To understand clerical power abuse, look to the seminaries.

The power that a seminary faculty has over students would never be accepted in a state run institution.

In seminary, the first lesson learned is to maintain the reputation of the institution and, at all costs, avoid scandal.

by Brian Devlin

St Andrew’s College Drygrange was the main seminary for the east of Scotland. When I entered in 1978 it had just celebrated its 25th anniversary. It was a curious  place, a gay community in everything but name, but a self-loathing gay community.

Not everyone was gay. And the ones that were gay pretended that they weren’t. Except when they didn’t. Towards the end of my time there a student in the year below me told me that he and his pal had been working their way through the student list the night before – a common pastime back in the day – deciding who was and wasn’t gay. When they came to my name they concluded: “Brian isn’t gay, but he wishes he was.”

I suppose Drygrange was not atypical for its  day. I look back on it now with some fondness. But that’s not my dominant emotion. No. Largely I look back on it and I tremble inside. I look back and I see now that it was where I first understood what others having power over me felt like. Raw. Fearful. Relentless.


In my first year, seeking out friends, a group of us gathered in a more senior student’s room. He lived in a dark and eerie part of the “old house”. We talked, as we drank our “camp coffee”, of seminary life. He was a fan of Leonard Cohen who was playing in the background. A head in an unmade bed, as I misremember. A tabernacle had been stolen from a nearby chapel. Satanism. It had to be. Then he told us a secret. We were to keep it to ourselves. The year previously a student had died from suicide. It was a horrible and painful death. The student body had all been called together to pray for their fellow seminarian. They were warned never to speak of this incident again, the student said.

“Hey that’s no way to say goodbye,” Leonard sang

My Irish family has a phrase: “Pass no remarks.” It’s a toxic sentence. It’s a bystander motif. Say nothing. Gaze at your shoes. Kick the tyres and walk on. Because if you say something, anything, you draw attention to the very thing those in control want to be covered up. In this case the death of a young student priest by suicide. Imagine the scandal if the people knew. No reflection, no discernment. And absolutely no learning. The seed of the abuse of power is pressed into the earth by seminary faculty undoubtedly under the control of the bishop in charge.

In seminary the first lesson learned is to maintain the reputation of the institution and, at all costs, avoid scandal. Power and authority is used to quash anything that might threaten this unhealthy equilibrium.

Twice a year seminarians observed the closed door of the staff room. At the end of the first and the third term, after exams, students faced the scrutinium. Behind the door all of the faculty gathered and, like my student friend, they too went through the list of seminarians. But this process was different. This process was to weed out those deemed unsuitable – those who didn’t have a vocation. Now of course, someone has to do it: the scrutinising. But, in all charity, the faculty that I trained under were not the deepest thinkers by and large. These were not profound men. Many of them were institutionalised and embittered with their lives. The thoughts of this scrutiny induced panic in me. “Have I offended any of the staff? Did I displease him? Did I not respond correctly? Will I be kicked out?” Many students were sent packing. There was no appeal. No process of scrutinising the scrutinisers. The students were just dismissed. So you learn about power more than you learn about beatitudinal love in a situation like that.

The power that a seminary faculty has over students would never be accepted in a state run institution. It’s final, and it is ruthless. And inherent within is its ability to be manipulated into a sexual predator’s playground

You learn, when the college spiritual director slips his cold hand under your shirt onto your naked back as he embraces you after confession, to keep your shock hidden. When he caresses your thigh and arm in his car as he drives you somewhere in the dark, you know to keep silent. And as he pulls you onto his knee, after night prayer and tells you he loves you, suddenly you know that he’s a conman and that you’ve been fooled. You’ve  nowhere to take that because a quiet word from him into the scrutinium and the pronouncement will be made, that all of a sudden you don’t have a vocation after all. Nothing to do with God, this decision. Everything to do with human manipulation. And obedience to the bishop in charge.

