Monday, April 5, 2010

Clergy Sex Abuse Is Again in the World Headlines -- 3

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A doodle on the Holy Spirit. Let the Holy Spirit
blow the fresh air into the Catholic Church.

Drawn (Dhaka: August 18, 1993) by Jerome D'Costa


Further Observations on the Clergy Sex and Sex Abuse Issues (contd.)

  • There's a difference between clergy sex and clergy sex abuse. The clergy sex covers a wider area -- all kinds of sexual act of a priest with another person, whether consensual or forced (rape). This can be consummational sex (penetrational or full intercourse) or non-consummational sex (kissing, inappropriate touching, fondling, oral stimulation and so on) with an adult male or female. Sex with children -- boys or girls under the age of 16 and who cannot give consent to sex legally -- also falls under this purview. The clergy sex abuse, on the other hand, mainly concerns children under the age of 16. Here the sexual relationship is not of the equals -- one is in powerful and most respectable position and the other in vulnerable position -- who does not have proper understanding of sex, who legally is not in a position to give his or her consent for sex with an adult. That's why this type of sex falls under the purview of sex abuse. Most of the countries of the world have laws prohibiting sex between an adult and such a minor (underage children). A priest, who engages in sex with a minor, commits a most serious sin (in the eyes of his religion) as well as a crime (in the eyes of the law of the country he resides in).
  • It is wrong to assume that ordinary Catholics don't know of the sexual crimes and indiscretions of their priests and bishops. Many of them know about these but mostly keep quiet out of deep respect for the high and holy office of priesthood in the Catholic Church. There may be other reasons for this, too. Once someone complaints or reveals such priestly crimes and indiscretions, then these people become more vocal and demonstrate their anguish, frustration and anger.
  • In a number of countries, some women and nuns (Sisters) are also part of the priestly sexual scene. When clergy sex issues come up, it is mostly clergy sex abuse of the minor children is dealt with, but clergy sex with adult males or females are either ignored or put in the back burner. How may cases are consensual sex and how many non-consensual sex (either committed forcibly or using pressure tactics) it needs to be determined. It is a fact that many women and nuns (Sisters) are being sexually harassed, molested and even raped by certain priests. In Africa, the prevalence of AIDS is driving some priests to demand sex of nuns instead of local women who are most likely to have been infected with HIV and AIDS. When statistics about clergy sex is revealed, mostly child sex abuse is mentioned, almost ignoring the clergy sex with adult males and females. If these cases were included, the number of sexually active priests would be higher. In certain countries' civil law, sexual harassment means someone -- may be a male person or a female person -- is bothering you by saying or doing unwanted or unwelcome things of a sexual or gender-related nature. It may mean he or she is touching you inappropriately or sexually; making offensive (of sexual nature) jokes or remarks about women or men; making sexual requests or suggestions; staring at or making unwelcome comments about your body; displaying sexually offensive pictures; and being verbally abusive to you because of your gender. In the male-dominated societies, especially in the third world countries, nuns can't come out and expose priestly sexual crimes because they will be less believed than males (priests). There's every chance for them to be blamed for enticing the named priests into the thing!
  • The way monetary compensation is being given to the clergy sex abuse victims is both unethical and immoral. Dioceses and Religious Orders so far have given billions of dollars in compensation to the innumerable clergy sex abuse victims in the USA, Canada, Ireland and some other countries. Where did all this money come from? Mostly from donations of the Catholic faithful. Why is this unethical and immoral? Because the money was originally donated for a worthy cause, for a good purpose, but it's being given out as compensation to the victims of a very few Judas-like characters in the guise of priests. In some dioceses, Church properties, including some church buildings, have been sold or about to be sold to pay for such compensations. The whole diocese, all the other good priests, and the whole body of the faithful cannot suffer for such a few renegade priests. The whole diocese cannot be bankrupted for such persistently abusing priests. In one parish in the USA, the Catholics are protesting the sale of a church building. If compensation is to be given, it should come from insurance against "bad behaviour" of priests, as doctors in the USA and Canada have "malpractice insurance" for payment of compensation in case of damage or injury done to patients in practicing medicine, surgery and the like.
