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Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Shoes of the Fisherman

I've stopped watching the 11 o'clock news before I go to bed. I sleep much better now.

I think I'm going to switch off my RNS, ENS and other, secular news feeds on my computer. I think it might improve my digestion.

This morning's news contained this little tidbit. To wit:
The fallout from the growing Catholic sex abuse scandals finally reached as far as the pope Friday when it was revealed that Benedict XVI knew a priest was a pedophile in 1980 but approved a stint in therapy that allowed him to continue in the ministry, where he remains today.
Apparently, Gerhard Grube, the Monsignor at the time who was under the ecclesiastical authority of then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, ". . .takes 'full responsibility' for the decision to return the priest to pastoral work."

The good Monsignor, now 81,said in a statement released by the archdiocese that he had not made the future pope aware of his decision because "it was the kind of call that was often left to his underlings".

I don't even know where to begin.

Let me start with an admission that, yes, Virginia, there are pedophiles in the world and many of them seem to be Roman Catholic priests.

And yes, I do believe that celibacy is a vocational call. It may not be lifelong. It may be periodic or episodic. But it is, I think, an authentic vocation that can be healthy and life giving - the source of enormous compassion and generosity. It is the same path of all true, authentic vocations.

That being said, I think some pedophiles are born "intrinsically disordered". Others, I think, suffer from "arrested development" as a result of the combined trauma of their own childhood sexual abuse which, cast off and abandoned to the outer darkness of ignorance, secrecy, cover-up and betrayal, is further perverted by the "unnatural" state of imposed celibacy.

By "arrested development" I mean that these men, having been sexually abused at a young, tender age, and filled with unattended and unhealed trauma, shame, guilt and confusion, are unable to find healthy sexual expression with another human being - male or female - of their own age.

I'll leave it to the experts to determine whether it's nature or lack of nurture.

I'm not a psychologist or psychiatrist, and I don't play one on TV, but that is how I have made sense of some of the men I have known from my Roman Catholic childhood who have been convicted of heinous crimes against young boys and girls who were part of their flock.

The memories haunt me.

I remember turning almost green with envy when "Sister" would call up a young male classmate because "Father" wanted to see him in the sacristy. Eventually, these boys would be hand picked by Sister for "junior seminary" because it was determined that they had "a call" to the sacred order of priests.

I would sigh loudly and shuffle my feet under my desk as a way of registering my disgust that, just because I was a girl, I couldn't help Father at the altar, much less in the sacristy with the holy tasks of priesthood.

Indeed, no female was ever allowed near the altar. That's because, being female, we were "insufficient matter" - which meant we didn't have "the right stuff" to be in the service of God. Besides, we were "unclean" once a month, see? Can't have anything "unclean" near The Holy.

Except, of course, if you were celibate like the nuns and the old post-menopausal ladies who were "allowed" to be part of the Altar Guild. Then, you could clean up the sacred dishes. You know. Because that was "women's work" anyway.

What haunts me is the look I would get from some of those boys as they left their seat in the classroom to meet with Father in the sacristy. "Shut up" one would occasionally say under his breath as he passed my desk.

It wasn't until one of those boys was arrested for sexual relations with a minor that I remembered. And, I understood.

The look in his eye and the tone of his voice finally reached a place of truth in me. I've been haunted by him - and others - ever since.

That boy was no pedophile. Neither was the man he had become. Oh, I suppose that's the technical, medical word for it. And, truth be told, it really doesn't matter what it's called.

It is wrong. Heinous. Evil. It is a perversion of both the Golden Rule ("Do onto others what you would have done unto you.") and the so-called Silver Rule ("Do not do unto others which you would not have done unto you.")

The Ethic of Reciprocity only works when the person attempting to live by this rule treats all people, not just members of his or her in-group, with consideration and kindness. It is perverted and tarnished when used to perpetrate harm.

I suppose when the Gospel of Jesus Christ is held hostage by the lust for power of a hand full of men, resplendent in red or purple shirts who dress up in long white dresses and gold-threaded brocade even as they say "Blessed are the poor . . .", what you get is perversion up and down the line of apostolic succession.

The Shoes of the best Fishermen and women have always had mud on them. Working in the Fields of the Lord will do that.

This ain't mud. This smells to high heaven.

The stories of sexual and physical violence perpetrated on young, innocent, often vulnerable children give me nightmares and make me sick to my stomach. And yet, turning off the news feed on my computer or my TV before bedtime is not going to change what has happened. Neither will it change what needs to happen.

A good place to start is for the Pope, his College of Cardinals as well as his Bishops, Priests and Deacons to make a public act of repentance, a full confession of their complicity in these heinous crimes, an apology to the hundreds of thousands of victims with the provision of some means of restitution, and a solemn vow that measures will be taken to insure that nothing like this ever happens again.

