Berwyn Banter . . . Ray Hoffman’s Remarks on Homosexuality Evoke Strong Response from Local Residents

In reading the Letters to the Editor in the Main Line Media News, there were several references to Ray Hoffman’s Berwyn Banter column from March 24, 2011, which before writing this post, I had not read.

In the past, Hoffman’s columns have generally focused on local community events such as restaurant opening and closings, funerals, sports and school events, the Fire Company, etc.  His remarks can be informational and are often times laced with his opinion on local politics and people. Occasionally, Berwyn Banter has provided personal opinions on other topics, including an obvious disdain for online news sources, including blogs.  Unfortunately, on several instances, Hoffman has referenced both me as a political candidate and Community Matters in a very negative, disrespectful manner.

Unlike the dialogue that Community Matters topics often evoke, Hoffman’s Berwyn Banter columns rarely produce any comments.   I choose rather than responding directly to his criticisms, to simply ignore his rancor, preferring to believe in the mantra ‘what goes around comes around’.  Apparently, for Mr. Hoffman, that concept may have hit home for him; his last Berwyn Banter column which referenced his moral outrage over the Catholic Church priests has received negative response from local residents.

To be clear, I too am outraged over any child who has suffered abuse at the hands of Catholic priests (or any adult).  However, for Hoffman to suggest in his column that pedophilia and homosexuality are synonymous; and “the work of evil incarnate and therefore unforgivable”, has taken his opinion, to a very difficult and hard to understand place. One can describe pedophiles who prey on innocent children as evil and their behavior unforgivable but it saddens me greatly to read that Hoffman imposes the same standard in his description of  homosexuals.  Growing up gay in America and facing religious intolerance and persecution can prove a challenge for many of today’s youth as they struggle to fit in and to ‘belong’.  Hoffman’s words are painful to read.

My concern for Hoffman’s apparent intolerance of homosexuality is echoed in one of this week’s letters to the editor from Liz Young of Wayne.  She writes . . .

“ . . . The biggest misunderstanding many people have is that pedophilia and homosexuality are one and the same. But to say that all homosexuals are pedophiles, or that all pedophiles are homosexual, is like comparing apples to rat poison. . .

Statements like those of Mr. Hoffman inspire hate crimes. In many parts of the world, including our own country, we have made strides in tolerance and acceptance. Do we really want to go backward to a world where members of disliked minority groups were stereotyped as representing a danger to the majority’s most vulnerable members? For example, Jews in the Middle Ages were accused of murdering Christian babies in ritual sacrifices. Black men in the United States were often lynched after being falsely accused of raping white women. . . “

I note that there is not a Berwyn Banter column in this week’s edition of the newspaper.  I emailed Ray Hoffman but have not received a response, perhaps he is on vacation. [update:  Ray Hoffman responded to my email, confirming that will he continue to write his column for the paper.  He also corrected me that the column changed from ‘Berwyn Banter’ to Main Line Banter’ two years. ] The following is an excerpt from Ray Hoffman’s Berwyn Banter column of March 24, 2011.  To read the entire column, click here.

Moral Outrage over Catholic Scandal . . .

Nobody asked me but I think that there needs to be another level of defined sin in the Roman Catholic Church. Mortal and venial sin each has a long litany of offenses identified over the centuries, and one might think that this multitude of imperfections and separation from God covered it all. Not so fast, my friends. A few short years ago, the white-hot spotlight of front-page press illuminated pedophilia among priests throughout the United States. Child abuse by priests was amok, even affecting legions of faithful families along the Main Line. As if this evil plague of child abuse were not enough in itself, the heinous cover-up by the church hierarchy of priests abusing innocent and trusting children was equally disgraceful. The world continues today to be further appalled by and mourns this unthinkable parasitical pestilence on a daily basis. As the incidences of child abuse grow in number and location, the question could well be asked: where and when does this stop?

Last week fellow columnist Henry Briggs joined a clamoring contingent of lamenting and lambasting journalists in the cry: “Enough!” Which brings me to my suggestion that there should be another level of defined sin within the Catholic Church: unforgivable sin. No ifs, ands and buts! Just unforgivable! I know that the basis of many organized religions is that God is a forgiving Creator and Father. But it is difficult for me to believe that my God would not have a hard time forgiving men who have prostrated themselves before him, vowing that they would do his will, and to have those men shatter the sanctity of young and innocent children who have been entrusted to their care and spiritual upbringing. What is even viler is that many of these offending pedophiles are also homosexuals. Pedophilia and homosexual behavior is more than mortal (deadly) sin. It is the work of evil incarnate and therefore unforgivable. . .

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20 Comments

  1. Again Ray has overstepped what his column should be about. He should stick to “social” events or weekly goings on within the community & stay away from public controversy, politics, etc. If he wants to make a public comment/statemnent about politics or, in this case, the catholic priest scandal he should write an op-ed piece or letter to the editor as a citizen & submit it to MLMN.

