In analyzing what’s wrong with the Catholic Church, Marrin names power and another crucial ingredient:
Isolation and lack of human affection, the absence of real friendship with both men and women . . . can produce trouble in a person. Loneliness, thwarted desire and a structure of obedience that renders a man impotent before his superiors to his own responsibility to choose his life at every stage, all of these dynamics can and do converge on a priest to force the question: Who am I? Who loves me? Why am I so angry and frustrated on the one hand, and so compulsive in my personal needs on the other?Compulsive celibacy is imposed on men who are divided from women and other men by a wall that proclaims their privileged position but really imprisons them in a shell/cell segregated from ordinary human decisions and growing experiences.
No man ever came to terms with his sexuality, his spirituality, his personality, without the help of a woman, even if it is only his mother. Intimacy, with or without genital expression, is life’s deepest prize.Amen.
Not only the sex predators, but all priests would benefit from more PEER interaction with women. Oh, there are plenty of women surrounding pastors in parishes—many even running the parishes—but they work for and under the priest, not as his equal. The Catholic celibate culture of entitlement prohibits equality. And without it, the womanly arts of caring, listening with empathy, mirroring, and deep, deep knowing cannot reach them.
The trouble with Catholic priests is they don’t have women loving them as equals and calling them to account. Imagine the improvement in homilies and ministries if our priests could be checked by ordinary people! If our bishops, including the Bishop of Rome, stopped commanding and instead facilitated spiritual deepening into wholeness! And then how much more of an improvement if we could see a lot of women at the altar! And no more men bearing the insignia of Roman emperors.
Imagine a Catholic Church exercising feminine power WITH instead of empirical power OVER. Hard to imagine.
A Church facing backward
See, I make all things new. Revelation 21:5
No one knows more about secret sex in the celibate system than Richard Sipe, former monk and priest, now married psychotherapist, consultant, author, and expert witness for and about clergy sex predators. Answering whether celibacy is the cause of the scandal, he writes,
As the single factor the answer is no. Vowed celibacy does not drive a bishop or priest to have sex with minors. The answer, however, is also yes. Required celibacy in concert with the clerical culture of entitlement and secrecy is a prominent element for some clergy seeking out minors as sexual partners.The sense of entitlement, the sense that ordained clergy stand a cut above most, prevented justice from reaching over the walls of their privileged positions. It’s what so frustrates and angers lay people still in the Church and those who’ve walked out.
Sipe explains how the male celibate culture breeds sick sex:
Roman Catholic clerical culture favors doctrinal rigidity, conformity, obedience, submission and psychosexual immaturity, mistaken for innocence, in its candidates. These are the personality elements that lead to advancement and power in the clerical system. Single men are more easily controlled if their sexuality is secret. Double lives on all levels of clerical life are tolerated if they do not cause scandal or raise legal problems. Sexual activity between bishops and priests and adult partners is well known within clerical circles. The secret system forms a comfortable refuge for unresolved gay conflicts.The Vatican and American bishops assure us that they now get it and are dealing with it effectively, but clergy sex abuse is only a symptom of a wider crisis. Fr. Richard McBrien describes a Church demoralized by tools of repression and reactionary moral stances.
Since John Paul II began his term as pope in 1978, the Catholic Church has been backing into a right-wing corner. This sex scandal is an opportunity to take stock and enter the twenty-first century mainstream of life, but that’s impossible as long as the secret celibate culture of entitlement remains. It’s time for the Church hierarchy to stop obstructing the renewal promised in Revelation.
Franciscan priest Louie Vitale celebrated his 78th birthday in prison because he called for the closing of the notorious “School of Americas,” which trains Latin American military personnel to subdue voices of dissent. Its graduates learn how to terrorize their own citizens. I have immense respect for protesters of the SOA, but most interesting to me are Vitale’s words about Jesus.
Christians believe that the all-compassionate love which fills our universe fills all creation and is the presence we name “God.” Christians see this presence made present in the human world in Jesus.Here’s another Christian leader offering another spiritual reflection that carefully distinguishes between Jesus and God. Jesus, he says, is a divine presence in the world and not the only one but the one most revered by Christians. He does not equate Jesus with God, does not make an exclusive claim, but gently conveys reverence for the Christian God-image.
My desire to inform Christians about developments in theology is bolstered by another NCR report, one about Peter Phan. I first wrote about Phan in Confused Teaching? Or correction? Amazingly, the Catholic Theological Society of America awarded him a high honor in defiance, it seems, of the Vatican’s objection to his book, Being Religious Interreligously: Asian Perspectives on Interfaith Dialogue, which argues for inclusive theology.
The Vatican's problem with his work is all about exclusiveness. Its three areas of concern:
i) Jesus Christ as the unique and universal Savior of all humankind; ii) the salvific significance of non-Christian religions;Yep, this is it, the exclusive message in a nutshell—other religions have less validity; we’ve got it all with our Jesus. We have authority over the whole human race.
iii) the Church as the unique and universal instrument of salvation.
It’s closely related to yet another NCR report. Disagreeing with the Catholic Health Association over health reform, Cardinal Francis George said, “The bishops have to protect their role in governing the church.” That’s the nub of it all right. Not conscience, or reflection, or ethical principles, or just plain doing what’s right. No, most important to the bishops is staying in control, protecting their turf. A bunch of women (Health Association) challenging their authority? Intolerable.