Friday, March 26, 2010

One Reason to Become a Catholic Priest

Today the Times has an article containing a big smoking gun pointed directly at Pope Benedict and his knowledge of a child-molesting German priest. There was another, earlier in the week, about an American priest who molested hundreds of Deaf boys in the midwest over a period from the 1950s through the 1980s; it seems likely that then-Cardinal Ratzinger had personal knowledge of this.

But what caught my eye was the photo in today's Times. Look at how the Pope and the other cleric in the photo are dressed. Benedict is in white robes with that extremely fancy red-with-gold brocade cope over it. (I think it's a cope, but I'm doing research, you bet.)

And look at the other cleric, who isn't identified in the photo: black robe with hot pink trim, belt (it must have a real name...) and yarmulke. Okay, he probably thinks of it as a skullcap. Plus, that little capelike thing on his shoulders.

You won't catch them calling their robes "dresses," but, honestly, that's what they are. Dresses for men. As Patrick once remarked to me, certain religious clothes, including priestly vestments and nuns' habits, are among the few remaining vestiges of medieval clothing in the Western world. (Another? Academic robes. It's a joy to watch a graduation parade, with its riot of robes, caps, and draperies.) I mean, in modern Europe and North American grown men do not get to run around in dresses unless they're priests, you know? And the mock nuns' habits of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence aren't that far off what nuns have worn in various times and places.

And I'll take that black and hot pink outfit for $100, Monty. Those colors suit me very well.


Paul Muller said...

Well I think it should be pointed out that those men who might be cross-dressers are no more inclinded to pedophelia than are the rest of us.

I'm no psychiatrist, but the best explanation I have heard for the serious problem in the Catholic Church is that priests are often recruited - or at any rate feel their calling - around puberty. They then freeze their sexual desires at that point in their typically incomplete emotional development. This leads to lifelong confusion about their sexuality and its normal expression.

The problems of ignoring this in the priesthood are extremely dangerous to the church - not to mention the victims - and one hopes they will find a way to effectively deal with it.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Oh, I'm not meaning to suggest at all that cross-dressing is linked to pedophilia! I find rigid sex-linked dress regrettable; I WISH more men wore robes and dresses of various lengths and DID NOT think it said something pejorative about them. I was in the SCA in the mid/late 70s, and seeing men in robes, often with their legs showing, was one of the pleasures.

I have read that explanation as well, and it seems plausible to me. At least in the US Catholic church, it's no longer the case that youngsters (14-year-olds, for example) can start the process of becoming a priest. You have to be at least undergraduate age and maybe lower. I know that there is now a preference for maturity in candidates for the priesthood.

The church behaved exactly the way any large and powerful organization behaves: it tried to protect itself and its hierarchy before protecting the victims.

Anonymous said...

Also, the President of Guatemala apparently cannot afford a good tailor. That suit fits him very poorly. Whereas the Pope and the cardinal look just great!

Lisa Hirsch said...

The Holy See can probably buy and sell Guatamala!

Anonymous said...

Grown men in many parts of the world get to run around in "dresses". I cannot believe you do not know this.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Of course I know that, and I will sharpen the blog entry to indicate that I mean men in Europe and North American don't get to run around in garb generally recognized as dresses (i.e. clothing typically worn only by women), which I suspect you know I meant.

Joe Barron said...

Not so sure about this thesis, Lisa. I was a choir boy when I was a kid. I wore the cassock and surplice and a big red bow on the high holy days, and there was no little cross-dressing frisson associated with it. I doubt the cardinals feel the same way. It's just a traditional garb. The problem is sexual assault and cover up, not homosexuality or transvestitism.

Lisa Hirsch said...

To state this once again, I do not believe that either cross-dressing or homosexuality is a cause of pedophilia, nor do I think cross-dressing or homosexuality should in any way be stigmatized or treated as something abnormal. They're not.

As you say, the problem is sexual assault and cover-up. I'm not saying anything different.

The tone of my posting is meant to be amused/humorous at the kind of outfits that everyone from the Pope to the parish priests get to wear, because in the West, male dress tends to be a little on the drab side (see: tuxedos), but these guys get to wear some pretty snazzy outfits.

Joe Barron said...

The cardinal with the sash reminded me a little bit of Lauren Bacall.

Lisa Hirsch said...