A few weeks ago, I sent a link to some friends showing an image of a stained glass window (a real one from a real church) showing a young person kneeling in front of a priest. If you have any semblance of a dirty mind, it wasn't a far leap to see why this might be amusing to some people due to an activity suggested and some flack the Catholic Church has taken in news for some choices a very, very small percentage of the priesthood has made. I thought it was funny, mostly because I like to laugh at people who really don't think things all the way through.
Now, I was raised Irish Catholic. I was an alter boy. I never experienced even a hint of inappropriate behavior from the priests at my parish. I still count two of those priests among the finest men I've ever met.
On with the tale: One of my friends - another individual I count among the finest men I've ever met - got really mad. He suggested that we don't put the blame in the right place. He asked, "Why do we say a priest molested this young boy? Why don't was say a homosexual molested some boy." My friend was not suggesting in any way that being gay in any way makes someone a child molester. He was merely suggesting that we take a look at our terminology and pointing out, that in our current, insanely - politically - correct - conscious culture that we can't say something like that about gay people because they are constant victims, but we're free to fire off on priests because they represent the overbearing, patriarchal regime that's lorded over western culture for the better part of two thousand years.
Anyway, we let the matter drop. I was slightly embarrassed, but still laughed at the image. It's funny in that someone didn't think something like that all the way through. Though it is nice to imagine that such naiveté still exists.
A little while later, the matter came up at a Renaissance Faire. Same friend. Same basic problem. Only this time, the whole thing had been simmering in my subconscious. Moments into the conversation, I was off and running. I'd thrown my soapbox down, jumped right up on it, and the pontification began.
Here is my argument in defense of gays and the clergy:
We shouldn't say a priest molested a child any more that we shouldn't say a homosexual molested a child. We should say a vile, evil, sub-human creature molested a child. We can't say a "man" did it either, because we've seen female teachers doing inappropriate things with their male students. The moment we start labeling any group of people, no matter how large or small, of being the kind of group that does that thing, we essentially do two things: 1) We demonize everyone else in that group, even though they are mostly likely not anything like the INDIVIDUAL perpetrator of the behavior we are demonizing. 2) we are transferring our attention from the behavior to the group, and there by diluting how seriously we consider the behavior. By making it about that group of people, as apposed to that despicable excuse for a human being, we limit the horror of the action and turn our attention away from the criminal.
Crimes, in general, are not committed by social/cultural groups. (Yes, we can cite examples such as the Nazis and the KKK, but those are extreme cases.) Unfortunately, we like to stereotype. In some ways, it's easier than pointing the finger at one person and saying, "You are a monster," even when that's exactly what we should do.
I urge you, the next time you see or hear about something like this, even when the media or person you're getting this information from is trying to pigeon-hole an entire group of people as being perpetrators of behavior X, have the courage to understand that it's about one individual making choices and acting on those choices. If someone is making blatant declarations about those kinds of people, have the courage to remind them that this behavior/action was done by a single individual, not some faceless stereotype. However, don't do this hoping to convert this person's thinking. While you might succeed every once in a while, most times you'll wind up being disappointed. Do this for your own strength of character.
For the record, my friend completely agrees with my take on this.
Until next time, keep your eyes, ears, and thoughts honest.