04-09-2010 11:22 AM
This is going to be a little long winded. I apologize in advance.
So of course the abuse of children in the Catholic church has been hitting the news lately, with the revelation that the Pope himself was made aware of the cover-up of certain priests' abusive activity. This is both old news and new news, the abuse within the Catholic church having been a series of sad revelations that have rolled out over the last decade.
What struck me about this news is the question over whether this is a religious issue, a political issue, or both?
From my point of view, it is an undeniably political issue. What we have here is a huge bureaucracy with close ties to several governments. An institution like that is bound to generate abuse and cover-ups. It's the nature of global institutions. They will eventually end up harboring, among their massive ranks, people capable of abuse. And the institution, rather than letting these cases of individual abuse reflect upon the organization as a whole, will try to make the whole thing go away, hush it up. Of course, in doing so, they have transformed an individual crime into an institutional one, and spread the weight of guilt onto the organization itself.
Basically what I'm saying is this is not necessarily a problem of large religious organizations, or a problem of the Catholic Church in particular, but a problem of all massive global organizations. See the recently released video from Iraq of the killing of civilians. That case and our government's reaction (to cover it up until outsiders revealed it to the world) is comparable to the Catholic abuse cases. It's problem endemic to global institutions.
This is why I think it is a political issue.
What is less clear to me is whether this is also a religious issue. The Vatican is a strange organization, in that it functions equally as a religious and political institution, in a way with few parallels in the modern world (I say the modern world, because it is actually a model that was common through most of human history. Rulers were often also religious leaders, or were directly associated with religious leaders. The Vatican is a holdover from a form of societal organization that has faded in the modern democratic and secular world). This issue is mainly to do with political decisions: Employees being shuffled around. Victims paid off. But at the same time this political organization is intimately connected with the spiritual feelings of millions of people. And this is where it gets tricky.
How do the political decisions of the political part of this organization affect the religious feelings of Catholics? This is where I see it becoming a religious issue. For instance, the Pope wrote a letter about the abuse and Irish Bishops urged lay Catholics to read it and think about... This is interesting because it is a decision by the church itself to push the political response to the tragedy into the realm of individual spirituality.
I've gone on too long here, but what do you think? Is the abuse and subsequent cover-up a purely political issue, related only to the political aspect of the Vatican? Or is it also a religious and spiritual issue? How should this affect lay Catholics on a spiritual level? Or should it not?
04-09-2010 06:01 PM
You know it's funny, I tried getting a discussion going about this over in current events. But ran into me being too pissed off and a complete lack of anyone knowing what I was trying to talk about.
I think it's both a political and a religious issue.
I think one of the fundamental discrepancies within the Catholic church is celibacy and the resulting repressed explosions. No I'm not linking celibacy with pedophilia on a large scale, for most pedophiles that has nothing to do with it.. But does constant repressed sexuality cause priests, nuns, and monks to act out in extra inappropriate behavior patterns, yes. And not just with children, the vulnerable are their common outlets. I honestly believe if the Catholic clergy had healthy outlets for their natural urges there would be wide scale a happier world.
And just think this all started for economic political reasons. The Catholic upper levels became concerned about the inheritance of "church" property by the children of priests. So to solidify the church's economic base, a proclamation went out that all clergy must be celibate. So all the hundreds of families within the clergy either left and were excommunicated. All the protesters were killed. An within the year the Catholic church became celibate. It wasn't a religious decision, it was an economic one.
But as to the Pope's letter.. kind of ironic since when he was (sorry forgotten was it archbishop or cardinal) in Ireland, he was the man responsible for the hiding and shuffling of abusive priests.
04-15-2010 09:44 PM
The issue of celibacy in the priesthood took almost a century to resolve. Numerous councils in the eleventh century called for the celibacy of the priests beginning in the reign of Pope Leo IX at the start of the century. The reason was a call for the moral reformation of the priesthood, a parallel what is happening within the church today. It was in 1079 under Gregory VII that celibacy was enforced.
It is interesting that after a millennium we should think that allowing priests to marry would resolve the current issue. Neither marriage nor celibacy will resolve the problem of the basic sinful nature of man and a priest is no different, he is a sinner like the rest of us. What truly and appropriately, in my opinion, makes this an issue is his calling to the priesthood. Because of the higher calling the fall is greater. While it is still news when a member of the clergy does something like this, how often are similar stories relegated to the back pages of the newspapers.
04-17-2010 01:17 PM
I don't think it is possible for us to say that these priests became predators because of their celibacy, as that is not true of all the other sexual predators in the world today.
I think it is more probable that these people had deviant proclivities to begin with, and they sought refuge in careers in the church, perhaps with the notion that they could somehow pray themselves out of it, which, in the end, did not work.
