Bloggingheads: Celibacy, Clerical Culture and Sexuality

What's Bloggingheads?  A cool new (well, a few years old) website that brings together two "experts" to discuss a newsy topic at length.  And I mean at length.  This discussion between me and Peter Laarman, the director of Progressive Christians Uniting, lasts almost an hour.  (Progressive Christians is a network of activist individuals and congregations headquartered in Los Angeles.  Laarman, ordained in the United Church of Christ, also served as the senior minister of New York’s Judson Memorial Church from 1994 to 2004.)  The length of the interview enables the kind of in-depth conversation that you'll have a hard time finding anywhere else...even on public radio.  Bloggingheads brought us together to talk about celibacy in general, in light of the abuse crisis (and in light of the widespread misunderstanding and simple ignorance about priestly celibacy and religious chastity).  Reverend Laarman and I also discuss human sexuality, women in the church, the witness of chaste nuns and celibate priests throughout history (and how their chastity contributed to their witness), celibate saints, and the universal call to holiness for all Christians, no matter what state of life.  (Along the way, we also pause to chat about the new archbishop of Los Angeles, Nicholas Kristof and Elisabeth Schussler-Fiorenza.)  We didn't always agree on everything (as you'll see), but it was a respectful and lively and intelligent conversation.  Enjoy--but give yourself some time to do so!

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7 years 9 months ago
This evening I had an uninterrupted hour and was able to watch/hear your discussion.  Like they say where I come from:  "you did good" Father.  I especially liked your reference to the Holy Spirit at the end.  So often we seem to forget that Christ promised he would always be with us through the Holy Spirit.  That thought always gives me comfort and hope during these troubling times.
You made a comment which I've heard before that the sex abuse tragedy would have benefited if women had been involved in leadership (influential) roles in the church.  That may well be and I do like to think so.  However when I look at how the profession of social work, which is overwhelmingly composed of women, failed utterly , for so many years , to address the issue of child sex abuse, I have to wonder.  When I worked in the fifties and sixties at two different agencies, belonged to the Child Welfare League of America and did graduate work at two different universities, I never once heard mention of child sexual abuse.  The only issues in the Juvenile Court at that time were neglect, abandonment and delinquency.  The professions of social work, psychology and law were all mired in denial.  It took a horendous abuse/murder of an adopted child in the sixties to finally bring the issue of physical abuse into the court system.  It wasn't until 1974 that a federal child protection act was enacted and not until 1978 that child sexual abue became a protective issue.  I think it comes down to the fact that all of us at that time were in one way products of our society.  A society in which child sexual abuse was hidden behind a wall of silence, too shameful to be mentioned.  When I returned to work in the early 80s , it was to a child protective services agency where the issue was being addressed with very little comnunity support  or funding.  That is still true today and it is shameful for a society that has so much  so-called outrage to allow this to continue.  (I call this "the hypocrisy of outrage").
Father, thank you for giving us Archbishop Quinn's talk to priests.  I plan to send it to a priest friend who recently was assigned to a second parish.  Not transferred.  He will be pastor of two parishes while he continues his diocesan work of seminarian and priestly formation.  I am forever grateful to all the priests I've known and feel privileged to be able to pray for all priests.  Archbishop Quinn mentioned Bishop Fulton Sheen praying alone before the Blessed Sacrament and suggested that priests do the same.  I am hoping that adoration of the Blessed Sacrament will become readily available for laity and well as priests and religious.  Christ not only sent the Holy Spirit, he gave himself to us in the Eucharist.  Come let us adore him!

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