Sexual abuse and the culture of clericalism

A grand jury’s recent revelation of decades of systematically entrenched and deeply sadistic levels of child abuse in six Pennsylvania dioceses has pushed many Catholics into a bewildered rage. Why does the modern church—and the U.S. church in particular—continually find itself not merely falling short of Jesus’ community of love and solidarity but actually failing catastrophically to meet even the most rudimentary levels of human decency? What is the matter with Catholicism today?

One response to the problem reasonably highlights the need for better protocols and legal guardrails when it comes to sexual abuse. Too many bishops and representatives of the church treated abuse victims as legal opponents to be silenced and liabilities to be manipulated. Too often cases of abuse were handled in sinister and self-serving ways as internally resolvable without the need to involve civil authorities and investigation. The “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” is only the beginning of a desperately needed process for legal oversight and reform.

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Too many bishops treated abuse victims as legal opponents to be silenced and liabilities to be manipulated.

Although these demands are fundamental, they do not adequately address the deeper sources of the problem in the church. After all, legal reform, for all its virtues, is by its nature external to the daily life of the church and largely reactive to already existing crimes and abuses. In this sense, legal reforms are insufficient to address the conditions that generated a system of abuse in the first place. Indeed, Catholics still lack a persuasive story of what went wrong. And without a vigorous narrative about what led the church to such a dark place, it will be difficult to find a path that can lead us to a place where children rather than their abusers are protected.

False Narratives

Of course, there are many voices in society that are eager to supply a narrative for what is wrong with Catholicism. Some recent commentators have argued that the causes of such endemic abuse are simply intrinsic to Catholicism itself and its distinct spiritual practices. Often this criticism takes the form of a biologically reductive account of celibacy. In this neo-Freudian view, celibacy is an unlivable demand. Any human being asked to make promises of celibacy is driven to moral hypocrisy by the irrepressible nature of the sexual libido. As one former priest and survivor of abuse notes, relatively minor violations of chastity give cover to priests who are perpetrators of the worst kind of abuse:

A pastor, for example, has a relationship [with a consenting adult] when he’s professed to be celibate, but he has an assistant who is a child abuser, or has a friend who is a child abuser, he’s not going to blow the whistle on that criminal behavior, because his own behavior is going to be found out.

From such a view of celibacy and its relationship to abuse, it is easy to draw the conclusion that reform should include abolishing celibate vocations. By this reasoning, Catholicism itself and the life of celibacy lived by Jesus are incompatible with a healthy humanity.

Other commentators have argued that male-only leadership is intrinsically dysfunctional. Maleness as a biological phenomenon is thus said to be somehow driving and generating a particular social problem—as if males simply because they are in leadership roles are more given to neglect and sadistic acts of abuse. Yet another version of this search for the sources of the problem in the male psyche is the claim that male homosexual desire is the culprit, and anyone who has ever had such desires should be excluded from the priesthood. The latter argument conveniently allows certain Catholics to avoid an earnest effort at self-criticism in favor of focusing on a regularly vilified scapegoat (gay men) as the object of blame.

There are many voices in society that are eager to supply a narrative for what is wrong with Catholicism.

As different as these diagnoses are, they all share a common problem: Namely, they wrongly assume that abusive behavior is somehow essentially tied to either repressed male sexuality or the male psyche as such. Rather than a historically and culturally sensitive analysis of what went wrong with the church, these diagnoses require a broad dismissal of expressions of male sexuality (e.g., celibacy or homosexuality) that have not been properly tamed into heterosexual couplings. But statistics on the demographics of abuse perpetrators reveal that married, non-celibate men are a significant source of child abuse in the United States. Celibacy, homosexuality, heterosexuality or male leadership simply do not adequately mark off the problem of a culture of abuse. They seek formal, demographic and biological markers where what is needed is insight into a particular culture.

[Explore America’s in-depth coverage of sexual abuse and the Catholic Church.]

