"Rotten from the top down"

In 1992 an American prelate who had just returned from Rome sat in my office and said bluntly, “The organization to which I belong is rotten from the top down.” He also related a 45-minute visit he had with an American cardinal who was in a long-term intimate relationship with a woman. The cardinal spent 22 minutes (he timed it) bemoaning the fact of the large number of sexually active homosexual priests in his archdiocese. No one has described the clerical structure and current state of affairs better or more clearly than Fr. Brian D’Arcy: “A combination of bad theology, the dysfunctional abuse of power and a warped view of sexuality, have contributed to what the Murphy Report repeatedly refers to as “the systemic failure” to protect the most innocent and the most vulnerable children. I believe that the evil clerical culture which pervades our institution right up to the Vatican bureaucracy itself needs to be dismantled…Part of the human structure of the church is rotten to the core.”
This is from an article by Richard Sipe, whose research and insight into the sexual attitudes and behaviour of Catholic priests are without parallel. The piece is called "The Vatican Connection: Pedophilia and Celibacy." It was apparently posted almost two weeks ago, but it was new to me.

Sipe has effectively refuted the Vatican's insistent claim that mandatory clerical celibacy has anything to do with the pedophilia problem. He describes very clearly and persuasively the system of corruption, which reaches up through the whole hierarchy to the highest levels of the Vatican. It's a must read.

So too is the article by Brian D'Arcy quoted by Sipe, which you can read here.

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Blogger Meg said...

Have you read Philip Jenkins' book,Pedophiles and Priests: Anatomy of a Contemporary Crisis, or his article? The article is here on Zenit: http://www.zenit.org/article-3922?l=english

The Sipe article is interesting, but I'm a bit suspicious of someone who is always citing his own work as proof. He seems too angry and makes unprovable claims ("the Church prefers [people who are psychosexually immaature] for Church service...").

I am angry about the priests who have abused too, but I think this present Pope has been cleaning house in that department in a way that his predecessor did not (Marcel Macial is a good example). I also think that anti-catholicism in the media makes us hear far more about diddling priests than about diddling teachers, doctors, parents, etc.

Celibacy is what it is -- a free choice. Millions of people throughout history have lived celibate without abusing children. We just don't hear about them.

6:03 p.m.  
Anonymous Terence Weldon said...

Meg, I agree with you that Sipe would be more credible if he cited sources other than his own work but there any number of others who have reached the same conclusion. I find the most important is the Australian bishop Jeoffrey Robinson, who led that country's investigation into the problem. He had no axe to grind, but reached the same conclusion.

The problem with celibacy and the priesthood is that it is NOT a choice, but is imposed as a compulsory part of the package. In the case of far too many priests entering seminaries decades ago, and who seem to have been most heavily implicated, it was imposed on them in their early teens, on entering minor seminary, before they could have had any conception of what it would mean.

St Paul held up celibacy as an ideal, but warned that for most of us, it is unrealistic. We should pay attention to his words.

9:26 a.m.  
Blogger Meg said...

Child molesters molest children, not normal healthy men who are living an unwanted celibate life.

The problem I see with a celibate priesthood is that it might appeal to the man with abnormal sexual urges. The priesthood would be a safe and respectable lifestyle for one who can not live a normal married life. And in fact, the lack of desire for women might well lead some young men to imagine a vocation!

Celibacy does not CAUSE men to molest children.

The studies I have seen suggest that whereas 1 to 1.5 % of priests have been accused of abuse, almost 5 % of public school teachers are abusers. It's just WORSE when it's a catholic priest -- not more common. And it has nothing to do with celibacy.

1:06 p.m.  
Blogger PrickliestPear said...

Anyone who doubts that official Catholic teaching about sexuality is largely the product of psychosexually immature men (or at least men with an unhealthy aversion to sex and a deep-seated hatred for women) needs to read Uta Ranke-Heinemann's Eunuchs for the Kingdom of God. Some of the quotations from the early Fathers and later eminent theologians will make your toes curl.

Whether the percentage of priests who molest children is higher or lower than the percentage of school teachers who molest children is neither here nor there. When a teacher is found to have had sex with a minor, they lose their job and someone calls the police. They aren't moved to school after school so that they can reoffend by administrators whose top priority is protecting the image of the school system.

I agree that celibacy does not cause otherwise healthy men to become child molesters. But I don't think there is any doubt that the celibate priesthood is an attractive option for a lot of men with sexual hang-ups, many of whom never imagine before they take their final vows that they will become sexual predators -- but who do, nevertheless.

I would never deny that celibacy is a spiritually enriching choice for many people. I've met enough very spiritually advanced and highly realised priests, monks and nuns to know that this is true. But it's not true often enough, and it's clear that the Church hasn't done enough to weed out the ones for whom it's not true.

As for Benedict, I agree that he has done more than his predecessor, but JPII set the bar pretty low. I also think some of the criticisms some people have leveled at him are unfair, and I don't think it is reasonable for anyone to be calling for his resignation at this point. I also shudder to think of who the college of Cardinals would replace him with if in fact he did resign.

But I don't think Benedict is going to be the one to fix this problem. I don't think he has the nerve to do what actually needs to be done, because whatever it is, it is likely to be far more radical than anything the ever-cautious Benedict will even allow himself to consider. I hope I'm wrong.

2:19 p.m.  

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