Sunday, March 21, 2010

Denial with a capital 'G'

Dr. James E. Biechler, an emeritus professor of religion & member of board of directors of the Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church (ARCC) & longtime member of the Canon Law Society of America has an unholy thing or three to say about priestly celibacy & pedophilia as well as apostolic Denial with a capital 'G'.
Celibacy is not the cause of pedophilia. But celibacy as idealized, institutionalized and mandated by the church provides an ideal environment for those men whose sexuality (and personality) development has been arrested at an immature level leading to their inability to establish intimate relations with another adult. Surely we should ask whether the seminary system, especially the minor seminary, may not be a factor inhibiting the development of mature heterosexual personality. At a crucial stage of personal development the young seminarian is formed in a culture of denial. He must deny his natural feelings, he must downgrade the natural order which includes those feelings, he must deny the importance of his natural family, he must relegate marriage and the procreation of children to an inferior level of life, and so he must even see children in a diminished light. When the worth of children is diminished and sexuality is immature, the distance to pedophilia is short.
Celibacy also plays a role in the church's protection of the pedophile. Because celibacy is regarded as the highest and purest state of life it is easy to understand why the church must deny any connection between the "celibate" pedophile and the institution. Serving as an ideal cover for pedophiles, institutionalized celibacy also requires the cover-up of pedophilia. The church must protect and deny its pedophiles because otherwise it would stand revealed as a human institution. Then we should have to rethink hierarchy and papal monarchy. If celibacy is not of divine decree then what is the basis of priestly and hierarchical supremacy over the laity? The pure and uncontaminated celibate male stands in supreme difference over against every other person in his ambit. [When] there are priestly pedophiles, sodomites and fornicators (that word should also come to the fore in any discussion of contemporary clerical mores), and these were openly acknowledged, then perhaps we could begin to rethink the (blasphemous?) ascription to God of the superiority of the celibate way of life.
Pedophilia is not the only problem finding some connection with the celibacy myth. Because of celibacy's flimsy theological foundation many priests are experiencing identity crises. They are finding it difficult to be enthusiastic about their ministry. Denied the helpmate God created for them, they are experiencing deep loneliness and depression. Some have found companionship outside the norms of celibacy and are living in de facto marriages. This current state of affairs has to be known by the bishops. It is known by practically everyone else.
Sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests is and has been a problem known to every bishop in America. Many or most of these bishops and their chancery officials have been, unwittingly or not, accomplices of child abusers. To think that a person who had been "called" by God to a life of celibacy was guilty of a sexual "crime" was just not a part of the thought processes of hierarchs. The sexual abuse of children was simply not perceived as a "crime" by bishops or chancery officials. As unacceptable as they saw it to be, it was not a matter for civil prosecution. Besides, the civil authorities had no jurisdiction over the "spiritual" lives of priests. So, the priest pedophile was usually transferred to another locale with the hope that he would mend his ways. In general, clerical sexual abuse was regarded as spiritual weakness, rather than crime or psychopathology. Worst of all, the young victims of such priests were rarely considered. Their profound spiritual and emotional injury was hardly ever noticed.
Celibacy & Pedophilia, By James E. Biechler

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