Then…then as a you trudge wearily through seminary, through all of the “ologies” and the “isms” and scrutiniums  and you become ordained a priest  and you learn that the spiritual director who humiliated you is to be made your archbishop – and eventually cardinal – you look at your seven years of seminary “formation” and your few months as a priest and you realise that it’s nonsense. This construct, this artificial, exhausting, unedifying seminary experience has left you empty. It’s all been about power. You’ve never sought any nor had any. But you’ve been at its mercy from day one.

When Pope Francis talks about the scourge of clericalism we need radically to look at where clerics are made. We need to ask, on the basis of the exceptionally poor bishops many Catholics have got, and the new generation of hyper-conservative, liturgical-queen-priests flowing into parishes, if seminaries are the best way to train priests for modern ministry. A blend of academic and pastoral experience in parishes or specialised ministries might be more appropriate, certainly for the secular priesthood.


I decided, when Keith O’Brien became Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh archdiocese that, as Freddy Mercury sang: “I’ve got to break free.” But the seminary had one last throw of its loaded dice. Despite taking all my government grant money year in and year out it awarded me no recognised academic degree. This, I was told, was a managed strategy to stop priests leaving the priesthood. I still left though. I went on the dole and saw the faces of people who’d seen me at confession a few days previously look askance. But that academic imprisonment can be a clincher. That shows the cold, dank oppression of the seminary system in my day. A system that was rotten through and through. How many men could and should have left the priesthood but had nowhere to go?

I know that “things are different now”. The hierarchy says so on a routine basis about clerical child abuse. “We’ve learned our lessons.” I don’t believe them though. When I told my 91-year-old mother that I was writing a book about whistleblowing on Cardinal O’Brien, she said: “Ach Brian. Be careful. Check the brakes on your car every morning.”

All that is different now is cosmetic change. Power abuse is in the DNA of the hierarchy. It’s their currency. Like a crime gang they operate within their own rules. Bishops and cardinals and even popes, as we’ve just seen with Benedect XVI’s “non-apology” apology over his part in organisational malfeasance, know each other’s secrets. They know each other’s weak spots. And that’s where their power resides. Jesus did not preach: “Blessed are those  who hold the Omertà close to their hearts,” but observing the hierarchy you’d think that was his most important beatitude. The abuse of power is seen up close in the seminary system. People learn from their teachers for good or ill. There must be a better way to create a beatitudinal Church.

Complete Article HERE!

In clergy abuse scandals, the Catholic Church still hasn’t reckoned with what it allowed

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in 2015 at a ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica.

By Editorial Board

Reports of clergy sex abuse in the Catholic Church have become so routine — and the scale of victimization and coverup so vast — that the effect is to dull the impact of each new revelation. It appears that over the course of decades, practically every higher-up in the institution knew, or should have known, what was going on.

Yet even the apparent sameness of so many disclosures and admissions, over so many years, should not blunt the importance of a recent report that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, as archbishop of the German cities of Munich and Freising from 1977 to 1982, failed to discipline abusive priests and enabled them to maintain their roles in ministry.

Similar allegations have been leveled, and often documented, regarding many bishops. But the German report, two years in the making, implicates a future pope, who at the time was known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

Even the ensnarement of a pope in the culture of coverup is not new. Pope John Paul II was blamed by a 2020 Vatican report for casting a blind eye at the culture of abuse generally, and of enabling the advancement of Theodore McCarrick, the former cardinal of D.C., who was later condemned for sexual abuse and stripped of his status as a priest.

The new report, commissioned by the German Catholic church and conducted by a law firm, is based on the church’s own documents and accounts from witnesses. “In a total of four cases, we came to the conclusion that the then-archbishop, Cardinal Ratzinger, can be accused of misconduct,” Martin Pusch, one of the authors, said in a news conference in January at the report’s unveiling.

