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Child sex abuse link to celibacy
Inquiry into Church's handling of sex abuse


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#1 Feral Borgia

Posted 24 January 2013 - 06:18 PM

I thought this was an interesting article in today's smh.....

I know in one of the previous threads here regarding the whole child sex abuse issue within the church the issue of celibacy was raised, but many felt it was not a factor in why sex abuse occurred within the church at the high levels which has been reported.

this article is reporting that a former priest has told the state inquiry into child sex abuse that "theres a tolerance for imperfection about celibacy, and that may have led to a lessening of outrage at sex with children"

responding to a question as to whether "priests believed only sex with women counted as real sex (breaking celibacy vows) and that homosexual sex and child sex did not" the former priest responded "sometimes".

I think this is interesting. Sure, it's one man's opinion, but he's a former priest, and he's giving evidence at an inquiry, so I think that lends some weight to his testimony.

#2 Angelot

Posted 24 January 2013 - 10:08 PM

I've done a lot of reading and thinking about this.

My theory is that with celibacy, it's not the absence of sex in itself, but the isolation, the dysfunctional power dynamics and other conditions which can put clergy under prolonged and unrelieved stress, a stress which it is often taboo for them to acknowledge.  This then plays out in highly dysfunctional patterns of behaviour; it's not just abuse (and it's not just sexual abuse), but high levels of anxiety, depression, burnout...there are a whole range of symptoms.

Living a truly healthy life as a celibate priest is really tough, and a very delicate balancing act, and the church is not good at acknowledging that or providing appropriate supports.

#3 Feral Borgia

Posted 25 January 2013 - 08:32 AM

QUOTE (Ange Vert @ 24/01/2013, 11:08 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Living a truly healthy life as a celibate priest is really tough, and a very delicate balancing act, and the church is not good at acknowledging that or providing appropriate supports.

Indeed, I thought it was interesting in the article where he said he was not given any training about celibacy in the seminary and that many priests were ill- equipped.

of course he is older, perhaps training has now been introduced.....

#4 FeralBob!

Posted 25 January 2013 - 08:41 AM

Plus, and I will stress I am talking from an Irish perspective here, so many men went into the priesthood, not because they felt they had a vocation, but because they didn't want to acknowledge their homosexuality, because their families didn't want to split the small family landholding, because there was a lot of prestige attached to having a priest in the family and for a whole lot of reasons that had little, if anything to do with religion and serving god.

Add celibacy into that mix, and it's no wonder there were problems.

#5 noi'mnot

Posted 25 January 2013 - 08:47 AM

I think a combination of Ange Vert's and HappyNewBob!'s answers are a good analysis of the situation. Overstressed, overworked, undersupported and undertrained priests/clergy who perhaps took on this vocation under pressure or for the wrong reasons or just when they were too young to make such a huge decision.

I also think, though, that the "it's not considered real sex" excuse is a pretty poor one. I'm not Christian so I'm not pretending to be an expert here, but I'm pretty sure that the bible is pretty categorically against men having sex with men or adults having sex with children.

#6 Angelot

Posted 25 January 2013 - 09:01 AM

QUOTE (noi'mnot @ 25/01/2013, 09:47 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I also think, though, that the "it's not considered real sex" excuse is a pretty poor one. I'm not Christian so I'm not pretending to be an expert here, but I'm pretty sure that the bible is pretty categorically against men having sex with men or adults having sex with children.


No, it's not that simple.  I think what that guy was getting at, in a way, is that in order for some men to cope with celibacy, they make women out to be evil or undesirable.  They deal with the tension of frustrated desire by a sleight-of-mind in which women come to represent temptation, fallenness, evil.  They manufacture revulsion as a self-protective mechanism.  And then as they fall victim to their own double-mindedness, sex with another man doesn't seem to have the same taint to it.

At that point it's waaaay beyond what the Bible says (or even what the church says) and in the depths of subconscious coping mechanisms.

#7 Feral_Pooks

Posted 25 January 2013 - 09:13 AM

I agree with a lot of what has been said. I have a friend who was sent to a school geared towards joining the priesthood as a teenager back in the day (minor seminary? Forgive me, I am not Catholic and am not sure how these things work, I am not sure such places exist here anymore), and he told me is was a very dysfunctional place for a teenage boy, that he wasn't able to have the normal experiences of adolescence and he thinks this is relevant also. All of the normal teenage boy stuff going on, hormonally, emotionally, whatever- in an environment where sexuality is über suppressed and you're around men and, mostly, boys only... He is aware that some of his peers went on to be abusers, and was aware at the time of some of the priests having "unusual relationships" with some of the boys.

