I personally think the roots of this scandal are buried within the church policy forbidding the clergy to marry. I’m not a Catholic so my opinion might not (just maybe) have as much weight as the Pope Emeritus. I have always thought it a bit interesting that in chapter 4 of Timothy we read how, “…in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils…” and gives as one sign of this that those who have departed from the faith will be, “…Forbidding to marry…”.
I do not agree with Benedict’s citation, “The matter begins with the state-prescribed and supported introduction of children and youths into the nature of sexuality.” That seems to begin by laying the issue at the feet of the children. Though I believe that isn’t the Benedict’s intention. It reads to me as if to say that the children are educated in sex, see sex, and therefore are…it seems…asking for it.
He he does clear that up by saying that this education on sexuality became the education of those who entered the priesthood and who then were already indoctrinated by it and unable to manage being celibate. Which goes along with what my person thought is. Celibacy isn’t natural. Catholics won’t argue that it is by the way. They know it isn’t. That it isn’t is one reason for it. Being unnatural it demonstrates a sacrifice, a mastery of the flesh, a devotion to things spiritual over things of the flesh. That’s nice in concept in theory. I think in practice too many fail at it. Their failure is manifest on the helpless around them. Those who are most subject to the power inherent in the position are the obvious choice for clergy members who break their oath – the nuns and the children. Nuns who engage with priests in sex feel they have broken their own oath and are likely to keep it to themselves. Children are even more confused by the activity. They don’t really know what to make of it. Truly, based on what we’ve learned over the years each situation is different. Some victims report not feeling like victims but rather feeling special and feeling singled out for attention by someone they respect. Others feel coerced and threatened. Some even have said they kept the abuse to themselves because they knew it would do damage to the church itself and their issue was not with the church but with the men (and sometimes women) running it.
He then cites as a reason for the sex abuse scandal that morality became subject to the whims of man. Nothing, he writes, could be absolutely good under the new morality. I will add, that if nothing can be absolutely good, then nothing can be absolutely bad. I feel this is a dangerous way of thinking and agree with Benedict on that point very strongly.
Benedict writes, “…there is a minimum set of morals which is indissolubly linked to the foundational principle of faith and which must be defended if faith is not to be reduced to a theory but rather to be recognized in its claim to concrete life.” That’s a fancy way of saying there’s a point at which, if you don’t practice what you preach you don’t have a church anymore. In that I think Timothy might have been correct.
A new essay from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI explores the nature of the Church’s current sexual abuse crisis. Here is the full text.