In the course of the law firm’s inquiry, the former pope’s lawyers denied he had been at a meeting in 1980 in which the fate of a priest accused of pedophilia had been discussed. But when documents showed he had in fact attended the meeting, the former pontiff acknowledged through a spokesman that his previous assertion was “objectively false.”

Nearly two weeks after the report’s publication, Benedict finally came around to asking forgiveness for “abuses” and “errors” that happened on his watch — but not his own “abuses” and “errors.” He continues to deny any wrongdoing.

In the course of his papacy, from 2005 to his resignation in 2013, as the scope of abuse became increasingly obvious, Benedict did meet with abuse victims and moved to eject abusers from the church.

Yet even now, the scandal, the church’s most devastating in centuries, continues to swell. A massive French report last fall suggested there had been more than 200,000 victims of abuse in that country over the previous seven decades. Weeks later, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in an annual audit, documented more than 4,200 new allegations of sexual abuse of minors in the year ending in June. Most of them involved alleged incidents from decades earlier.

More than 1 billion Catholics worldwide remain faithful to a church that has delivered comfort, good works and education. Yet many are disillusioned by an institution that, even as it has made strides to reform its rules and culture, remains unable to fully face the extent of suffering it caused and allowed.

Complete Article HERE!

25 years later, Legion of Christ victims seek reparations

It has been 25 years since a Connecticut newspaper exposed one of the Catholic Church’s biggest sexual abuse scandals

Jose Barba, one of many victims in the Legion of Christ sex scandal, poses for a portrait in Mexico City, Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022. Barba was one of the first persons to come forward, accusing the disgraced founder of the Legion Father Marcial Maciel of sexual abuse before the Vatican. It has been 25 years since a Connecticut newspaper exposed one of the Catholic Church’s biggest sexual abuse scandals. And still some of the whistleblowers are seeking reparations from the Legion of Christ after reporting that the revered founder of the Legion of Christ religious order had raped and molested them when they were boys.


A Connecticut newspaper exposed one of the Catholic Church’s biggest sexual abuse scandals by reporting 25 years ago Wednesday that eight men had accused the revered founder of the Legion of Christ religious order of raping and molesting them when they were boys preparing for the priesthood.

It took a decade for the Vatican to sanction the founder, the Rev. Marcial Maciel, and another decade for the Legion to admit he was a serial pedophile who had violated at least 60 boys. In the meantime, the original whistleblowers suffered a defamation campaign by the Legion, which branded them liars bent on creating a conspiracy to hurt a man considered a living saint.

As they marked the quarter-century anniversary of revelations that tarnished the legacy of St. John Paul II, three of Maciel’s victims are still seeking reparations from the Legion to compensate for the abuse they suffered and the “moral” harm done to their reputations by the order.

They had refused earlier compensation offers that their fellow survivors accepted, and a mediation process begun in 2019 has stalled, according to emails and documents provided to The Associated Press.

The Vatican in 2010 took over the Mexico-based Legion and imposed a process of reform after an investigation showed that Maciel had sexually abused seminarians and fathered at least three children with two women. The Vatican found he had created a system of power built on silence, deceit and obedience that enabled him lead a double life.

The findings were by no means news to the Holy See: Documents from Vatican archives show how a succession of popes, cardinals and bishops starting in the 1950s simply turned a blind eye to credible reports that Maciel was a con artist, drug addict, pedophile and religious fraud. The Vatican and especially John Paul, however, appreciated his ability to bring in vocations and donations.

The reality of Maciel’s depravity burst into the public domain Feb. 23, 1997, when The Hartford Courant published a lengthy expose by investigative journalists Jason Berry and the late Gerald Renner about Maciel and the order, whose U.S. headquarters were based in Connecticut.

The story, which formed the basis of a 2004 book “Vows of Silence,” quoted several victims by name who independently reported that Maciel would bring them into his bedroom at night, and under the pretense of abdominal pain, induce them to masterbate him.