Efs

Edited by Pooks_, 25 January 2013 - 09:14 AM.


#8 seayork2002

Posted 25 January 2013 - 09:15 AM

So it has nothing to do with choosing a profession where it holds easier access to children??? they can blame what they like but they choose to do it.

#9 Lokum

Posted 25 January 2013 - 09:21 AM

Loke Pooks said, many went into very odd or artificial environments in the seminary from a young age, and so their personal, sexual, psychological development as an adult was stunted in a way.
They then went out to minister in the community, and their own sexual identity was stuck in their late teens. Someone has produced a sort of bio of interviews with priests on the issue of celibacy recently, and one priest admitted that he found teaching high school girls difficult as they are at a sexualised, highly attractive stage in their lives, and he had e er had a relationship with an actual adut woman so he was definitely hot for them.
Plus the structural way the Catholic church does consider women to be an inferior animal ... It seems obvious that this weird, stunted oppression of enforced celibacy will lead to aberrant behaviour.

#10 matt1972

Posted 25 January 2013 - 09:27 AM

Are there other religions with an adherence to celibacy with such major problems regarding child sexual abuse?

#11 Oriental lily

Posted 25 January 2013 - 09:39 AM

I personally think forced celibacy in the catholic church is inhumane.
It's not normal for priests or nuns to live a life like that.

And I agree with Ange Vert that the enviroment and lifestyle is a perfect breeding ground to create sexual dysfunctions and mental illnesses.

Yes we all have free choice.

But there  are factors and influences that lead to particular choices.


Celibacy is  probably is just one of various reasons why there is so much sexual abuse in the catholic church.

I think their would be others who are attracted to it priesthood due to already having a sexual dysfunction or sexual leanings that are not approved by the catholic church.

A celibate life that avoids having to get married and have a catholic approved 'normal' sexual reationship with a woman might be appealing.

I think many priests would join the order for many unhealthy reasons other than a spiritual 'calling'.
And these would be the ones more of rsks of developing a dysfunctional mental and sexual state.

#12 seayork2002

Posted 25 January 2013 - 09:41 AM

So being able to have 'normal ' sex with a Man or Woman would stop abuse??? what about all the abusers in 'normal' relationships?

#13 Feral Borgia

Posted 25 January 2013 - 09:46 AM

QUOTE (matt1972 @ 25/01/2013, 10:27 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Are there other religions with an adherence to celibacy with such major problems regarding child sexual abuse?

I don't know the answer to this, it's an interesting question and one worthwhile exploring. I have a feeling Buddhist priests might be celibate...? I could be completely wrong on this though .....

#14 steppy

Posted 25 January 2013 - 09:51 AM

I thought respectable vocation that advocate celibacy just might be more attractive to people who realise their sexual leanings are not welcome in the community.

#15 rbat

Posted 25 January 2013 - 09:52 AM

QUOTE
So being able to have 'normal ' sex with a Man or Woman would stop abuse??? what about all the abusers in 'normal' relationships?


Absolutely agree.

In addition though, those in priesthood have greater access to more children than those within a home. I don't think celibacy is the only factor but definitely is one. Great discussion so far.

#16 matt1972

Posted 25 January 2013 - 09:53 AM

QUOTE (Lucretia Borgia @ 25/01/2013, 10:46 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I don't know the answer to this, it's an interesting question and one worthwhile exploring. I have a feeling Buddhist priests might be celibate...? I could be completely wrong on this though .....

Yeah that was my first thought too.
Wiki says some Buddhist Monks and Nuns are required to be celibate but can leave and come back if they choose to explore other options

#17 Oriental lily

Posted 25 January 2013 - 10:00 AM

Seayorks2002 I guess it comes down to th billion dollar question of how an abuser is created
Born that way?
Made that way?
Mental illness?
Simply evil?

I think the idea is being a celibate priest within the catholic church creates the 'perfect storm' for them to become an abuser.

I have no doubt as well that their of thousands and thousands of people in society right now who are attracted to children and perhaps have fantasies of having sex with children.

But will never do it because of a good strong will and knowing the pain they would cause their victims.
Of course we will never know about these people.
But they could be loving members of families and good contributers to society.

