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Friday, March 12, 2010

Feeling hopeful

The pope has now been included in the abuse problem in Germany (Pope Benedict's former diocese rehoused abuser priest). This news, although disturbing, makes me feel hopeful - hopeful that some positive changes in the church might result from all this. Conservative Cardinal Christoph Schönborn is questioning mandatory celibacy and the Vatican newspaper thinks the abuse crises wouldn't have been so bad if women had had more of a role in the church. Maybe instead of blaming sexual abuse on gay priests, the church will finally come to see mandatory celibacy and an all-male clergy as factors in sexual abuse, and allow married men and women to be priests. Here's a bit from an article on the subject at America magazine's blog ....


Identity crisis
- Kevin Clarke

[...] In the many sociological studies of U.S. clergy the number of men who have identified themselves or have been identified by researchers as gay ranges anywhere between 30 to 48 percent. Is it possible that similar percentages do not pertain to the highest levels of our church? Is it possible that the attitudes toward gay and lesbian people and church policies related to them are distorted in a similar manner as the policies supported by America’s closeted gay politicians?

Sickeningly familiar revelations of sexual abuse are now roiling Europe just as they did America a few years ago. This week, because of the unfolding abuse crisis in Europe, several notable voices called for a hard institutional self-examination: “Enough” says Cardinal Kasper; L’Osservatore Romano publishes an article calling for women in leadership roles; Vienna’s Cardinal Christoph Schonborn calls for an "unflinching examination" of causes of the scandal, including "the question of priest celibacy and the question of personality development”; and Father Hans Kung flatly states, “Compulsory celibacy is the principal reason for today’s catastrophic shortage of priests, for the fatal neglect of eucharistic celebration, and for the tragic breakdown of personal pastoral ministry in many places.”

Despite such exhortations, if the hierarchy in Europe follows the U.S. model, there will be an effort soon to blame the problem on homosexuality and efforts will be made to weed out men with “deeply rooted” gay tendencies (as opposed to “transitory,” I kid you not) from the seminaries and the priesthood—a crusade against ourselves of course and an offense to the gay clergy who are living their ministries in service to the People of God with loyalty to the church and in fidelity to their vows.

Whatever becomes of mandatory priestly celibacy and however the church extricates itself from this latest sexual abuse crisis, the church needs to find a way to install, not just women, but married men and mothers and fathers in leadership roles to protect the health and wholeness of the institution. That is one overdue measure to help ensure that the positions the church takes and the policies she promotes and maintains for herself are not originating in a place where one person’s crisis of self-awareness and identity intrudes on the integrity and mercy of our expression of faith and the mission of the church.



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