Delusions of celibacy

January 27th, 2013  |  Published in Power & Privilege

After this post, I’m going to stockpile my hair-tearing reactions to the royal commission and aim for occasional reviews instead. At the moment, though, I can’t lay aside my visceral reaction to the delusion, apparently endorsed by the Catholic Church, that it is only sex with women that violates a priest’s vows of celibacy. Uncomfortable niggles about children and other men can be dealt with, apparently, by “compartmentalising professional and private lives”.

“Many Catholic priests take a flexible approach to celibacy…and some believe sex with children or men does not count,” I found myself reading in a recent article. We are then invited to appreciate that the ‘leaders’ of these priests, remarkable for their public intolerance of homosexuality, abortion, marriage equality, and ordination of female priests, are tolerant of such ‘imperfections’ among their subordinates.

I do not believe I have a single acquaintance who would agree with these constructions of celibacy (although they might agree with another claim in the article that mandatory celibacy, or at least maintaining the fiction of it, is a millstone). There is, however, a distorted partial truth down among the weeds that I would like all priests, as well as their hierarchy, to be very clear about.

It is true, in a perverted kind of way, that sex with children is not sex; that’s because it’s abuse – of the most insidious kind. Sex between men is sex if it’s consensual – or rape if nonconsensual. I cannot fathom how anyone can maintain (and expect others to countenance) that abuse and rape are okay, while heterosexual activity by priests is not; but that’s how this obscene attitude translates to me. Such inverted views seem especially unpalatable given that heterosexual sex is the only variety rank-and-file Catholics are officially entitled to indulge in, and then only if it’s marital and procreational. I’m not even going to try and unravel the sinister double standards here.

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These men – these priests and their hierarchy – who expect the rest of us to tolerate their tolerance for priestly peccadilloes (aka exploitation) must hold us in stunning contempt, especially given that in the next breath they might well expect recognition of their mandate to provide moral guidance for large numbers of Catholic faithful (and any of the rest of us prepared to take them seriously). Alternatively, perhaps, they do not take notice, or have not needed to take notice of opposing views because, at least up until now, they have been able to ride roughshod over any and all resistance to running their own race.

Themis, protect us, especially children, and guide the royal commission in cutting through the layers of deceit, delusion, hypocrisy, and power. There are, I recognise, “committed, progressive Catholics” who want the same, and also, unsurprisingly, want to minimise harm for those sufficiently courageous to speak out, and retain the best of what their faith has to offer. At a simple black-and-white level, the commission must adjudicate the battle between good and evil, and ensure that good prevails. I’m sure I will not be alone in keeping a close watch.

(The article that generated all this steam can be found by clicking here.)

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