I believe the Church chose to handle the problem as they did at least partialy out of ignorance of the true nature of the sexual deviancy. They, like so many, seemed to lump it together as some kind of sinful exercise of normal sexuality, as opposed to realizing that predators are a whole different kind of animal -- the kind that abuses power, and takes victims, with no regard for the psychological pain of the victim.
With that kind of naivete, the Church believed that once caught and put through the humiliation of being caught, these priests could potentially be reformed and then trusted not to do it again. Meanwhile, the rest of the world was realizing that the kind of deviancy these priests were acting upon is not that amenable to change, and that people like this need to be monitored 24/7 and kept clear away from potential victims, no matter how much they say they have reformed. They may even have the very best of intentions of reforming, but they still need the extra supervision and external boundaries that secular police can provide.
As to why the Church did not hand them over to secular authorities for criminal processing -- that, I think, has two reasons --
1) Once public, more victims would come forward, and the Church would then be open to more lawsuits and loss of money, and
2) I think they believed that making these things public would erode the faith of millions of Catholics.
Neither of these reasons excuses the cover-ups, in my opinion.
I think it is really clear that they totally botched this, and in doing so, enabled the predators to take many more victims.
04-21-2010 10:22 AM
TiggerBear: I'd never heard the economic theory for why the celibacy of priests started. That's very interesting. Also I've been meaning to watch that documentary for some time, but I still haven't gotten around to it.
Texas-Buckeye: I think I agree with you that celibacy isn't really the issue here. If it was, more priests would have been caught sneaking off with prostitutes, not abusing children. As a Jew, I'm less convinced of the sinful nature of humans. Instead, I think what we're really dealing with here is an issue of power. The abuse of children is at heart the abuse of the power the clergy have over their flock, especially the young people. It's what makes this abuse even more tragic, that it was done because of the power that their religious position gave them.
Psychee: I agree with your assement as to why the Church covered up the abuses (although both issues only became worse once the truth inevitably came out). I'm not sure I agree that the abusing priests were natural predators. I think it's more likely that they had a variety of psychological issues that made it difficult for them to correctly handle the kind of power being a representative of God for a community gave them. I think that most likely the predatory compulsion was caused by the interaction between their personalities and power.
Also some news on the Pope/victims relations front: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/19/world/europe/19p
04-21-2010 08:09 PM
I think that it is an issue of morality, illness and/or cultural beliefs. In some countries, although many of us do not agree with the policy, it is acceptable for an older person to engage in sexual activities with minors, a practice many of us would consider abusive.
It is always the more powerful individuals who have the control and influence. It does not have to be a priest. How about congressmen who have used their position to behave amorally or rock stars who abuse the minors who are groupies who follow them? They can be engaged in entertainment or in politics as priests are engaged in religion, but their behavior is not caused by their popularity or their politics or their religion (except in certain cultures where such behavior is acceptable), but rather by something in the person that is deviant.
For me, the issue was not only ignoring and covering up the abusive behavior perpetrated upon the young by what can only be considered disturbed individuals, but it was an issue of ignoring what some of us would call an illness and not treating it, allowing the ill to continue to spread their "infection" and in doing that, allowing such anomalous behavior to permeate society, unchecked.
Perhaps the politics of the church required that it be hidden, but surely it did not require it to be ignored any more than it should have been covered up when Congressmen took advantage of pages. Even under the radar, something could have been done to remove these influences so that children would not be at risk.
For the church, it was a more distressing issue because parents thought the environment was safe, in much the same way they thought the pages were safe working for Congress, although they were not expecting them to be in the same kind of sheltered situation. It is a matter of degree and this issue, in its varied forms, is pervasive in our society and is covered up because it is considered shameful. It requires courage to speak out against what is perceived as something counter to our culture, especially when the ones speaking out are in the minority, since those voices are routinely silenced in politics, religious organizations and certain cultures.
So, as a result, I don't beleive it should have a permanent effect on the church anymore than I think government abuse should cause the collapse of our political system. We should listen to those who speak out, without a knee jerk reaction to silence them because we either can't believe it or disagree with the message. If we see abuse, we should work to correct the anomalies and not throw out the baby with the bath water, especially if the system is intrinsically healthy and has worked well for so long.
04-22-2010 03:47 PM
I suppose that another part of the difficulty might be the conditions under which these priests admitted their deviant behavior to Church authorities. If those confessions had been done under the blanket privacy of the confessional, it would indeed be difficult for the authorities to turn them in. The authority hearing the confession could always require the priests to turn themselves in to secular authorities as a penance condition for absolution of their sins, but still, the decision would have to be made by the priests themselves.
Joseph, I don't really buy into the notion that the power given to the priests corrupted them in this particular way. I might accept that in the cases which involved willing female (or even willing male) teenagers, especially if those teenagers in question "made the first move", if that ever occurred, but those cases involving children are just too sick for me to consider that these were normal men without pre-existing deviant sexual proclivities.
