Many of you have read my articles concerning the clergy sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church (links are in the sidebar). I've watched the unfolding of events concerning the Catholic Church in Belgium over this past week with dismay, frustration and a ghastly sense of déjà vu.
For those of you who may have missed the news, back in April this year the Bishop of Bruges admitted that he'd been guilty of child sexual abuse, and resigned. This was the last straw for many Belgian Catholics, and particularly for law enforcement authorities, as there had been a number of scandals unearthed there in recent years, but very few prosecutions. Last week the authorities took action, as the Guardian reports.
The Roman Catholic church was once again at the centre of a child abuse scandal today when police raided the headquarters of the church hierarchy in Belgium. They carried away computers and hundreds of files, amid rumours that church leaders were continuing to cover up abuse cases despite a public plea for forgiveness last month.
Belgian officers today sealed off and searched the headquarters of the church at Mechelen, north of Brussels, where the Belgian bishops' conference was in session, with the papal nuncio taking part. They also searched the home of Cardinal Godfried Danneels, until last year Belgium's most senior prelate, who enjoys a reputation for being a liberal.
In nearby Leuven, east of Brussels, police also searched the premises of the independent church commission investigating hundreds of cases of alleged molestation by clergymen. They took all 475 files belonging to the commission, prompting bewilderment and panic among investigators and victims of sexual abuse.
. . .
Police sources told the Flemish newspaper De Standaard that the raids were carried out because of suspicions that church leaders were failing to hand over all the necessary materials to the commission of inquiry.
There's more at the link.
Over the weekend the Vatican responded angrily to the police measures.
The pope on Sunday called the raids carried out by Belgian police investigating priestly sex abuse "deplorable" and asserted the right of the Catholic Church to investigate abuse alongside civil law enforcement authorities.
Pope Benedict XVI issued a message Sunday to the head of the Belgian bishops' conference, Monsignor Andre-Joseph Leonard, expressing his solidarity with all Belgian bishops "in this sad moment."
The June 24 raids targeted the home and office of a retired archbishop and also the graves of two prelates. The Vatican has slowly ratcheted up its criticism of the searches, with the Vatican No. 2 on Saturday complaining they were unprecedented even under communism.
On Sunday, Benedict took the criticism to a new level, issuing a personal message of support to the Belgian bishops for the "surprising and deplorable way" in which the raids were carried out.
. . .
In his message to the bishops, Benedict stressed that justice must take its course.
But he also repeated that such crimes are handled by both civil and canon law "respecting their reciprocal specificity and autonomy."
He said he hoped that the "fundamental rights" of individuals and institutions are guaranteed in respect of the victims and recognizing all efforts at collaboration.
Again, there's more at the link.
I'm profoundly saddened to see that the Church, and her Bishops, and even the Pope, still don't get it. The reason the Belgian authorities raided the hierarchy and institutions of the Church last week is because they don't trust them to reveal all they know, and they're afraid they may suppress or even destroy evidence. They don't trust them because throughout the world, this crisis continues to rumble on, and on, and on. When the first major allegations surfaced at the end of the 1980's and the early 1990's, there were many words spoken by Church leaders about how dreadful this was, and what they were going to do to stop it; but it hasn't stopped. It's continued to this day.
I'm very sorry to have to say it, but as a former Catholic priest (and still a Catholic by faith), I don't trust the Bishops either. Whenever I hear a Bishop complaining about the actions of secular authorities in connection with clergy sex abuse, or protesting negative publicity in the media, or claiming that the Church is working overtime to deal with the problem and protect her members, my instant reaction is to wonder what he's hiding. I automatically associate pronouncements by the hierarchy concerning this scandal with a pathological, organization-centered mentality that will do anything, moral or immoral, to defend the institution of the Church. I simply don't believe that most of the hierarchy have learned anything. Far too many of them put doctrine, dogma and structures ahead of people, justice and truth. They still cling to power and privilege, rather than pursue meaningful change in the way the scandal is and will be handled. They still keep 'outsiders' as far away from their seats of power as they possibly can, and regard those of us speaking up 'from the inside' about the scandal as the next best thing to heretics - certainly, dangerously close to committing treason against our Faith.
