Power, not celibacy, is the prob­lem


Lethbridge Herald - - READER’S FORUM -

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.

Elmer Cline


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