In the turn toward more historically sensitive explanations, Catholics might begin by asking questions like this: What, in particular, went wrong with Catholic culture in the United States during the 20th century? I do not pretend to have anything like an adequate answer to this question. But how successfully the church answers this conundrum will be crucial for eliminating future abuse. This will require listening carefully to the Catholic Church’s own history—to reporters and ethnographers, to historians and to the witness of the abused themselves.

Clerical Privilege

One (albeit still inadequate) starting point for answering this question was offered by Pope Francis when he recently repeated his warnings against what he calls the culture of “clericalism,” in which fullness of spiritual attainment is seen as largely reserved to ordained religious leaders. In this conception of church, clerics are viewed as the only real, full examples of religious life, while lay people mostly occupy a second-best, helper status.

Clericalism in the Catholic Church, Francis tells us, “nullifies the personality of Christians” and “leads to the functionalization of the laity, treating them as ‘errand boys [or girls].’” Clericalism does this by treating priests as beatified ministers merely by dint of the formal role that they occupy in the church. From the vantage point of clericalism, priests appear to be nearly magical beings, holier than the rest of us, capable of greater moral perfection, insight, wisdom and fortitude.

What, in particular, went wrong with Catholic culture in the United States during the 20th century?

Francis notes that clericalism is not only perpetuated by priests but also reinforced by many lay people. In an overly clericalized church, priests are not in open, equal, vulnerable human relationships with their flock. Instead, they are isolated by their own moral and spiritual status. Rather than a laity that might know its priests as human beings (and thereby see warning signs and intervene when abuse is suspected), parishioners see the priest as a shaman or a guru.

But Francis notes that this tendency subverts traditional Christianity, which holds that priests are servants of the laity and not the other way around. Clericalism is thus tied to a top-down, overly authoritarian configuration of church. For this reason, Francis sees a link between a culture of clericalism and the lack of transparency so characteristic of the abuse in Pennsylvania. As Francis wrote in his recent letter in response to the grand jury report: “To say ‘no’ to abuse is to say an emphatic ‘no’ to all forms of clericalism.”

Criticism of clericalism is difficult for many Catholics to accept because it moves past the (albeit fully justified) accusation of chief perpetrators and into questions of distributed responsibility. Clericalism poses the question: How are all Catholics complicit in a culture in which abuse is rampant? Perhaps all Catholics can do something about clericalism by creating church communities that are made up of real, thick relationships and not the guru-like distance created by clericalism.

Clericalism poses the question: How are all Catholics complicit in a culture in which abuse is rampant?

It will be important, in the effort to combat a culture of clericalism, to learn from past mistakes. One of these mistakes has been to assume that clericalism is overcome by simple, formal gestures of social inclusion. As the vivid and disturbing story of one abuse survivor teaches us, it is possible to invite the parish priest over for dinner several times a month and still have a completely clericalized and quasi-authoritarian set of relations.

Overcoming clericalism means creating open, transparent and equal relationships between priests and laity. Such a community is willing to allow moral correction of priests by the laity and not simply the correction of laity by priests. Such a community is open and willing to learn from all its members.

Only a community of greater human relationships and transparency will be able to spot and root out abusive behavior. Where clericalism hides the psychology of the priest behind a veil of pseudo-beatification, Francis asks us to look realistically at the human beings in front of us and respond accordingly. Likewise, priests seized by a mentality of clericalism need to renounce the pride of a special divinity or holiness and (like Christ) instead seek to become more deeply human.

It is also important to recognize that clericalism creates a culture in which nonabusing priests cannot openly apologize or be seen as morally flawed. In the effort to appear as immovably perfect as a Byzantine icon, priests no longer have a way to discuss their own moral limitations frankly. They become captives of their own false beatification. This is the real grain of truth behind the important insight that completely morally debased priests are able to blackmail those who have broken their promises of celibacy in consensual relations with adults. Only a priest who is the captive of an inflated notion of moral superiority is unable to live through the humiliation of the revelation of his own human flaws—and only a community that refuses to wrestle with the humanity of its priests is able to put the blinders up and therefore live amid unacceptable, intolerable abuses that are hidden from view.

