Judiciary

Posner Criticized for Blog Comments on Condoms, Catholicism and Molesting Priests


Updated: Federal appeals judge Richard Posner is being criticized for a blog post he wrote covering everything from the Pope’s recent comments on condoms to gay priests and sexual molestation.

Writing at the Becker-Posner Blog, Posner said the Catholic Church has long been hostile to contraception, but its attitude could be changing given Pope Benedict XVI’s comments that male prostitutes might use condoms to stop the spread of the HIV infection. “The Church finds itself today in a quandary,” Posner wrote. “Its proscription of contraception is so widely ignored, and so anachronistic given today’s sexual mores, as to invite derision—to make the Church seem ‘out of it.’ ”

Posner, a judge on the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, goes on to comment on the ban on priests marrying. “The problem of priests’ sexually molesting boys would be solved if priests were allowed to marry and if women could be priests, because then the priesthood would attract fewer homosexuals,” he writes.

Above the Law featured the quote under the headline, “Quote of the Day: Judge Posner Upsets the Gays.” The quote drew several commenters at the Becker-Posner Blog who questioned why Posner linked homosexuality to pedophilia. Others saw mistakes in his recitation of Catholic doctrine, including one person who once admired the judge so much that she named her Labradoodle “Posner.”

The American Spectator blog calls Posner’s comment on priest marriage “a textbook non sequitur” and asks: “Does Posner think there is no molestation of boys in denominations that allow clergy to marry?” The blog also accuses Posner of getting the facts wrong on several issues, including his perception that the Pope now sees condom use as justified in some contexts.

“I wonder how he would react if, for instance, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York took to amateur law criticism on his personal blog, and in doing so wrote about constitutional law without referencing the Constitution, criticized a Supreme Court decision without reading any of the relevant briefs or arguments, or falsely ascribed an opinion to a judge—while making glaring factual errors along the way,” the American Spectator blog says.

Posner later clarified his remarks on gay priests in a letter published by Above the Law. “I didn’t say that homosexuals molest children more than heterosexuals do, a subject on which I’m uninformed,” he wrote. “I said that the problem of priests molesting boys would be solved (more precisely, it would be alleviated, since there would still be homosexual priests and some of them would be child molesters–of boys if they’re homosexual) if priests could marry and women could be ordained. The priesthood attracts homosexuals, for obvious reasons, and homosexual child molesters are molesters of boys. Publicity concerning molestation of children by priests has focused on boys, which is why I suggested that an obvious response, though difficult for the Church because of its long-established doctrine, would be to allow priests to marry and women to be priests.”

Related coverage:

USA Today: “Vatican clarifies pope’s condom comments: Nothing’s changed”

Updated on Dec. 6 to include Posner’s clarification.

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