They don't get it. It seems that they simply can't get it.
And that's why the Church continues to suffer, and will continue to suffer . . . because too many of her modern Apostles, the Bishops, have allowed themselves to become like the Pharisees whom Jesus addressed so scathingly in Matthew 23. They are blind guides . . . so blind that they don't know their own blindness. And that is perhaps the most tragic thing of all about this whole scandal . . . because blind guides can't and won't find the way through and out of this mess.
That means the Church will not recover, and the distrust, suspicion and anger of the world will inevitably continue to grow. How can they do otherwise, when so many of those charged with the governance of the People of God have, by most objective standards, proved so incompetent as to render them incapable of governing?
"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely..." (Lord Acton)
The Catholic Church is the most "successful" organization in history, if we define success in terms of power and longevity.
While I respect the enormous good the Church has done over the centuries, its self-perpetuating grasp of power and the mind-control it uses on its adherents are among the reasons I no longer consider myself Catholic.
The Roman Catholic Church has historically been engaged in regular clashes for power with civil authorities. From the middle ages and their desire to be seen as the ones conferring kingly power to modern day, the institution as a whole has never desired to submit to earthly authority of any kind.
It seems to be just the character of the organization; they feel as though they stand over and above every other power structure known to man.
Michael Jackson should have become a Catholic priest. I would want to be a choir boy then...
I am encouraged about the Belgian raid. Perhaps it will provide the impetus for warrants to be carried out in other places.
The church can open its door, or have the door broken down.
Peter, the other Churches, such as the Orthodox Churches and the Anglican Church, allow priests to be married, at least before ordination. Every religion has had sexual abuse scandals, unfortunately; power can corrupt even the holiest orders. But is there an ongoing, persistent problem of sexual abuse in these other churches? I have not heard of such; however most of the Orthodox churches are far more insular than the RC Church.
My personal thought on the matter is that the current discipline against Latin Rite Roman Catholic priests getting married has an effect in that it affects WHO is going to pursue orders. (Most Roman Catholic priests who AREN'T Latin Rite can get married, and there's a handful of situations where a Latin Rite priest can be married, such as a converting Lutheran or Anglican priest, but celibate Latin Rite priests are about 90 - 95% of the Catholic priesthood worldwide, and better than 99% in America and western Europe)
Anyone who knows that a wife and family is part of the proper path for themself WILL NOT pursue Catholic Holy Orders, unless they belong to one of the minority Catholic rites that still allows married priests (mostly "Eastern Catholic" -- i.e., "Eastern Orthodox" in nature but accepting the Pope's authority). Right off the bat, a large portion of the pool of people who ARE NOT struggling with an inordinate amount of sexual temptation are eliminated from the pool of prospects.
In geology, among other fields, this is called “subtractive enrichment” – because we are LEAVING OUT certain portions of the normal mix, it’s the same as if we INCREASED the ratio of the other ingredients. Let’s pull some numbers out of thin air to illustrate the idea (I make no pretence these numbers are accurate – I’m picking nice, round numbers that are plausible to me, not ones I think are probable.)
If your general population pool is 95% “normal” sexuality people, and only 5% “abnormal” sexuality, and HALF of the “normals” choose not to enter the field at all BECAUSE of sexuality, you have effectively DOUBLED the rate of “abnormals” – we’ve gone to 10% “abnormals” merely by reducing the “normals” who chose to pursue a life where they can express their sexuality.
