Theology of priesthood behind sex abuse crisis

CLERICAL SEXUAL abuse is inevitable given the meaning system that is taught by the Catholic Church and to which many priests adhere.

Contradictions in that system lead to failure, increase shame and a way of living that encourages deviant behaviour.

This is the thesis of a revealing book on sexual abuse within the church by an Irish academic and therapist who interviewed, at length, nine priests and brothers convicted of child abuse, who counselled several other clerical abusers and who undertook extensive research on the issue for her book Child Sexual Abuse and the Catholic Church: Gender, Power and Organisational Culture. The author is Marie Keenan of the school of applied social science at UCD.

It is evident that the apostolic visitors – Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Archbishop Emeritus of Westminster, Cardinal Seán O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, Thomas Christopher Collins, Archbishop of Toronto and Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York – didn’t read the book or speak to Keenan while in Ireland.

Their report, published in summary form yesterday, might have been very different had they done so.

The culture inculcated in Catholic clergy is that they are separate from other human beings because of their special “calling” from God, because of their sole capacity to administer the sacraments, to turn bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ, because of their power to forgive sin and administer the last rites.

From the moment of their ordination they are apart, apart in the minds of other convinced Catholics and apart in their own minds. And they are also celibate, because of that “calling”. Abjuring intimate sexual relations, sublimating their sexual urges and widely admired in the communities they inhabit on account of that sublimation.

Keenan says this theology of sacrifice eclipses all human considerations. She says her argument is not that clerical celibacy is the problem but a Catholic externally-imposed sexual ethic and a theology of priesthood that “problematises” the body and erotic sexual desire and emphasises chastity and purity, over a relational ethic (how as human beings we should treat each other).

She says this theology of sexuality contributes to self-hatred, shame and a sense of personal failure on the part of some priests.

This tension is often exacerbated by a sense of powerlessness on the part of many priests within a hierarchical, authoritarian church, subject to the authority of bishops or heads of religious orders, often allowing them with little sense of being in control of their own lives. And this is further added to by loneliness.

Some priests cope with this by easing off on the celibacy bit. Some ease off the celibacy bit with guilt, some with a sense of doing their best with their human frailties.

According to Keenan it is often the priests who aspire to priestly perfection and are hugely conflicted with the demands of such perfection that resort to child sexual abuse, usually, she says, not opportunistically, but consciously and deliberately over time. And this seems to be confirmed by other research.

Moreover, in many ways, the release of the confessional – the opportunity to dispel guilt in a secret ritual – compounds the problem. The “external” imposition (by the church) of the priestly ethic, rather than the cultivation of an internal ethic, also contributes to the propensity to abuse; for the construction of an internal ethic involves reflection on the impact of one’s conduct on the lives of others and that seems to have been missing in the make-up of many of the clerical abusers.

There is nothing at all of this in the report of the bachelor apostolic visitors, instead a recommendation that the culture of the seminary be intensified in the lives of aspirants for the priesthood. No acknowledgment is made of the tension inherent in the celibacy thing and the hypocrisies and traumas to which it gives rise.

In general there seems to be little interest in why this clerical abuse has occurred and what it is within the Catholic culture that has engendered it. The dismissive explanation that it is all due to the “flawed” personalities of the abusers ignores the cultural and formative factors that at least contributed to the phenomenon.

There is a further point which is also not addressed at all by the Catholic Church and it has to do with society’s treatment of the clerical perpetrators after they have served their sentences. They are rendered effectively homeless by a public rage directed at them, engendered largely by the media.

Our system of justice ordains that people who commit even the most heinous of crimes are brought before the courts, convicted, publicly shamed and then imprisoned, after which, that’s it. And yet, often in denial of their human rights, they remain hounded for the remainder of their days. Moreover, very often those who do the most vigorous hounding are those who speak most loudly that bit from what is known as “the Lord’s Prayer”: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Complete Article HERE!

Mother Church and the Rape of Her Children

I recommend that you read the entire article, but here are Richard Sipe’s conclusions.

Conclusion: The title of this volume—Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church: A Decade of Crisis:—is actually a question. What has the Catholic Church learned? No one in June 2002 could possibly imagine the worldwide scope or dimensions that questions about abuse by Roman Catholic clergy would assume by 2012. The head of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference, Wilton Gregory, proclaimed triumphantly in 2004, “the problem is history.”

