| Sins of the
They came to Rome in their black cassocks and
red caps, like decorated penguins, the princes of the
Catholic Church, 13 cardinals, responding to a summons
by the Pope, to deal with the revelation that more than
200 American clergymen stood accused of sexual abuse of
mostly young men, a few women. Like good Germans, their
excellencies surely did not know what was occurring within
their parishes, did they? They did know, had known for
years, and had quietly transferred offending clerics to
fertile new grounds, at times silencing victims with million-dollar
settlements. (Now where do all those millions come from?)
The sins of the arrogant Catholic Church! From the time of the Inquisition, when hooded prelates sentenced to torture and painful death those they deemed a menace to their authority, on through the present, the church has contributed its power to some of the most evil acts on humanity. Centuries-long accusation of Jews as the murderers of Christ entrenched the detestation that culminated in the holocaust, the murder of millions of Jews and thousands of other "undesirables," gypsies and homosexuals. Its attitudes concerning sexuality have rendered women inferior, chattels for child-bearing; have attempted to exile into imposed shame divorced couples; have created a climate of hatred that bashers use to legitimize violence against homosexuals; are responsible for a huge population of children, mostly minority children, children whose
destitute families cannot care for adequately, children almost guaranteed turbulent lives, children born because birth control is forbidden. (Surreal paradox! Men who swear to be abstinent dictate the sexual conduct of those who aren't.)
Even before the parade of cardinals arrived in Rome, pretending like movie stars to dodge the press, cassocks hissing at the cobblestones, the Pope had asserted adherence to the concept of celibacy among priests; there were bruitings that the subject might come up. Almost nodding off, the dotty pope extolled the "value of celibacy as a complete gift of self to the Lord ... [a] life of chastity ... willingly embraced and faithfully lived." He went on to remind the princes of the church of their vow of poverty, and did so from his opulent Roman palace (while one of his cardinals basked in his own summer villa on Lake Como, along with his neighbors, the Versace family and Catherine
Deneuve; and Cardinal Mahoney, of Los Angeles, surely longed to hurry back to his parish, and to his private airplane.)
The concept of celibacy has been upheld for 900 years. Before that, high prelates had wives, mistresses (and misters). And children. As the wealth of the church burgeoned and its power spread across continents, the threat of children claiming rights of inheritance loomed. Out of such was born the lofty concept of "celibacy as a complete gift of self to the lord and his church"--a masquerade for greed; and the church did become abundantly rich, became one of the largest, wealthiest corporations in the world, with a powerful CEO, a tough board of directors. It is, however, one of the few corporations that does not offer to reward its investors financially.
Would allowing matrimony solve the problem of sexual predators within the clergy? Cloudy nonsense. Present allegations of abuse involve two women impregnated by priests and coaxed to abort. Pedophilia occurs far, far more often among heterosexuals, many married, than among homosexuals. Like the armed services, police corps, and other institutions that appeal to male exclusivity--and share a tight code of silence that shelters transgressors within their ranks--the priesthood naturally attracts its share of repressed homosexuals.
The accused priests are also victims of the Catholic Church. Before they became victimizers, they, too, were abused by the repressiveness of the church. A type of child raised in an atmosphere that bans all sexual activity other than as a means of procreation will feel trapped in a quagmire of guilt over sexual yearnings. The priesthood may seem the only salvation, offering surcease from "evil" longings, longings branded "unnatural ... sinful." (Yet what is more "unnatural"--against nature--than to reject sexuality?) So the guilt-ridden priests seek escape from their "evil"--in an atmosphere of erotic masochism epitomized by a beautiful, naked male figure nailed to a cross, and emphasized further by icons like that of St. Sebastian, stripped chiseled body pierced by multiple arrows and twisting in passionate agony.
Freed from the pressures of the Church's crazy
judgments, those men might have found natural outlets for desire, of whatever sexual orientation. In what is a cycle of molestation within the priesthood, they, too, were likely molested by older priests, even threatened into silence themselves, as later they would threaten their victims, often with intimations of hellish damnation.
As the scandal ramifies with daily disclosures--a six-year- old boy raped in the confessional--and with revelations of decades-long cover-ups and lies by the hierarchy of the church, there may develop a wave of baseless accusations of innocent priests, accusations like those that flared during the McMartin trials in Los Angeles, heated allegations about "naked movie star" games, secret tunnels. There are many good men in the priesthood, though far fewer in its power-driven hierarchy.
Now it is the Catholic Church that is under indictment for sexual abuse. But all rich, apathetic, greedy religions that purport hypocritically to serve the needful are guilty of violations that indict them all by the very nature of the existence of such abuses. Among those are the abuse of migrant children who grow up deformed from stoop labor; the abuse of the impoverished old; the abuse of runaways, often fleeing from molestation among their own families, sentenced to living under street tunnels; the abuse of the homeless, bundles of stirring rags everywhere.
No religion is blameless in the territory of injustice, and such injustices are perpetrated all too often in the name of God, Allah, G-d, Jehovah, et al.
Los Angeles, California
Back to top
Original material by John Rechy appears
frequently on these pages.