Likewise, a certain amount of misguided people with sexual urges they are trying to run away from (anything from "normal" albeit strong heterosexual feelings to homosexual ones, to ones most would agree were truly deviant, the important thing is the person feels they are sinful and shameful)will (foolishly) think that becoming a priest will magically free them of the urges -- so they will not have to face them. If only an additional 25% rate of “abnormals” (1.25% of the original population) who are only entering the priesthood because they think it’s a magical “no sexuality zone”, our overall rate of “abnormals” in the “priest population” will be 12.5%, as opposed to 5% of the “general population”. That’s a statistically significant increase in potential offenders – so it would not be unthinkable to see offence rates at 2.5 times the rate of the general population, all without the Church “encouraging” these offences! (It’s like financing – if you offer a loan product that is unattractive to a large chunk of the general population with good credit, and MORE attractive than most loan products to people with bad credit, you’re going to have a higher default rate.)
Just as some excessively sexual heterosexuals, homosexuals, or "deviants" have jumped into marriages (to deny their feelings by trying to force themselves to be "normal"), gone overboard into lay religion (trying to force their "icky" feelings into a box by outward religious trappings), or tried any number of self-deceptions to avoid dealing with their own feelings, a certain percentage of these who happen to be Catholic will end up fooling themselves into think they have a vocation, or (as some of them likely DO have true vocations) thinking that the clerical discipline of chastity will be an Easy Button to avoid their inner self.
Unfortunately, this WILL result in a significantly higher percentage of people taking Holy Orders for the absolutely wrong reasons, as using the mythical Easy Button of "Catholic priests don't have sexuality, so I won't have to worry anymore if I become a priest" is a stronger call than "Well, if I just get married and sleep with my wife I can change myself." This means a higher percentage of people who are potential offenders, simply by orientation. (While not everyone with pedophilic – for instance - attractions acts on them, people with NO pedophilic attractions are a ZERO threat of committing pedophilia. Increasing the number of people with pedophilic urges WILL increase the risk of pedophilic offences, all other things being equal.)
Even riskier -- the type of person whose self-deception lets them think that one of these "escapes" actually works is ALSO the kind of person who will totally let their guard down and find themselves in situations where their personal temptations are courted! After all, the white collar "fixed" it, right? So, someone who is running away from an attraction to young men would see nothing wrong in becoming a campus chaplain or offer to coach a neighborhood basketball team. . . Now, we have a larger pool of potential offenders, who have a larger rate of people who will not be consciously avoiding risky situations.
One of the places where the human mind approaches infinity the closest is the nearly infinite capacity for self-deception. As Peter can (and has, IIRC, if not in such blunt language) relate himself, a white collar and a black shirt do not cause your testicles to wither up and fall off.
As I understand it, when a priest (or a nun) talks of the "sacrifice" of giving up sexual relations, THEY DO NOT MEAN that they sacrifice their sexuality -- only the physical expression of it. It isn't a sacrifice as in "I'll burn it all up on the altar to God, and it will be all gone," as it is, "EACH DAY, I will willingly offer up that which I would normally enjoy to a greater power, and use that drive to better serve God and his faithful." I had a priest once tell me quite frankly that he struggled with worldly temptations (including his attraction to pretty women), and felt that his turning away from the expression of those temptations was a far better sacrifice than any material good any man could offer, because it WAS ongoing, and each day was a fresh offering to God.
Even more "not getting it": http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2010/06/29/MNRF1E68UI.DTL
I hope they keep it up, it will
hasten the demise of this whole
ridiculous "God" business. How
anyone can believe in some
invisible magical man in the sky
is beyond me. The criminals that
run these Churches have gotten so
wrapped up in this nonsense that
they can't see it crashing down
around their ears, good. When
people can dump this who
supernatural deity business on
the trash heap of history we
will all be better off. These
clowns at the Vatican are helping
God is not a magic man in the sky. He is not a man and he is in heaven, not the sky. :-)
The problem here is not them getting too caught up in God, but getting too caught up in themselves and their organization and forgetting their faith and the Word of God. My pastor used to say that you need Bible doctrine as well as reciprocal love for God to keep advancing toward the high ground of the Christian Faith.
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