For God's sake, stop "investigating" the theology and ministry of Religious Women who live in community and begin to get your own houses in order, boys.

Instead, let's have an investigation of the connection between sexuality and spirituality. Let's stop holding our impulse for divine intimacy hostage to misguided, ignorant human purity codes.

Let's work on healing the ancient rift between sexuality and spirituality so that we might better understand and more ethically use the divine gift of sexual expression for the good of all of God's creatures and creation.

Yes, let's see sexuality as being a 'procreative' act - which doesn't mean that sexual activity is limited only to those times that will lead to the procreation of children; rather, it means that it is for ("pro") - and honors - God's creation.

Perhaps if we were more pro-creative and less recessive - indeed, more proactive and less reactive - the church - Roman, Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant - might be better able to do the work of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Which includes ALL. Not just some. Young and old. Rich and poor. Male and female. Straight and not so straight. Beautiful and not so beautiful. (Thanks to Desmond Tutu for that.) All. All. All.

Perhaps more of us would have muddy - not mucky - sandals.

Better yet, perhaps we'd decrease the opportunities and chances of doing harm to "the least of these", for Christ's sake.

I know I would sleep better at night.


Doorman-Priest said...

We've been watching the unfolding of the Irish scandal here for some years.

I am always gobsmacked that men of God could ever have managed any justification for their actions.

Shazzam said...

Perhaps all these pederasts should join the episcopalian church...
they should feel right at home among the sodomites who run it now.

Kirkepiscatoid said...

Very thoughtful and thought provoking post, Elizabeth. I think most people don't even realize the pressure the Roman church put on everyone for that "imposed celibacy" thing.

First of all, celibate priests were not always a requirement of the early church. From what I understand, it was a response to a backlash of bad behavior among the collared and mitred, going all the way to the illegitimate children of popes.

"Hey, I've got an idea! Let's make everyone be celibate and claim it's to be like Jesus!"

"Great idea! We need a little image control around here."

So suddenly, celibacy--which is just as natural as non-celibacy, IMO, and not synonymous with "chastity"--people in monogamous relationships can certainly be chaste--became one of the tickets that had to be punched to make the priestly class "holy." It became a job requirement that could not possibly be fulfilled by some.

You hit the nail on the head with the statement "And yes, I do believe that celibacy is a vocational call. It may not be lifelong. It may be periodic or episodic. But it is, I think, an authentic vocation that can be healthy and life giving - the source of enormous compassion and generosity. It is the same path of all true, authentic vocations."

I think about me in my somewhat secular monastic life. I used to jokingly refer to myself as an "accidental celibate" in this period of my life. Then one day I realized "Hey, wait a minute...I could totally change that on any given day at any moment if I wanted to change it. It's not like I couldn't find someone to take me up on the offer."

Then, the more I thought about it, I realized that much of how I am able to love so many people in my world as deeply as I do, is because I am not throwing all my eggs in one basket for the pursuit and maintenance of a single relationship deep enough for regular sexual relations, and "sex for sex's sake" just seems too shallow and meaningless at this point of my life.

Then I had to admit it was no "accident." It was part of who I was called to be at this time of my life, and for very good reasons.

P.S. I don't think Augustine of Hippo did us any great favors in understanding the normalcy of sex and celibacy, either.

Bradley said...

Brava. The Roman Church is I'm afraid, a terribly dysfunctional organization that really needs the entire leadership cleaned out. Time for Vatican III.

David said...

Bravo Elizabeth

'I suppose when the Gospel of Jesus Christ is held hostage by the lust for power of a hand full of men, resplendent in red or purple shirts who dress up in long white dresses and gold-threaded brocade even as they say "Blessed are the poor . . .", what you get is perversion up and down the line of apostolic succession'

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Ya know what, Shazzam? That is such a hateful comment I'm just going to let it sit there for everyone to see just how un-Christlike you are. But, try it again, and I won't have any problem hitting "reject". Just think of it as the cyberspace version of Jesus saying "Kick the dust from your sandals and move on."

Please, nobody respond in kind to Shazzam. Let him or her sit in her own hateful stew.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Re: Augustine of Hippo - see poor Shazzam for the ongoing damage.

Re: You. Well, what can I say? I love you, Doc. Even more, now.

JCF said...

The irony, Elizabeth, is that it is all the self-affirming (church-affirmed) LGBTs in TEC who would be the FIRST to report any clergy sexual abuse.

No, Shazzam, TEC is the LAST place your Popoid pederasts should flee for their legal protection. [Whereas the sovereign State of the Vatican? Lord have mercy---Christ, bring justice!]

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Right you are, JCF

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Dear Shazzam - Your last comment was reject by me as vile and obscene. You will not be allowed to post a comment here again.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Dear Billy Bonds, friend of Shazzam. Thanks for the visit. When you have something constructive to say, I'll post your comment.