  • In certain circumstances, married priests may be allowed. Places where the number of priestly vocations are extremely low, married priest may be allowed there. Priestly celibacy (non-marriage of priests) is not a divine law but a Church law. The Church law can be changed any time. If converted married Anglican (Episcopalian) ministers are allowed to act as Catholic priests in certain countries, if the Eastern (the Middle East and parts of India) Catholic Orthodox priests (who are mostly married) are also allowed, why can't the "Latin-rite" Catholic Church allow married priests? If married converted Anglican priests and Eastern Catholic Orthodox priests can be trusted and relied upon for doing God's work, why can't the married "Latin-rite" priests be trusted and relied upon? Some cardinals, theologians are expressing opinions that priestly celibacy rule of the Catholic Church needs to be re-examined in order to lessen the number of priestly sex and sex abuse cases. Some Church officials in the Vatican denied that there is any link between celibate life and priestly sex and sex abuse. In spite of Vatican denials and rebuttals, there is some truth that if celibacy rules were relaxed, clergy sex and sex abuse will be reduced to a certain extent. In the third world countries, clergy sex abuse of children is less than in the West. In most of these countries, there is a societal pressure against free mixing of boys and girls, especially youths. Dating in many of these societies is not condoned or allowed. As a result, many of the boys and youth, who go to the seminary for training to be priests, do not have any experience of relating and dealing with members of the opposite sex. Many of them are blank slates on this matter. When they become priests, they come in contact with many girls and women in course of their work, many of them out of curiosity or otherwise feel a strong urge to "experiment" with girls and women -- to see how it feels to touch, fondle and have sex with some of them. In other words, they feel the urge to taste the fresh flesh of a female human being. They see women as sexual objects. If celibacy laws were relaxed, such type of persons could be happily married priests from the beginning of their priesthood.
  • Laicization of Catholic priests needs to be hastened. Catholic priests, who willingly request their bishops and the Vatican for laicization, often face a brick wall in front of them. Laicization process takes a long-winding road with no end in sight. Out of many requests, a few gets approved leading into frustrations among unsuccessful applicants. We think that those who face problems, mostly about celibacy, make these laicization requests. Why not let them go rather than keeping them within the fold and receiving half-hearted or no-hearted service from them? If they have sexual problems, they will do more harm to the Church by just being in the fold of Catholic priesthood.
  • Introduce compulsory training on clergy sex and sex abuse in seminaries and formation houses of the Religious Orders. In the light of what happened and what's happening in the world regarding clergy sex and sex abuse, from now on, a compulsory training and orientation on clergy sex and sex abuse needs to be given to candidates in the seminary and formation houses. This training should include different types of case studies, Church and civil laws dealing with the subject matter, repercussions of violating these laws, what precautions need to be taken by the candidates, and so on. An openness regarding this matter will definitely bring about good results in the priesthood and the Church. "Holy persons don't talk about sex" is the wrong notion going on in the Catholic Church. This policy must change. Why? The modern world is deluged with sex -- in the Internet, cable and satellite TV, movies, video films, DVDs, books, magazines, sexy fashions and lifestyles of the females, and the like. The new priests need to learn to face their own sexuality as well as the sexual messages and pictures coming from everywhere. The sexuality is a big subject now and it must be dealt with by the Catholic Church.
  • This is the best time for the Catholic Church to be proactive in dealing with the clergy sex and sex abuse. In spite of all the negativity, in spite of all the allegations against the Church and Pope Benedict XVI, this is the best time to let the new dawn come to the Catholic Church. This is the opportunity to turn sadness into joy, to turn despair into hope. The pope need s to take a vigorous action on this matter. Why is this action needed? We all must realize that the world is no longer the same, a profound change has come to the world regarding communication among people. It must be recognized that the top-to-bottom (vertical) communication is over. Now-a-days, due to the far-reaching electronic media (cable and satellite TV, the Internet, social networking websites, satellite radio, cellphones with cameras, small digital and video cameras, and the like), the power of communication is hugely in the hands of the common people. Citizen journalism (anybody and everybody sending out reports and pictures to the media -- even to the big media) is increasingly becoming popular. As a result, when a news (real news, gossip or innuendos) spread, it spreads instantly in geometric fashion -- hugely and uncontrollably. Taking all these into account, the Catholic Church no longer can keep silent as before. Silence, now-a-days, instead of being golden, becomes deafening. The Catholic Church must be on top of things and come up with policies and guidelines regarding clergy sex and sex abuse issues. Our humble suggestion would be to set a high-powered Commission to study the situation in the whole Church, have consultations with bishops and experts and generate a set of "general guidelines" on the sinfulness and criminality of priestly sex and what actions the local bishops might take to address the situations. The local bishops then can come up with their own set of "particular guidelines", following the general guidelines and taking into account the local environment, situation and culture. A prompt action on this matter will truly strengthen the Church and the position of Catholic priesthood. God will be more happy, there's no doubt about it.
(The end)
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