Monday, October 12, 2009

Ottawa Citizen gets it wrong on priest sex scandals

The Ottawa Citizen recently published an article where Janice Kennedy, who describes herself as a liberal Catholic, tries to explain the true causes of the sex abuse scandals in the priesthood.

Given her liberal leaning, you won't be surprised with her conclusions.  She essentially says that the problem would go away if:  1) priests were allowed to marry and;  2) if women were allowed to become priests.  Quite predictable and not exactly a deep revelation.

On her first point, she argues that celibacy is unnatural and fosters uncontrollable impulses.  Unfortunately, this argument does not hold water.  Research has shown high rates of sexual abuse among teachers, Protestant ministers and other professionals.  Do you know what these groups have in common?  They're allowed to marry.  Consequently, the fact of having regular sexual relations with a consenting adult does appear not "cure" anybody of their pedophile tendencies.  

On her second point, about women priests, is largely irrelevant to the point being discussed.  How would the existence of women priests affect men's ability to control their sexual impulses?  In fact, many Protestant churches report a high incidence of harassment an sexual abuse of their women ministers by the males.  Moreover, about 41 percent of all sexual abuse of children in the U.S. is done by women, so they certainly are not immune to pedophilia.  Ms. Kennedy's article also contains a momentous historical inaccuracy, where she claims that women priests were common in the early Church.  This is totally false and unsubstantiated.

The truth is that the priesthood and the vow of celibacy are not for everybody. Jesus himself told us so (Matt 19.12).  A man who feels called to the priesthood has several years of formation and discernment in which he must ask himself if he can handle the vow of celibacy.  If he cannot, he should do everybody a favour and leave the seminary.  It would be imprudent to assume that some miraculous transformation will occur after his ordination and that he'll suddenly be able to manage it.

The union of man and woman in sexual intercourse is meant to imitate the union of love within the Persons of the Trinity, as well as to anticipate the intimate union we will have with God in Heaven.  Although the vow of celibacy may seem unnatural from a purely worldly point of view, it is entirely natural from a spiritual point of view, since it skips the intermediate "sign" of sexual union and jumps directly to the union of the soul with God, which we all hope to enjoy in the beatific vision.