I was going to comment on Bill’s post about the Vatican’s most recent apologia on child abuse within its clerical ranks. But my comment kept getting longer and longer, so I decided to publish it as a post instead.
It was Oddjob’s trenchant observation that NO ONE else even remotely approached the level of evil that was the Archdiocese of Boston that set me off.
I was raised Catholic until I turned 17, when I quietly lost my faith. (When I converted to Judaism at 22, I told the rabbis I didn’t believe in god. That was ok as long as I agreed to follow ha’lacha.) As an ex-Catholic former Catholic school student, I have a theory about why child abuse is so rampant in the RCC.
I think it’s due to a combination of the following:
1)The fundamental belief that sex is dirty, sinful and only for procreation when/if you aren’t holy enough to be a celibate priest. Stated another way, the belief that celibacy–which I consider to be an unnatural and almost unattainable state–is not only possible, but THE ideal state.
2)A doctrine that states that “impure thoughts” are sins. In other words, little or no distinction or separation between thoughts, temptation, and deeds. Hence, once a priest imagines having sex with an altar boy, he’s already sinned. Committing the actual deed only makes the sin a bit more serious. And if you’re struggling with feelings of lust and guilt, that bit more can seem pretty irrelevant. (Also, see number “4”.)
3)An odd mixture of sexism, idealism, dogma, authoritarianism and other factors that result in a very high percentage of emotionally stunted, developmentally immature, self-absorbed-to-the-point-of-borderline-personality priests who feel, on many levels, entitled. These men, when they experience natural feelings of lust, cannot imagine or fantasize about relating to another adult. It’s far too threatening because emotionally, they’re stuck in boyhood. They’ve never grown up and priesthood, with it’s artificial separation from the intimate experience of life’s progressive passages, encourages them to never grow up. In addition, their utter self-involvement–after all, they are god’s representatives on earth–limits their ability to emphasize with their victims.
And finally, 4)Guilt and repression. Anyone raised Catholic can attest to the powerful charge guilt can add to sex of any kind. More repression, leads to more guilt, leads to a more powerful sexual release when you finally give in. This can, if finessed, be a great and good thing when two adults are relating consensually. In a pedophile, it can feed their downward spiral.
The whole mix, IMHO, seems almost guaranteed to produce child sexual abuse. And as far as I can see, the Church has addressed none of these factors. That’s why, in combination with the hierarchy’s pattern of denial and enabling, I fully expect the issue to raise its ugly head again.