The Catholic church and sexual abuse

At the Second Lateran Council 1139 Rome imposed mandatory celibacy for priests. The issue was money because, under primogeniture (now disappeared) the sons of bishops and priests had a legal claim on the land and holdings of the priestly “living.” Celibacy was instituted, but at the same time the Church, not then or since, has addressed sexual activity among priests.

Catholics are now in silent revolt, the more obvious sign being the new habit of placing one or two pennies in the collection box. More serious are the Five Demands:

– Stop the prevarications of the church and cooperate with the lay authorities to deal with errant priests accused of abuse.
– Stop wearing royalty-like garb and dress simply.
– Give space in every church newspaper to abuse survivors.
– empower the priests to cooperate with their parishioners local councils and committees.
– re- introduce women priests (women had a big role in the early church, until the misogynists
took control).

These ideas would help bring a measure of accountability and democracy to the church, but they do not address the reasons for the extraordinary number of accusations of sexual abuse.

The Pope has just announced that the church will not defend sexual predators, but he evades the real point.

The fact is that celibacy is the main driver in the wave of abuse. Celibacy has no scriptural validity; it is just a human construct. Human beings are gregarious and sexual beings. They yearn for love and emotional and physical closeness. This is a fact that cannot be ignored. Telling priests that love of Jesus is sufficient is not sufficient, and I guess both Jesus (who might or might not have been married), and his disciple Paul, the first Pope (believed to have been married) would probably agree were they to re-visit the planet. In short, celibacy is ridiculous and unnecessary, and by foisting it on the priesthood the church was asking for trouble, even if that trouble was postponed for nine hundred years.


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    • I don’t think we know anything about the marital status of Epicurus. Of course, ancient Greeks had a different attitude to marriage than we have. Wives were for child-bearing, and housework, and were not treated as equal life partners. Social life was with other men. Wouldn’t suit me, but times are very different.

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