    Last week I couldn’t believe what I read. I cannot even begin to put into words what I thought of his column. Where in the name of heaven could he possibly come up with that type of logic. In my mind it was beyond comprehension.

    The dictionary defines banter (n) good-natured and unusually witty & animated joking or (v) speak to or address in a witty and teasing manner. Actually his column is not what I would call witty. But as a column title, it appears to be apropos in current “speak”.

  2. Pattye, I’m also deeply offended by Ray Hoffman’s ignorance and venom. Equating vile criminal behavior with being gay is not just without any basis in fact, this lie stirs up hatred and violence, and causes many good people great pain.

    Whether Mr. Hoffman is just plain ignorant or something darker, he has stepped over the line with this “banter”. In my view, he needs to make a public apology and step down from Main Line Suburban’s staff immediately.

    I am disappointed that Hoffman’s comments apparently passed muster with Main Line Suburban’s editorial staff. How careless of them .How insensitive. What poor judgment was shown.

    To be clear, Mr. Hoffman’s moral outrage at child abusers and those who cover up their crimes is understandable and no doubt shared by all of us. But his decision to go public with his personal belief that homosexuality is an unforgivable sin equivalent to pedophilia – is well, unforgivable. It classifies him as an intolerant, uninformed homophobe who deserves our disdain. (May we – and God – be more forgiving than he apparently is…)

    In my view, Hoffman’s credibility is now shot, his column a stodgy remnant of old Main Line thinking. It’s time for him to go..

  3. “What is even viler is that many of these offending pedophiles are also homosexuals. Pedophilia and homosexual behavior is more than mortal (deadly) sin. It is the work of evil incarnate and therefore unforgivable. . .”

    I am not about to defend Mr. Hoffman if what you all believe he said is what he intended to say. I see a little gray area here — that he finds the fact that these men are pedophiles to be a sin, but when they combine homosexuality with pedophilia, it is evil beyond the pedophilia. I do not think he is saying homosexuality is equally evil per se, though he clearly finds that trait in a priest who turns to children to be a sin unlike any other. I don’t think his condemnation is of homosexuals — just homosexual pedophiles. The danger is that he puts little effort into distinguishing between the terms.

    I too am disappointed in the editorial staff who should have caught this moral misjudgment…and asked Mr. Hoffman to refine or clear up his condemnation.

    But I’ll go further and say that 20 years ago the Suburban was a platform for too many moral stances. I don’t find a local newspaper to be my moral compass, and hope they can avoid preachy commentary in the guise of community news.

    give it a rest Reply:

    I appreciate your anger and am glad you contacted him…and I’m not defending him, but I do not think that is what he said. But both the paper and he should have clarified what he meant, and it was careless that they did not. Moral outrage can be dangerous.

    Toshiro Takashi Reply:

    A lesson on political morality from someone who wages a personal vendetta against a township supervisor by publicly marginalizing the atrocities of the holocaust…. now THAT’S entertainment!
    Keep up the good work John, rants like these give me reason to chuckle on an otherwise miserable rainy day.

    Mr. Roboto Reply:

    “That’s Kampf speak”

    UNBELIEVABLE! Only John Petersen could take a story that has absolutely nothing to do with Warren Kampf, and then use it as a platform to attack Representative Kampf! Holy Non Sequiturs Batman!

    Mr. Roboto Reply:

    John Petersen says: “Did you know that Kampf is the German word for struggle? That’s more than ironic. I wonder if Warren is a vegetarian?”

    So now you are mocking Warren Kampf’s ethinic background. Classic. Your just as bad as Ray Hoffman.

    By the way: I seem to recall that you were once a commentator for the Main Line Media News, just like Ray Hoffman. That paper clearly has made some questionable hiring decisions.

    Toshiro Takashi Reply:

    John, you say that “the point of my comparison was with totalitarian regimes. Take your pick… the National Socialists of 1930′s Germany, the Soviets under Stalin, the Fascists under Mussolini, take your pick.”

    With that comparison, are you trying to convey the message that citizens who speak out against the supervisors may be tortured and/or murdered?

    Perhaps you are right… I was considering revealing my real identity, but after reading your post I have decided that it may put my life in danger. I wouldn’t want to say the wrong thing and end up in some torturous gulag in the basement of the township building, being water-boarded by Paul Olsen while Bob Lamina shoves bamboo shoots under my fingernails! lol

    John White Reply:

    “Did you know that Kampf is the German word for struggle? That’s more than ironic. I wonder if Warren is a vegetarian?”

    You’re right, John, you’re not mocking his heritage. You’re comparing him to Hitler. Disgusting.

    John White Reply:

    “How am I comparing him to Hitler?”

    “Did you know that Kampf is the German word for struggle? That’s more than ironic. I wonder if Warren is a vegetarian?”

    “What’s next..they are just misunderstood art students??? Maybe that will be the next excuse..”