I do not pretend this is a complete or adequate analysis of what went wrong with American Catholicism in the 20th century. But we must move past reductive and unhelpful accounts of the sources of abuse that scapegoat maleness, celibacy and homosexuality by turns. Pope Francis is offering one place for deeper inquiry into how to repair Catholic culture. A failure to heed the warning will lead to the reproduction of the very conditions that made this violence possible in the first place. As Francis exhorts, Catholics need to work together to generate a new culture and renew the church—to create “solidarity and commitment to a culture of care that says ‘never again’ to every form of abuse.”

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Mike Theman
3 weeks 5 days ago

If the Church had kept homosexuals out of the priesthood, then nearly 100% of the male-on-male sexual abuses by priests (80% of all cases) would not have occurred. Moreover, the homosexual sex parties in the seminaries would all go away, and more heterosexual men would be in the profession.

Limited access to girls by priests reinstating altar boys with a heterosexual priesthood would go a long way to prevent abuses against young women.

Solutions to save the innocent are inevitably going to disappoint some good people. That's the way the law works, but better to protect the innocent young. This is all old news, btw, and why the priesthood was set up the way it was years ago before the homosexualists decided to change the rules.

Catherine Kraemer
3 weeks 4 days ago

I should lead by saying that this suggestion is ridiculous, completely unrealistic and entirely homophobic. You're also implying that all men in the priesthood are powerless over their own drives and desires -- that we should simply remove all potential temptation from their path in order to keep them from committing abuses. That puts the onus on everyone except the priests themselves.

One a more tactical note, how do you propose we "keep homosexuals out of the priesthood"? That would involve a lot of assumptions, investigating and un-Christlike judgment calls.

Elaine Boyle
3 weeks 1 day ago

Catherine Kraemer cares more about ideology than children and young males' bodies and souls. Shameful!

Harvey Milk, MD
3 weeks 3 days ago

“If the Church had kept homosexuals out of the priesthood,....”

Mike, why homosexuals? Why not the prideful? Why not those who live in perpetual wrath? The greedy? The envious?
The gluttonous? The slothful?

Get to know St Thomas Aquinas and the Summa where he writes eloquently on the appetites that kill the soul, pride being the most deadly

Paul Mclaughlin
3 weeks 3 days ago

The issue has little to do with gender preference, but all to do with power and its abuse. As long as the church continues to teach that something ontological occurs at ordination that results in the priest having superior status than the great unwashed, predators will use that. In addition, pastor can no longer be the sole proprietor of the local church.

Think about this. The Church does not fire clergy. It laicizes them. It returns them to the lessor status of being a lay person.

The institutional bias that clergy are different and better sets the stage for what we are seeing now.

gerald nichols
3 weeks 1 day ago

Paul M. is exactly right, it is the "ontological question"; but that goes to the root of Catholicism and places the institution in doubt.

Stanley Kopacz
3 weeks 5 days ago

Mandatory universal celibacy was not required until the 12th century and that due to the problem of clerical wives or offspring inheriting church property. Nothing to do with holiness. Celibacy doesn't make you holier or less, for that matter. Creating a separate ruling society within the society of the church causes all kinds of problems, enabling molesters only one of them.

Tim O'Leary
3 weeks 5 days ago

Stanley - Mandatory universal celibacy was the reform enacted precisely in reaction to rampant homosexuality as described by St. Peter Damian, Doctor of the Church, in his book "The Book of Gomorrah." Apparently, sexual license of all types was a major problem among a licentious clergy, even married clergy who had affairs, etc. It was enforced by Pope Gregory VII (Hildebrand). A return to a holy chaste clergy is our only hope to end this scourge. Unfortunately, Fr. Martin is working in the opposite direction. https://www.amazon.com/Gomorrah-Damians-Struggle-Ecclesiastical-Corrupt…

