Almost All Sex Is Sin?

Addressing the United Nations, Pope Benedict XVI invoked "human rights" in the context of geopolitical inequality and emphasized responsibility and community between nations:

"Multilateral consensus continues to be in crisis because it is still subordinated to the decisions of a few; whereas the world's problems call for interventions in the form of collective action…International rules must be binding."

He received accolades for his skilled use of diplomacy as he tackled the thorny issues of the Iraq war, immigration and religious diversity, but when he met with some of the victims of clergy sexual abuse, he got mixed reviews. Some said they were impressed that he actually met with some of the victims, while others said he really didn't do much because it was all talk and no action.

Saying that he was "deeply ashamed" at the breakdown in US values, the Pontiff acknowledged at last that the situation was "sometimes very badly handled."

Peter Isely, a National Board member of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) and himself a victim of clergy sexual abuse, demanded a clear course of action from the Vatican, namely the amendment of canon law to ensure that every priest who has assaulted a child anywhere in the world will be removed from ministry and disciplinary action against any bishop who has been involved in covering up an assault.

David Clohessy, another victim and member of the network added: "If the pope would clearly, publicly and severely discipline even a handful of complicit bishops, bishops who knew or suspected abuse and ignored it or concealed it, that's the easiest and most effective step."

A Pope able to talk about "human rights" on the level of global community and responsibility on one hand but only able to acknowledge the pain, harm and suffering by victims of the clergy's sexual abuse with "sense of shame," shouldn't be surprising. For years, the Catholic Church has been dealing with debates regarding social teaching and indeed, a number of the issues consistently coming to fore have been about sexuality and human rights.

When the Pope invoked "human rights" as a collective responsibility among nations, his position reflected one of many changes in the ways we now think about human rights. By no longer drawing a division between the civil and political on one hand and economic, social and cultural on the other, he went outside the traditional understanding of rights that confines it to a relationship exclusively between the state and its legal citizens. But while the Pope can speak on behalf of "the marginalized" in addressing the world's most powerful nation with ease, how is it that he is unable to take action on members of the clergy who both perpetrated sexual abuse and concealed it?

The answer isn't simple (and I don't want to oversimplify it) but neither is it rocket science. A huge part of it is sex — that all sex (outside marriage and procreation) is sin. From a human rights perspective, what usually matters in a case like sexual abuse is the violation of the person; in this case, many victims were children when they underwent the ordeal.

He said that: "It is a great suffering for the church in the United States and for the church in general and for me personally that this could happen. It is difficult for me to understand how it was possible that priests betray in this way their mission."

While the Church is able to acknowledge the harm that was inflicted, it isn't always clear what it imagines that harm is. Is it pedophilia or the violation of priestly vows of celibacy? Is it the mishandling of cases by American Bishops?

For the victims, this means that their own sense of justice still plays no part in the Catholic Church's policy on sexual abuse. Anne Barrett Doyle co-director of Bishop Accountability, a Web site that documents the sexual abuse scandal, astutely pointed out that:

"Rather than shifting attention to pedophile priests, he needs to focus on the culpability of bishops. The crisis occurred because many U.S. bishops were willing to hide their priests' crimes from the police with lies."

With a very limited and negative view of sexuality, the Catholic Church's attention always seems inordinately focused on what it views as "unnatural sex acts" that it doesn't bother distinguishing between consensual acts and abuse. But Papal policy of "keeping pedophiles out of the ministry," has not meant justice for those who were abused by priests. Instead it has meant banning "homosexuals" from the church. Within the first five months of his reign, Pope Benedict made it clear that his position is based on the church's position issued in 1961 which equates homosexuality with pederasty.

Moreover, exclusion doesn't only happen on the basis of sexual orientation or non-conforming gender behaviors. Clearly, even married people can "sin" in sex when they use modern family planning methods. Rosemary Radford Ruether, a feminist theologian recalls how the 1968 affirmation of teaching against modern contraception in the Humanae Vitae was rejected by over 600 theologians when the encyclical was adopted.

Sadly the Pope's inclusive message of human rights and community in the context of geopolitical inequality gets lost when its archaic views on sexuality makes it very clear that there are groups of people who remain excluded.

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  • invalid-0


    The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has
    gone all out in publicizing its support in promoting
    April as Child Abuse Awareness Month and I applaud all
    such actions especially this one described by the
    bishops as “a major initiative of the Catholic Church
    in the United States,”

    ( and

    The sexual abuse, molestation, rape or sodomizing of
    any child, especially when done by a trusted family
    member, minister, priest or teacher, is a conscious
    act of unspeakable moral depravity. It is a crime, a
    sin against humanity and a violation of a sacred

    Make no mistake about it. Child abuse prevention
    along with accountability for past offenses is every
    bit a Right to Life issue.

