Tuesday, March 30, 2010

It Starts With The Family

Statistics are almost impossible to come by, but a casual perusal of internet accessibility to information on child abuse and the family gives the overwhelming impression that the principal locus of this disease/crime is the family. It seems that the largest nest of pedophilia is the family that is damaged by disfunctionality, itself produced by the across the boards spiritual disease of individuality and self-sufficiency.

Consider this George Weigel comment: The sexual and physical abuse of children and young people is a global plague; its manifestations run the gamut from fondling by teachers to rape by uncles to kidnapping-and-sex-trafficking. In the United States alone, there are reportedly some 39 million victims of childhood sexual abuse. Forty to sixty percent were abused by family members, including stepfathers and live-in boyfriends of a child’s mother—thus suggesting that abused children are the principal victims of the sexual revolution, the breakdown of marriage, and the hook-up culture. Hofstra University professor Charol Shakeshaft reports that 6-10 percent of public school students have been molested in recent years—some 290,000 between 1991 and 2000. According to other recent studies, 2 percent of sex abuse offenders were Catholic priests—a phenomenon that spiked between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s but seems to have virtually disappeared (six credible cases of clerical sexual abuse in 2009 were reported in the U.S. bishops’ annual audit, in a Church of some 65,000,000 members)” [1]

Homosexuality, Not Pedophilia:

That said, it is important to point out that the problem with so-called “pedophilia” in the Catholic Church is not pedophilia at all but homosexuality. The power that dominates public opinion dares not call homosexuality by its name since it’s agendum is to create universal acceptance of homosexuality and impose gay culture. Even the least perceptive intelligence would be challenged by the media persecution of the Church for the presence of homosexually active priests, while that same media actively proclaim homosexual equality and gay rights under law. Hence, the absolute necessity to apply the language of pedophilia to the Church and excoriate it while promoting homosexuality in the public square. The obviousness of this should attract the attention of a few.

Celibacy: The Norm for Married and Single:

The constant background music to the pedophilia theme is the “abnormal” rule of celibacy for the ministerial priesthood in the Western Church which drives the protagonists of celibacy to release the unrelenting pressure of sexual drive in this aberrant and illegal way. I recall Tom Wolfe suggesting that sexual drive is rather like the stimulus of a stereotaxic needle that lies quiescent if not disturbed rather than a Freudian pressure cooker that needs release or blow up.

From an ascetical and psychological standpoint, celibacy is necessary both for the performance of the virginal and married state. Conrad Baars, MD writes:

“Suffice it to say that a mature person should evidence a sufficient degree of assimilation of the lower orders of his or her nature by the higher. In a mature person, one can see a rich, balanced emotional life which responds readily to direction by intellect and will without being suppressed in the process, a spiritual life which is ennobled by the fullness of feelings and emotions, a joyful other-directed unselfishness, and an unshakable sense of self-worth and self-love. To a large extent, that person must be the realization of his or her unique natural disposition, possessed of a readiness and capability of going out freely toward the good and opposing the evil, and thus capable of possessing the happiness for which human beings are created.

“That person must possess himself or herself lovingly and gratefully as man or woman, as being – in peace and harmony - what in the ultimate analysis each person is – singular and alone. In other words, the person mature enough to commit to either the married or religious state of life must already have become a free, self-possessed, unique masculine or feminine celibate – for that is precisely that caelebs means: singular and alone!”[2]

But it is O.K. to be alone provided that I have been given my identity as a self by a significant other (almost always the mother and father).The ontological architecture of the person has proven to be so relational in his or her need to be affirmed by another that the failure to be so affirmed by the family manifests itself in the following description by Baars: “unaffirmed individuals… were not made to know and feel their own goodness, worth and identity. They have been thrown back upon themselves by denial on the part of significant others in their life. They are like prisoners – locked in, lonely, and self-centered – waiting for someone to come and open the door of their prison, waiting to be opened to their own goodness and that of others. [Is this not man prior to the redemption by Christ?]. No measure of success in business, profession or otherwise can adequately compensate for their feelings of inferiority, inadequacy, uncertainty and insecurity. Both the married life and the celibate life accentuate the fundamental loneliness of these persons and their inability to relate to others as equals. Their spiritual life suffers as time goes on, and their basically joyless way of life changes more and more to a state of depression until death seems the only way out.

