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Close the seminaries, healing comes first

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History's greatest sinner

The Sin of Celibacy

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34 Bent out of shape by clerical celibacy

by William Cleary

The Bingo Report: Mandatory Celibacy and Clergy Sexual Abuse

by Louise Haggett

In the deep mines of this too ambitious underground book are veins of pure gold. You'll be heartened to see proof at last that celibacy itself and the intense loneliness that goes with it -- helps to foment priestly sexual abuse. You'll hear from some 200 priests and victims scientifically chosen who tell you what it's like to be a priest today, and how faithful-to-vows they think priests are (not very), and how much the official church cares about misbehaving priests (not at all, unless scandal arises.) You'll hear heartbreaking comments from victims of predatory priests and get a sense of the horrific state of despair among clergy persons worldwide. Will you enjoy reading it? No. Should you read it? Yes. The book not easy to read and rather casually edited and designed still is a treasure of wisdom for the Church.

Part of my own personal questioning over the years about the clergy scandals is to ask myself why I feel required to at least monitor the daily disgraces found on the NCR Clergy Abuse Tracker (http://www.ncrnews.org/abuse/). I feel I have to read the books about it too the latest of which is Priests, Sex, and Secret Files by Thomas Doyle and Richard Sipe, Bonus Books, 2005 not yet available as I write this. Answer: because my ongoing responses are radical, and include insisting the Church in the US close down the seminary system entirely. I believe no other solution will stop the disease and infection that is poisoning the Church. In Haggett's book there is plenty of evidence that only something radical will heal the illness which is picked up by priests not so much from the flow of culture in general shows this study -- but from the subculture of the priesthood itself. The principal conclusions of the Haggett study demonstrate that most priests:

1. Don't believe in divine retribution for breaking their vows

2. Know overwhelmingly that other priests break their vows

3. Know overwhelmingly that the church acknowledges the breaking of vows

4. Know that the church almost never disciplines misbehaving priests, and only does it when scandal is present.

In Chapter One I was immediately caught up in the story. For starters, Haggett stumbled on her most explosive issue completely by accident, she says, at a talk given by Rev. Candice Connors at a NFPC conference Haggett attended in 1993 as a participant. What she heard from Connors set her heart on fire and she is able to convey that feeling in her account of the event. She sat there in disbelief. Connors, head of a facility for healing predatory priests, was begging the audience of priests to take back into service a group he called epedophiles that is, priests who misbehaved with adolescents and not with children. He also insisted that there was absolutely no connection between celibacy and sexual abuse. Both these statements started Haggett on the long years of study that led finally to this book.

Haggett asks: Celibacy Is The Issue? You mean as a explanation for the abominable clergy sex scandals throughout the world? But of course. Wait: not homosexuality as its cause? No, that's nonsense.

But whence the deviance into crimes against youngsters? Celibacy guilty again. The rule of celibacy skews the personalities of those entering, then the culture of the seminary further bends it out of shape. The subculture of priest residences and monasteries further twists the priesthood out of balance. Celibacy is the issue at the heart of it all, the bad idea that has now, and over hundreds of years, injured and destroyed many lives and souls and the gospel values of the so-called "catholic" Church. Some come through unscathed and are glories to the church. But celibacy is the defining issue to explain what is happening, the poisonous idea that has sickened the whole Church. Read about it and weep. #



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