Crystal Watson
3 weeks 5 days ago

Celibacy became mandatory when the church was worried about married priests/bishops/cardinals with children trying to pass on church property to their children. A past NCR article ... "Celibacy’s history of power and money" ... http://www.natcath.org/NCR_Online/archives/041202/041202s.htm

karen oconnell
3 weeks 5 days ago

exactly!!!!!!!!! follow the money

Tim O'Leary
3 weeks 4 days ago

Crystal - you always take the most superficial and most negative interpretation of Church history possible, as if your mission were an anti-evangelical one. Your link is a modern 1-pager without any historical reference. Try reading the Encyclopaedia Britannica account or the Catholic Encyclopedia account, if my other reference from St. Peter Damain was too much for you. Britannica begins as follows: "Gregorian Reform, eleventh-century religious reform movement associated with its most forceful advocate, Pope Gregory VII (reigned 1073–85). Although long associated with church-state conflict, the reform’s main concerns were the moral integrity and independence of the clergy." On celibacy: "Besides simony and canonical elections, the most important issue for opponents and supporters of Gregorian Reform was clerical celibacy. Marriage and concubinage among the lower ranks of the clergy were customary in much of the Western church, although already forbidden by the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. The reform of the 11th century was determined to eliminate this behaviour at all costs. Following the election of Pope Leo IX early in 1049, the papacy issued decree after decree that required priests to give up their wives, barred the sons of priests from the priesthood except under certain conditions, and declared the women sexually involved with priests “unfree.” - https://www.britannica.com/event/Gregorian-Reform

Crystal Watson
3 weeks 4 days ago

When I first became a Catholic I believed all the PR from the leadership but I've learned over time that the reality of the church is not as pretty. There are doctrines, like celibacy, that are officially justified with mysticism and spirituality but which were put in place for practical reasons instead. Here's a bit from an article on celibacy from James Csrroll ... ***it was not until the Middle Ages, at the Second Lateran Council in 1139, that celibacy was made mandatory for all Roman Catholic clergy -- a reform bracing clerical laxity and eliminating inheritance issues from church property. But because the requirement of celibacy is so extreme, it had to be mystified as sacrificial -- “a more perfect way” to God.*** ... https://www.ncronline.org/news/accountability/mandatory-celibacy-heart-…

Tim O'Leary
3 weeks 4 days ago

Crystal - When did you become Catholic? Below I link to a scholarly article on celibacy from the early Church fathers through Modern times. You can see from it that celibacy was generally the norm for the early Church, with exceptions. This included no marriage after ordination, with particular strictures on a Bishop. If a married man was to become a priest, his wife was to be continent. Pope St. Leo the Great (5th C) argued for them to live under the same roof, but Pope St. Gregory (the Great) felt that too difficult a temptation. These arguments would have made no sense if there wasn't a discipline to discuss. In today's hypersexualized world, sex is thought essential for a healthy life. Yet, we have so much sex abuse, sex crimes, sexual dysfunction, gender confusion and epidemics of sex-related suicide. Doesn't sound like health.

In periods of reform and great holiness, celibacy was practiced and mandated more forcefully. In periods of disciplinary decline, it was abandoned and not enforced. The writer shows that the eleventh century Gregorian reform was seen as a return to the original higher discipline. . http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cclergy/documents/rc_co…

Crystal Watson
3 weeks 4 days ago

I joined the church about 20 years ago but at this point I don't consider myself a Catholic anymore.

A Fielder
3 weeks 3 days ago

Tim, despite our different opinions on some matters, you usually have access to reliable facts. But this claim is over the top, forbidding clerical marriage was primarily for economic purposes, promoting a spirituality of celibacy just helped sell the decision and reinforce the power of the leadership.

Dennis Doyle
3 weeks 5 days ago

This is a really confusing article. We should not scapegoat maleness, celibacy and homosexuality but we should root out clericalism. How does the author think celicalism exists? Clericalism exists because the Church says only ordained celibate males can minister the sacraments which are the pathway or instruments to salvation. If one believes that these ordained celibate males have the exclusive God given power to forgive their sins and transubstantiate how is a special class of people not created? This model is susptible to corruption because it creates a huge imbalance of power between the clergy and the followers. When you start out with a corruptible model and the add in that statistically celibacy can not be sustained over the male sexual cycle you end up with a system where a high number of clerics are failing celibacy and they can’t rat out another who is also failing celibacy. Only a fully diseased person as Mc Carrick now appears, can pretend to exercise oversight over other predators . Sorry folks, the system is designed to fail.. You have to create a more inclusive , power balanced system , starting with bring ping females into full communion with the Church.

