Power, not celibacy, is the problem
I read with interest Mr. Ouwerkerk’s letter where he links celibacy to the sex scandal in the Catholic Church. With respect, celibacy is not the culprit. The cause, quite simply, can be boiled down to one other word: power. Since the time of Constantine, the imperial hierarchy and power structures within the Catholic Church have grown, with an ancient notion of fealty (a.k.a. as the perpetual promise of “obedience”) — required to be taken upon ordination or religious profession — thrown into the mix. Indeed, obedience is seen as something to be proud of by Catholic clerics. As one Cardinal routinely says during ordinations: “From ordination to the deaconate, to the presbyterate, to the episcopate, the promise of celibacy is taken only once — but the promise of obedience is taken three times.”
In addition, there was a general cultural lack of understanding regarding pedophilia until the late ’70s and ’80s. Any type of sexual relationship involving clergy or religious in the Church was seen as an “inordinate attraction.”
The mix of power relationships, fealty, lack of human formation in seminaries, a general cultural lack of understanding of pedophilia, and the protection of the hierarchy by the hierarchy, created the fertile hunting ground for sexual predators in the Church — not celibacy. This is also why, in my opinion, the numbers of abused persons will be drastically lower in scope going forward, if looked at from the mid1990s on. There are several reasons for this:
1. a document known as Pastores Dabo Vobis, the guidebook for training of seminarians, takes account of sexuality and human formation for the priesthood (largely because of the scandals that rocked the Church in the ’70s and ’80s). It also provided a model for the various dioceses and seminaries to “weed out” anyone who appeared to present a proclivity to pedophilia.
2. the notion of the priest as being “next to God” has died out drastically in more recent generations. Priests are widely seen as people like you and me by most Catholics today.
3. the Church is no longer seen as being untouchable from the court of public opinion. The organizational power relationships that are the cause of the problem are still largely in place, but in my estimation, they will not be in 15-20 years’ time as “the Imperial Church” gradually dies and gives way to a new way of doing business for Catholics.