“When The Courant ran the long investigative piece Renner and I did on Maciel, we thought Pope John Paul II would see the light and punish Maciel,” Berry told the AP in an email. He noted that other mainstream media only began reporting on clergy sexual abuse after the Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” revelations in 2002. “By then, John Paul’s blind faith in Maciel was a cover-up by any other term, and lasted till his death.”

A year after the original Courant story, in 1998, the victims filed a formal canonical complaint against Maciel with the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where the case languished until after John Paul died. Maciel was sentenced in 2006 to a lifetime of “penance and prayer,” and he died in 2008, still considered a saint by the Legion.

Following the Vatican-mandated reform process, the Legion apologized and tried to make amends, even as it has been forced to confront revelations of a new generation of abusers within its ranks — some of them Maciel’s original victims — and the superiors who covered up for the crimes, some of whom remain in power.

In 2020, the Legion publicly retracted the “negative institutional and personal judgments about the character and motivations of the people who made legitimate and necessary accusations” in the original Courant expose. Naming the original victims, it said “Today we recognize as prophetic their accusations in favor of truth and justice.”

But Jose Barba, one of the most vocal of the original eight survivors, wants the Legion to formally retract what he calls the “lies” the order provided to the Courant to discredit him and the other victims. They include what he says were a falsified letter from a Chilean bishop who had investigated Maciel in the 1950s, and false statements from four Mexicans who claimed the victims had tried to enlist them in a conspiracy against Maciel.

Barba, who says he represents fellow survivors Arturo Jurado and Jose Antonio Perez Olvera, drafted a proposed letter to the Courant and the Vatican newspaper that he wanted the Legion to submit to retract the claims. But then Legion superior, the Rev. Eduardo Robles-Gil, refused during a December 2019 mediation meeting in Mexico City, Barba said.

In a Jan. 4, 2020 summary of that meeting, Barba said the Legion’s initial calculus of a low five-figure settlement offer for each of the three remaining victims was a “humiliation,” and he proposed a team of five arbitration experts to determine a more “just” reparation.

Robles-Gil signed the summary but wrote: “I receive this without accepting the process that is asked for and it remains at our consideration to accept it or not.”

The Legion’s new superior, the Rev. John Connor, tried unsuccessfully to engage with Barba after his February 2020 election, sending two letters that went unanswered until Barba emailed him on Jan. 5, 2021, seeking to restart negotiations.

Connor assured him he wanted to “find ways to contribute to heal and close the painful events of the history of our congregation.” But in an email, Connor said Barba’s proposal for five arbitration experts wouldn’t help “in finding a shared resolution.”

Barba never replied. “I don’t trust them because it’s not in good faith,” he told the AP.

In a statement to the AP, Legion spokesman the Rev. Aaron Smith noted that the order had reached settlements with most of the historic victims and hoped for a resolution with the remaining ones.

“We are sad that meeting still has not happened, especially considering the positive experience of the encounters with other victims of Fr. Maciel,” Smith said in a statement. “We continue to remain hopeful it will take place in the near future permitting open dialogue with him.”

Barba, meanwhile, says he is getting old and his two confreres are ailing. While they are hailed by ex-Legionaries as “los 8 Magnificos” (the Magnificent Eight) for having stood up to Maciel and the order, Barba recalls a Nov. 8, 1997 letter he and the others wrote to John Paul, translated into Polish, asking for the pope to hear their pain and do something.

“It appears inconceivable to us, Holy Father, that our grave revelations and complaints mattered absolutely nothing to you,” they wrote, according to a copy of the letter provided to the AP. “We want the church and society to understand that all we want is justice: not only for legitimate personal vindication, but for the good of the church and society.”

Complete Article HERE!

Benedict XVI and the German Church He Served Seek Forgiveness in Very Different Ways

The Church hierarchy has been signalling a new openness to change, but a plea from the Pope emeritus, following the release of a report on abuse, follows an old path.

