In the fallout of the ever-expanding scandal of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, there have been three concerns on my mind that are very difficult to talk about.
The first concern is that when any of us who are not Catholic make any criticism of the inner workings of the Catholic church, we become easy targets for accusations of “anti-Catholic forces” and “Catholic bashing”. This is probably even more true coming from an organization like Faith Aloud that regularly takes policy positions that are diametrically opposed to the positions of the American Catholic bishops.
To be pro-choice is not to be anti-Catholic. To be pro-women’s ordination is not to be anti-Catholic. To be pro-marriage equality is not to be anti-Catholic. To be disgusted by sexual abuse and a worldwide system for its cover-up is not to be anti-Catholic. These positions are pro-people, as the church should be. If these things ARE anti-Catholic, then that is an admission by the church that these things are endemic to their culture and are non-negotiable. As a minister I know that the Christian faith is not founded in policies that are anti-people, and I believe even the Catholic church can embrace the change necessary to be a healthy part of people’s lives.
The second concern is why there are so many pedophiles in the Catholic church. I can’t believe that anyone is born a pedophile, so how does one become one, and is there something inherent in the Catholic system that actually creates pedophiles (rather than just attracting them)? I would posit that yes, the Catholic priesthood system creates pedophiles. I realize what a controversial statement that is (and I will be called anti-Catholic for it-see paragraph above).
The Catholic system identifies young men very early that they believe have qualities for the priesthood, and they are set on a educational track that will get them there. I believe the vast majority of these young men enter this priest-track quite innocently. From early adolescence they are taught that any sexual contact-including touching themselves-is a sin. At the height of their sexual awakening and curiosity, they receive regular reminders of that sex is forbidden. (Forbidden=nasty.) Such forced repression is eventually going to have an outlet. Since that outlet cannot be an open, honest one, it looks for ways to express itself that can be easily hidden. The victims are the ones most vulnerable and least likely to report.
The third concern is that we have too many different words for sexual assault, depending on the age or gender of the victim and actual sexual acts involved. Let’s do away with this hierarchy of sexual assault-it is all rape. Whether the victim is a child or an adult, male or female, unwanted sexual contact is rape. And the Catholic church is perpetuating a rape culture.
Rape culture wants you to associate pain and shame with sex. Rape culture wants you to feel bad when you think of sex. Rape culture wants you to believe that all sex is dirty, nasty, and violent. So violent and nasty is it that any baby that passes through that “dirty area” of its mother on the way to being born is suddenly the owner of “original sin”. The system teaches that in the womb a fetus is innocent, but by touching its mother’s vagina and gasping its first breath of air, the child is infected with with the human condition of sin. This doctrine is anti-woman and anti-sex.
Unless drastic change is made and the church adopts positions that are pro-people, the scandals will not stop. The church needs to recognize the equality of all people. The church needs to stop the crazy notion of “original sin”. The church needs to teach healthy sexuality instead of rules about who is allowed to engage in sex. The church needs to abandon its celibacy requirement AND welcome women into the priesthood. I’m sure they fear that if these things happen the whole system will crumble, but the opposite is true: the system will crumble if they don’t change.
But I know they aren’t going to listen to me, because I’m a woman.