There are two basic and not contradictory approaches we can take to the issue of clerical pedophilia. In the first, we look at the incidents of pedophilia among the clergy, and compare it to that in other helping professions; we look at the advice psychologists were giving out and compare that with what the bishops were doing, and so forth, in order to see the specific problem in a wider societal context. This kind of approach is valid, but it should not be advanced solely as a policy of damage control and containment, and it can’t ignore the evidence that already exists that we may not be dealing simply with a problem of pedophilia, but ephebophilia, that is, an attraction to young adolescents, in this case, adolescent males, thus raising the possibility that what is going on here can be seen in terms of arrested and thwarted heterosexual development.
The second approach is the one I have taken in “Beyond Clerical Sexual Abuse” and deals with the wider clerical culture in which the problem is embedded, and which may even be giving rise to this and other sex and gender issues. Then we need to look at the whole spectrum of these kinds of issues ranging from birth control to homosexuality among the clergy, to divorce and the American annulment phenomenon, and ask ourselves why the institutional Church seems to do so poorly confronting them.
Addressing these issues is not going to be easy. We are immediately going to confront the other fundament aspect of the problem, a male clerical dominated Church where kind, open and informed discussions of these issues is not the norm, and the exclusion of lay people is. The birth control fiasco is a well-documented example of what could have been a wonderful collaborative effort derailed.
What can be done? A first step could be to have in every parish a forum in which these issues could be talked about, a place where the lay people and clergy could meet for frank discussions about the problems that afflict their Church and what to do about them. If the clerical institution would have problems doing this, the Catholic laity would have its own issues: a long history of passivity that leaves them with the sense that they have to wait on the hierarchy before anything can be done, a lack of education about their own faith despite their expertize in many other fields, the possibility of them advancing ill-conceived theological ideas, -though this can happen among the clergy as well - and so forth. What I have in mind is a genuine council open to the whole parish that allows the insights, inspiration and creativity of the whole community to come forth. Who can say what talents lie buried in this community until they are given the opportunity to come out? What kind of topics could these forums address? Possibilities are: What is behind the crisis of clerical sexual abuse, and what can we learn from it? What are the best pastoral responses to the high failure rate of Catholic marriages, and what do we do about divorced Catholics who have remarried? Is it possible to find a way out of the impasse in the Church about birth control? And so forth.
These kinds of discussions would require a great deal of good will and self-control on everyone’s part, but perhaps they could be the beginning of a church-wide renewal that starts from the most fundamental units of the Christian community and percolates upward.
Hi Jim. A very hearty welcome to the forum! In many ways, you and Tyra and your work have been present implicitly and explicitly in a lot of the discussions that have taken place here. I often think that Shalom Place and Inner Explorations are complementary web sites. I hope that bond deepens.
I think your idea of parish forums is excellent, and would happily attend the one in our parish. I'd even be willing to help facilitate these kinds of discussions, having done a bit of crisis intervention in communities before.
It would be great if dioceses sponsored these discussions, but I have my doubts about them happening. How do you envision this taking place?
At least we have the Internet, which is a forum where the hierarchy can't really control the discussion--first time in history something like that has taken place. That's pretty significant.
As you can see from this thread, we've been all over the place on this topic, including some of the broader contexts you allude to. Let's keep going and see what we can learn from this.
The following cross-posting is excerpted from the Pedophile Priests thread. I just wanted to say those things in this context, too.
For me, the Catholic analogical imagination and sense of everything being sacred, the bells and smells, the myth and stories, the marriage of fides et ratio, the love of philosophy and critical realism, the appreciation for modern science, the sweeping Thomistic metaphysics and theology, the Great Mysteries of Emmanuel and emphasis on Presence, the timeless formative spiritualities of our Church doctors and fathers, the Word and Sacrament, the affirmation of the apophatic and kataphatic and of the implicit and explicit faiths --- all combine in a logically coherent, internally consistent and externally congruent whole --- best suited for ME in my unique cultural milieu, linguistically, culturally, socially, historically, politically, economically, etc
It is almost as if our Catholic garment of "prescriptions" of how to do philosophy, metaphysics, science, theology, formative spirituality and mysticism are so well-integrated into a systematically whole and seamless garment FOR ME, that I feel I'd be existentially naked should I ever cast it off. [Not to worry, Brad, Shalomplace is clothing optional, in this regard.]