“Most importantly, unaffirmed persons have only one concern and need: to become affirmed, to be loved for who they are and not for what they do. They are literally driven to find someone who truly, unequivocally loves them. This is in marked contrast to affirmed individuals who look for someone with whom they can share their live, who can give love as well as receive, who can wait and are not hurried, driven, or compelled to find someone who will love them. If affirmation by a significant other is not forthcoming, many unaffirmed persons will use their talents, intelligence and energy to try to convince themselves and the world in a variety of ways that they are worthwhile, important and significant, even though they don’t feel that they are. The most common ways of doing this are by the acquisition, display and use of material goods, wealth, power, fame, honor, status symbols, or sex.”[3]

Given the above, the problem of pedophilia is not a Church problem, but a problem of the society at large. Its assignment to the Church is simply a mendacious strategy by the media to save itself from the blatant contradiction of condemning homosexuality in the Church and propagandizing it in the public square as normal and a manifestation of democratic equality.

Hence, the Church must protect itself in discerning candidates for priesthood. The urgent need of young vocations for the priesthood in servicing large, aging dioceses with large priestly mortality can put strain on such a process. With the failure to create a deep culture of familial piety to incubate indigenous candidates in Western secularized societies, the search for non-indigenous candidates in Latin Catholic cultures runs the risk of drawing false vocations in boys who can be attracted to the priesthood as a way to achieve upward mobility culturally and financially. If this discernment does not take place beforehand, it cannot take place afterwards without the damage to the Church of “outing” on the part of the individual, or the damage perpetrated by some sort of policing and pressure from above.

A perusal of the following June 2005 Instruction from the Congregation for Catholic Education: "Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with Regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in View of Their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders."[4]

Among other things, it states that

From the time of the Second Vatican Council until today, various documents of the Magisterium, and especially the Catechism of the Catholic Church, have confirmed the teaching of the Church on homosexuality. The Catechism distinguishes between homosexual acts and homosexual tendencies.

Regarding acts, it teaches that Sacred Scripture presents them as grave sins. The Tradition has constantly considered them as intrinsically immoral and contrary to the natural law. Consequently, under no circumstance can they be approved.

Deep-seated homosexual tendencies, which are found in a number of men and women, are also objectively disordered and, for those same people, often constitute a trial. Such persons must be accepted with respect and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. They are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter.(8)

In the light of such teaching, this dicastery, in accord with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, believes it necessary to state clearly that the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called "gay culture."(10)

Such persons, in fact, find themselves in a situation that gravely hinders them from relating correctly to men and women. One must in no way overlook the negative consequences that can derive from the ordination of persons with deep-seated homosexual tendencies.

Different, however, would be the case in which one were dealing with homosexual tendencies that were only the expression of a transitory problem -- for example, that of an adolescence not yet superseded. Nevertheless, such tendencies must be clearly overcome at least three years before ordination to the diaconate.

3. Discernment by the Church Concerning the Suitability of Candidates

There are two inseparable elements in every priestly vocation: the free gift of God and the responsible freedom of the man. A vocation is a gift of divine grace, received through the Church, in the Church and for the service of the Church. In responding to the call of God, the man offers himself freely to him in love.(11) The desire alone to become a priest is not sufficient, and there does not exist a right to receive sacred ordination. It belongs to the Church -- in her responsibility to define the necessary requirements for receiving the sacraments instituted by Christ -- to discern the suitability of him who desires to enter the seminary,(12) to accompany him during his years of formation, and to call him to holy orders if he is judged to possess the necessary qualities.(13)

The formation of the future priest must distinctly articulate, in an essentially complementary manner, the four dimensions of formation: human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral.(14) In this context, it is necessary to highlight the particular importance of human formation, as the necessary foundation of all formation.(15) In order to admit a candidate to ordination to the diaconate, the Church must verify, among other things, that the candidate has reached affective maturity.(16)

The call to orders is the personal responsibility of the bishop(17) or the major superior. Bearing in mind the opinion of those to whom he has entrusted the responsibility of formation, the bishop or major superior, before admitting the candidate to ordination, must arrive at a morally certain judgment on his qualities. In the case of a serious doubt in this regard, he must not admit him to ordination.(18)

In the light of the above, consider today’s NYT op-ed article on topic:

Op-Ed Columnist

A Time for Contrition


Published: March 28, 2010

During a frustrating argument with a Roman Catholic cardinal, Napoleon Bonaparte supposedly burst out: “Your eminence, are you not aware that I have the power to destroy the Catholic Church?” The cardinal, the anecdote goes, responded ruefully: “Your majesty, we, the Catholic clergy, have done our best to destroy the church for the last 1,800 years. We have not succeeded, and neither will you.”