04-29-2010 08:58 PM
A little more on the issue
Legionaries break silence on founder's sex abuse
VATICAN CITY — The No. 2 official in the conservative Legionaries of Christ order has broken his silence on revelations that the group's founder had fathered children and abused seminarians, giving an interview on the eve of a Vatican meeting to discuss the order's fate.
The Rev. Luis Garza Medina told Rome's La Repubblica newspaper Thursday that he did not know before 2006 that founder Rev. Marcial Maciel had fathered a child. He also said cases of sexual abuse by priests should be referred to civil law enforcement.
On Friday, five Vatican experts are to discuss their investigation into the order with the Vatican's No. 2 official, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. Bertone ordered the probe in 2009 after the Legionaries acknowledged that Maciel had fathered a daughter who is now in her 20s and lives in Spain.
The case against Maciel is being closely watched as the Vatican struggles to show that it is serious about rooting out clerical sex abuse and being more transparent. The Maciel case has long been seen as emblematic of Vatican inaction on abuse complaints, since sex abuse victims had tried in the 1990s to bring a canonical trial against Maciel but were shut down by his supporters at the Vatican.
Only in March of this year did the Legionaries acknowledge that Maciel had also sexually abused seminarians and that two men are claiming to be his sons. One of those men has asked the Legionaries for $26 million and says Maciel had promised him and his two brothers a trust fund when he died as financial compensation for the alleged sexual abuse they endured at Maciel's hands. The third son was adopted.
Maciel died in 2008 at age 87.
The Vatican spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi, has said no decisions on the order are expected after Friday's meeting, although a statement will be issued. Pope Benedict XVI, he said, will make the final decision on the order's future after studying the case.
The Legion, founded in Mexico, claims a membership of more than 800 priests and 2,500 seminarians in 22 countries, along with 70,000 members in its lay arm, Regnum Christi. It runs schools, charities, Catholic news outlets, seminaries for young boys, and universities in Mexico, Italy, Spain and elsewhere. Its U.S. headquarters are in Orange, Connecticut.
The revelations of Maciel's double life raised many questions that the Legion still hasn't publicly answered, including whether any current leaders covered up Maciel's misdeeds and whether any donations were used to facilitate the sexual misconduct or pay its victims.
Garza Medina said he only realized the accusations surrounding Maciel were true in 2006, when the Vatican sentenced Maciel to a "reserved life of penance and prayer."
"It seemed impossible, the behavior of the founder seemed impeccable," Garza Medina told La Repubblica. "With the investigation finished, I verified the paternity that was attributed to Father Maciel; at which point it was clear that the accusations were well-founded."
Asked how even Maciel's closest advisers — including himself — could have been kept in the dark, the Legionaries' vicar general said: "It was difficult to understand that there were such immoral and aberrant actions on his part."
While the Vatican issued its sentence in 2006, neither the Vatican nor the Legionaries have ever said everything that Maciel had done wrong.
Italian news reports say the most likely scenario for Benedict would be to appoint an external "commissioner" with full powers to run the order while reforms are enacted.
What becomes of the current leadership — in particular Garza Medina — is unclear. Veteran Vatican correspondent Sandro Magister recently wrote in Italian newsweekly L'Espresso that Garza Medina heads the holding company that acts as the treasury for the Legion, with assets totaling euro25 billion ($33 billion).
In the interview Thursday, Garza Medina laughed at the figure, saying such estimates were "false." He said any profits that are made are immediately reinvested or put in pensions or medical care funds for its members.
"In 2009, our activities in all the world produced about $40 million, which was reinvested," he said.
Jason Berry, co-author of the book and documentary "Vows of Silence," about victims' attempts to persuade the Vatican to discipline Maciel, said Garza Medina's acknowledgment that he was convinced of Maciel's crimes only in 2006 is problematic, since the order continued holding Maciel up as a role model until 2010.
"Why on earth would he allow a public statement to go out when Maciel had died saying he had gone to heaven?" Berry asked. "They did not apologize to the victims nor acknowledge that the abuse occurred until March of this year."
The Legion was founded in Mexico in 1941 and its culture was built around Maciel. His photo adorned every Legion building, his biography and writings were studied, and his birthday was celebrated as a feast day. Until recently, Legion members took a vow not to criticize their superiors, including Maciel.
Pope John Paul II had long championed the Legionaries for their orthodoxy and ability to bring in vocations and money.
The revelations of Maciel's double life caused enormous turmoil inside the Legionaries and its lay affiliate Regnum Christie, with priests leaving the order and Legion officials steadily announcing changes meant to demonstrate the movement is reforming.
05-11-2010 10:14 PM
An update for those interested.
