Life and its long lesson of humility.

I’m going to try and make a serious comment about the latest round of Catholic sex scandals, as it’s something I shouldn’t really care about, being non-religious, and yet somehow I do, being still somewhat sentimental for my Catholic upbringing.

As a Confirmed but irredeemably-lapsed Catholic, I can say that all this recent stuff nevertheless makes me very sad, because (& let’s not underestimate here) by and large the clergy of the Church are doing great work and I personally know many priests who have sacrificed so many decades of their personal lives to serve the Greater Good (yeah, the one with the capital letters) many of whom I have reason to believe are very likely agnostic at best. To be so dedicated to a cause without the easy belief system to back it up (because being a priest is far more of an intellectual pursuit than any other sort of religious vocation that I know of) is just a Herculean task, and the sadness I feel is primarily based upon my acknowledgment that all of this selfless dedication is just so very hard to sustain.

It is just too hard to do, for most people. Poverty, chastity, and obedience…these are the three tenets of the priesthood, and I feel that it is only a matter of time now that these tenets will have to be realigned, not that the vow of chastity per se is the cause of the pedophilia. That would be like saying, as the Right does all the time, that gay people are just one step away from fucking children, horses, or otherwise breaking all manner of sordid taboos. No, the way I see it, any profession that requires such austerity as a cost of entry is simply going to be infiltrated with people who are either trying too hard to escape their demons, or else are bluntly looking for a way to game the system. And with the easy authority that being a priest provides, it is reasonable to suppose that some of these guys have willfully pursued such a vocation with that kind of betrayal in mind, though I’m sure that in most cases it isn’t consciously regarded in such stark terminology.

So in order to get past this disaster (and it is a disaster: my own family, I’m sure is simply horrified by the whole years-long saga), in order to attract a more healthy seminarian I think the Vatican has no other choice than to break with the old traditions and just let the clergy start to behave more like the humans they are. I think, for starters, they’ll see a huge upswing in the number of people heading for the convent (and make no mistake, this would be a huge plus for them, as there has been a perennial decline in the number of young priests entering the field). There will, of course, be a serious backlash from the hardliners who all these years later still have a bone to pick for the 2nd Vatican Council, and they may even see another orthodoxical split as a result…….. But the alternative, I fear, is either slow and steady irrelevance to the requirements of the times or, as a worst case, eventual dissolution, and if that were to happen, I must say that even though I’m not really much for religious dogma, I’m willing to wager it would begin something of a societal decline, if not here than particularly in some of the poorer South American countries, which would be very hard to pivot out of through secularization.  I say this with all respect to the Humanists I have known.  I mean, hey, I’m on that team myself, but that doesn’t mean I necessarily think the rest of the world is quite so ready for a open-ended view of life as the one I hold dear.

It really is a very big deal, and I don’t feel that, based on his response so far, Benedict is anything other than a company man. The Church is in need of a real moral leader, and unfortunately it does not seem to have one at the moment.

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4 Responses to “Life and its long lesson of humility.”


  1. 1 Jeannie March 28, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    I wonder, though, what the consequences would be to the congregation if priests were allowed to be human. I think some of the appeal is the archaic ideal of the holy man; he’s closer to God, therefore more than human. Would a change like that breakdown the priestly mystique? If so, what would it mean to the common person in the pew, especially women who tend to look at the priest as the one non-threatening man they can confess anything to? Would God’s mediator in the pulpit be lessened, and therefore less relevant, if he no longer sacrifices these very human needs? I don’t necessarily think it’s the Church balking at these changes so much as the followers who need their leaders to “look” as certain way.

    Just some thoughts.

    • 2 bootsinowski March 28, 2010 at 8:46 pm

      Yeah that was more or less the response I got last night on the blog I originally posted this on. It’s a good point and I do not have an answer for it. I just don’t really see any other way out from here. The scandal has been going on since we were in high school, basically. That’s too long to just continue to sweep it under the rug.

  2. 3 Jeannie March 31, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    I agree with you completely and I think the Catholic Church has tortured it’s priests far too long. However, I’m not sure that this is the answer to the sexual abuse. Corruption and power are certainly strong factors.

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