Thursday, April 22, 2010

Pedophiles, Gay Men, The Catholic Church and The Church's Spurious Correlation Theory

It's been a bad week at blogging for me. Some health stuff has me kind of shaken up. But it doesn't have me so shaken that I'm not reading the news and keeping up with all the commentary on the Catholic Church and all the spurious theories about gay men being pedophiles. 

Clearly the Church, and especially gay anything have become something of a hot button topic for me. I've got that Irish Catholic side of the family, the great uncle who was a deacon and plus I've got, and have long had, some very dear friends who are gay. Including the happily, but not legally since they live in Florida, 'married' couple who have lived across the street from my mother since 1973. Yeah, Ned and Charles are just so fly-by-night... why should they be allowed to marry? Personally, I'm really thinking I can't say a thing that's negative about their right to be legally married or make health decisions for each other until I've been with my husband as long as they've been together. (I've got another twenty years then... And Charles gave me such good advice right before I got married: "think before you speak". What can I say, the man has known me since I was twelve.) This whole business about gay marriage, and heaven forbid gay adoption, is beyond mind-boggling to me. What is the big deal if gay people want to get married and adopt kids? I think they should have the opportunity to make the same mistakes and enjoy the same perks as all the rest of us.  In fact, I insist they should. But it's definitely the minority view here where I live in Florida, where we are so backwards on some things that it's a miracle that we don't live in some kind of reverse entropic state where time's arrow has been reversed. Today I was at the Juvenile Courthouse and actually heard someone praise Anita Bryant. A concept so intellectually retro that just wrapping my head around it, I'm probably getting younger while writing this post.

The Teflon Pope in Malta reassuring people.
(Image credit: Associated Press)

So earlier this week, the Teflon Pope assured us that he will take action on the sex abuse scandals rocking the Church. It's been more than a month since he spoke about the scandal that started making big waves in Ireland. He's been pretty silent about Germany, where his reputation is somewhat damaged. Then there's Brazil. Or Norway. Or Malta. Or India, a great outpost to send your pedophile priest who's under extradition. And so very many reminders of Boston. The damn Boston Globe won't shut up on the subject. The New York Times and Washington Post are also part of the axis of... well, you get it. 

Anyway, it's been a month since he last spoke about the issue and so I'm thinking Pope Benny is starting to hear that parishioners are seriously bothered. Attendance is dropping like a rock in the Catholic Church in recent times, as it is. Which also means tithing is down. Which might be even worse now, because people don't want to give money to an organization that was tacitly condoning (by not defrocking, not turning over to police pedophiles, who were then reassigned so they could molest boys and girls elsewhere). What can we say? Money talks. It talks much louder than people shouting that they or their children were molested, raped and traumatized. And so now the Teflon Pope is saying he is just so very contrite and that the Church will address these many, many (it might be better to borrow from mathematics and use a many factorial here: many!) wrongs. Friends on facebook have likened this to believing in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. (I love my friends...)

But in the meantime, among the faithful, or should I say the hateful, there are all these ugly rumors that swirl. That gays are pedophiles, that it isn't a Church problem, it's a gay problem. Of course it is! Gays are responsible for all the earthquakes going on (oh, wait a minute... that was promiscuous women... sorry) Heck, there's even a repellant organization called the American Family Association with a Mr. Bryan Fischer who thinks that gays can't be trusted to be on the Supreme Court because they are so very wrong, against the laws of nature and of man. (I suppose pointing out that homosexuality exists in nature and that it used to be illegal for people of different races to marry in some states and territories would be pointless...) A few of my obviously far too liberal friends made observations about Mr. Fisher's position, especially Irma who pointed out that if a gay Supreme Court justice was likely to be biased in favor of gay rights, then a heterosexual one was equally likely to be biased in favor of heterosexuals and therefore to be potentially discriminatory! (I'm sure that form of discrimination is just what Mr. Fischer had in mind, though...)

