Others might think it’s a problem with complicity in acts of pedophilia toward those most vulnerable to abuse by Church authority figures for a period of many decades if not centuries as well. What had been rumored for that same length of time has now been confirmed and brought into the light of day. That is certainly a problem for the Church. It’s one thing for a priest to fool around with a nun or two now and then, to purchase lavishly using church coffers, or to hit the bottle too hard and too often. But to get away with breaching the trust of parents by repeatedly abusing their children and then, despite the known propensity, to get transferred by the Church hierarchy in order to “pray” upon another crop of innocent youngsters is beyond contemptible and definitely a problem. Others might think the Church has a big problem because of the cover-up. Certainly the attempts to conceal, the attempts to minimize, and the outright lies that have been exposed, constitute a serious problem and makes some of the others even more intractable ‑‑if that’s imaginable.
Still others might think the Church has a big problem because the Pope himself has been implicated in all of the above ‑‑lock, stock, and barrel. The Pope mind you, God’s purported vicar on earth and the direct successor to Peter, the “rock” upon which Jesus deigned to establish the Church, knew of priests who included sexual abuse of children as a part of their ministry, and he took no appropriate action. He didn’t defrock them, let alone turn them over to authorities for the criminal prosecution that they deserved. Instead he treated it as a mere indiscretion, an exercise of poor judgment, a regrettable transgression, a run-of-the-mill sin readily forgiven and hopefully forgotten. A mere embarrassment. It is claimed in his defense that, as Cardinal, he was unaware that a known pedophile priest had not been successfully treated and was being returned to pastoral duties involving children where past abuse was then repeated. He feigns ignorance that a predator priest in his charge was being “called” by the Church to another parish in order to offend again. It’s always a problem when claimed incompetence is deemed the best defense, as in, “It wasn’t a moral lapse on my part, I was incompetent in the position that I held.” That defense ranks with, “Ah shucks, the devil made me do it.”
To my way of thinking, however, and despite the gravity of all these problems of the Church, the big problem for the Church, that underlies all of these others, is the mandate of celibacy for the priesthood. Insisting on priestly celibacy has done three things, none of them good.
First, it has attracted to ministry countless talented but closeted gay men, making the Roman Catholic Church the largest organization of gay men in the history of mankind. It makes the FFBC pale by comparison. It has, until more recently, provided an opportunity for stature, service (both genuine and as in bull-in-a-pasture-of-cows service), relative comfort for a lifetime, and relief from family pressures to marry some unsuspecting straight woman in the real world. Closeted gay men are a problem; organizing them makes it worse. Can you say “fundamentalist, it’s-a-choice, Christian?”
Second, it caused (and causes) unimaginable sexual frustration because it is undeniably unnatural—an abomination if-you-will. Like insisting that folks with two legs elevate one and hop around all day on the other “for the sake of the Church.” Denying one of your God-given appendages arbitrarily is bound to cause frustration. Behind closed doors such folks would be planting both feet solidly on terra firma with a tremendous sigh of relief.
That pedophilia, a trait not uncommon in every population of human beings regardless of sexual orientation, found expression in priest/alter boy interactions in perceived disproportionate numbers is not because gay men are more prone to be pedophiles. It’s just that the pedophiles among priests more often turn out to be same-gender oriented because the priesthood has been so dominated by closeted gay men. The phenomenon is merely a function of attracting so many gay men to the ranks of the priesthood in the first place. It has actually been that phenomenon, the disproportionate representation of gay men among priests, that has led to the false stereotype that gay men in other settings will likewise be pedophiles. If the priesthood had similarly attracted and become so dominated by one-legged hoppers, the public would perceive, again erroneously, that hoppers are prone to pedophilia.
Until the Church addresses the big problem of mandating priestly celibacy so that the priesthood can more nearly reflect the sexual orientation of the population-at-large, there can be no hope of reducing those historic sexual frustrations among the clergy and get pedophilia there down to a level more consistent with its prevalence in the general population. Then, as in other denominations, the big problem can be pastors sleeping with willing organists or consenting church secretaries, something to be much preferred over abusing innocent children.
The Church needs to move gay priests toward man dating and away from mandates that lead toward child abuse.