What British Catholics Believe, vs Vatican Doctrine.

Once again, two opinion polls (for ITV, and for the BBC) have demonstrated what we all know, but pay insufficient attention to: the enormous chasm that divides Catholic belief as is is, and what Vatican doctrine proclaims it ought to be.

 

On the ministry itself, whether it is priestly celibacy or women’s ministry, and especially on all matters of sexual ethics, what British Catholics in fact believe is very different from what the Vatican functionaries proclaim it ought to be. This is no surprise – exactly the same pattern is found the world over – only the detailed numbers change, not the basic fact of divergence. Read the rest of this entry »

Son of a Priest, Son of a Bishop: Another Cost of Compulsory Celibacy

It is estimated that 1,000 people in Britain and Ireland are the children of Catholic priests

Three common Irish surnames translate as ‘son of the priest’, ‘son of the Bishop’ and ‘son of the Abbot’.

-Bishop Pat Buckley, quoted in the Guardian

When we try to assess the value or harm of the rule on compulsory celibacy, we usually think in terms of the priests themselves, or possibly on the parishes they serve. Does  a celibate life leave them better equipped to devote their lives to their parishioners, without distractions of their own family – or does it leave them simply incapable of understanding sexual and emotional complexities way outside their own experience?

Sometimes, recognizing human weakness, we acknowledge that universal celibacy is a myth, and then consider also the impact on the lives of their partners (male or female) who find themselves forced to live in a clerical closet not of their own choosing. Even less often, do we consider the impact on the lives of those unfortunate sons and daughters of priests, who find themselves growing up either without a father at all, or with a father known to them – who refuses to acknowledge them publicly (which is worse, I wonder?)

Read the rest of this entry »

Vatican Paper Asks: “Where Were The Women”?

For many years, it seemed that the institutional Church was content to ignore the unfolding stories of widespread sexual abuse by priests, or at best to address only the specific problems of individual perpetrators and the pain of victims. Recently, as the scale of the problems expands (Switzerland is the latest country reported to be investigating complaints) numerous observers have remarked on how swiftly the tone has changed, with an increasing number of high ranking prelates starting to talk about the real issues contributing to the enabling environment. Just in the past few days, Cardinals from Austria (Schonborn) and Brazil (Hummes) have been calling into question the rigid rule on compulsory celibacy.

Times have changed, and society too, and the Church will have to consider how this type of life can be maintained or what it has to change,” Salzburg Archbishop Alois Kothgasser said on Austria’s ORF television on Thursday evening.

In a diocesan newsletter, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn of Vienna said the Church had to ask difficult questions about the abuse scandals. “That includes the issue of celibacy and the personal development” of priests, he wrote.

-Reuters

The Catholic Church is studying ways to loosen the centuries-old requirement that priests abstain from sex in an effort to rebuild its image in the wake of pedophile scandals, Rome-based la Repubblica reported today. Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, who once said “celibacy is not a dogma,” is in charge of the project as head the congregation of the clergy, according to the report.

Business Week

Outside the ranks of the powerful others have been calling for greater lay participation in the selection and oversight of their bishops.

Now, right at the heart of the Vatican, the newspaper L’Osservatore Romano is suggesting that it is time to revisit that other church bugbear – the place of women. Read the rest of this entry »

Celibacy in the Year of the Priest. *

This post has moved to my new domain at http://queering-the-church.com/blog

Catholic Church – Antigay, Antiwoman, Antisex?

This post has moved to my new domain at http://queering-the-church.com/blog

Vatican Approves Married Priests (Updated) *

This post has moved to my new domain at http://queering-the-church.com/blog

Clerical Abuse: How We Are All The Solution.

My extended series on Clerical abuse has turned into a long and depressing affair, dragging on much longer that I ever expected,and leading me into several digressions along the way, included excursions into coming out as spiritual gift, South African history, and the importance of the sensus fidelium.  These digressions, though, were important and helpful – at least to me.  The conclusions presented thus far were also depressing: the root causes are deeply embedded in the institutional culture of the church (celibacy and the concentration of ecclesiastical power) and will not be easily changed, and also directly affect us all, not only the victims and their families. We are all victims, and we have all been complicit in the causes.

