The McCarrick Scandal & Objectively Disordered Sexual Desires

Texas Bishop Calls for Alleged Enablers of Ex-Cardinal McCarrick to Be Held Accountable
July 30, 2018
Commenary by Brad Miner: For the “Sake of the Church”
July 30, 2018

By William M. Briggs, a Senior Contributor, The Stream, July 28, 2018

William M BriggsIt will be no surprise that the Catholic church is plunged deep into yet another scandal involving men with objectively disordered sexual desires — this time with Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, whose resignation Pope Francis has just accepted.

One of the “explainers” of this scandal is priest Father James Martin. He has made it his mission to explain how a priest’s objectively disordered sexual desires do not influence his thinking or behavior in any way. He says the thoughts and actions of people with disordered desires are no different in general from other people.

His mission is an immediate failure because it begins with a contradictory premise. His theory is that a man’s thoughts do not matter to how the man acts. If that is so, then thoughts do not matter. Of course nobody believes that. The degree to which a man is influenced by his propensity to disordered sex depends on the man. That it has no influence on his behavior at all is false.

Improper Definitions

Martin quoted in a tweet, “A witch-hunt mentality demonizes the vast majority of celibate gay men who are faithful to their vows, serve the church, and are as horrified as anyone at the abuses committed.”

Leave aside that it is indeed the Church’s job to engage in witch hunts, in the sense that witchcraft and Christianity are not compatible. And forget the (common) misuse of “celibate,” which merely means “bachelor.” (In French, bachelor is célibataire.) The word wanted was “chaste,” meaning a person not acting on objectively disordered sexual desires.

Now just what is a “chaste gay man”? A man with objectively disordered sexual desires. A man who is tempted to immoral (simulated) sex with another male. Sodomy is a sin that cries out to Heaven for vengeance, or so the Church has always taught. A chaste gay man is thus one who walks on the precipice of Hell.

But that’s too simple a definition. It is incomplete. Asking one word — gay — to hold the weight for all the myriad kinds of non-procreative desires men have is asking too much.

A Queer Theory

All know the acronym/phrase “LGBT” is shorthand for an ever-expanding list of kinds of sexual desire. We began with LGBT and we are now at LGBTQWERTY, or whatever. I used to be derisive of lists like that, but I now believe this is the one thing sexual desire ideologues get right.

It really is true that sexual desire is broad, much broader than we used to understand. A man may desire sex, or more usually simulated sex, with himself, with another man, with a child, with a couch on the side of a road (a real case), with a goat, with another man’s wife, with a dead body, with those missing limbs because they are missing limbs, with only females of certain races, with men who pretend to be women, and on and on and on.

He may desire sex (or simulated sex) in one way today and another tomorrow. Desire can be fluid. For instance, many men do not realize that they desire simulated sex with other men until they are introduced to the concept from older men. And we recall that some men who were called “gay” have fathered children. The number of possible propensities, or “orientations,” is practically infinite.

All orientations for men save two are objectively disordered. The first is chaste procreation. An objectively ordered desire is appetite for procreation with one’s mate. It is called “objectively ordered” because this desire aligns with a man’s nature; it explains his biology. It says why the human race reproduces.

The second orientation is bachelorhood. An unmated man who really does desire chastity is oriented to nothing in the sexual sense. He is not oriented to other men or (for instance) children or goats.

The Temptation of Temptation

Any number of temptations may beset the married man or bachelor. And no man is perfect. But in no sense do a man’s temptations define him. He is not a temptation. He is a man.

To say that a man’s temptation is what defines him is to admit that the temptation influences the man’s behavior. And must — and in no small way. The temptation, after all, becomes central to the man if the temptation is what he believes he is.

It is thus no surprise that the man who defines himself by his temptations is the man more likely to slip. Since desire is fluid and temptations are as many, as orientation ideologues say, it is also no surprise that this class of men is more likely to sin in many different ways. And that is precisely what is observed.

This is why the idea to fix the scandal by having priests openly define themselves as their temptations, as advocated by among others the Washington Post, will only make everything worse.

The Church instead needs to return to a proper understanding of the nature of man.


William M. Briggs is a Senior Contributor to The Stream. Author of Uncertainty, he is awriter, philosopher, and itinerant scientist living on a small but densely populated island in the Atlantic Ocean. He earned his Ph.D. from Cornell University in statistics. He studies the philosophy of science, the use and misuses of uncertainty, the corruption of science, and the uselessness of most predictions. He began life as a cryptologist for the Air Force, slipped into weather and climate forecasting, and matured into an epistemologist. He maintains an active and lively blog at