Monday, April 12, 2010

Pedophile Priests, the Roman Catholic Church and Other Christians

Reading this article, regarding then Cardinal Ratzinger's actions, or lack thereof, is chilling for a host of reasons. I'll let you draw your own conclusions as you read the article.

Perhaps, as is alleged, the process showed no evidence of a "cover up." Maybe so and maybe not, but at the very least, the entire agonizingly slow investigation reveals a shocking willingness to protect the "universal church" over protecting the bodies, souls and spirits of children. Add this to the numerous sordid stories of other areas of the country, the world, other cardinals and bishops, and the widespread disregard for innocent people makes me feel queasy. I am appalled, disgusted, and grieved. I am also deeply sad for the numerous Roman Catholics who feel betrayed by their church. And I am extremely glad that my own denomination, among others, handles these kinds of allegations very differently. Sadly, at least in my area, many deeply angry Catholics refuse to darken the door of a Catholic church but are unwilling to consider the possibility of attending another kind of Christian church. Contrary to Ratzinger's remarks, the "universal church" is not just Roman Catholics.

And on a different but related subject, see It's Not About Celibacy by Jesuit priest, James Martin. Many people have said to me something like, "Well, until they let priests get married they'll keep having this problem." I disagree.

Obviously, I do not believe that one must remain single in order to minister effectively. I think that celibacy could be an option for for certain Catholic religious orders. Those who feel called to priestly ministry but also want to have a family, like Protestants, could join different orders. An increasing number of Catholics seem to agree. But to equate celibacy with the kind of psychological disturbance, (and sin) that is involved with sexual abuse is disturbing. Do we believe that unmarried persons are more likely to commit rape? (If you do, you do not understand that rape is not simply a sexual act but a violent one.)

For that matter, isn't it time that we Protestant folks stop viewing single clergy as somehow suspect? Have we totally thrown out the Apostle Paul's remarks on this? There are advantages to a celibate life, and Rev. Martin enumerates them well in his article.
And last, lest we non-Catholic church folks be temped to secretly rejoice a bit at the troubles of others, remember that what affects one religious body in a community affects all the religious organizations around it. What affects one denomination will result in difficulty for all of us. Catholic clergy, most of whom want to serve people and are doing so under increasingly difficult circumstances, need our prayers. So do all those precious people who feel betrayed by their church leaders and those who suffered in silence or who, when they spoke up, were shamed, ignored, or marginalized in other ways. The damage is horrific and immeasurable.


Jeni said...

All very good points, indeed. The idea that only single individuals are responsible for perpetrating these acts is beyond ridiculous. Whether one is married or not has absolutely no bearing on whether a person is sexually abusing a child. And how true as to this affecting the entire religious community too -as those who lose their faith, refuse to look at another church for whatever reason, can definitely be a consequence of actions such as you have recognized here. So many folks become anti-church because they see church-goers as all being hypocrites and this is just one example of how that can occur.

LoieJ said...

Yeah, lets not forget that there is abuse among married people who are pastors, teachers, boy scout leaders, day care workers, etc. But it sure jumps out at a person when it is within the church. And if there is a systematic way that people are protected, well, shame on them.

My son was not abused, but he was friends with a Catholic brother who "did something" (not illegal, but certainly unethical) with an adult student. So then Son's friends looked at him and questioned. Those who knew him well would know that he would never let somebody mess with him.

But the "investigation" included the Brother's secretary calling Son and asking if anything had happened when Son visited the Brother. Some investigation. And the Brother was whisked away to oblivion by the order, never to be heard from again.

This was only 4 years ago. The whole incident greatly affected my son because he thought he knew that may well and he trusted him.

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

"Whisked away." Yeah, how many times has this happened? I hate to imagine.

Lynne said...

I so agree! We've had similar stuff in Australia, and not only amongst the Catholics, though their cases seem to be more extreme, possibly because of the scale of their institutional policies.We actually had a guy who was a former Anglican archbishop made Governor General (the Queen's rep), and then have to step down because it all came out how he mishandled a sex-abuse case against one of his clergy years earlier. our safe ministry standards are really strict now, and no one is allowed to have anything to do with kids in the church without safe ministry training and a police check

Anonymous said...

Yes. I think the Catholic church has acted unwisely in taking so much longer than some others in dealing with the problem of clergy sexual abuse of children, but I don't think celibacy is by any means the only reason they seem to have more. The fact that they have had more clergy than any other denomination in most parts of the world would also have helped, for starters.

I did my theological training in an ecumenical college and had a number of conversations with the Jesuits in which I recognised that not having to take into consideration the needs of a family would be very freeing and they recognised that having a partner would be very supportive.

Dr Laura Marie Grimes said...

Mandatory celibacy is a bad thing (freely chosen and truly called it can be a great blessing form ministry). But I agree that it certainly isn't the only, or even major cause, of this kind of abuse. My life-destroying experience in that regard was perpetrated by a married Protestant pastor and repeatedly mishandled by his denomination--as was the case with almost all of them until the last couple of decades. Glad to hear that things are apparently better in the AG now, as well as some others. I think part of the slowness of the RC to respond is the infallibility/teaching authority thing--hard to fix mistakes if you're always trying to pretend you haven't made any. And another part is the exclusion of female clergy, who have led the fight to change things in many of the mainline denoms.

Lori said...

Disastrous on so many levels. The church's looking the other way attracted and enabled those with such proclivities and propagated them into our society. Children were taught that they were property and not believed no matter what, and grew up to do the same thing.

Tragic for those in the church who have done God's work and so much good in the world. The avenue for this work may well be shut down or at the very least, fall suspect by association because of this.

We used to live in a civil society. We now live in a society growing more predatory by the day. The Catholic Church being exposed as a predator is, IMO, transcendent tragedy.