Now though, I can finally bring the series to a close on a more positive note.  In the same way that the end of apartheid came about finally as a result of numerous internal and external pressures, in which all South Africans (and many foreigners) participated to some degree, so we are all part of the solution to the abuse scandal.

How?

Read the rest of this entry »

Abuse: Vatican Blame Game, Updated

Writing about the Vatican’s blame game yesterday, (Vatican puts its Head in the Sand), I expressed some scepticism about some figures quoted that were unattributed.  I have since stumbled upon a Canadian story, reprinting one from which describes a “report” (unnamed) of February 27 2004 which appears to discuss the same figures, in greater detail.  This report appears to corroborate the Vatican’s figures of  “1.5 – 5%” of clergy implicated in allegations of abuse, but flatly contradicts the claim that other denominations are at least as guilty.  Canada’s National Post reported in 2004:

On Feb. 27, two major reports were released documenting the extent of American priestly abuse between 1950 and 2002. The numbers are staggering. All told, 4,392 priests were alleged to have sexually abused 10,667 children. That works out to about 4% of all priests in ministry, a figure many times the rate of that for Protestant clergy. The most obvious explanation for the discrepancy is simple: Protestant ministers are allowed to take wives. Catholic priests are not.
Read more:  National Post

This report states clearly that 81% of victims were boys, which differs from other estimates that to thirds were girls. But drawing a clear distinction between the abuse of young boys and adolescents, the report states that adolescents are more vulnerable to gay “ephebophiles” (i.e. attracted to young men), and young boys are more prone to molestation by heterosexual  men, attracted by the hairless, androgynous skin.  It goes on to note that even excluding gay priests from the calculations, that still leaves 3% of heterosexual priests guilty of sexual abuse of children. Read the rest of this entry »

Clerical Abuse: Vatican Puts its Head in the Sand.

Following the announcement of Papal visit to the UK, the Guardian yesterday carried two important stories on Benedict XVI and the Vatican.

Pope Benedict XVI

In an opinion piece, Tanya Gold expressing deep anger at the Papal visit.  Under the heading, “Ignore the bells and the smells and the lovely Raphaels, the Pope’s arrival in Britain is nothing to celebrate“, she writes:

Save us, O Lord, save us all. Save us from the Pope. Joseph Ratzinger is coming to Britain. Gordon Brown is “delighted”. David Cameron is “delighted”. I am “repelled”. Let him come; I applaud freedom of speech. But no red carpets, please. No biscuits. No Queen.

In his actions on child abuse and Aids, Joseph Ratzinger has colluded in the protection of paedophiles and the deaths of millions of Africans. As Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (Pope John Paul II’s chief enforcer), it was Ratzinger’s job to investigate the child abuse scandal that plagued the Catholic church for decades. And how did he do it? In May 2001 he wrote a confidential letter to Catholic bishops, ordering them not to notify the police – or anyone else – about the allegations, on pain of excommunication. He referred to a previous (confidential) Vatican document that ordered that investigations should be handled “in the most secretive way . . . restrained by a perpetual silence”. Excommunication is a joke to me, perhaps to you, but to a Catholic it means exclusion and perhaps hellfire – for trying to protect a child. Well, God is love. Read the rest of this entry »

Priesthood: Medieval Mythmaking

On the history of the Catholic priesthood, Wikipedia has:

The Priesthood is understood to have begun with the Last Supper, when Jesus Christ instituted the Eucharist. While the threefold ministry is recorded in the New Testament, it is believed that in many assemblies this complete articulation did not take place until the second century. [7] Until then, most small communities were led by an episkopos (overseer or bishop) or a presbyteros (elder or priest), hence in Catholic theology they are referred to as presbyter-bishops in this period. As communities grew in size and needed more ministers, the bishops became the highest level of minister in the Church with priests assisting them in presiding at the Eucharist in the multiple communities in each city. The diaconate (deacon means ‘servant’) evolved as administrators of Church funds and programmes for the poor. Read the rest of this entry »