Wednesday, 29 August 2007

#1 - To All...any help will be gratefully appreciated.

I've been asked by someone to write my personal views regarding the crisis amongst the clergy and especially the role of the episcopacy in this regard.
This is going to take me many hours to compose and I would sincerely ask you all to contribute anything you consider relevant to the issue....

In the meantime I'm going to copy and paste a few of my postings regarding the sexual abuse/homosexual priest/clerical crisis issue merely to clarify a few points in my own mind : Please understand these were reactive statements and not merely 'off-the-cuff' remarks in a 'cultured, rational, amicable' discussion. In places I'm a bit crude so I apologise beforehand and ask anyone of a sensitive disposition to please ignore the next few postings. Thankyou.

There are three main factors in this issue:
a] Reprehensibly poor training of Priests in theologically and morally suspect seminaries where little pastoral care or concern is given towards the trainee; where a 'don't ask, don't tell' policy prevents a responsible confronting of sexual maturation and the necessary preparation for celibacy. A prevalent milieu of 'condoning' sexual profligacy, mutual masturbation, intimate liaisons etc as a 'necessary phase in preparation for priesthood' is an argot which should be quashed.
b] Subsequent Indolence verging towards Acedia regarding the pastoral care/responsibility/leadership/duties for priests within their dioceses from the Bishop, Deans and diocesan administration ; where systemic compromises of clerical celibacy [girlfriends , boyfriends, adulteries and inter-clerical sexual liaisons] are either ignored, covered up or 'moved on' to pastures new awaiting any new opportunity to 'carry on regardless' - and when it comes to blatant social or psychological difficulties or aberrant behaviour patterns ; these are dismissed as personal eccentricities and allowed to continue. Priests throughout the western world are being 'left to their own devices'; devoid of any shepherding from the cathedra.
c] Our reticence at addressing the issues of Catholic homosexuality and equivocating the homosexual with the unacceptability of homosexual sexual acts and thus, among many catholics both phenomena are deserving of condemnation [thus abandoning the homosexual and depriving them of pastoral concern and familial love] - and the consequences it has for those young men and women seeking to hide their sexual orientation from their families and friends by running and hiding in the religious life and Holy Orders. Admittedly there is no causal link between psychologically sexually mature homosexuals and sexual abuse; but sexual abuse lies in repression and the prevention of mature sexual development - it is where this is suppressed and arrested that psycho-sexual disorders arise; especially among deviant autocrats who seek to abuse all forms of power; especially that of sexual dominance and tyranny - the clergy is a magnet to this personality.Assuredly we are lucky in this country to have significantly less difficulties with clerical sexual abuse - but the disease still has a potential breeding ground and recurrence is possible unless we radically alter policies and our bishops get off their backsides and start caring for their priests. Many of the instances in the US and Ireland could have been prevented had intervention occurred at the first indications of trouble [on more than a few occasions even before ordination] - But rather a conspiracy of silence ensued - and I hate to say it ; a lot of the silence was due to inter-clerical blackmail i.e. "If they find out what I'm up to, everyone will know what you're up to !"


Anonymous said...

When the reality TV programme "The Monastery" was on, my non-Catholic colleagues were transfixed. Normally I suffer a fair amount of anti-Catholic jokes usually regarding repressed sexuality. What had their full admiration was the fact these monks were "real men". Their prejudices regarding celibacy, manhood and sexuality had taken a real knock.

I look at the priests in our deanery and I just don't see that masculinity. I see men with wet lips and soft chubby hands, men who give limp handshakes, men who lack confidence and are frightened of confrontation, men who struggle to tell a joke. The priesthood is emasculated.

The liturgy has been feminised since the 1970s, women have become too involved in it, along with weaker men who hang on their every word convinced of their own inferiority. These women treat everyone as a child, they like bright colours, simple songs and cheer masquerading as happiness. They wish to embrace all into their stifling bosom, preventing the deepening spiritual growth which comes with a mature and meaningful relationship with the Sacraments.

I don't know where we go from this, my husband was a victim of abuse (from older boys) at a junior seminary in the early 1960s. The sexuality of those places was as repressed as it is now, though now poorly interpreted psychology justifies the programmes which do not adequately explore what it is to be a man and a priest.

I await your musings with interest,
God Bless,
you are in my prayers

Psiomniac said...

And yet the idea that celibacy is a valid requirement for the priesthood seems to be accepted by you without serious questioning. Or perhaps you did that beforehand.

On the side of the angels said...

