Monday, March 15, 2010

More On The Catholic Church Sex Scandals & The Celibacy Rule

More on the growing scandal in Germany regarding young boys abused by priests.

As to the allegation in the video that then Cardinal Ratzinger was involved in authoring an effort to impede the investiation of sexual abuse charges a decade ago, that remains to be proven. But the scandal touches Pope Benedict XVI in another way. This from the NYT:

A widening child sexual abuse inquiry in Europe has landed at the doorstep of Pope Benedict XVI, as a senior church official acknowledged Friday that a German archdiocese made “serious mistakes” in handling an abuse case while the pope served as its archbishop.

The archdiocese said that a priest accused of molesting boys was given therapy in 1980 and later allowed to resume pastoral duties, before committing further abuses and being prosecuted. Pope Benedict, who at the time headed the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, approved the priest’s transfer for therapy. A subordinate took full responsibility for allowing the priest to later resume pastoral work, the archdiocese said in a statement.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said he had no comment beyond the statement by the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, which he said showed the “nonresponsibility” of the pope in the matter. . . .

In the wake of these recent scandals - and coming on the heels of similar scandals in Ireland and the U.S. - more people in the Church are calling for a reexamination of the celibacy rules for priests - this time from the Archbishop of Vienna, Christoph Schönborn, and Alois Kothgasser, the Archbishop of Salzburg. This from the NYT Lede:

On Thursday two senior Catholics in Austria, where reports of the sexual abuse of children by priests and nuns have been in the news, suggested that the role of priestly celibacy may need to be discussed as Catholics seek to understand and end scandals that have erupted across Europe and in the United States in recent years.

The Archbishop of Vienna, Christoph Schönborn, wrote in an article for a Catholic magazine that it was time for the Church to undertake an “unflinching examination” of what might be at the root of the problem of celibate clerics sexually abusing children.

As The Guardian’s religious affairs correspondent, Riazat Butt, explained on Thursday, Archbishop Schönborn wrote that the discussion should “include the issue of priest training, as well as the question of what happened in the so-called sexual revolution,” as well as “the issue of priest celibacy and the issue of personality development. It requires a great deal of honesty, both on the part of the church and of society as a whole.”

On Thursday night, Archbishop Alois Kothgasser of Salzburg told Austrian television, “In the Church’s current situation, the question must be asked whether celibacy is an appropriate way of life for priests and an appropriate way of life for believers.”

It does not appear, however, that the Pope is willing to entertain such a discussion:

Despite all these calls for a discussion of the issue, Pope Benedict defended “the value of sacred celibacy” in remarks on Friday and said that the ancient rule would not be changed because of “passing cultural fashions.”

True, celibacy in the priesthood is an ancient tradition, but it is not as ancient as Christ himself who in fact had at least one apostle, Peter, who was married and had children. I blogged on this issue several days ago and received some interesting comments from at least one indvidual who strongly disagrees with changes to the celibacy rule or the ordination of women. You can find that post here.

The core values and morals of the Church, based on the Biblical text, must never be compromised. Having said that, the Church is foolish indeed if it is not willing to reexamine dogma not explicitly required by Biblical text when appropriate. I deeply love and respect the Catholic Church and I believe that the West, and Europe in particular, will falter and fall if it does not enjoy a resurgence in the West. Christianity is a central pillar of Western Civilization. To call the death of the Church in Europe anything other than a critical tradgedy, or to refer obliquely to the outrage and scandals of priests abusing young boys within the context of a "passing cultural fashion," is very wrongheaded indeed.


suek said...

" refer obliquely to the outrage and scandals of priests abusing young boys within the context of a "passing cultural fashion," is very wrongheaded indeed."

Maybe, maybe not. If the assumption is that the abuse is a "passing cultural fashion", then I'd agree. However if the reference is to the psychological diagnosis and treatment of such behavior instead of condemnation of sins, then I'd disagree. My opinion is that the beginning of the problem was at a time when the Church began to recognize such behavior as a psychological problem instead of a failure of character and the nature of sin. Instead of demanding that priests repent, and treating them as sinners who should be drummed out, the church bought into the "it's not their fault" culture, and attempted to treat them - which was recognized by psychologists of the period as the "correct" action. As we seem to be finally learning, the behavior seems to be irremediable. Whatever the cause, once a sex offender, always a sex offender. Let God be the judge in the afterlife, but for the here and now, the behavior needs to be condemned and acted upon. A priest who perpetrates such an action should be turned over to the authorities, and probably prosecuted and sent to jail. Consider it a change of ministry. At the very least, they should be sent to cloistered monasteries where they can be relatively confined and restricted from contact with children.

There is also the concept of forgiveness that we need to be mindful of, but the concept of forgiveness depends on confession and a "firm purpose of amendment". If a priest finds that he is unable to resist temptation, then he himself should seek confinement or assignments away from children. The fact that he does not do that is - to me, at least - an indication that he has no intention of avoiding the "occasion of sin" and hence lacks the firm purpose of amendment required for forgiveness. Besides - I think it's offensive to think that _we_ can forgive an offense against someone else. God is in charge of forgiveness in the afterlife, but in the here and now, only the offended person has the _right_ to forgive the offender.

Confession assumes the firm purpose of amendment, but it does not require that we set the person up to betray that intent again. In fact, I would argue that those who returned such offending priests to situations where they would offend again were themselves at fault for deliberately placing their subordinates in the way of temptation - thereby placing the offending priest at moral risk in addition to placing the children at physical and emotional risk.

suek said...

And, by the way...I don't think it has anything to do with celibacy - I think it's a character or developmental abnormality. Maybe some day we'll actually find the underlying cause, and maybe we'll actually find a way to cure it...but we are where we are, and at this time I don't think it's curable - and I don't think that marriage is the answer.

Look at the homosexuals who marry members of the opposite sex. Some of them seem to have what appears to be successful marriages, then boom! one day they just up and leave the marriage to declare themselves homosexuals. The "approved" sexual outlet simply covered their propensities - which remained unchanged.