An Australian priest presents his merely transactional view of sex

In the March 1 installment of our “Daily News” feed, we linked to an article on the website of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (which is Australia’s state-owned and funded national public radio and TV-broadcaster) by Fr. James Alison called “Welcome to my world: Notes on the reception of Frédéric Martel’s bombshell.” This opinion piece both reviews Martel’s In the Closet of the Vatican and builds on the book’s research with anecdotes and viewpoints from Fr. Alison’s life as an openly gay priest.

While Alison’s article is not for the faint of heart, and therefore isn’t recommended to all, he does speak candidly and unlocks previously “taboo” subjects for discussion on a global stage. His main point, that “badly-lived homosexuality” is wreaking havoc in the Church, is multifaceted and too broad to address here. One paragraph in particular, though, can’t help but draw attention due to questions it raises.

Ticking through common reactions to revelations of widespread homosexuality in the Vatican and clergy, Alison addresses those reactions he deems “unlikely to be helpful” in reforming a “dishonest system” (his word). For those who see no problem with gay men as priests, bishops, and cardinals as long as they’re committed to sexual continence, Alison engages in “gaysplaining” (again, his word) to help “straight people to understand” that “the issue of continence is, for most clerical gay men, nugatory.” He continues,

“Despite the endless moralistic hullabaloo which surrounds them, sexual acts between consenting adult members of the same sex are about as inconsequential as any human activity can be. They harm no one, and produce neither babies nor any noticeable physiological or intellectual alteration in those participating. There is no noticeable difference between a monsignor who has a ‘friend with benefits’ and a monsignor whose friend comes ‘without benefits.’”

A little further on, he reiterates the point that such sex has “no discernible consequence.”

No doubt a man can hold the above opinion. But can it be that Fr. Alison doesn’t realize most people are nonplussed at the casual suggestion that sex means absolutely nothing? Many gay men cannot agree with him on this, can they? Fr. Alison’s cold view of sex is so completely detached from love, from family life, from the entire Judeo-Christian tradition, one wonders how it can be integrated into the personality of a man who knows of these things. A recent article by Andrew Sullivan lists “archetypal gifts of the homosexual” as identified by Carl Jung, including: “a great capacity for friendship”; “a talent for teaching, aesthetics, and tradition”; “a wealth of religious feelings”; and “a spiritual receptivity.” How do these square with a merely transactional view of sex?


Barbara E. Rose is Web Editor of the NOR.

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