On many occasions. Obviously you are aware that celibacy is not a necessity for the priesthood - it is simply a Church law implemented by Hildebrand [Pope Gregory VII] for mixed motives [one main one being the loss of church land and property through legacies to children - another being the dichotomy of lifestyles between the celibate 'religious orders' now working not just in monasteries but in the communities]
It could be revoked/abrogated overnight - pope benedict could say 'ok, you can all get married if you want' and it would make not an inkling's difference to church dogma or morality or authenticity.
But we have experienced the vast benefits of a clergy being directed to solely being a servant of one master - that of God's work in the community and for the community....
Clerical celibacy is a wondrous grace, albeit a struggle and sacrifice, it has exceeeding benefits where the priest is able to be a member of every family yet belonging to none - it gives them an approachability , a trustworthiness in which to confide in.... things that are not compromised with the primary duties a priest would have to have to his spouse and children were he married.
It works !
there is so, so much good in it...

Anonymous said...

There is a lack of faith and a lack of holiness. Why? People are not being fed. Moses has been away up the mountain for so long now the calf looks good. I don't care if my priest minces so long as he minces for Christ. Are you serious about the shennigans in the seminaries? I'm somewhat new to this but this is shocking. Let's not fixate on sexual abuse, that's only a by product. Also, there are the vast marjority of faithful men and women religious who have carried on with their shoulder to the grinding stone quietly and lovingly serving Christ throughtout all of this. Why do we not look to them for wisdom. What can they teach us and how can we thank them.

Fr Justin said...

Mm: regarding your first point, I must certainly say that in my 1980s seminary formation—deficient as it was in many respects—there was never any tolerance of non-celibate behaviour. There were one or two lapses, and when they were discovered, the lapsed were shown the door. I believe the same situation obtains there today—and I teach there (though I have no inside knowledge, as I only teach part-time).
Which is not the same as saying it never happened elsewhere; the scandals in the St Pölten seminary suggest that, at least, scandalous goings-on have gone on. But I have never heard of them being used as a formational tool! The closest I have ever come to it was hearing about a Jesuit superior saying that some 'experience' was a useful background.

Richard said...

On the Side of the Angels wrote:
pope benedict could say 'ok, you can all get married if you want'

I don't think so. Even when married clergy was permissible, the Roman Catholic Church has always maintained that ordained clergy must not get married.

What the Pope could do is allow married men to become priests. This is the case with ordained Deacons. They can be ordained as deacons even if married but ordained Deacons may not get married (or remarry if their wife dies).

Father John Boyle said...

As one of the priests in the superb video Fishers of Men says, the priesthood is for real men. This masculinity is developed, among other things, through a strong devotional and spiritual life. It takes discipline to get into a routine of getting up early, praying the Liturgy of the Hours, attending at/celebrating the Mass, setting time aside for private meditation, the Rosary, spiritual reading, and getting into the habit of regular Confession. If all these are in place, I doubt that a man will have much time or inclination to dedicate too much time to 'explore his sexuality.'

It is when the identity of the priest is lacking that other issues become problems.

On celibacy: much current research shows that this can be traced back to apostolic times. Local churches fought to keep celibacy as the norm, and Rome only became involved when some local Churches stepped out of line. I have a book on my shelf at home, the author of which whose name I cannot recall just now. So, please, none of this 'it's just a matter of discipline.' It's much more than that. I'm not celibate for the sake of a 'discipline'. It goes to the heart of my being as a priest.

It's also scriptural: let a presbyter have been married only once, i.e. his first wife having died, he had not married again before presenting himself as a candidate for ordination. If he had re-married, he was considered too weak to maintain continence. Older men whose wives were still alive were admitted to the priesthood on the basis that, child-rearing over, they and their wives would be strong enough to maintain continent life styles. This soon developed into a preference for celibate (i.e. unmarried) candidates. Continence and the celebration of the Sacred Mysteries always went together.

Anyway, that's a whole other issue.

Psiomniac said...

It works? Bobbins. It predisposes those who hide from their sexuality to be a self selecting sample of candidates for priesthood. The inevitable inability to confront such things has left a legacy of abuse and all of the things you complain about above. Approachability and trustworthyness? In the light of recent scandals I think not. Marriage is no gaurantee of trustworthyness but it is certainly no detriment. (I can spin too.)
Talking about undivided loyalty to the parish seems to me to be missing the point. A priest who has their own family would be strenghthened thereby rather than compromised. But the roman catholic church has a turning circle worse than an oil tanker, and perhaps necessarily so.

Anonymous said...

Angel you need to buy EUNUCHS FOR THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN by Uta Ranke-Heinemann. You might be able to get it on the internet. Another good book would be Vicars of Christ by Peter De Rosa. The origins of the church's attitude to sex originated with the Gnostics. Contrary to public opinion the church has not held a consistent line on this subject.

Henry De Butler

James said...

My thoughts here: