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05 April 2010

The Church of Rome and Its Children

The rampant physical and sexual abuse of girls and boys by Roman Catholic lay women and men, vowed religious sisters and brothers and ordained clergy - deacons, priests and bishops - and the intentional obfuscation of those crimes against God and human society have given rise to renewed scrutiny of that church and its hierarchy.
The focus of that scrutiny is frequently the sexual abuse of boys by priests, who in that system are always and only men. This focus on male clergy sex abusers and their boy-child victims is called for by the available data: Boys make up the majority of the victims and priests were and (still!) are the majority of the perpetrators and may be occasioned by the greater access to male potential victims. While there are female students in grammar and high schools, seminaries admit primarily in some cases (and only on others) men. And historically, attendants at the altar were only and always male, with the addition of altar girls a post Vatican II innovation.
The phenomenon of men sexually abusing boys in such numbers have been accompanied by accusations blaming the abuse on gay priests, the suggestion (and sometimes claim) that forced celibacy causes pedophilia and by calls to expand the Roman priesthood to married men, and possibly to women. These ideas are linked for some by a false understanding (intentionally so) of homosexuality.
Lesbian women and gay men who seek partners - and all do not - seek partners among adults. And, the overwhelming majority of men who sexually abuse children are heterosexual, even when they preferentially victimize boys. Child rape and sexual abuse are not about sexual orientation.
While the scriptures acknowledge the gift of celibacy, they (especially Paul) are clear that it is a gift. It is a violation of God's revelation and our incarnation to force celibacy on anyone as a price for living out their God-given vocation. The evolution of the practice is entirely post-biblical - Peter the rock on whom some say the church is founded was married; Jesus healed his mother-in-law. The Roman Church decreed compulsory celibacy because of their own corruption - placing their own bastard sons on the Vatican throne. Their corruption endures today.
Opening the priesthood to married men and women (even when limited to heterosexual as is the regularly unspoken understanding) may bring priests into the church who will not prey on children by reducing the church's dependence on any and every male body it can scrape from the gutter, including those who have no business bearing the name of Christ to the children of God.
Opening the priesthood to women would require recognizing the scriptural witness of women from the women prophets - Miriam, Deborah, Huldah and more - of the ancient scriptures to the  women disciples of First Century scriptures - the Blessed Virgin, the woman at the well, Mary Magdale the Apostle to the Apostles.
I write as a priest whose vocational icon is the Blessed Virgin, the Theotokas, she who first offered the body and blood of Christ to the world.
If the church would serve God by serving God's children - and I hold out the hope that this is the desire of some - then the church must end its abuse of and discrimination against those children. The church must first repent and do penance by putting an end to scapegoating innocent gay men and demonizing all homosexuals and the church must condemn, imprison and disavow the predators in its midst - and those who facilitate their crimes.
Then and only then will the church be worthy of the sacred trust of the children of God.

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