So about this business of pedophiles and gays, Dr. John Cantor has a great op-ed piece addressing the issue on It's a concise and trenchant analysis of the relevant medical literature which just fails to show any correlation between being gay and being a pedophile. In fact, you could easily turn his statistics on end a bit, and can see that the preponderance of pedophiles (about 70 - 80%) are heterosexual. There's a lot of hard evidence that pedophilia and hebephilia are neurodevelopment perturbations, which is a very elegant way of saying that it's a subset of brain development that is off in the tail section of the bell curve, or not average. Pedophiles and hebephiles appear to have less "white matter" in the brain. Dr. Cantor published an article in Neuropsychology on the topic in 2004, and another in the Journal of Psychiatry Research in 2008 (J Psychiatr Res. 2008 Feb; 42(3):167-83. Epub 2007 Nov 26.). Dr. Cantor's findings have been further supported by independent findings of neurodevelopmental structural differences in the brain  in Germany, published in 2007 (Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2007 Jun; 64(6):737-46.). The topic of pedophilia and brain development is thus a very loaded one. Because basically, if your brain is wired that way, you're screwed. There is no cure and, therefore, the effort expended on treating pedophiles may be completely misdirected. For instance, slapping them on the wrist and saying "bad priest" and sending them to India really isn't going to work. Taking away their access to children might seem an obvious step, but you know, nothing with the Catholic Church has ever been obvious. (Look at telling people in HIV-ridden Africa that they shouldn't use condoms, for instance...)

Anyway, since I had an argument with a long time friend the other day about homosexuality and brain differences (like they don't believe that the brain was different first, they think it became different because the people chose to be gay- just don't even get me started...) I went back and looked at some of the more recent results of brain scans of heterosexual men and women versus self-reporting homosexual men and women. Those ever liberal Swedes published a really interesting study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in June 2008 (Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Jul 8; 105(27): 9403-8. Epub 2008 Jun 16 and of course y'all know how prestigious the National Academy of Sciences is, right?). Take a look at their summarized brain symmetry images. Compare homosexual men and heterosexual women, and homosexual women and heterosexual men. 

Covariations with the respective amygdala seed region in hetero- and homosexual subjects. The Sokoloff scale indicates T values. Clusters detected at T = 3.0 are superimposed on the standard MR image of the brain. (Credit: Image courtesy of National Academy of Sciences, PNAS (copyright 2008).)

Based on the foregoing, I have definite thoughts on these results. Since they suggest neurodevelopmental hard-wiring of same-sex attraction, it would mean that this is one of those things you just can't 'cure' and that maybe it wasn't even a choice. And if we can't cure it, we should just acknowledge it and like we do with people of different races or religions or such, give people with these different brains rights if they aren't harming people because of those differences (see hard-wired differences detailed above, in contrast). Because if I'm HoM or HoW how would that difference in my brain count as being any different from my not being blue-eyed if the world was supposed to be mostly blue-eyed? Can't fix me if I don't have blue eyes, right? You can put me in contacts just like you can try to force a person who's gay into a straight lifestyle. But my eyes will still be hazel and the other guy will still be gay. And I don't think I should be told I can't marry or adopt children or keep my job or feel safe in my community just because I have hazel eyes. I really just don't. Do you?


  1. I'm with you. And since you mentioned eye color, I have to ask:
    Didn't any of these people hear of the blue eye/brown eye experiment? Social stigma and authoritarian-encouraged stigmatization are powerful shapers of behavior.

  2. I have always viewed sexuality as being sort of like those who like certain foods and those who do not. I have HATED brussels sprouts since I first saw the wretched vegetable on my plate as a child and 50+ years later I STILL hate them.

    As for the religious pedophiles, I have always wondered: If a priest commits pedophilic acts upon a male child, doesn't this, in effect, make him a homosexual? So, using Jesuitical reasoning, if the church suppresses information about church pedophiles-and by this act condoning the activity- does not the church also condone and approve homosexuality??

    Seems like it to me.