A close reading of the Pope emeritus’s recent letter suggests that, instead of admitting any guilt, he took care to avoid saying what he himself had done and what he had failed to do.


In Germany, lately, powerful bishops have been speaking of prospects for change in Catholic life with a frankness not seen from the Church hierarchy anywhere else in a long time. When some hundred and twenty-five priests and other Church employees collectively “came out” as gay last month—with a manifesto faulting the Church’s “defamatory” teachings on sexuality and gender—Jean-Claude Hollerich, a Jesuit who is the archbishop of Luxembourg, told the German news outlet KNA that the foundation of Catholic teaching on homosexuality “is no longer true,” and called for a “fundamental revision of the doctrine.” Reinhard Marx, the archbishop of Munich and Freising—who last year spoke approvingly of the prospect of some form of Church blessings for same-sex-unions—said, “I think that things as they are cannot continue,” and that allowing some priests to marry “would be better for everyone.” Another bishop announced that gay people employed by his diocese, including priests, can profess their sexual identity without fear of discipline. Meanwhile, a process of Church renewal called the Synodal Way has led to formal proposals for laypeople in Germany to take a role in choosing bishops—a change that would alter the Church power structure profoundly.

Those are openings of the kind that progressive Catholics have sought from the hierarchy for decades. The issues they raise are so complex and controversial that a serious effort to address them could break the Church apart. Yet they’ve been overtaken by a different controversy—one about the role of Benedict XVI, the Pope emeritus, in enabling priestly sex abuse when he was an archbishop in Germany, and whether his “heartfelt request for forgiveness” is an admission of guilt.

Benedict turns ninety-five in April. As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he served for more than two decades as the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican office that oversees Church teaching. He was elected Pope in 2005, resigned in 2013 (the first Pope to do so since 1415), and, after Pope Francis succeeded him, took up residence in a monastery behind St. Peter’s Basilica. His request for forgiveness came earlier this month, in a personal letter (“Dear Sisters and Brothers”), following a report that included a section on his handling of priestly sexual abuse while he was archbishop of Munich and Freising, from 1977 to 1982.

The report was prepared by a team of outside lawyers, and commissioned by Cardinal Marx, who was prompted by a 2018 report on abuse in Germany as a whole, which estimated that roughly four per cent of priests had committed sexual abuse of minors in the seven decades after the Second World War. The new report runs to nearly two thousand pages, and chronicles at least four hundred and ninety-seven victims and at least two hundred and thirty-five abusers. It names Marx himself for mishandling two instances of priests suspected of abuse; Marx, who submitted his resignation to Pope Francis last June over the “catastrophe” of clerical abuse (it was declined), said that he was still prepared to do so. “I am not clinging to my job,” he said.

During the report’s preparation, the authors sought testimony from Benedict, and received a written eighty-two-page statement in response. The report concludes that the Pope emeritus “can be accused of misconduct in cases of sexual abuse,” for allowing, in four instances, priests suspected of sexually abusing minors to continue in pastoral ministry. (Benedict has denied wrongdoing over the cases.) At a press conference, a lawyer involved with the report said that Benedict’s statement had indicated that he had not attended a meeting in 1980, regarding the status of a priest who had received therapy for pedophilia and, after the meeting, was returned to ministry. In 1986 (by which time, Benedict had gone to Rome), the priest was convicted of sexually abusing minors. The lawyer then read from minutes of the 1980 meeting, which showed that Benedict had, in fact, been there. “We do not find the testimony or the statement of Pope Benedict that he was not at this meeting to be credible,” he said. Reaction was swift. Benedict was accused of lying and covering up. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, an American advocacy group, suggested that, having resigned as Pope, Benedict should also resign as Pope emeritus.