#18 opethmum

Posted 25 January 2013 - 10:21 AM

I think that there needs to be a major shake up of the priesthood. I think that celibacy whilst an honourable sacrifice can lead to a whole host of problems and can lead to major temptations. I think that too many men and women go into the ministry with blinders on and think overwhelmingly the celibacy won't affect them and all too often the complexity of the sacrifice can lead them heart broken and desolate.
We need to support these men and women and offer as much help as possible if the temptation is too much to bear and set up ministry options where their spiritual vocations can be met and that they can feel secure in the knowledge that they are not going to be viewed as some deserter.
I feel genuinely for them and I think too many men and women were pressured into this type of ministry too early in their lives e.g poverty, family situation, institutionalisation etc and due to them not being "allowed" to explore a healthy life outside the church and therefore celibacy was fraught and was too much to bear and unfortunately they committed acts of abuse to silence the demons. Now I acknowledge that this is not an excuse and they had choices to not commit these horrible acts but it certainly did weigh heavily on their decision making process.
I think that priests and nuns should be allowed to marry and be able to maintain their spiritual vocations and allowed to return to their ministry within the church when it is conducive to do so.

#19 Angelot

Posted 25 January 2013 - 10:40 AM

QUOTE (seayork2002 @ 25/01/2013, 10:15 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
So it has nothing to do with choosing a profession where it holds easier access to children??? they can blame what they like but they choose to do it.


I don't think so.  I mean, good grief, if you wanted to abuse children, and you were choosing a profession on that basis, you wouldn't choose the priesthood.  Quite apart from anything else, there are so many priests whose work brings them into limited or almost no contact with kids - and in the Catholic system, it's not like you get to pick and choose where you're going to work.

(And that's aside from the poverty thing, the obedience thing, the enormously hard work and the many other sacrifices).  There would be easier ways to get access to kids, if that's what you were after.

Also, that way of talking about it treats it as if one just becomes a priest because one decides to.  It's actually not easy to get accepted, far more people get told no, or simply drop out of the training, than ever actually get ordained.  In that regard it's not like any other profession.

I'm not in favour of maintaining compulsory celibacy for priests, but I think the question of monks and nuns is separate.  The monastic life is a completely different kettle of fish again.

#20 noi'mnot

Posted 25 January 2013 - 10:46 AM

QUOTE (Ange Vert @ 25/01/2013, 10:01 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
No, it's not that simple.  I think what that guy was getting at, in a way, is that in order for some men to cope with celibacy, they make women out to be evil or undesirable.  They deal with the tension of frustrated desire by a sleight-of-mind in which women come to represent temptation, fallenness, evil.  They manufacture revulsion as a self-protective mechanism.  And then as they fall victim to their own double-mindedness, sex with another man doesn't seem to have the same taint to it.

At that point it's waaaay beyond what the Bible says (or even what the church says) and in the depths of subconscious coping mechanisms.



That's a pretty fascinating interpretation. So the taint that exists in some interpretations of the Bible regarding homosexual sex is out-tainted by this revulsion of women? Yes, that is way beyond what the bible says (in my understanding of it).

How do you think they then reconcile those teachings of the bible that are respectful and celebrating of women? How do they go about marrying people and such (marriage being, in my understanding, a sacred thing) when they are so disdainful of women? I guess what I'm getting to is, is it just a personal thing for them that they don't project onto others?

Sorry, I'm not meaning to be obtuse or anything, and I'm not trying to ask you to rationalise something as irrational as paedophilia. I'm just trying to understand how men who are meant to be so uber-religious are reconciling something that's so wrong in their bible with what they're doing. Maybe you can't answer that, but I'd like to see what you have to say in regards to your above interpretation.

#21 Lokum

Posted 25 January 2013 - 10:52 AM

QUOTE (seayork2002 @ 25/01/2013, 10:41 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
So being able to have 'normal ' sex with a Man or Woman would stop abuse??? what about all the abusers in 'normal' relationships?


Catholic priests in Victoria are estimated (based on known/alleged abuse, excl those never reported) to sexually offend against children at a rate 6 times that of other men in the community.

So there is definitely an issue going on with Catholic priests beyond what's just "out there" in the world. Whether it's chicken or egg, celibacy or access to children, -  warrants exploration. You can't write off sexual predation by priests as the same as predation by non-priests because of the sheer numbers, and because of the institutional cloak of protection which has been thrown over abusers AND because of the trusted nature of their positions.

Edited to make sense

Edited by Lokum, 25 January 2013 - 10:53 AM.


#22 Z-girls rock

Posted 25 January 2013 - 10:55 AM

QUOTE (Lucretia Borgia @ 25/01/2013, 10:46 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I don't know the answer to this, it's an interesting question and one worthwhile exploring. I have a feeling Buddhist priests might be celibate...? I could be completely wrong on this though .....



Buddhist monks and nuns are celibate yes.

I dont have a lot to add as I have mostly been outside a religious community (being raised agnostic and having become a Buddhist as an adult).