At the same time, it is almost as if our Catholic garment of "proscriptions", of how to do the "negative side of formative spirituality", which is Catholic Moral Theology, with its Canon Law codifications, its heritage of seminary manualism, its obsession with sexual sin and lack of parvity of matter, its uninspired interpretations of the Natural Law, being so biologistic, minimalistic and one-sidedly philosophical & deductive -- is so riddled with holes as to leave one with the impression that the Catholic Moral Theological Emperor is truly wearing no clothes!
My inventory of what we've gotten right, far outweighs, in the balance, my inventory of what we've gotten wrong. Sad thing is --- spirituality and mysticism took a real back seat in seminary training to some of the silly moral theology and manualism until very recent decades.
I've closed the Pedophile Priests thread, as it was getting pretty big. This one overlaps much, however, so let the discussion continue.
The U.S. Catholic Bishops will be meeting next week, and Archbishop Flynn has already released the draft proposal they'll deliberate, the most controversial aspect being forgiveness for offenders who've been sober for years.
Anyone have any thoughts on this?
Exactly what does he mean by forgiveness? If he's speaking of forgiveness in the sense that we forgive them as God does upon repentance and we are called to do, then yes, by all means they are to be forgiven. This is a hard pill to swallow many times, but, as our loving God forgives us..we have to do the same (our own righteousness is as filthy rags). However, I'm a bit undecided about how to proceed from there. If they have been innocent of any wrong actions for years after that, and their past is made known, will folks feel they are "safe" under the guidance of these Priests? I'm afraid that many...or at least some...would always be questioning that Priest and their actions from there on out. What's the choice for them (the Priests) then? I'm not in favor of jerking their Priesthood from them...that doesn't seem right either.
On the other hand, if they mean forgiveness in the sense that it's forgotten and business goes on as usual...that doesn't seem right either. Is there some way a Priest could function without actually being the Priest of a church (forgive me if I'm not wording that right..I'm not familiar with all the Catholic terms). What are their options?
Terri, the forgiveness part is not simply forgiveness of sin/reassurance of God's mercy, etc., but refers to situations where an abuser has been "sober" for many years. There are such cases, and I think it makes sense to give them different consideration from new, first-time offenders who are proven to be guilty. There's no sense risking harm from the first-timers, and so zero-tolerance should apply. But in those who've already proven that they're capable of avoiding relapse, zero tolerance applied many years later seems rather harsh.
Oh okay...right...then I agree wholeheartedly. You know what sort of puts a sense of dread in me though?..as I stated in the other post..will people actually consider them to be a non-threat. I know I would consider them to be fine...we all have made horrible mistakes in our past that hurt others (or at the very least, most of us have). But I also know that some people simply will NOT let the past die. So my concern is that these Priests who have been "clean" for years would be treated badly in some instances and that would just be sooo bad. In this solution they've put forth, do they say that others have to even know about the past? But then if the past isn't told...then will the Church be held liable for "endangering" (as some would probably deem it) the members? This is one of those really hard things, isn't it? I gotta say, I'm glad I'm not doing the decision making because there are just so many different angles to think about. Unfortunately, as we've stated in posts on the other thread, some will take advantage of any little loop hole they can come up with.
Anyway, keep us posted.
(This was posted by Hank Kramer as a start on another thread in this forum, so I'm moving it to here. Hopefully, Hank will join in this discussion as well.)
It recently occurred to me that nearly all of these allegations are for abuse that occurred between 10 and 30 years ago. Where are the current allegations and charges? Are these people saying that there was one bad generation of priests who did this over a 20-year period ending 10 years ago? Is nothing similar going on today? What is really going on here?
What I am beginning to wonder is if those alleging this don't actually want current charges with criminal trials? They want incidents after the statute of limitations has run, so that they can have civil lawsuits and get sympathetic juries to award them big bucks from the Church.
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