A Pennsylvania grand jury recently delivered its account of rampant abuse that involved 1,000 children, 300 priests, and 70 years of silence or denial from the Catholic Church. According to an Associated Press article on August 16, 2018, Pope Francis expressed shame and sorrow and stated he wanted to eradicate this “tragic horror.”
The history of the Catholic Church reflects a consistent pattern of celibate clergy violating their obligations and vows. According to a short history written by Thomas Doyle, JCD, this includes abuse with adults of the same sex, women, and children. From the late nineteenth into the early twenty-first century, Church leadership adopted a position of secrecy and silence, but in previous centuries they quite publicly acknowledged it.
In the sixteenth century, for example, sexual abuses led, in part, to the Protestant Reformation, whose proponents believed celibacy caused moral corruption. Consequently, new religions were initiated in which clergy not only served as pastors, they also married, had children, and lived a customary family life. From my perspective this change was positive: clergy became able to sexually express themselves in a healthy and beneficial way, which helped them understand and relate to the congregation in a more realistic capacity.
Today many are aware that an intricate relationship exists between psychology, spirituality, and sexuality. My award-winning book, Grow Up Your Ego: Ten Scientifically Validated Stages to Emotional and Spiritual Maturity, provides practical exercises to help identify and address aspects needing attention in our own lives. My approach is optimistic:
I believe deeply rooted patterns of trauma and secrecy are beginning to shift. The abuse in the Pennsylvania Catholic diocese coming to light and being dealt with is but one example. Another example is the emergence of women’s voices within the Catholic Church. “Nuns on the Bus” is an organization founded by Catholic Sisters in the progressive spirit of Vatican II. Rooted in Catholic social justice ideals, this organization is open to all who:
As their name implies, Nuns on the Bus tour the country. In 2018, they will travel through twelve states to discuss economic inequality, elections, immigration, and other key issues. They plan to bring what they learn from voters to President Trump. More information is available at www.nunsonthebus.org.
This sort of shift in awareness is happening on many levels in our culture today—from the #MeToo movement to race inequality to politics to transparency in the Catholic Church. We are being asked to really look at the shadows in our institutions and in ourselves. There is a certain type of behavior we will no longer tolerate. Comments on your experiences and feelings during this important time are much appreciated. What are some of the areas in your own community or even within yourself that still need work?
Good reasoning and conclusions relating celibacy and priests' good service to the community. I hope we can break through the dogma which hurts so many people.
Thank you for your comment Leonor--indeed the dogma has hurt many people as it stands in the way of experiencing true spirituality.