26 May 2010

Ray Mungo : The Pope is Toast

Pope Benedict on Palm Sunday. Photo from AP / examiner.com.

Pope is Toast, Boy Diddley, and Me

By Ray Mungo / The Rag Blog / May 26, 2010

The ongoing circus of revelations pinning responsibility for covering up boy-diddling by priests on the Holy Father in Rome himself is pure entertainment to me. Every morning brings fresh developments in the crumbling pontiff’s decline, reminiscent of Nixon’s gradual disintegration under the roaring waves of Watergate. Now, as then, I spring out of bed each day eager and expectant for the latest twist and turn that will lead, one can surely hope, to the vicar of Christ departing the Vatican in a helicopter bound for Bavaria.

Wonder of the ages, could it be? The Pope is toast. Oh joy, oh rapture.
Admittedly, I’m not an objective, neutral observer. I was one of the diddlees, a long 50 years ago when a priest in Massachusetts made a habit of pulling down my pants and using my 12, and then 13, year old body for his own shuddering pleasure.

Father didn’t ask permission. He took me in the rectory, in the projection booth of the parish auditorium, in the car, anywhere he could and as often as he liked. He liked my soft pubic hair and compared it to other boys’, because Father had lots of boys, but I was special, he said.

Stop right there. This isn’t what you might expect. It’s not, for example, the child sex abuse victim railing against his monster, not a polemic against the Catholic church, although its ultimate destruction has long been my favorite fantasy.

My molester escaped any punishment, as was the norm in the church then and throughout Benedict’s career at the controls. My guy was simply transferred to another parish, where he continued to “work with” budding youths. Eventually he died, still a holy pastor to his newly hormonal flock.

I’m not accusing him of having made me into the homosexual / atheist / alcoholic / drug addict / lacking any normal employment history, treated for depression and retired on a dime fellow that I am. Hell, no! I was probably cut out to be a freelance writer from the start and by college age was already committed to the life of the anarchic stoner. Father Fondle didn’t seem to have this effect on other boys. The ones I knew all grew up to be heterosexual breeders and genuflecting believers.

This history comes back to me in the light of all the thrilling new revelations of church cover-ups leading directly to the seat of Saint Pete, and in view of a contemporary friend of mine now serving six years in a California state prison for the felonious offense of stroking a 12 year old boy in the wrong places. My friend is not a priest. Times have changed.

Most gay men are not child molesters, of course. That ancient myth has been thoroughly discredited. Exhaustive research shows that gay and lesbian folks are not any more likely to be sexually abusive to children than straights are. There’s simply no evidence of it. Yet every time a same-sex child molestation case makes the news, the old prejudice flares up, and the Vatican is not shy about using this hateful lie as a ploy to absolve its own culpability. “It’s those terrible homosexuals who cause the problem, not the church,” is their shameful song. It won’t play in Peoria or even Palermo any more. It’s the same kind of voodoo non-science as all the other church doctrines.

The church may be the ironic victim of its own smear campaign. By laying all the blame on homosexuality, it reminds us that homosexuals are disproportionately attracted to the priesthood. If gay is bad, so is the history of the Vatican, a gay ghetto to rival any other. As a 12 year old altar boy I really loved running around in those frocks, and if Father caressed my member in the altar boys’ locker room in the church, maybe that was some kind of secret initiation rite, for all I knew. Priests live in a perpetual little boy’s clubhouse with “No Grils Allowded” scrawled on the door.

It was not for me, though. At age 13 I stopped believing in God or the church. Some might call that a “tragic robbery of faith,” I think of it as the birth of reason.

My friend in state prison is now in an isolated hospital cell after another inmate, who had discovered the nature of his crime, assaulted him in his sleep, breaking his jaw, nose, and both cheekbones before the guards intervened. The attacker meant to kill. My friend may not survive some future assault when he is transferred back into the general population. Convicted killers, rapists, and robbers consider themselves morally superior to boy-diddlers.

It wasn’t always so. Boy-diddling has been going on since recorded history began. Think of the ancient Greeks, or the Japanese Samurai warriors who groomed their pages. A small minority of adults attracted to children has always existed in every society, often taken for granted. But in our own society, it’s a curse, a crime more reviled than any other.

Somehow, though, I can’t summon any genuine hatred toward the guy who did the diddling on me. He couldn’t help himself. That’s just the way he was. He didn’t turn me into a pedophile, I’ve never been sexually attracted to kids, and he didn’t make me gay, that’s something I was born with. Where I can assign blame, however, is on the church that protected and shielded this man for years, allowing him access to children despite certain knowledge of his past.

And where I can issue praise is on the New York Times for its singular role in relentless documentation of scandals the church, and Benedict himself, spent decades trying to hide. The paper’s researchers and reporters have unearthed one horror story after another, all faultlessly documented, creating a ripple effect in all other media. A Pulitzer is surely due. Hell, a Nobel.

Let the fun continue! Every day’s a holiday when the Pope is toast. I’ll toast to that!

[Ray Mungo, a founder of Liberation News Service in 1967, is the author of Famous Long Ago and Total Loss Farm. He is a social worker, tending principally to AIDS patients and the severely mentally ill.]

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