sexuality tied to love, compassion and affection. With Foley, too, we’re very likely to go on missing the woods for the trees. We will nail Foley for the wrong reasons and forget the problem is our inability to take sex in stride and curtail the abuse of power.

The Foley story is big at the moment, and there is more than one distraction from what I am arguing should be the main foreground issue. Salon, and even John Stewart have said or implied that the Foley story might be working as a diversion from the bungled terror war and the infinitely more consequential fact that the United States Legislature has just granted the president the power to arrest non-citizens without habeas corpus, to torture prisoners and to try them without revealing their accusers, and possibly even to execute them without due process. The Foley scandal, bad as it is for Republicans, might actually mitigate outrage against this abrupt departure from democratic practices and thus actually improve GOP odds going into the election. I think there’s fire behind that smoke, but I find the idea it’s a Republican plot pretty far-fetched. Still, it’s a distraction.

We need shed no tears for Mr. Foley. Like James McGreevey, the former governor of New Jersey who retired almost two years ago after having been outed as a gay man, Foley will no doubt be getting lucrative book offers once he “recovers” from his “psychological disorder.” McGreevey seems to have found his integrity at last. OK, settling down with a gay lover and leaving the homophobic Catholic Church for the gay-friendly Episcopal Church may not be everybody’s idea of integrity, but you have to admit it suggests he is getting his shit together. Foley, on the other hand, has yet to step up to the starting line. Despite his record of supporting gay causes to a degree which has long alarmed many of the extreme right, he once declared, after being outed, that any charges about his homosexuality were “revolting and unforgivable.” If he means getting caught is revolting and unforgivable, that’s his tough luck. If he means being homosexual is revolting and unforgivable, all I can say is “poor baby.” Lining up with arch homophobe Rick Santorum, voting to impeach Bill Clinton, backing Ashcroft’s attacks on civil liberties, and to me most egregiously, voting for the foully mislabeled “Defense of Marriage Act” makes him a self-hating gay example par excellence, the kind of guy Christopher Isherwood once wrote about as the most dangerous of men, the kind that would work faster and harder to punish his own kind to demonstrate for all the world to see that he’s “not one of them.” What a strong argument Foley makes for outing.

There’s where I think the heart of this story lies. People don’t have to demonstrate maturity before running for political office, God knows. Foley isn’t the first child in a man’s clothing to make the laws we have to live by, and he won’t be the last. But as long as we have a don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy in our military while gay men in Spain can be married in a naval uniform by the mayor of Seville, and as long as we have heterosexuals who divorce at a rate above 50% writing “Defense of Marriage” laws to keep gay people from having their marriages recognized by the state, and as long as men with homosexual feelings hold office by referring to those feelings as revolting and unforgivable, we’re going to continue to trip over our sexual immaturity and lend credence to the charge that America is an empire run by children.

October 2, 2006