    So in light of all that dioceses are doing across the
    country according to the PR hype being desseminated
    by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops,
    the institutional church’s reluctance to be more
    proactive and aggressive in its support for states
    across the country which are considering removing all
    statutes of limitation regarding childhood sexual
    abuse is especially troubling.

    Rest assured that the institutional church’s loud
    protestations of commitment to victims of sexual abuse
    in the present offer neither absolution nor justice
    for the sins and the crimes of the past.

    While materials produced under court order in
    “discovery” have proven the existence of incriminating
    records, religious denominations as well as other
    institutions need not worry about defending against
    such “age-old lawsuits,” because the responsibility to
    prove culpability belongs to those bringing forward
    older suits in civil court – that is the “alleged”
    victim or victims of sexual abuse, the plaintiffs.

    Those who were sexually exploited by anyone, parent,
    minister, priest or teacher, should have the right to
    the full protection of the law and arbitrary statutes
    of limitation need to be removed in order to even seek
    justice, let alone obtain it.

    But justice delayed IS justice denied.

    Does it make any sense not to do everything we can to
    provide justice for the voiceless of the past as well
    as for those of the present and the future?

    “We can never rest when it comes to protecting
    children and teenagers,” were the words spoken just
    recently by Bishop Gregory Aymond, chairman of the
    USCCB’s Committee for the Protection of Children and
    Young People in commenting on April as Child Abuse
    Awareness Month.

    If the bishops truly believe this then they need to be
    proactive, along with states’ Catholic Conferences,
    in supporting those states like New York, Pennsylvania
    and Maryland, which have been in the process of
    crafting legislation and introducing bills that would
    more adequately protect children instead of attacking
    legislators like Maryland Assemblyman Eric Bromwell
    who recently introduced such a bill in Annapolis only
    to be intimidated into withdrawing it.

    It is unconscionable to be spending millions of
    dollars of church monies attacking adult victims of
    childhood sexual abuse in court from known sexual
    predators on technicalities or arbitrary SOLs.

    Removing SOLs is the single, most effective method of
    holding sexual predators and any possibly complicit or
    enabling individuals or institutions accountable along
    with the inclusion of “Window Legislation” to bring
    forward previously time barred cases of abuse.

    On July 10, 2007 Senate Bill 29 was signed as the
    Child Victims Law in the state of Delaware removing
    all criminal and civil statutes of limitation
    regarding the sexual abuse of children.

    More than that, Delaware instituted a two-year civil
    window for bringing previously time barred cases
    forward in civil court giving anyone who was ever
    sexually abused as a child in the state of Delaware
    until July 10, 2009 to bring forward his or her case.

    I was privileged to testify in support of this
    legislation before Delaware’s Senate and House
    Judiciary Committees where it was passed unanimously.

    I expect my church leadership to initiate actions that
    more faithfully follow their words.

    Anything less is “sounding brass and tinkling
    cymbals,” (1 Corinthians 13:1-2) because words without
    action remain hollow.

    Sister Maureen Paul Turlish
    Victims’ Advocate
    New Castle, Delaware

  • invalid-0

    Buon Giorno E Tutti!

    It is I, Albino Lucani (aka John Paul the First) blogging in from Heaven.

    Can you believe it, there is no ‘spell check’ here?!

    Well, I’m-a not ‘smiling’ a’bout my colleagues in the curia too much; Madonna Santa.

    The very good Sister Maureen is correct’a BIG TIME, in her comments above.

    The solution is right’a in front of your faces; or more accurately, your’a wallets.

    100% of all revenue to the Church is generated by da laity.

    Dat’sa right, YOU control’a the strings to the purse, not’a the Cardinals and Bishops, dio santo!

    In America alone, you donate over $8 billion dollars per year; that’s-a why Benedicto XVI was here – DAMAGE CONTROL; as laity revenue is WAY DOWN.

    Ergo, STOP DONATING, until several hundred very guilty red hats and miters are, at a minimum, removed from their offices, each’a is canonically censored, and all are placed under life time house arrest (preferrably in a remote, cold, dark, windy, damp, moldy, bad food and forced hard labor monastery), like’a was done to proven pedophile, pedophile serial enabler, and founder, of the Mexican Cult-Like Religious Order, The Legion Of Christ, Padre Marciel.

    Neither Marciel, or John Paul II (who’a appointed 99% of the guilty curia and gave standing orders to ignore the GLOBAL sexual abuse of bambini from clergy, and therfore’a is NO SAINT) are botha not’a here in Heaven, if’a you catch my drift.

    Alternatively, each guilty miter and red hat should be irrevocably EXCOMMUNICATED.