Jason & Amy Rogers
3 weeks 5 days ago

This.

gerald nichols
3 weeks 1 day ago

"Sorry folks, the system is designed to fail.. "
Mister, you sure got that right!

Rosemary Sieracki
3 weeks 5 days ago

I am so glad you wrote this article. You hit the nail on the head. Shortly after the end of Vatican II I was in a meeting for the purpose.of setting up a parish council where my basic idea was that lay people would be taking care of some of the priest’s responsibility to free him up for other, more important things. I suggested that some accountants in the parish might be willing to handle the financial end. The pastor said that he would be making all the decisions about everything which made me why we should even bother with a parish council. His response was typical of the time and I was disappointed. Actually, my first encounters with priests who were really open to lay people was in a Manresa learning center. I thanked God thinking that I knew there were priests around who were human too. Yet a whole lot of the people (older) in my parish don’t get that. I also think we might get a lot of younger people being involved in the parish. How to change the culture is something way beyond my abilities.
One other short thought. We need to get past focusing on what happened in the past. What is important to me is looking to the future to discern where the Holy Spirit will take us. Limiting the role of women/girls isn’t it.

Jim Spangler
3 weeks 5 days ago

You hit the nail on the head Rosemary. I was involved spinning the wheel over and over again on the same soil. I was involved with several Parish Councils over the last forty one years. We went to work creating a constitution and rules to govern by. Over and over again every time a new Priest took over the Parish it would fall through the cracks. I even headed up the Finance Council and saw the finances be moved from the Parishes to the Bishops control at the Diocesan level. The guidelines that Vatican II gave the Laity was swept under the rug, and more power was exerted by the clergy. The Clergy was supposed to be responsible for the Sacraments, and the Laity was supposed to take over the administration and operation of the Parish. Well, you can see how far that lasted. Each individual Priest that comes into a Parish lays claim to all power at the local Church level. They call it their Parish. Never mind the Laity who work their butts off with their Ministries, or monetary support. Clerical system needs to be reformed and controlled by the Laity, so that this power of control can be crushed.

Randal Agostini
3 weeks 4 days ago

Rosemary - thank you. Blakely has penned important insights, but has not gone far enough. The biggest problem to overcome is the separation of our humanity and our spirituality in the priesthood. The history of the Catholic Church incentivizes a top down hierarchy, which cultivates this separation between the clergy and the laity. Radical change is required to divorce the clergy from the administration of the church and to put it in the hands of the laity. There should no longer be any Corporate Sole in any diocese. Administration should be primarily centered around each parish - reporting to something akin to a county administrative board - that would include some clergy for their spiritual insight.
At a county level we begin to see how the laity could manage churches, schools, medical facilities and even our own community bank - to create an Environment of Faith.
When we look at this picture, we can go all the way back to the early church to Matthew 10:1-15 - A rare glimpse into the role that Jesus foresaw for our priests and bishops.

Vincent Gaglione
3 weeks 3 days ago

Amen. You say it well.

There needs to be a formal structure in which ("lay Catholics" - after I wrote that I wanted to change it because that's part of our problem too, we don't see ourselves the equals of clerical and consecrated-life Catholics) - the entire Catholic community equally shares the responsibilities of parish and diocesan life without a cleric always in the lead role. That is not to say that a Bishop or pastor abdicates his responsibility as teacher of the Faith, but simply as administrator of a large social structure, he usually has no such expertise or authority in comparison to others in the Catholic community.

Kester Ratcliff
3 weeks 5 days ago

"Jesus' life of celibacy" - he was killed at 33. That's not an adult lifetime. There's nothing recorded about him saying he'd chosen to never marry.

