Friday, March 25, 2011

The Church's "sex problem"

Over at the National Catholic Distorter, Thomas C. Fox links us to an essay on the Australian website Catholica by Joe Rigert, a “veteran investigative journalist”, and sociologist and former Benedictine priest Richard Sipe. Although Fox posted the link on the “NCR Today” line on Tuesday, the original Catholica editorial apparently was posted last May.

As the first person in the combox said, “Yawn. Is this what this site has become […] mere repostings of predictable anti-Catholic articles?”

Nothing in the post itself is original; in the context of today, the authors’ accusations of Pope Benedict XVI’s “complicity” in “tolerating and covering up the crimes of the priests” merely remind us that the accusations were baseless and overwrought to begin with, and are now without current interest. In fact, it appears Fox’s only purpose in linking us to Rigert’s and Sipe’s hysterical jeremiad is to get us to the conclusion:

At the very least [Pope Benedict] could open up for discussion and study the antiquated sexual teachings on such common practices as birth control, use of condoms and sex outside of marriage. Further, he could lead the way to making celibacy optional for priests and allow women in the ministry. (Would women have taken part in, or allowed, the sex abuse scandal?) And he might call for a representative church council to consider all of these basic reforms.

Of course, nobody could have seen that coming. Especially not in what Father Z is pleased to call “the National Catholic Fishwrap” (and the good Fr. Zuhlsdorf gets a hat tip for the reference). Especially not from an article whose second paragraph tells us that the predator-priest scandals are “a symptom of an outmoded, in some cases ludicrous, teaching on sex and sexuality. In short, the pope—and his church—have a sex problem.”

The article itself is far too long for a good and proper fisking; at the same time, it’s woefully short on facts.

For instance, Rigert and Sipe claim, “We can’t say, nor can anyone, what role the many sexual ‘problems’ has played in the sex-abuse crisis. We do know of compelling evidence that celibacy, as perpetuated in the culture and clergy of Ireland, has been a factor in the scandal [bold type in original].” But Rigert and Sipe never do more than allude to this compelling evidence, not even citing their own work let alone anyone else’s.

In fact, celibacy in and of itself was never a cause or a factor in the scandal, save that priests are supposed to be celibate. You can go to for a complete list of Protestant ministers named in child sexual abuse claims. To my knowledge, there is no Protestant church which requires—or even requests—celibacy of its ministers; hell, in many, you don’t even have to be straight! And the GAO released a report back in December of cases where both public and private schools that hired and protected teachers with histories of sexual misconduct; that report is only the tip of the iceberg.

In this respect, Sipe—for all his supposed expertise in clinical psychology and sociology—shows himself painfully naïve about the psychodynamics of pedophilia and ephebophilia. Indeed, if the statement about the Pope and the Church having “a sex problem” didn’t give it away, his tying the predator priest problem to celibacy shows that his knowledge of human sexuality stopped progressing about the same time he left the priesthood to marry: 1970, about the time the influence of pop psychology on the public discourse had reached its peak, when practically everyone from senators to janitors were engaging in “psychobabble”.

Even more ludicrous is the authors’ suggestion that changing the Church’s sexual teachings will somehow end the potential for further abuses. As the evidence shows, it didn’t work for any of the Protestant churches; why should it work for us? If anything, it underlines their adolescent naïveté: Do they really mean, at this time of day, to suggest to us that priests bugger 15-year-old boys because canon law forbids them to nail adult women (or men)? The requirement goes further than that—priests aren’t supposed to have sex with anybody, adult or not!

In fact, Rigert’s and Sipe’s suggestions are the usual laundry list of “reforms” plumped for by everyone who claims to act “in the spirit of Vatican II”, such as the American Catholic Council, whose list of speakers for their upcoming meeting in Detroit features such liberal dinosaurs as Fr. Hans Küng, Sr. Joan Chittister, Jeanette Rodriguez and James Carroll. The only extra demand they make is the resignation of all bishops—including the Bishop of Rome:

They must be willing to share their authority [i.e., surrender it completely] and then undertake a Sexual Copernican Shift in their basic assumptions about sexual teaching and discipline, a shift recognizing that our core sexual nature is a bio-diverse reality [what the hell does that mean?], not a theological construct. Only then will the pope and his men begin to address the crisis now inundating the church.

Why did Fox foist this blather and bleat on us? Probably because Fox, like most of the staff of the Distorter, is permanently wedded to the “hermeneutic of rupture”, the belief that Vatican II was supposed to completely do away with all the ugly, nasty, hard teachings and become “modern” (i.e. neo-pagan with an occasional mention of Christ).

Ironically, Rigert and Sipe claim that the Pope’s resignation “might help break the pattern and practice that holds the church hostage to a past that no longer meets the spiritual needs of the people.” In fact, Rigert and Sipe are hostages to a more recent past: the “sexual revolution” of the 1960s and its false promises of a healthier, happier society. The evidence, according to recent studies, actually supports the Catholic Church’s traditional teaching emphasizing restraint, monogamy and marriage.

But then, Sipe is 79, so I suppose he’d be old-fashioned and set in his ways.

1 comment:

  1. Just the other day, I dusted off my semi-dormant blog and wrote of my utter incomprehension of where these people are coming from.

    You're welcome to wander over there for the detailed questions I'm pondering; but most of it boils down to simply this:

    1) What, exactly, would constitute the alternate sexual ethics they have in mind? ("Get rid of the Church's antiquated teachings on sex" does not count.)

    2) How can they possibly square whatever reformed ethics they create with any sect or movement or tradition of any significance, in any of the great monotheistic religions, as any of them ever existed up to about the middle of the last century?

    It has always been my impression that the answers are, respectively:

    1) They don't have one, and are fine with that, as simply getting rid of any and all rules is the whole point.

    2) They can't, because it's not possible, and they know full well that it's not possible.

    But surely this doesn't give them nearly enough credit? If the emperor really had no clothes whatsoever, surely not even the National Catholic Fishwrap would still be taking them seriously after all these years...right?


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