An Open Letter to Dan Dreher: “How Dare You?!” is Dumb, But So Are Stereotypes

mayor-topperHere’s another one for your “Conservatives say the darndest things” file. Beliefnet’s Rod Dreher writes about the stupidity of the “How dare you!?!” defense that Sam Adams used to ward off pre-election rumors about his affair with 18-year-old Beau Breedlove and points out that the rumors turned out to be true. He then goes on to expand the “How dare you?!?” defense to the Catholic church priest abuse scandals. That is, he argues that yelling “How dare you insinuate that this popular stereotype might be true!” is not a good defense. We agree. We also agree with him that the gay media (excluding Queerty, of course) has a tendency to gloss over anything that might make us look bad. But the Dreher goes off to Crazytown and makes a fallacious argument that “what makes a stereotype a stereotype is not that it’s untrue — stereotypes often have a basis in truth — but that people mistakenly assume that the stereotype is the whole truth.” Um, no no no.

Stereotypes are blanket generalizations applied to a group of people. “Homosexuals prey on young men”, for instance, is a stereotype. But to say that because Sam Adams had an inappropriate relationship with and 18-year-old he was mentoring proves some deep universal truth about gay people is wrong. What it proves is that Sam Adams demonstrated some poor judgment. Dreher is right that building a defense based on “How dare you!?!” is a stupid argument, but building an offense on a stereotype is just as stupid. People are individuals and make individual choices. Once you start judging them or defending them based on stereotypes you leave the realm of valid criticism and enter the land of bigotry and discrimination.

He also gets it wrong when he says:

“The point here is not to blame the scandal on gays. It was a complex matter, and I think most well-informed Catholics and others place more blame on the culture of clericalism and gutless bishops — including the egregious and vile Cardinal Mahony of Los Angeles, who, it is reported today, is under federal investigation for his role in the cover-up — than on anything else. Still, it is useful to think about how people use the “how dare you!” line to shut down inquiry that could lead to inconvenient truths. While the culture of clerical homosexuality cannot by itself account for or explain the Catholic sex abuse scandal, the scandal cannot be understood without reference to it, and the central role a secretive culture of homosexuality plays within the relatively closed world of the clergy. It’s the elephant in the sacristy.”

The problem here is this whole “secretive culture of homosexuality” argument. From our perspective, it’s not a “culture of homosexuality”, it’s the culture of the Catholic Church which is the problem. You can be gay and be a priest and not abuse young boys. The problem is that there are priests who do abuse minors in the church and then the church helps cover it up.