Skip to next paragraphTwo centuries later, the clergy has taken another shot at it. What the American and Irish churches have endured in the last decade and what German Catholics find themselves enduring today is all part of the same grim story: the exposure, years after the fact, of an appalling period in which the Catholic hierarchy responded to an explosion of priestly sex abuse with cover-ups, evasions and criminal negligence.

Now the scandal has touched the pope himself. There are two charges against Benedict XVI: first, that he allowed a pedophile priest to return to ministry while archbishop of Munich in 1980; and second, that as head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the 1990s, he failed to defrock a Wisconsin priest who had abused deaf children 30 years before.

The second charge seems unfair. The case was finally forwarded to the Vatican by the archbishop of Milwaukee, Rembert Weakland, more than 20 years after the last allegation of abuse. With the approval of then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s deputy, the statute of limitations was waived and a canonical trial ordered. It was only suspended because the priest was terminally ill; indeed, pretrial proceedings were halted just before he died.

But the first charge is more serious. The Vatican insists that the crucial decision was made without the future pope’s knowledge, but the paper trail suggests that he could have been in the loop. At best, then-Archbishop Ratzinger was negligent. At worst, he enabled further abuse.

For those of us who admire the pope, either possibility is distressing, but neither should come as a great surprise. The lesson of the American experience, now exhaustively documented, is that almost everyone was complicit in the scandal. From diocese to diocese, the same cover-ups and gross errors of judgment repeated themselves regardless of who found themselves in charge. Neither theology nor geography mattered: the worst offenders were Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston and Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles — a conservative and a liberal, on opposite ends of the country.

This hasn’t prevented both sides in the Catholic culture war from claiming that the scandal vindicates their respective vision of the church. Liberal Catholics, echoed by the secular press, insist that the whole problem can be traced to clerical celibacy. Conservatives blame the moral relativism that swept the church in the upheavals of the 1970s, when the worst abuses and cover-ups took place.

In reality, the scandal implicates left and right alike. The permissive sexual culture that prevailed everywhere, seminaries included, during the silly season of the ’70s deserves a share of the blame, as does that era’s overemphasis on therapy. (Again and again, bishops relied on psychiatrists rather than common sense in deciding how to handle abusive clerics.) But it was the church’s conservative instincts — the insistence on institutional loyalty, obedience and the absolute authority of clerics — that allowed the abuse to spread unpunished.

What’s more, it was a conservative hierarchy’s bunker mentality that prevented the Vatican from reckoning with the scandal. In a characteristic moment in 2002, a prominent cardinal told a Spanish audience that “I am personally convinced that the constant presence in the press of the sins of Catholic priests, especially in the United States, is a planned campaign ... to discredit the church.”

That cardinal was Joseph Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI. Since then, he’s come to grips with the crisis in ways that his predecessor did not: after years of drift and denial under John Paul II, the Vatican has taken vigorous steps to promote zero tolerance, expedite the dismissal of abusive priests and organize investigations that should have happened long ago. Because of Benedict’s recent efforts, and the efforts of clerics and laypeople dating back to the first wave of revelations in the 1980s, Catholics can reasonably hope that the crisis of abuse is a thing of the past.

But the crisis of authority endures. There has been some accountability for the abusers, but not nearly enough for the bishops who enabled them. And now the shadow of past sins threatens to engulf this papacy.

Popes do not resign. But a pope can clean house. And a pope can show contrition, on his own behalf and on behalf of an entire generation of bishops, for what was done and left undone in one of Catholicism’s darkest eras.

This is Holy Week, when the first pope, Peter, broke faith with Christ and wept for shame. There is no better time for repentance.

[1] http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2010/03/scoundrel-times

[2] Conrad Baars, M.D., “I Will Give Them a New Heart” St. Paul (2008) 150.

[3] Conrad Baars, M.D., “I Will Give Them a New Heart” St. Paul (2008) 190-191.

[4] The Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI, on 31 August 2005, approved this present Instruction and ordered its publication. Rome, 4 November 2005, of Saint Charles Borromeo, Patron of Seminaries.
ZENON Card. GROCHOLEWSKI Prefect, Titular Archbishop of Vertara Memoria
+ J. MICHAEL MILLER, C.S.B., Secretary

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