Sexual scandals in the Roman Catholic Church have been highly public in recent years, and increasingly shrill directives from the Vatican about homosexuality have become commonplace. The visibility of these issues begs the question of how the Catholic Church can be at once so homophobic and so homoerotic. Mark D. Jordan, the authors of the award-winning "The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology", takes up this fundamental question in a deeply learned yet readable study of the relationship between male homosexuality and Catholicism. "The Silence of Sodom" is devoted, first, to teasing out the Church's complex bureaucratic language about sexual morality. Rather than trying to point out that official Catholic documents are simply wrong in their discussions and directives regarding homosexuality, Jordan examines the rhetorical devices used by the Church throughout its history to actively produce silence around the topic of male homosexuality.
Arguing that we cannot find the Church's knowledge of homosexuality in its documents, Jordan looks to the unspoken but widely known features of clerical culture to illuminate the striking analogies between clerical institutions and contemporary gay culture, particularly in the mechanisms of discipline, the training of seminarians and the ambiguities of liturgical celebration. The Catholic Church's long experiment with masculine desire cannot be discovered through sensationalist trials of priest-paedophiles or surveys of gay clergy. "The Silence of Sodom" looks deeply into the intertwining, in words and deeds, of Catholicism with homoeroticism; it is a profound reflection on both "being gay" and "being Catholic".