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A Response to Priestly Pedophilia Revelations

by Matthew Fox, Ph.D.

I dont think the issue in priestly pedophilia is celibacy as such. There are successful celibates in the Western church and in Eastern monastic communities. It is a pity that good priests and monks are being tainted by the abuse of someand cover-up of that abuse by hierarchy. It is true that celibacy can serve as a candle of allurement to a moth who has unresolved sexual issues.

It appears that a high percentage (one psychologist has told me 100%) of pedophiles were themselves sexually abused as children. When that happens there is often one of two reactions as one reaches puberty: Either an acting out that results in great libertinism or a closing up that registers as a kind of virginal life style. Clearly, a promise of celibacy would appeal to the latter type as it seems to solve the problem of ones sexual dysfunction lending it high social status as a priest. What is even more clear, however, is that this hiding away from ones sexuality only lasts so long and then it bursts out as violence to the next generation.

I believe that the deeper scandal being exposed by priestly pedophilia, however, concerns centuries of negative teaching about sexuality by the church and the misuse of celibacy as a political device to keep a clique in authoritarian power. This alone explains the incessant cover ups by Cardinal Law and other hierarchy over the years.

A mistake about creation results in a mistake about God St. Thomas Aquinas warned seven centuries ago. The church has been involved and is still involved in false teaching about sexuality. Consider how these priests who were acting out their sexual violence on innocent youth were also, in the name of Catholic dogma, preaching in the pulpit and advising in the confessional that 1) it is wrong to practice birth control even at a time when the human population is swamping the rest of creation and 2) it is wrong to use condoms even at a time when people are dying world-over from AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases and 3) that all masturbation is a serious sin and 4) that homosexuality is a disorder and that all homosexuals must abstain from sexi.e. be celibate even when these priests, with their vows or promises, were not and 5) women do not have the equipment to be ordained priests.

What all this amounts to is a substitution for the God of healthy sexuality (a God of creation) with man-made rules that enforce an authoritarian and patriarchal system of hierarchy that covers up the serious offenses of its all-male caste members in the name of secrecy and not rocking the boat. Protecting the perpetrator proves to be a higher priority than protecting innocent youth. Everything gets sacrificed to perpetuating the all-male club. (Theologians also get sacrificed to this voracious god of secrecy.) And of course it is verboten to even discuss opening the club up to married clergy for fear of tainting the closed system.

Early in the twentieth century a Celtic poet wrote a poem entitled Pater Noster in which the dominant image was the church as a great sailing vessel that sailed successfully through wild hurricanes and ferocious storms over nineteen centuries but thenin the twentieth centurycrashed into a rock, splintered, and sank. The rocks name was Sex.

The revelations of sexual misconduct are the chicken coming home to roost for the Roman Catholic church. You cannot teach falsely about creation, i.e. sexuality, and rightly about other forms of power. That is why the credibility of this organization and its infallible hierarchy will never recover from these revelations. Nor need they. The church is being demythologized. The spiritual revolution that Jesus set loose needs ecclesial structures to play a lesser, not a greater, role in the future when humankind must travel more lightly and must put spirituality ahead of religion and orthopractice ahead of orthodoxies.

The late Cardinal Bernadin of Chicago used to speak about the seamless garment of Catholic morality. One implication of a seamless garment is that when one thread unravels the whole garment does the same. We are currently witnessing the unraveling of the Roman Catholic church particularly as regards its secrecy and male-dominated clubbiness which means of course the repression of the feminine.

To understand this clubbiness and male-domination one must grasp the role that Opus Dei plays in the current papacy. Indeed, Cardinal Law is a card carrying member of Opus Dei and its poster child for the North American church. Opus Dei is a secretive organization spawned in Francos fascist Spain and rehabilitated by the current pope who has put it under his wing and appointed bishops and cardinals especially in Latin America and North America from its ranks. Even the popes press secretary is Opus Dei. This organizations commitment to secrecy and male-brotherhood combined with serious banking interests in Europe has set the tone for the secret boys club mentality that we now see has been busy covering up priestly pedophilia while it also expels theologians from the priesthood. It also explains the embarrassingly low caliber of appointment of bishops and cardinals during the current Vatican regime. The sole criteria for selection have been right-wing ideology and unquestioning obedience. The German mafia who run the Vatican today are in bed with Opus Dei who run the episcopacy. Those looking to understand the scandal of hierarchical silence about pedophiliac priests might do well to research the role of Opus Dei in this papacy, the most corrupt papacy since the Borgias.

Opus Dei has no need for theologians, only ideologues. Their theology is all made up and it centers around unquestioned obedience to the leader. This is why the condemnation of theologians and expulsion from their religious orders has become such a common practice during this papacy serving, as it did, a larger purpose of spreading fear into the ranks of potential theologians. When theologians are expelled or threatened, ideology takes over. It is amazing indeed how the press has treated the Vatican as a Teflon papacy over the years of John Paul II and how uncurious it has been about the role of Opus Dei in the decision-making levels of the Roman Catholic Church and the attitude it has spawned of protect the institution at all costs. In light of the revelations now flowing from the injured faithful of the church at the grass roots, history will not be so forgiving. Nor, hopefully, will the laity ever again be so naïve or so in denial.

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