The Closet Cases That Fan The Flames Of Russian Homophobia

Christ_the_Savior_Cathedral_MoscowThe loudest voices of hatred always seem to come from behind the closet door. What better way to throw people off the scent by attacking your own kind? So it’s not surprising, according to a high-profile theologian, that the Russian Orthodox Church has a gay mafia that might well put the Vatican’s to shame.

Leonid Bershidsky, the Moscow and Kiev correspondent for Bloomberg View, reports on the accusations floated by Andrei Kuraev, an Orthodox theologian. Kuraev is hardly gay friendly — he thinks the Orthodox Church suffers from a “gay metastasis.” (He’s also vehemently anti-Semitic.) But for that very reason, Kuraev is on a crusade to expose all the gay goings on in the Church hierarchy. On a daily basis, he has regaled visitors to his blog about the sexual antics of bishops and priests, all to bring to light the “gay system” in the Church.

Kuraev has the testimony of former seminarians, altar boys and clerics who were victims of predatory priests.  One victim spoke of a bishop pouring “almost a full bottle of vodka into me and started pawing me. That stunned me so — I couldn’t even imagine something like that — that I even sobered up.”

Kuraev’s posts lost him his job at the Moscow Theological Academy, the Church’s leading learning institution. He’s not sure that publicity is the right approach, but it’s what’s available to him. As he puts it, “the path toward self-cleansing in the church is firmly clogged.”

Kuraev’s attacks have a two-prong effect. For one, they threaten to expose the large gay network that apparently operates within the Church. Just as importantly, from Kuraev’s perspective, no doubt, they also reinforce the stereotype of gays as sexual predators, a stereotype that will be well received in Russia.

It’s a dangerous game. The Orthodox Church has close ties to President Vladimir Putin, who doesn’t take kindly to slights.

But at the same time, the Church that Kuraev says is full of gay men is also leading the attack on the LGBT community. Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Church, has said that marriage equality would put Russia on “a path of self-destruction.” Orthodox vigilantes “patrol” the streets of Moscow at night and have violently disrupted gay rights protests.

In the latest sign that it supports the current homophobia rampant in Russia, a Church spokesman recently called for a national referendum on criminalizing gay relationships. As gay pride organizer Eduard Murzin noted, “If you stage a referendum in Russia, 90 percent would back both the death penalty and the idea of shooting all homosexuals.”

But it would deflect a lot of attention from who is in that closet. And, really, isn’t that one of the primary goals?

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