    It’s-a up to you laity, 1.12 Billion Strong. Stop Donating and force reform among tanti curia perpetrators, who all need to be punished, or continue to allow these EVIL men to harm children.

    Saluti e amore!

    Albino Lucani

    Posto Scripto:

    Resources I recommend: for daily verified reports on the ongoing criminal curia cover up costing YOU Multiple Billion If Dollars (that’s-a TRILLIONONE of Lira), with no’a end in sight., or your local public library, for over 80 books, recently published, all 100% accurate, on the subject, from such truthful authors as Richar Sipe, Fr. Thomas Doyle, OP, Jason Berry, and Leon Podles., for free, the 2006 US Acadamy Award BEST DOCUMENTARY nominated DELIUVER US FROM EVIL, also available for free at your libraries, and for a few dollars at NETFLIX. Oh, Si, I almost’a forgot! There’s-a new film out, that is 100% accurate, entitled: VOWS OF SILENCE, I really recommend.

    Go’a With God Laity, But Keep’a Your Wallets ZIPPED CLOSED!

  • invalid-0

    Caro Albino:

    Is it true that you were murdered by radical factions in the Vatican that didn’t another John XXIII-type pope who would include, even further, the uppity laity in the machinations of the church?

    Respectfully submitted.

  • anna-clark

    I don't think we can say that the pope meeting with victims of clergy sexual abuse was "all talk and no action." As I understand it, he wasn't talking; he was listening. And he had the courtesy to do it not on a stage, at a press conference or with a lot of pre-meeting media hype, that would make the meeting more about him than about the survivors of a gut-wrenching experience.


    I think listening is the right and only way to begin meaningfully moving the Church to live up to its ideals of human rights … which includes a deeper understanding of human sexuality and reproductive rights.

  • invalid-0

    But Papal policy of “keeping pedophiles out of the ministry,” has not meant justice for those who were abused by priests. Instead it has meant banning “homosexuals” from the church
    Most of the priests’ victims were boys.

  • invalid-0

    Most of the victims may have been male, but that does not mean that the abusers are gay. Homosexuality is an attraction to the same sex in a romantic and sexual way, and abuse is just a behavior. Most people who molest children are heterosexual males. (That is, they are romantically and sexually attracted to adult females when they’re not out molsesting children.)
    < br/>
    And don’t forget that some victims were female as well.

  • invalid-0

    …it doesn’t bother distinguishing between consensual acts and abuse.

    This is one of the things that bother me most about religion. And I say religion because I have seen people of many religions doing it, it isn’t at all limited to Catholics. They just don’t seem to understand the difference between consensual sex and abuse. They don’t seem to care, either. They don’t care that someone was violated or hurt, they only condemn the act because sex is “evil” or “dirty”. That’s why time and time again you’ll see people claiming that a man cannot rape his wife (they don’t care about violation, they care about premarital sex) or people comparing homosexuality to pedophilia (as Mike Huckabee and the poster Michael Ejercito have done). I don’t think anything makes me more angry, more sad, or more sick to my stomach.
    < br/>
    There is a website called “Fundies Say The Darndest Things” that posts “the most hilarious, bizarre, ignorant, bigoted, and terrifying quotes” from religious fundamentalists posting on the internet, and by far, the posts that are the most ignorant, bigoted, terrifying, and just plain disgusting are made by people who care more about what their deity thinks of sex than who gets hurt by an act.

  • invalid-0

    This idea that Catholics think sex is bad is simply wrong. Sex isn’t bad or evil; in fact, it’s great. God was the One Who came up with the idea in the first place and ordered Adam and Eve to do it. “Be fruitful and multiply,” and the only way to do that is to have sex.

    So the problem isn’t with sex — the problem is what we do with it. There is a meaning to sex, and it’s not recreation. It’s there to continue the human race as well as to unite the couple into a bond of love.

    Pope John Paul called this the Theology of the Body. Our body has a language that speaks of who we are. You can learn more about it at

    Yes, the Catholic Church does teach that all sex outside of marriage, and all sex within marriage that is not open to the possibility of new life is a sin. But that’s not because sex is evil — it’s because sex is so great that it must be protected. It’s like any precious thing we protect, for instance a vase that’s been handed on in a family from one generation to the next. We usually keep something like that behind glass to protect it. People can see it, but they can’t touch it. Only the family members can touch it and only when it’s necessary. If it isn’t protected, it’s obvious what happens — it gets smashed.

    It’s like that with sex. It works only in the proper context — when a man and a woman have said publicly that they will love and be committed to each other for life and are open to receiving the gift of new life as a result of showing their love for one another in that intimate way. Otherwise, it’s an abuse of our bodies and the great gift of sexuality that God gave us.