My reflections focused on five fundamental issues that impinge on the Catholic Church and underlie its processes of learning about and preventing clergy sex abuse: secrecy, scandal, crisis, mandated celibacy, and clerical culture.

Secrecy was and remains foundational to the operation of the Catholic clerical world. Reviewing several thousand legal procedures over the past ten years demonstrates to me how assiduously—and violently—American cardinals and bishops fight to keep incriminating and embarrassing documents secret.

Within a decade, the fulminating scandal fed by revelation upon revelation of Catholic bishops and priests abusing boys and girls and superiors covering up their crime spread like a string of Chinese fire crackers from Boston’s Back Bay to the Vatican and Pope, from Dallas to Dublin and Bishops Conferences around the world. Sex abuse by priests is no longer a secret, but a scandal properly so defined: a widely publicized allegation or set of allegations that damages the reputation of an institution, individual or creed. Clergy abuse of the vulnerable is the biggest scandal the Catholic Church in America has ever faced and most probably equals the Twelfth and Sixteenth Century scandals in Europe. For example: tapes recorded during an April 2010 meeting between a victim, his bishop abuser, and a cardinal (Danneels of Belgium) reveal the prelate urging the victim not to tell anyone that the bishop sexually abused him. The European press claimed the tapes provided some of the most damaging documents to emerge in the scandal rocking the Roman Catholic Church.

Again in 2010 another cardinal, Dario Castrillon Hoyos of Columbia, used the familial argument to defend keeping priest abuse secret saying, “it [reporting priest abusers to the police] would have been like testifying against a family member at trial.” He also claimed in a radio interview reported by the Associated Press “that Pope Benedict XVI, formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was involved in a 2001 decision to praise a French bishop for shielding a priest who was convicted of raping minors.”

Not long after February 27, 2004 when the Report on the Crisis in the Catholic Church in the United States was published and made public along with the John Jay Report Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne M. Burke who served as interim Chair of the National Review Board said that the bishops did not want change, but only “business as usual.” She spoke in 2010 about the problem of “untruth” she sees in the church and the bishops.

The scandal of sex abuse by Catholic clergy has been a public relations nightmare—gargantuan and impossible. No spin makes gruesome facts go away. Many priests and bishops have violated in criminal ways their responsibilities as representatives of Mother Church. Scandal, of course, is not the real problem no matter how distressing; the crisis of betrayal of Mother Church’s children is the crux of the scandal. However, the question remains: has the church learned anything about truth and transparency in the past decade?

There is wide based agreement that the Catholic Church is in a crisis mode. The crisis has to do with human sexuality—specifically bishops and priests who present themselves as celibate and chaste while they violate minors and the vulnerable under the cloak of their religion. The denial, rationalization, lies, and cover up of clerical crime by Church authority is in evidence and provides an ongoing scandal and crisis.

There are repeated calls for the abrogation of the requirement of celibacy for ordination to the priesthood. Whatever the merits of the arguments, they will not solve all the problems of clerical sexual malfeasance. Bishops and priests exist in, maintain, and assiduously preserve a clerical culture within which secret sexual activity by clergy is tolerated.

Celibacy and chastity are taught in an educational mode and structure established for diocesan clergy at the Council of Trent. That tradition is dependent on a monastic-like schedule (horarium) and a system of sacramental confession and spiritual directors. It is no longer effective. Despite rules and screening procedures a significant number of clerical candidates are sexually active with one another or with priests—sometimes faculty. Celibate observance of religious order clerics has not proved better. But sexual activity in the clerical culture is not introduced from the bottom-up—from candidates for ordination—but from men established in the culture—priests, spiritual directors, rectors, superiors, even bishops. Homosexuality is a predominant operational orientation in clerical culture form Rome to Los Angeles.[23]

Culture always trumps reason. Is it possible to revise clerical culture? History, theology and human nature all conspire in favor of reforming dysfunctional systems eventually. Theologically, clerical culture is mutable, no matter how firmly grounded in custom and tradition. Jesuit Bernard Lonergan (1967) wrestling with the possibility of “transition of organization and structural forms in the Church” said among other things: “there is in the historicity, which results from human nature, an exigence for changing form, structures, methods; and it is on this level and through this medium of changing meaning that divine revelation has entered the world and that the Church’s witness is given to it.”[24]

Literary critic, Lionel Trilling (1965) talks about the power of forces that change culture. Somewhere in the mind “there is a hard, irreducible, stubborn core of biological urgency, and biological necessity, and biological reason, that culture cannot reach and that reserves the right, which sooner or later it will exercise, to judge culture and resist and revise it.”[25] There is hope.

