Internalised homophobia

You see, I want to sympathise with the man. However much of a villain he is, he is also a victim.

Disgraced Cardinal Keith O’Brien still fascinates me. What was he thinking? Possibly, when he was unmasked he was merely a hypocrite: no longer believing any of the doctrines of his church, he still prated what he had to, to maintain his income and power, and access to men for sexual exploitation. Possibly, the homophobia of his church had so hollowed him out that he was no more than that: while St Paul wrote of the Christian being justified, sanctified, glorified, the homophobic church instead took away all truth and honour from the human being, leaving only a husk. Could the truth be more complex?

He would not have started in that way. Quite probably, as a child wanting to be a priest, O’Brien would believe in God the Creator, in Jesus, and even in the human accretions of his church. He would be aware of his sexuality, but be very quiet about it: his church and the wider society, where gay lovemaking was a criminal offence, both told him it was Wrong. Perhaps he thought that God would heal him, or that in celibacy he would find the strength to resist his natural desires.

And then, perhaps, he fell in love.

Honesty, then, would have meant penury, and disgrace in the eyes of his friends, even though honour in the eyes of reasonable people. He would be cut off from his social group, his purpose in life, everything. It would have been better than his final state, but knowing that, then, would have taken rare honesty and insight, which his career would not have prepared him for.

But then, there are so many who find celibacy impossible for them, and find a compromise: cuckolding a parishioner, living with a housekeeper. Perhaps O’Brien’s initial arrangements were not more wrongful than that. Certainly the fact that his partners were male made no moral difference.

Could it be that, at the end, he actually believed what he taught? That gay lovemaking is a serious sin; that all human beings suffer from Original Sin, and that “There is no health in us”, but that regular confession and absolution make it alright? One result of that would be that he would believe consensual sex to be as wicked as the sex he forced. He takes his understanding of right and wrong from his church, rather than from any rational consideration of suffering caused, or the true nature of human beings created by God. The child abuse for which his church has so recently apologised is not an aberration, but a natural consequence of its teachings.

Whatever his case, as well as a monster and wrongdoer, he is a victim, of the thoughtless or cruel homophobia of men he admired and trusted.

Degas, At the Milliner's

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