Saint Francis Xavier Catholic Church
Kansas City's Jesuit Parish
1001 East 52nd Street, Kansas City, MO 64110
Office Hours: Monday - Friday, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm

Thursday, Aug. 23rd 2018

Male Domination is at the Center of the Crisis – August 23, 2018

This past week there has been a lot of talk about mandatory celibacy and its role in the sex abuse crisis of the Catholic Church. I don’t believe in mandatory celibacy for priests. It just doesn’t make sense. It’s not necessary. It’s not biblical.  It’s not historical.  It’s not healthy.  I agree 100% with Father Richard Rohr’s statement that “until the Catholic church disconnects celibacy from ministry…we will continue to have ordained men, who are both unhappy, unhealthy, and a scandal to the Body of Christ.”

But I think it’s important to remember that most people who sexually abuse children do not make a promise of celibacy.  They are the dad, the uncle, the stepfather, the babysitter, the band teacher, the soccer coach, the neighbor down the street.

And most people who are celibate, either by choice or by life circumstance, do not abuse children. Not-having a sexual partner does not make one “unhealthy.” It does not make one abuse children.  Whatever loose screw makes someone abuse children – it’s not the absence of a sexual partner. 

As horrific as it is to ponder the sexual abuse visited upon children and teens by priests, the real question for me is “why did bishops, cardinals and other church officials look the other way?” And not just look the other way – why did they work so very hard to cover it up?

This is not about celibacy. This is about power.  This is about patriarchy.  This is about male domination.  This is about a clerical culture that says priests and bishops and cardinals and popes are “special” and “different” and “closer to God.”  But they are not.  They are human beings.  And just like all of us, they need to be held accountable for their actions.

Voice of the Faithful, a lay organization of faithful Catholics, organized in 2002 as a response to the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, released a study “Clerical Culture Among Roman Catholic Diocesan Clergy” . It directly addresses the characteristics that distinguish priesthood from other professions:

+ the hierarchical and patriarchal structure of the church

+ papal allegiance

+ an ordination that is said to confer an ontological change

+ seminary education and training (usually in isolation from lay people, especially women)

+ celibacy requirements

+ relative independence and very little supervision or oversight

+ clothing and dress

+ special privileges concerning compensation and lifestyle.

The study acknowledges that “many priests…manage to escape this sense of superiority and to focus on their roles as servant leaders of the parish community.” BUT the study concludes “the temptations of clerical elitism are always there.” 

I always assumed that women would be ordained by the time I was forty. But I never wanted to be ordained a priest as the priesthood now exists. 

May God direct our actions as we move into the unknown future.

[I borrowed the phrase “male domination is at the center of the crisis” from Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber. She was writing about the #Me Too and Time’s Up! movements. Check out her amazing work here. ]

Leave a Reply

Saint Francis Xavier Catholic Church
1001 East 52nd Street, Kansas City, MO 64110
Office Hours: Monday - Friday, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm

Facebook  Twitter