Prevention of sexual abuse by priests and bishops presents a daunting agenda. A revision of clerical culture is required to deal effectively with clergy sexual violations of every stripe. The burden transcends the capacities and limits of law and psychiatry and rests squarely on the very core of religion and spiritual transformation—in theologian Bernard Haering’s words on “absolute sincerity and transparency.” Prevention will not occur without discussion of the realities of sexuality, celibacy, and the development of explicit and honest norms for sexual responsibility and accountability for human behavior on every level of the church. The darkness of secrecy breeds betrayal, abuse and violent assault. Revelations over the last decade have proved that. A Mother Church, that sustains, nourishes and, protects her children demands light, accountability, openness and truth. That is the task unveiled over the past ten years. It is vital that the Church respond. Any church that cannot tell the truth about itself runs the risk of having nothing significant to be heard.

Complete Article HERE!

Diocese Of Portland To Offer Support Group For Same-Sex Attraction

The Catholic Pray the gay away program…except they don’t call it gay. They’re so clever!

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland is setting up a ministry to support people with same-sex attraction.

The spiritual support group Courage refers to itself as a “pro-chastity” ministry on its website, It has more than 100 worldwide chapters and more than 1,500 participants, said Sue Bernard, communications director for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland.

“Courage offers hope and encouragement to men and woman who desire to live in accordance with the church’s teaching on homosexuality — specifically that the dignity and identity of every person is not determined by their sexual attractions, but by their relationship with the Lord and their striving to live the virtues of faith, hope and charity,” she said.

The Catholic Church emphasizes sex within the context of marriage and the importance of chaste living, Bernard said.

“If you’re married, chaste living is being faithful to your spouse,” she said.

An informal support group had been meeting before the first referendum about same-sex marriage in 2009. Bernard did not have an estimate of the number of people who participated.

After representatives spoke to Bishop Richard Malone and wanted the church’s assistance, the group received formal recognition. It has a chaplain, Fr. Kevin Martin. Martin serves as parochial vicar in the Augusta area, Bernard said.

The Courage website has a section called “The 12 Steps of Courage,” based on the 12 steps from Alcoholics Anonymous. Step one says, “We admitted that we were powerless over homosexuality and our lives had become unmanageable.”
The support group has a policy of anonymity and confidentiality, Bernard said. Locations will be disclosed to people who plan to participate in it.

Complete Article HERE!

New church group to assist gays draws criticism

A new program by the Archdiocese of Hartford to provide a spiritual support system to assist men and women with same-sex attractions to live chaste lives has drawn criticism from the gay community who say it can do more harm than good.

The new program called Courage, which has chapters around the world, does not condone physical sex between same-sex partners. But it creates a “spiritual support system which would assist men and women with same-sex attractions in living chaste lives in fellowship, truth and love,” according to the Courage website.

“We really needed to do something because a lot of people are hurting, because families are torn apart by this, and we really need to be responsive,” said Deacon Robert Pallotti, who operates the Courage program in Connecticut.
“We do have a pastoral responsibility to do all we can to make people feel welcome in the church.”

Catholic pro-gay groups generally had a negative reaction to Courage.
“Courage does not want to convert you to become heterosexual, so in some ways, it’s a little more enlightened that the other programs that the Catholic Church has had for gays,” said Phil Attey, executive director of the national group, Catholics for Equality. “But at its core it’s still rooted in dangerous, harmful and barbaric thinking. The idea that you can suppress someone’s sexuality and still have that person develop into a happy, well-adjusted person, well, there’s very little evidence that that’s possible.”

Attey, however, said the church’s stance on gays isn’t pushing him out of his faith.

“Most non-Catholics don’t understand the Catholic experience, which is very much rooted in family and community,” Attey said. “It’s not unlike someone who is a Jew. He might not attend his synagogue, but that doesn’t make him any less Jewish. We will always be Catholic, regardless of what comes out of our hierarchy.”