The report has forced the German Church to ponder its recent past, a period shaped by Ratzinger’s view of Catholic doctrine as inviolable and the Church as the last redoubt of order and stability in a rapidly changing world. In 1962, two young theologians travelled from Germany to Rome as advisers at the Second Vatican Council: Hans Küng, a Swiss, who urged thoroughgoing reform, and Ratzinger, who favored reform, but less urgently. After the Council, their outlooks diverged further. Küng sought to re-root Church teachings in fresh scholarship on the Bible and the history of ideas; Ratzinger sought to correct what he perceived as the Council’s excesses through eloquent reiterations of long-held doctrines. In 1979, fourteen months after the election of Pope John Paul II, the Vatican withdrew Küng’s license to teach as a Catholic theologian; three years later, Ratzinger took the Vatican’s top doctrinal job. With John Paul, he maintained that Church teachings on sexuality and on the priesthood belong to an inalterable “magisterium,” or body of official teaching, and he saw to it that only men who affirmed that position were chosen as bishops. His rigorous defenses of the magisterium and his silencing of theologians who took positions other than his (which earned him the nicknames Ratzweiler and the Panzer-Cardinal) have affected Catholicism ever since—to the extent that the current German bishops can be said to be dealing at last with long-standing issues that he had used his supervisory powers to prevent their predecessors, and so the Church as a whole, from dealing with.

Four days after the press conference about the Munich report, Benedict’s secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, issued a statement saying that Benedict’s false claim was “the result of an oversight in the editing of his statement,” for which the former prelate was very sorry, and added that Benedict was reading the full report. Gänswein also said that a line in the statement that downplayed the 1980 meeting, because it hadn’t dealt specifically with the priest’s return to ministry, was “objectively correct.”

That response was seen as evasive, and not just by Benedict’s longtime critics. Two key figures of the post-Benedict generation weighed in. The head of the German bishops’ conference, Georg Bätzing, of Limburg, who is sixty, said that Benedict “must override his advisers.” Hans Zollner, a German Jesuit, age fifty-five, whom the Vatican has given a prominent role in its official efforts to address the sexual abuse of minors, said that “there should have been much more empathy and humanity in this than just sticking to the letter of the law” and suggested that Benedict should address the matter with “a simple, personal statement.” That is what Benedict did.

It wasn’t the first time that Benedict had engaged in controversy from his monastery quarters via a personal letter. In 2019, he issued a six-thousand-word missive on clerical sexual abuse, which he attributed to a range of causes: the sexual revolution and the “new normalcy” of sexual permissiveness, the liberalizing of theology after the Second Vatican Council, the rise of “homosexual cliques” in Catholic seminaries, and the decline in religious belief in the West. “Why did pedophilia reach such proportions?” he asked. “Ultimately, the reason is the absence of God.” The new letter, by contrast, runs to just a page and a half, and its tone is tender and vulnerable. The Pope emeritus thanks those, Pope Francis among them, who have stuck by him. And he thanks a “small group of friends” who read thousands of documents to help prepare his statement for the Munich report “on my behalf.” He acknowledges the “error” that occurred in their account of the 1980 meeting, saying, “To me it proved deeply hurtful that this oversight was used to cast doubt on my truthfulness, and even to label me a liar.”

Then, Benedict adds, “Now, to these words of thanks, there must necessarily also follow a confession.” Drawing on the old Latin Mass’s language of penitence, he notes that he has seen the effects of a “most grievous fault” in the suffering of survivors of priestly sexual abuse. To those people he conveys his request for forgiveness, because “I have come to understand that we ourselves are drawn into this grievous fault whenever we neglect it or fail to confront it with decisiveness or responsibility.” He continues, “I have had great responsibilities in the Catholic church. All the greater is my pain for the abuses and errors that occurred in those different places during the time of my mandate.”

The Vatican’s news Web site presented Benedict’s letter as “a personal confession,” and it was characterized by many as a breakthrough: a Pope asking for forgiveness and making a searching “examination of conscience,” as he put it, and aware that he will soon “find myself before the final judge of my life.” Cardinal Seán O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston, who leads the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, praised Benedict for his “profound honesty.”

