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The recent feature on James Wolf, a University of Kentucky sociologist who has written a book called "Gay Priests," illustrates the sloppy work that both journalists and sociologists can get away with -- if they're taking a stance abusive of some aspect of organized religion.

Kevin Nance, the author of the feature, gives the impression that Wolf's critics are irrational, over-emotional and prejudiced, and that they can't really contend with Wolf in reasoned debate.

And where does Nance get his impression of Wolf's critics? From Wolf, naturally -- what more objective source is there? This is like relying on Deng Xiaoping for a balanced account of the democracy movement in China, but it's OK to rely on such sources as long as it's the Catholic Church you're out to discredit.

As for Wolf himself, he professes to be presenting an objective study yet bases his whole approach on the premise that "homosexuality is . . . a healthy and acceptable orientation" -- i.e., that the Catholic church is dead wrong about homosexuality. He then proceeds to give us the "big news" that half of all priests are "gay." His evidence for this startling assertion? Only the say-so of the "gay" priests he has interviewed. Not very reliable, is it?

Wolf asks a telephone critic, "Are you saying that you don't think there are gay priests?" My answer: No, I don't think there are "gay" priests. i don't think there are "gay" people. Profoundly skeptical of modern psychology, I don't believe that the commission of the sin of sodomy or the propensity to commit that sin is a feature of anyone's fundamental character. It is simply a sin which some people, including priests, commit. No doubt there are defiant sinners even in the priesthood, but it's silly to expect the church to change her teachings because sinners continue to sin.

At any rate, if this is the kind of "research" accepted in sociology, Wolf's degree isn't worth the paper (or sheepskin) it's printed on.


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