But I thought it was interesting that there were submissions to the sex abuse inquiry coming from the Jewish community involving cover-ups and Rabbi's. Since Rabbi's are not celibate http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/jewry-ac...1210-2b5o7.html

Also I lived in the Phillipines for a while as an adult. The Phillipines is very Catholic, but most of my friends talked about wanting to sleep with priests. And there were lots of stories about people sleeping with priests etc.
I was shocked as I thought they had to be celebate - but there seems to be some understanding that Celebacy means 'not getting married' rather then 'abstaining from sex'....
hhhhmmmm I think someone is taking liberties!

#23 Bart.

Posted 25 January 2013 - 10:56 AM

I agree with most in this thread.  Celibacy is not a natural state for most people and to restrict it to an entire group has been a grievous mistake by the Catholic ministry.  

In the first five hundred years of Christianity, those who managed to overcome a human's most primitive urges were held in esteem.  In the 4rd C AD, St Anthony hid in a cave to avoid persecution by the decrees of the Emperor Decius and he undertook a vow of asceticism, which meant he gave up everything, including only the most basic of food, in order to fully concentrate on prayer.  It was decided that Anthony was  proving his total dedication to God and others followed.  Anthony wrote about his Famous Temptations:

"The enemy would suggest filthy thoughts, but Anthony would dissipate them by his prayers. The wretched devil even dared to masquerade as a woman by night."

In the latter part of his life, Anthony began to gather other ascetics around him on Sundays for a meal and worship.  Another Christian hermit, Pachomius, also of the 4th century, starts a few small communes where each person has their own lodgings but come together to eat and worship.  Thus, the monastery and celibacy is born.

However, in those days, it was a choice for these celebates to live together, they were supported in their celibacy and helped each other through the struggles of it.  In the intervening centuries, monks, nuns and priests were just told it was evil and weakness of character and hence, the issues related above by PPs.

#24 Angelot

Posted 25 January 2013 - 11:23 AM

QUOTE (noi'mnot @ 25/01/2013, 11:46 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
How do you think they then reconcile those teachings of the bible that are respectful and celebrating of women? How do they go about marrying people and such (marriage being, in my understanding, a sacred thing) when they are so disdainful of women? I guess what I'm getting to is, is it just a personal thing for them that they don't project onto others?

Sorry, I'm not meaning to be obtuse or anything, and I'm not trying to ask you to rationalise something as irrational as paedophilia. I'm just trying to understand how men who are meant to be so uber-religious are reconciling something that's so wrong in their bible with what they're doing. Maybe you can't answer that, but I'd like to see what you have to say in regards to your above interpretation.


Ok, bearing in mind that I'm talking about a mindset for some guys, who have committed to celibacy and struggle with it.  This is not a universal, although I suspect at times it has run quite wide and deep in clerical culture.

This mindset flourishes with clericalism; the view that priests are special, holy, closer to God, on a pedestal, basically, over the ordinary believers.  So it might be fine for laity to marry, but that's already a bit second-best in the Christian life.  Bear in mind that for Catholics, the distinction between priest and laity is really sharp; a lay person can't even preach.  It's only relatively recent that seminarians have started studying their theology alongside lay people and even (gasp!) women or people who aren't Catholic.  This kind of move is viewed with deep distrust by some, too.  Priests have tended to live in a world apart.

I don't know if I can explain it well.  I look at it from the outside and I see how pathologies can flourish in loneliness and isolation.  The reading that I've done suggests that abuse is not unrelated to the impulse to self-harm; it's a dysfunctional coping mechanism for deep distress.  So these guys wouldn't be able to give you a calm, reasoned argument as to how the Bible condones what they're doing, because not only don't they have one, they are so far from being able to confront that cognitive dissonance that they've compartmentalised the two things, sealed them away from one another.

One single thing is never the whole answer, though.  As a piece of anecdata, the one priest I personally know who has been accused of child sex offences is an Anglican, married with two children of his own.  What was going on for him, I have no idea (actually I'm not certain he's guilty, I believe it's still being investigated), but it was obviously very different to the picture I've painted above.

#25 noi'mnot

Posted 25 January 2013 - 12:04 PM

Thanks for that, Ange Vert. Yes, I absolutely understand that you're only talking about that proportion who are abusers.

Your answer actually clearly up the next question I had as well, which was how it all relates to power. I guess if Catholic priests (specifically those with these pathological behaviours) really see themselves as so far above others then that answers that. I understand what you're saying and you've explained it really well, thank you.

It really is a sad state of affairs.




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