Complete Article HERE!

Vatican ponders priesthood amid abuse research, revelations

The Vatican this week is hosting a three-day symposium on the Catholic priesthood amid renewed public attention on clergy sex abuse scandals and fresh research into the abuses of priestly power


The Vatican this week is hosting a three-day symposium on the Catholic priesthood amid renewed public attention on clergy sex abuse scandals and fresh research into the abuses of priestly power that harm both children and adults.

Pope Francis opens the symposium Thursday, and no fewer than a half-dozen Vatican cardinals are scheduled to either address the conference or preside over its sessions.

The high-level lineup suggests the topic has particular relevance as the Catholic hierarchy grapples with dwindling numbers of priests in Europe and the Americas and calls for a reform of everything from celibacy requirements to the role of women in the church.

But the sex abuse scandals are still making news, most recently with allegations that Pope Benedict XVI botched cases when he was an archbishop. While such revelations have been emerging for decades, new attention is focused on clergy who abuse their power to engage in sexual activity with adults, oftentimes abusing them spiritually in the process.

Recent developments have shed light on a problem the Vatican has long tried to ignore. These include the #MeToo movement, revelations of nuns abused by priests and the scandal over disgraced ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was defrocked in 2019 after the Vatican determined he bedded adult seminarians as well as minors.

Archbishop Bernard Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis told his fellow bishops over a year ago that the McCarrick scandal “gives us the moment to speak about” the abuse of adults in the Church, and to do some “mature thinking” about how to address their trauma and the clergy who cause it.

The Catholic hierarchy has long insisted that these are consensual “affairs” between adults that are sinful for the priest but not criminal. But recent Catholic scholarship underscores that the behavior amounts to professional sexual misconduct, and that victims are traumatized both by the acts themselves and the church’s dismissive response.

Recently a team of German researchers published an anthology of 23 women who describe the spiritual and sexual abuse they suffered at the hands of priests, many of them current or former nuns but some laywomen as well.

The women described being trapped in toxic relationships with purportedly celibate, holy men, unable to break free because of the trauma bonds they formed with their abusers.

The stories were the subject of a conference this month organized by the Centre for Safeguarding Minors and Vulnerable Persons at the Catholic St. Paul University in Ottawa.

“There is a growing community, a network of academics, scholars and survivors,” said Doris Reisinger, a former nun and survivor of adult abuse who has become a leading researcher in the field.

Australian researcher Stephen De Weger recently published a thesis on the sexual abuse of adults which also examined the role the purportedly celibate priesthood has in the problem. He took as a starting point the estimate by the late Richard Sipe, a former priest and researcher, and confirmed by other studies, that only about 50% of priests abide by their vow of chastity, and that clerics are far more likely to engage in sexual misconduct with adults than children.

He noted that Australia’s Royal Commission investigation into institutional abuse found nearly 30,000 adults had been “sexually involved” with Australian Catholic clergy since the 1950s. Much of the scandal over the sex abuse of minors, De Weger argued, was due to the culture of secrecy created by religious superiors who didn’t take action against priestly pedophiles because they had their own sexual skeletons in the closet.

“They don’t want this stuff exposed,” De Weger said in a phone interview. “Why? Because the male, supposedly celibate clergy are the core central power base of the church. If you start exposing the fact, that like Sipe says, 50% have given up on chastity, that’s going to really rock their power to the core.”

While this week’s Vatican conference isn’t expected to tackle such problems, celibacy and the role of women in the church are on the official agenda.

One of the speakers, theologian Michelina Tenace, told a Vatican press conference that the abuse scandals were evidence the whole process of discerning priestly vocations and training seminarians must be rethought.

“One way to verify the call to the priesthood must be to never aspire to any power,” she said.

Complete Article HERE!