I agree clerical celibacy is not a significant cause of the abuse crisis, but that doesn't mean it's a good idea to keep it. I believe we should go back to the pre-1200 system as the Orthodox and Eastern Rite Catholics still do.

justinreany@gmail.com
3 weeks 5 days ago

Moronic suggestion! I am so disappointed in my fellow Catholics using this crisis and tears of the victims to push heterodoxy and heteropraxis. I have read demonic pushing for the absolution of celibacy, greater normalization of homosexuality, and even female ordination. Evil people!

Jason & Amy Rogers
3 weeks 5 days ago

@justinreany: Open discussion about change is not inherently evil. While some ideas might be evil, the notion that heterodoxy is wrong by definition paralyzes the church into a single moment in time and denies the possibility of an evolution toward greater holiness.

Dolores Pap
3 weeks 5 days ago

Exactly...and considering our life spans have increased to twice what it was in the early days of the church, a lifetime of celibacy seems an impossibly endless, pointless punishment.

Jason & Amy Rogers
3 weeks 5 days ago

@Kester: Yes!

Jim Lein
3 weeks 2 days ago

Some historical writers, like James Carroll, think it likely that Jesus and Mary of Magdala married. And that she was like the main apostle who was eventually edged out and written out of the picture after Jesus' death. (He did return to her first.) Research and recovered scrolls from those time are revealing more of the picture of back then. There is a collection of some of these old documents, including The Gospel of Mary, in the book "A New New Testament" by Hal Taussig. It does seem almost miraculous that these scrolls have been recovered after like 2000 years.

Jim Lein
3 weeks 2 days ago

Some historical writers, like James Carroll, think it likely that Jesus and Mary of Magdala married. And that she was like the main apostle who was eventually edged out and written out of the picture after Jesus' death. (He did return to her first.) Research and recovered scrolls from those time are revealing more of the picture of back then. There is a collection of some of these old documents, including The Gospel of Mary, in the book "A New New Testament" by Hal Taussig. It does seem almost miraculous that these scrolls have been recovered after like 2000 years.

Jim Lein
3 weeks 2 days ago

Some historical writers, like James Carroll, think it likely that Jesus and Mary of Magdala married. And that she was like the main apostle who was eventually edged out and written out of the picture after Jesus' death. (He did return to her first.) Research and recovered scrolls from those time are revealing more of the picture of back then. There is a collection of some of these old documents, including The Gospel of Mary, in the book "A New New Testament" by Hal Taussig. It does seem almost miraculous that these scrolls have been recovered after like 2000 years.

Jim Lein
3 weeks 2 days ago

Some historical writers, like James Carroll, think it likely that Jesus and Mary of Magdala married. And that she was like the main apostle who was eventually edged out and written out of the picture after Jesus' death. (He did return to her first.) Research and recovered scrolls from those time are revealing more of the picture of back then. There is a collection of some of these old documents, including The Gospel of Mary, in the book "A New New Testament" by Hal Taussig. It does seem almost miraculous that these scrolls have been recovered after like 2000 years.

Jim Lein
3 weeks 2 days ago

I'm getting too old for this. I meant to make one entry and it was somehow four. I hope this is only one entry,

Tim Janning
3 weeks 5 days ago

I have experienced a greater degree of accountability in a marital relationship. As a priest in active ministry from 1982 thru 2006, I experienced little accountability. It seems to me that one of the issues with clericalism is a lack of accountability.

"Overcoming clericalism means creating open, transparent and equal relationships between priests and laity. Such a community is willing to allow moral correction of priests by the laity and not simply the correction of laity by priests. Such a community is open and willing to learn from all its members."

Vince Killoran
3 weeks 5 days ago

The issue of accountability is absolutely necessary. There can be no substantial discussion without this key element. Sadly the structures of power within the Church make significant reform difficult. (What was it Orwell wrote? "We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end.")