Pope: Church's own sins to blame in sex scandal
LISBON, Portugal — In his most thorough admission of the church's guilt in the clerical sex abuse scandal, Pope Benedict XVI said Tuesday the greatest persecution of the institution "is born from the sins within the church," and not from a campaign by outsiders.
The pontiff said the Catholic church has always been tormented by problems of its own making — a tendency that is being witnessed today "in a truly terrifying way."
"The church needs to profoundly relearn penitence, accept purification, learn forgiveness but also justice," he said.
"Forgiveness cannot substitute justice," he said.
Benedict was responding to journalists' questions, submitted in advance, aboard the papal plane as he flew to Portugal for a four-day visit.
In a shift from the Vatican's initial claim that the church was the victim of a campaign by the media and abortion rights and pro-gay marriage groups, Benedict said: "The greatest persecution of the church doesn't come from enemies on the outside but is born from the sins within the church."
Previously, he has taken to task the abusers themselves and, in the case of Ireland, the bishops who failed to stop them.
Benedict has promised that the church would take action to protect children and make abusive priests face justice. He has started cleaning house, accepting the resignations of a few bishops who either admitted they molested youngsters or covered up for priests who did.
Critics are demanding more. They recall that while Benedict has scolded his church and accepted some bishops' resignations, none of them has been actively punished or defrocked, even those who admitted molesting children.
"Many are tiring of hearing about his 'strong comments.' They want to see strong action," said David Clohessy, director of the main U.S. victims' group, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
Portugal has reported no cases of abuse, and the pontiff was expected to address other issues during his appearances here, especially the neglect of Christian values.
After staying in the capital, the 83-year-old pope was due to go to the shrine at Fatima, in central Portugal, on Wednesday and to Porto, the second-largest city, on Friday.
At least 500,000 people are expected to attend his Mass in Fatima on Thursday, the anniversary of the day in 1917 when three Portuguese shepherd children reported visions of the Virgin Mary.
Church bells rang out in Lisbon as the pontiff proceeded through the Atlantic port city in his popemobile. Several thousand people lined the streets on a showery day, many shouting, "Viva o Papa!" Some stretches of the route were thinly attended, however.
Portugal is nearly 90 percent Catholic, but only around 2 million of its 10.6 million people describe themselves as practicing Catholics. In recent years, Portugal has drifted away from the church's teachings.
Its center-left Socialist government passed a law in 2007 allowing abortion. The following year, it introduced a law allowing divorce even if one of the spouses is opposed. It said the legislation was part of Portugal's "modernization."
Benedict, who has expressed concern about the forfeiture of traditional values in Europe, sharply criticized Portugal's abortion law in remarks at Lisbon airport. He also decried the failure of public officials to uphold the sanctity of life.
"The point at issue is not an ethical confrontation between a secular and religious system, so much as a question about the meaning that we give to our freedom," he said.
The pontiff's visit coincides with another tense moment between the elected authorities and the church.
Conservative President Anibal Cavaco Silva has to decide by next week whether to veto or ratify a bill passed by Parliament that would make Portugal the sixth country in Europe allowing same-sex couples to marry.
Benedict did not comment on that development, but he returned to his criticism of the financial and economic crisis which, he said, demonstrated the need for "an ethical component" in running the global financial system. His 2009 encyclical, "Charity in Truth," outlined his vision for greater moral responsibility in the economy.
Portugal is western Europe's poorest country and many have suffered acute hardship after the global downturn. Portuguese bishops last year drew attention to what they called "scandalous levels of misery" in the country.
Cavaco Silva said the pontiff had arrived at a time of uncertainty that was testing Portugal's strength as a community.
"In these times, men require someone bearing a message of hope to meet their thirst for justice and solidarity," he told the pope.
Benedict attended a welcome ceremony at the 16th-century Jeronimos monastery and church in the Lisbon suburb of Belem, which means Bethlehem in Portuguese.
Inside the vaulted Jeronimos church, the pope stood and watched a children's choir sing, giving a nod of appreciation. The pontiff knelt and crossed his hands on a gold and crimson cushion to pray in the silent church.
Jeronimos was built to celebrate the feats of Portuguese maritime explorers who were the first Europeans to set foot in parts of Africa, India and Latin America. The Crown was allied with the Catholic church on those voyages which, as well as endowing Portugal with huge wealth, also sought to convert natives they encountered.
"Portugal has gained a glorious place among the nations for service rendered to the spreading of the faith: in all five continents there are local churches that owe their origin to the Portuguese missionary activity," the pope said at an evening open-air Mass in Lisbon's main riverside square, Terreiro do Paco. Officials said 150,000-200,000 people attended the celebration.
Some 10,000 children from the civic movement Eu Acredito ("I Believe") stood next to a special altar for the pope.
and there was an imbeddded video with the article of the speach mentioned that didn't copy over so if anyone's interested. This is the address where I got the article.