On the Catholic Church Scandals

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.

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  • wfwomen

    Rev. Turner,

    Thank you for all of the very fine work that you do. Thank you for writing this clear and concise article regarding spiritual/religious views and values and the contradiction that we are all experiencing and observing within and surrounding the Catholic Church. The amount of shame and guilt surrounding women’s experiences with reproductive healthcare and reproductive choice is so frustrating and sad on multiple levels.  The rape culture you speak of is rampant around this country as well as around the world. We can only hope America will get their act together soon!  I hope this article is spread nationwide! I will surely help do my share to make that happen.


    Alex M

  • kelster

    I can’t add more to this – very well said.  I suppose I would be anti-catholic if I agree wholeheartedly.  OK, I’m anti-catholic.


    This specific religious organization – probably the largest among Christians – really needs to get it together if they are to survive long term.  At this point, supporting the Catholic chruch in anyway, shape, or form (whether through tithing, donations or sending kids to Catholic schools) seems anti-Jesus; which is – ok, should be – the focal point of Christianity. 


    Thank you for your thoughts, Rev. Turner!

  • prochoiceferret

    If speaking out against child sexual abuse is anti-Catholic, then is speaking in favor of having sex with little kids pro-Catholic? Or does that apply only to the actual sex-with-little-kids part itself?


    Goodness, now actual Christ-like Catholics will have to introduce themselves with “Hi, my name is ________, and I’m a Catholic—but not the kind that has sex with young children. How are you?”


    (Either that, or jump ship to the Episcopalian or UU churches, which seem to get the whole God-Jesus-loves-you thing without all the anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-anti-rape, anti-accountability baggage.)

  • offred

    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.


    Where do you get that the Church teaches that “dirty vagina” + air infects the fetus with original sin?


    I can’t find that anywhere in the catechism, or any church discourse on original sin.


    This doctrine is anti-woman and anti-sex.


    My understanding is that the Church wants me to have as much sex as I want (perhaps more than I want), for both its unitive and pro-creative properties. Sex between married people is the opposite of dirty – it is sacramental.

  • jayn


    My understanding is that the Church wants me to have as much sex as I want (perhaps more than I want), for both its unitive and pro-creative properties.

    But only if you’re doing it for both reasons–doing so just for unitive reasons is bad and going against the will of God, doncha know?


    It’s nice to know the Church does want people to have healthy sex lives (when it’s okay with them having sex), but it would be nice if they were okay with me using contraception too–getting the NFP speech from two women with fertility issues, as well as one with four kids and one with 8+, didn’t exactly sell me on it’s usefulness as a way to avoid pregnancy.

  • charlotte

    Thank you, Reverend Turner, for speaking out so boldly about the underlying causes of the problems with the Catholic Church that are especially damaging to women and children. It is beyond my comprehension how anyone can give moral authority to a church that prevents its followers from using condoms even in areas ravaged by AIDS; that has long relegated women to less than second-class citizenship; that would excommunicate a doctor who performed an abortion on a young girl molested by her stepfather–but NOT excommunicate the stepfather; that would deny communion to politicians who support choice, but not to politicians who support war; that would leave thousands of Irish people in limbo because of a continued prohibition of divorce, and that has covered up, sponsored, and defended child abuse in many forms. It is none of my business if an adult chooses to cede her/his personal authority to such a church—but it is my business if the policies of the US Government are influenced by it.

  • acc

    I’m surprised that an article like this would even be put into print considering the author obviously has little to no understanding of the Catholic Church, besides what has been presented in the media.  I consider it very poor journalism to write about something that you don’t know anything about.  Maybe before writing this article, it would have been helpful for you to research John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, or read his letter to women, since you seem to be stuck on the idea that the Catholic Church sees sex/sexuality as dirty and women as unequal to men.  Far from it, actually.  I understand that it is easy to judge what is unkown to you, but I do believe you owe it to yourself and to your readers to at least familiarize yourself with the Church’s teachings.  Please, examine the teachings and the reasons for them before you go off and attack your warped view of Catholicism.  You would be doing your readers a favor.  Thanks.       

  • tgfar

    Reverend of course you are entitled to your opinion, but your explanation of original sin is bizarre. Where did you dream it up? The fetus picks it up as it enters the world thru the vaginal canal? What denomination holds to that – certainly not the Catholic Church. By that definition, you can avoid the stain of original sin if you’re born by caesarean section.

    Your explanation of priestly formation in the RC Church is also defective. Most men don’t even enter the seminary until they are out of college; very few men are ordained in their 20’s.

    Perhaps you want to think that this is the way people who disagree with you on moral issues think? you may not be anti-Catholic, but you are cerrtainly uneducated. 

  • elyzabeth

    The point was that the Catholic Church exerts more effort caring about the “innocent” fetuses than actually improving the quality of life for live children. 


    Technically, I think the dogma preachs that we are conceived with original sin, so the real tragedy isn’t that ZBEFs die, but that they die before baptism and therefore can’t go to heaven.

  • elyzabeth

    I’m passingly familiar with the Theology of the Body.  I would posit that many of us flaming atheists have Catholic education in our backgrounds (possible correlation?)


    Women and men have separate but equal roles.  The man is to the woman as Christ is to the Church, but in a way that is inherently equal.  Men and women were physically designed to be together and complement each other perfectly, by the woman giving of herself and the man…taking of her?(I can’t remember the exact phrase), in perfect (and not-at-all heterocentric) equality.


    Again, maybe it was all the ab-only speakers that took us girls aside and had the lovely demonstration where they held up the lollipop and said, “This is your body.”  They then unwrapped the lollipop, sucked on it, and then put the slimey, spitty candy back in the wrapper, held it up and said, “This is your body if you have pre-marital sex.  You don’t want to be a slimey, used lollipop, do you?  No, you want to be a clean, wrapped lollipop for you wedding night.”


    How could I have possibly gotten the idea that the Catholic Church thought sex made you dirty?

  • crowepps

    The Church has bumped the ‘unbaptized babies going to hell’ issue upstairs and declared that the Church really doesn’t know WHAT happens to them but surely God has arranged something.


    Of course, the Church doesn’t really know what happens to ANYBODY after they die, but they for certain sure didn’t have any Biblical justification whatsoever for the infant damnation nonsense they promulgated for hundreds of years to torment women who had miscarriages.


    History fact: Did you know that over 2500 people were judicially executed by being burned alive for the heresy of believing infant baptism didn’t count and people should instead be baptized as adults, leading to the outrage of some people being baptized twice?

    Anabaptists held that infants were not punishable for sin because they had no awareness of good and evil and thus could not yet exercise free will, repent, and accept baptism. Denying the validity of infant baptism, they accepted adult baptism, which was regarded as a second baptism by those outside the group who identified them as Anabaptists (from the Greek for rebaptizers).


  • elyzabeth

    I do in fact remember that they changed that.  I recall it had something to do with too many Catholic women in some poor African nations converting to Islam.  The infant mortality rate was frighteningly high, so women chose a religion where unbaptized babies got to go to heaven. 


    The Church then…I don’t know, got a phone call from God telling them that he rethought the whole “babies go to Purgatory thing” because it was scaring off so many members. 


    But that’s just the joy of infallibility.

  • elyzabeth

    Maybe someone should give God a call and see if he can smooth over that PR mess in Connecticut.  If you belong to an organization whose “mission would be undermined” by extending the statute of limitations for sex crimes against children, what does that say about you?