Attey said that most rank-and-file Catholics, in fact, support the gay community, and because of this, gays feel comfortable in the church.
“American Catholics are the most supportive faith group in the country on LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) issues. That may come as some as a surprise to a lot of people, given the harsh statements from the hierarchy, but if you look at the people and the `body church,’ it’s the most pro-gay church in the country.”

Marianne Duddy-Burke of the Dignity USA agrees. Dignity USA is the nation’s largest advocacy group for LGBT Catholics.

“You really have to differentiate between Catholics and the church hierarchy,” she said. “Even the Catholics who go to church every single week are more supportive toward gays than the population as a whole.”

She said that this might spring from the Church’s demands for the humane treatment of a host of other groups that have often go neglected and even hated — prisoners, the sick, the poor, men on death row, and so forth.

“Catholics are more supportive of gays than any other denomination according to the Public Region Research Group, and that surprises a lot of people,” she said.
As for the future, Attey said he doesn’t expect the Vatican to change its posture on gays anytime soon.

“We don’t expect any dogmatic change on LGBT issues anytime soon, but what we do expect is that more and more Catholics will be speaking out on their own on LGBT rights,” Attey said.

“This is a place where the leaders have to catch up with the truth that Catholics are living out every single day in their families and in the workplace,” said Duddy-Burke.

Pallotti said not all of the hierarchy in the archdiocese was on board with Courage from the outset.

“Many of them were fine with this, but we wanted to educate those deacons who had a reluctance to get involved or had some resistance, and many were dealing with their own personal feelings on this,” Pallotti said.
He said that Courage is sanctioned by the Vatican as the “only approved approach.”

The Rev. Paul Check of St. Mary’s Church in Norwalk, who runs the Courage meetings, explained that Courage “addresses homosexuality as a lived reality in the lives of individual people.”

Check said that “there’s no doubt” of the difficulty of the church’s teaching on homosexuality.

“But we have a way for people to live this teaching, and that’s where Courage comes in,” Check said. “Really, as a matter of natural justice and pastoral charity, we have to have a way for people to live that teaching. It’s difficult and challenging, but it helps people with this particular struggle.”

The roots of the Connecticut Courage chapter grew in the gay marriage debate in the state, Pallotti said.

“I was very fearful of the emotional backlash that was I was witnessing in Connecticut during the gay marriage debate,” Pallotti said. “So I went to the archbishop and I said, `OK, yeah, this is our position (to oppose gay marriage), but I’m concerned about people who are whipping up hate against gays as if they have the Plague or something — and some Christian churches were doing that. We had to confront this head-on.”

The Connecticut Courage chapter will meet twice a month “somewhere in Greater Hartford,” he said, and the exact location will be disclosed only to those who plan to participate. If there’s sufficient interest, other chapters might be set up in the state.

Complete Article HERE!

US Catholic bishop with secret family, Gabino Zavala, quits

A Catholic bishop who fathered two children has stepped down.

Pope Benedict has accepted the resignation of Gabino Zavala, an auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, the Vatican said.

The Archbishop of Los Angeles, Jose Gomez, wrote in a letter to worshippers that Bishop Zavala told him in December that he was the father of two teenage children.

The children, who are minors, live with their mother in another state.

Archbishop Gomez said that the archdiocese was offering the family “spiritual care,” as well as funding to help the children with college costs.

In his letter he described the news as “sad and difficult” and said Bishop Zavala had been living privately and not participating in ministry since resigning.

Bishop Zavala is 60 and was born in Mexico. He has campaigned against the death penalty and for immigrants’ rights.

The Vatican did not spell out the reason for Bishop Zavala’s resignation in its statement, but made reference to canon law which allows bishops to step down before normal retirement age if they are ill or unfit for office for some other reason.

The Pope has shown no sign of relaxing the Roman Catholic Church’s rule on priestly celibacy, which has been in place since the 11th Century.

In March 2010 he described celibacy as “the sign of full devotion, the entire commitment to the Lord and to the ‘Lord’s business’, an expression of giving oneself to God and to others”.

Priests are not allowed to marry but married Anglican priests who convert to Catholicism are exempted from the celibacy rule.

Two days ago Pope Benedict appointed an American married priest to head the first US structure for Anglicans converting to Roman Catholicism.

Complete Article HERE!