    So, “German”, “vegetarian”, “misunderstood art student.” You don’t exactly have to be a SuperPassword whiz to do the math, do ya?

    John White Reply:

    Name two.

  4. Shame on the Suburban for allowing Hoffman’s banter! Outrageous. If Hoffman is permitted to continue to write his column, I will cancel my subscription. He knew what he was writing & now he is back peddling to cover his . . . !

  5. Hoffman is one pathetic individual – he apparently not only thinks homosexuality is a sin, but that it is “viler” than pedophelia in general and “viler” than heterosexual pedophelia specifically.

    If he remains on the paper, I’ll cancel my subscription.

  6. It’s my understanding that Main Line Suburban has no intention of issuing either a clarification or an apology for Ray Hoffman’s ad hominem attack on homosexuality in his March 23 Banter column.

    Why not? Not because the paper’s management and editors agree with Hoffman’s view or believe in his 1st amendment right to spew venom in their newspaper.

    There’s only one reason the editorial staff will say nothing and welcome Hoffman back to write whatever drivel he chooses.

    Revenue.

    Controversy sells papers and draws readers to their website. It seems clear that standards for civil discourse are of secondary importance to them and subject to an any interpretation that servesa higher purpose – selling papers..

    As you judge the man, so should you judge the newspaper.

  7. I hate to see people disappointed in the decision of MLM tp retain Hoffman. The decision to read his statement and make the interpretation that is being made is one choice, but I don’t think that was his intended message, and we can parse it all we want to prove that’s what he meant, but he has said that is not what he meant and the paper believes him. I will be eager to see how they deal with it in this week’s edition. They should explain it and apologize for the unclear statement, and then make a pro-active comment. That’s where they have their chance. If they ignore it, then all criticism is fair game imho. It’s that free speech issue again.

    http://www.dbtselfhelp.com/html/cognitive_distortions.html

    Pattye Benson Reply:

    It is my understanding that the newspaper will not be making an apology. Personally, if Hoffman does believe that his words were misunderstood, I think he should just clarify. And then apologize to readers for any misunderstanding. If my words were ever misunderstood, that is how I would handle it — I would certainly clarify rather than leave people with wrong impression. To think that words that I wrote could hurt someone, a family, a friend, etc. — would be awful & I absolutely would apologize for any harm, especially if unintentional. Guess Hoffman doesn’t think like me . . .

    Andrea Reply:

    I heartily concur Pattye. I would expect Mr. Hoffman to respond to the misunderstanding. If he is aware of the interpretention and says nothing, then the value (?) of his column is zero. He writes in the first person, and should consider the responses and apologize in the first person. That would be the bigger man decision.

    Vallon Reply:

    I anticipate a half-hearted apology…and another free plug for the TTRC.

  8. “That’s Kampf speak… which was a weak attempt on his part to deflect the real issue. I’ll say it again… the point of my comparison was with totalitarian regimes. Take your pick…”

    I think this request that people put your statement into context applies to the Banter statement. If people want to look at the worst possible interpretation when anyone says anything, it’s possible to do so. I read your statement about Nazis at the time, and it could be parsed as some have done. I do not believe that was your intent.

    Likewise, I think Mr. Hoffman’s statement was careless and can be parsed to the interpretation many have taken, but I will take it for granted that he meant to demonize priests who are practicing homosexual pedophiles with no emphasis on the homosexual part.

    Regardless, if we all put our energy into considering the intended message, and not decrying that what we think we heard is what the speaker meant….yadda yadda yadda… we could all learn.

    But Mr. Hoffman — I do believe, just as John P has spent much energy here trying to clarify his Nazi comment — to the point of his own exasperation — I think you owe MLMN readers a clarification of your own. What you said hurt some people, and if you didn’t mean to hurt them, then you MUST say so. That is the responsible way to deal with mistakes. I think John P has done more than his part to try to clarify his intent — you need to do the same.

    There is enough pain associated with the RCC, we don’t need to broaden the brush to associate homosexuality with the problem of the victimization. The problem is a flawed system that allows adults to damage children under cover of the cloth, or however it should be said that people with access to children should be worthy of the respect they demand.

  9. Ray Hoffman’s column ‘Main Line Banter’ is back in this week’s Main Line Media News. Hoffman does not apologize for any misunderstanding of his last column re priests and homosexuality. There is no reference to his last column or negative comments and letters to the editors. Apparently, Hoffman does not feel the need to clarify his remarks.

    To those that were hurt by Hoffman’s remarks, I am sorry. I wanted to believe that Hoffman would accept responsibility for his words – even if his words were misunderstood.

    To give any more discussion on Community Matters would be to publicize Ray Hoffman and his column which would be wrong. With this remark, I will be closing comments on this post. If you have further comments on the subject, you can go to Hoffman’s column online and make those comments.

    In closing, I am disappointed that Hoffman didn’t care enough to at least clarify his words . . . Oh well.

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