Tim O'Leary
3 weeks 5 days ago

Celibacy & clericalism cannot be the major causes, since proportionately more sex abuse occurs in non-celibate institutions (schools, military, colleges, families etc.), best as we can get at these statistics. They could have contributed to the coverup and the Dallas Charter should fix most of that for minors. The big difference between inside and outside the Church seems to be proportion of same-sex victims. The incidence of sexual abuse in society is astounding. See these figures from the US Gov.t NSOPW (link below). CDC says 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused before 18. 1/3rd between ages 12-17. 1.8 million teens sexually assaulted in 2012. 25% by strangers. 18% of US women report being raped at least once in their lifetime.

https://www.nsopw.gov/en-US/Education/FactsStatistics?AspxAutoDetectCoo…

Harvey Milk, MD
3 weeks 3 days ago

“Celibacy & clericalism cannot be the major causes, since proportionately more ...”

Tim, why is it you always contradict the Holy Father, Vatican prefects and respected Bishops, while referencing yourself or extra-ecclesial sources, never mind polemic websites like First Things?

Pope Francis was very clear as to what the problem is in the Church: clericalism.
https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2018-08/pope-francis-letter-peo…

Why not just leave the Church and join SSPX or any Sede Vacantists du jour?

You get really polemical and selfrignteous about homosexuals like me yet you do not hesitate to continually contradict Pope Francis. Pride is the worst of all sins, Tim. Put it in check. Seek humility like the BVM and our Lord.

A Fielder
3 weeks 5 days ago

About 15 years ago I remember hearing our pastor tell a small group meeting that it is not appropriate for lay people to criticize a priest, only his bishop can do that. Can you imagine the psychological profile of a man who desires a profession with excellent job security where he can never be critiqued by the people he serves, or even by his peers in ministry? Very sad indeed.

J. Calpezzo
3 weeks 5 days ago

Roger Mahony, Cardinal.

sheila gray
3 weeks 5 days ago

This survivor totally agrees with your premise. In my case, when I spoke out about my abuse as a 17 year-old idealistic teen around the time of my 20 year high school reunion, none of my almost life-long friends and teachers chose to believe my perpetrator’s denials and lies for one reason: They Could Not Handle The Truth

Eduardo Espiritu
3 weeks 5 days ago

We, the laity, are not an alternative to the ordained, but because we share in the priesthood of Christ as the baptized we provide are the Church and mininster to each other. Our fraternal correction is not restricted to each other, but extends to our fellow baptized who are also ordained.

As we correct each other for proclivities to (and committing) capital sins, we should not hesitate to so act with our clergy and to support institutions that facilitate so acting.

This is not affirmation of clericalism, expecting the ordained to be holier than any other baptized. It is holding them to the expectations we have of ourselves.

Timothy Cardoso
3 weeks 5 days ago

Even though I gav tremendous fondness for our Holy Father I still feel we are missing the mark. We are looking at how to treat symptoms rather than the root cause of an orientation that violates the innocence of children. Many of those priest offenders who already died began their formation in a minor seminary at the age of 13 or 14. Healthy dating at this point in their young lives was not at all desirable to the institution, therefore this boys were left to grapple with the height of there psych sexual development with no information and little healthy guidance in an all male environment. Most likely for many of them, not all of them, there sexuality developed or rather did not develop past the age of 14 or 15. They are psycho sexually arrested at that age. This is fertile ground for a warped experience of sexuality. The Church has closed minor seminarys and I believe this is so because it was counter productive to healthy development and the Church realized this. It seems this whole clericalism thing is still looking to something nebulous, something on the outside. I agree clericalism must be removed from present day Catholic experience. However, the Church needs to shoulder the responsibility for this nightmare honestly. The Church need to stop making halfhearted acceptance of responsibility and admit minor seminary environment is largely to blame, and this is so because it crushes the real, healthy development of young men. To avoid this reality is still to play into a mentality of avoiding “scandal”. If the institution of the church admits that it was wrong in constructing this system the powers that be afraid the church might be wrong on other things. We still insist on stressing the infallibility of the Church. To skirt other issues like this one is not going to solve problem and many other problems
in the Church today.

