Sex, pope, power

April 15, 2010
Lisa Miller in Newsweek argues that inclusion of women could have checked the Catholic Church’s sex scandal:
Studies show what we intuitively know: without checks and balances, insular groups of men do bad things. . . . In the Roman Catholic corporation, the senior executives live and work, as they have for a thousand years, eschewing not just marriage, but intimacy with women and professional relationships with women—not to mention any chance to familiarize themselves with the earthy, primal messiness of families and children.
George Weigel in a Newsweek counterpoint, What went wrong, concedes the beneficial role of women:
There may be a grain of truth in the suggestion that women’s perspectives on these issues would have helped mitigate the Catholic crisis of clerical sexual abuse and Episcopal misgovernance; in the past the male clerical culture of Catholicism seems to have blunted in some Catholic clergy a natural and instinctive revulsion at the sexual abuse of the young—a revulsion, it is suggested, that a woman would immediately feel and act upon. But the sad, further truth is that there are no gender guarantees when it comes to sexual abuse.
Yes, a sad truth. He cites the abuse of young Irish girls by religious sisters in “Magdalene Asylums,” and I think of the mean spitefulness I’ve seen in some women and girls. But common sense tells us that sharing power always improves governance.

Miller seems to agree with “realists” that women priests seem inevitable with “women running 80 percent of parish ministries.” Indeed. Despite John Paul’s and Benedict’s adamant opposition, validly ordained Roman Catholic women priests, as those familiar with my blog know, already exist.
This weekend I will attend a Mass presided over by a woman priest.

Miller, however, thinks the problem is not celibacy, only that hierarchs “live behind guarded walls in a pre-Enlightenment world.” George Weigel also writes, “Don't blame celibacy.”

Miller and Weigel show that the womanless celibate culture made more possible the “ecclesiastical cohesion” Miller blames for the abuse by priests and bishops. But it’s not celibacy itself, as my previous post shows. It’s the combination of three ingredients:
• Mandatory celibacy—prohibiting satisfaction of a natural drive to all priests
• Top-down instead of democratic governance
• Subordination of females, banning them from the priesthood and from governance
Church officials, but not respected theologians, falsely claim the last two are divinely ordained. The consequent no-girls club treated influences from the outside as both worthless and threatening, and this very effectively warded off checks, female and secular, on clerical misdeeds.

Weigel also contends, “To fight the plague of sexual abuse, the church needs to become more Catholic, not less.” It may surprise my readers that I agree, but I have a different vision of “more Catholic.”

Miller and Weigel rightly point out that the rates of abuse in the Church do not exceed those in other organizations. I credit the Church’s orientation to the inner world of Spirit. Most of its clergy sincerely want to do good, but some arrive at seminary having never had healthy interaction with a female, and their clerical experience isolates them from any.
I hope the Catholic Church has the gumption to give up the hierarchical, female-less, celibate culture, perfect for breeding sex abuse. Then it will be "more Catholic."
Green Gnostic commented, Very well said!

April 18, 2010
Is Pope Benedict XVI, the former Joseph Ratzinger, guilty? What does the sex abuse crisis mean for the Catholic Church?
Whether or not Joseph Ratzinger participated in transfers of sex abusers in his native Austria, he participates in the official Church’s response to the sex abuse scandal. More than participates, he vigorously defends the culture that breeds and perpetuates the illness—the secretive celibate/sexual system that devalues women, sex, and non-members of the privileged clergy.

It’s true that, when he became pope, Ratzinger reversed the Vatican’s policy under Pope John Paul II of covering up and protecting abusers. And he apologizes for the crimes committed by priests, but not for the bishops who let the abuse continue. That would get too close to admitting that the whole hierarchical system embodies a sick culture.

After reading my post, Bob Roscoe emailed,
Is the pope Catholic? The answer is NO. The pope presides over an out-dated institution that is no longer in accord with Christ's teachings.
See Kathleen's comment.


Kathleen said…
Bob has a point. The pope does not seem to be following Christ's teachings. From his inactions, one might think he completely confused the message to "love one another" as meaning that priests should sexually abuse children with impunity.

Thanks, Jeanette, for your excellent writing.

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