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Why a Priest's 911 Call After Being Stuck in Bondage Gear Should Not Have Been News

I'm actually feeling sorry for a sexually hypocritical Catholic priest.
 
 
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Wow. I didn't think it was possible. But I'm actually finding myself feeling sorry for a sexually hypocritical Catholic priest.

In November of 2012, a Catholic priest made a 911 call asking for emergency help, because he had gotten stuck in a bondage mask and handcuffs (he was apparently alone at the time). The story is now all over the Internet -- as is the recording of his 911 call.

Normally, I'd be all over a "religious sexual hypocrisy" story like this one. The Catholic Church's teachings on sex and sexuality are repugnant to me. And I'm revolted by the hypocrisy of priests and other leaders in the church who demand that their followers practice an absurd, morally convoluted, out-of-touch set of sexual ethics... and then don't even practice those ethics themselves.

But this story has me creeped out. And not in the usual way.

It's creeping me out because of the violation of privacy.

People in sexual situations that are both dangerous and potentially embarrassing need to be able to call for help, without fearing that they're going to be publicly humiliated and that their call for help is going to be spread all over the Internet. How many kinky people -- hell, not just kinky people, anyone with any unconventional sexual practices -- are going to read this story and be reluctant to call 911 when they're stuck in handcuffs, when they have something stuck in their ass, when they can't get a cock ring off, when they stumble in their bondage boots and break their nose?

I don't know anything about this priest, other than the fact that he got stuck in bondage gear and made a 911 call to help get him out. I don't know if he was in a more conservative church that practiced a lot of sexual shaming, or if he was in a more inclusive one that cherry-picked out the nasty pits of Catholic sexual shame. I don't know if he preached sexual shame to his followers while secretly doing kinky stuff, or if he openly opposed the Church's teachings on sexuality, or if in his public life he just stayed away from the whole topic. I don't know that it matters. Well, of course it matters in the larger sense.

But I don't think it matters to this story. I think that, when he was stuck in handcuffs, he should have been able to call 911 without fearing that it would result in his massive public humiliation. His public shaming sends a really crappy message to anyone involved in unconventional sex: "If you're responsible and take care of your safety by asking for help when you need it, from the people whose job it is to help you, you could easily wind up with your sexual practices becoming the laughing stock of the Internet."

Since the founding of the Clergy Project, I've become more sympathetic to the plight of clergy members who find themselves no longer believing in the teachings of their religion, but who don't see a way to get out. And that's true whether the teachings they no longer believe are, "Kinky sex is bad," or, "God exists." But again, I don't know whether that's the story here or not. I don't know whether this priest -- whose name I'm deliberately not using, since I don't want to be contributing to the very dogpile I'm critiquing here -- was ethically tormented by the conflict between his private actions and the tenets of the faith he was publicly espousing... or whether he was just a straight-up hypocrite, secretly cackling with glee over how he was pulling the wool over everyone's eyes.

And I don't think it matters. I think he should have been able to make that 911 call, without fearing that it would result in him being publicly humiliated all over the Internet. I know he didn't have that legal right -- 911 calls in most states are a matter of public record, and there are good reasons for that, having to do with government accountability. But I think he had that moral right.

I'm an atheist, and I think it's fine for people to mock religious hypocrisy. I think it's more than fine: I think it's a positive and beneficial good. But this instance of it is giving me the creeps. Calling 911 is... well, I'm not going to say it's sacred, obviously. But it's important. It is, literally, vital. And it's certainly way too important to screw around with for anything other than the best possible reasons. There are certainly some good reasons to publicize 911 calls: incompetent police responses, bigotry or insensitivity in 911 operators, reporting on a serious news story about a crime, etc. But providing the Internet with this week's example of religious sexual hypocrisy for everyone to laugh at... that's not one of them.

I am willing, happy even, to publicly mock religious hypocrisy, and especially religious sexual hypocrisy. Religion is one of the primary sources of pointless sexual shame in our culture, and I will gladly excoriate it on that account. But I don't want to buy in to the exact sexual shame that I'm condemning in religion. This is not cool.

Greta Christina is the author of "Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why," available in ebook, print, and audiobook. She blogs at Greta Christina's Blog. Follow her on Twitter: @GretaChristina

 
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