Jeffrey More
3 weeks 5 days ago

"Clericalism poses the question: How are all Catholics complicit in a culture in which abuse is rampant? Perhaps all Catholics can do something about clericalism by creating church communities that are made up of real, thick relationships and not the guru-like distance created by clericalism."
The Church has spent two thousand years CREATING the culture of clericalism, and treating the laity like sheep as part and parcel of that effort. The mere suggestion that ordinary Catholics, by accepting the role of faithful, believing members of the flock, are somehow "complicit" in the creation of a culture of abuse is OBSCENE.

Hilary Hutchinson
3 weeks 5 days ago

Wow, Jeffrey, I couldn't agree with you more. Accusing the laity of causing or encouraging or being to blame for some of the pedophilia is OBSCENE as you say. It make me very angry. I am in disbelief over the statement in Canon Law that priests become "ontologically different" when they are ordained. What the hell does that mean? The priest takes that to heart, and thinks of himself as superior in some way to the average person in the pew. Therefore, the rules do not apply to him - he's different. Where did that concept come from? It needs to be changed.

gerald nichols
3 weeks 1 day ago

Dear Lady,
How long have you been a Catholic? The "ontological difference" of the "ordained" is basic Catholicism.

A Fielder
3 weeks 1 day ago

Yes, seminarians are carefully "formed" to believe that they are ipse Christi, not just another Christ, but Christ himself. Our sacramental economy is based on this tenant. What do you think happens when a lay person who is sexually assaulted by a cleric also believes that she was assaulted by a man ontologically configured to the person of Christ? This is very difficult to recover from.

Carlos Orozco
3 weeks 5 days ago

So blame "toxic masculInity" for deviant homosexual parties in the Seminaries?

Anne Danielson
3 weeks 5 days ago

“Clericalism poses the question: How are all Catholics complicit in a culture in which abuse is rampant?”
The Faithful, those who assent to Christ’s teaching on sexual morality, including Faithful members of the clergy, are not responsible for the heinous abuse crisis and cover up.

Hilary Hutchinson
3 weeks 5 days ago

A big AMEN to that! It amazes me how the laity get blamed for the faults and failings of the clergy. Unbelievable.

rose-ellen caminer
3 weeks 4 days ago

"if you were not part of the solution, you were part of the problem". This occurred in the vacuum that was the clerical culture, but the church exists in a greater society. If that secular society also had a culture of persecuting gays; of outlawing homosexual acts, of [lay] people arresting, and prosecuting gays, of [lay] shrinks telling gays they were sick and needed to change, of [lay[ adults telling their kids, who may have been gay themselves, that gays were pervs, of [lay] people dehumanizing gays by calling them "fags" etc., then, just as a response to being persecuted can understandably be to seek refuge, so too it is understandable that many alienated, in denial gay men became refugees of the persecuting [lay] culture by seeking and finding refuge in an all male clergy. For some the trauma of being gay in a persecuting culture may have led them to predatory behavior against teens and to establish a mafioso type extensive network where they had free rein to act out, some may have entered the clergy with sincere pious intents and desire to be celibate, then failed and got caught up[ like drug addicts?], some may be been insincere and predatory from the get go, and [unrelated]; pedophiles may also have sought the clergy culture to become predators., or sincerely pious and believing they could be celibate. At the time knowledge of it being an intrinsic disorder with no cure was not recognized. If the laity; adult parents of kids who did tell them they were being abused, either did not believe their children or,like the bishops who covered to not embarrass the church, chose to go to the church authorities rather then the civil authorities and press criminal charges, then they too WERE part of the coverup. They too were part clericalism. But for the silence of the laity, as well as the coverup by the bishops, this would not have gone on as it did all these decades. The adult parents of abusers had their reasons and the bishops had their reason to cover up. The pervasiveness of the abuse and coverup could not have been so extensive or lasted so long without the attitudes, deeds and misdeeds of the laity as well as the clergy.

John Chuchman
3 weeks 4 days ago

Amen, amen, amen

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