    Undoubtedly on this forum, what I have posted here will most likely be met with disgust and revilement. But think about this — who is the one who truly reveres something great, like a Ferrari? The person like Riley in “National Treasure” who jams the gears and treats it like an old Toyota, or the collector who only brings it out for occasional display and even then only allows the public to see it from a distance? In the same way, sex is sacred and while the rest of the world treats it as if it’s not, the Catholic Church treats it as if it is.

  • invalid-0

    In your opinion.

  • invalid-0

    The only recourse to take when facts stare you in the face.

    No, that is not my opinion, Stacey. The Catholic Church does actually teach that sex is necessary and good. In fact, it is so good that marriage is a sacrament, something that can help people get to heaven. So sex in the right context helps people get to heaven. I’m not sure how much more of a positive attitude toward sex one can have.

    The idea found in this forum is that every impulse one has towards sex must be fulfilled. Somehow that same idea doesn’t work too well with other things, like food. We know what happens when we eat food on impulse and out of its proper context — obesity. Is it not logical to think that other natural inclinations, like sex, need to have their own proper context?

    • invalid-0

      I’m sorry. I should have said in the Catholic church’s opinion. And as a response, I’ll refer you back to Scott and MellanKelly who were more timely and eloquent in their responses than I.

  • mellankelly1

    It's like any precious thing we protect, for instance a vase that's been handed on in a family from one generation to the next. We usually keep something like that behind glass to protect it. People can see it, but they can't touch it. Only the family members can touch it and only when it's necessary. If it isn't protected, it's obvious what happens — it gets smashed.

    How odd.  I have family heirlooms passed on from my Great Grandmother who displayed them proudly for all to see… and (curiously enough) to touch.  My mother also allowed these things to be enjoyed by others as she felt that the beauty would enhance their lives.  I also use these items often and encourage others to touch these family heirlooms (vase, crystal candy bowl, pieces of the china my great grandmother received as wedding gifts, handmade shawls/throws/sweaters and the like).  Nothing was smashed or ruined simply because we allowed others to enjoy them.  I must say, that was a very strange analogy, indeed.

    It's like that with sex. It works only in the proper context — when a man and a woman have said publicly that they will love and be committed to each other for life and are open to receiving the gift of new life as a result of showing their love for one another in that intimate way. Otherwise, it's an abuse of our bodies and the great gift of sexuality that God gave us.

    That is simply not true.  There was no "abuse of our bodies" when my husband and I had intercourse prior marriage (and so much not open to "receiving the gift of new life").  The "proper context" of sex simply involves the willing participants involved being honest and respecting themselves and each other. 

    But think about this — who is the one who truly reveres something great, like a Ferrari? The person like Riley in "National Treasure" who jams the gears and treats it like an old Toyota, or the collector who only brings it out for occasional display and even then only allows the public to see it from a distance?

    I think it's YIK that you equate sex and/or your sexual partner to automobiles… it is just incredibly offensive (at best).

  • invalid-0

    Instead of

    “you should not have sex because sex is bad”

    we have

    “you should not have sex because sex is too good”

    It’s a new spin on the same bad theology.

    Frequent sex is good for a marriage. However, couples only have the resources to support so many children. The Catholic Church only gives couples the choice of abstinence* or babies, both of which can put a strain on a marriage

    Yes, there is NFP, but unless a woman has a “normal” cycle, NFP becomes abstinence.

  • scott-swenson


    Actually most progressive policy advocates on sexual and reproductive health agree with part of what you say, that too much of a good thing is not in fact a good thing. To continue your food analogy though, there are many different body types, so food intake that leads to obesity for someone with a low metabolism, might be just right for someone else. God does allow fat and skinny people into heaven, right? So nature, in her great glory, we see expresses herself differently in all of us, even sexually. The progressive community has long sought a healthier dialog based on respect and responsibility, evidence-based education, and equipping people to handle the part of their nature that will involve sex in life-affirming ways that celebrate the gift it is. But it is the anti-choice, anti-pluralism, anti-contraception and pro-do-as-I-say crowd that prevents our society from making progress toward that healthy dialog. Far from being relativism, we simply believe that the best way to “get to heaven” is to work with and understand nature, not pretend that it is the same for everyone. Especially in a nation founded on equality of people, and freedom of ideas.

    Be the change you seek,

    Scott Swenson, Editor

  • invalid-0

    And yet somehow girls are molested by men who just happen to be sexually attracted to women. That is surely a coincidence, RIGHT?

    Of course, maybe Vinson Filyaw, who kidnapped and raped Elizabeth Shoaf, really is gay.

  • invalid-0

    Why is this a bad thing?

    Orthodox Jews do not give couples the choice of pork chops for dinner.