Click & Learn
THE NEW GENRE
AND RENEWED APPROACHES TO OLD TOPICS

2006-04-30

Like Dave’s Book (Click & Learn 2006-03-15) former priest Richard Rosenberger presents his memoir and reflections in X PRIEST: Protest With Purpose. 2004. (available from: www.leatherspublishing.com) This is a view inside a vocation to the priesthood, through its seminaries, parish assignments, and back into what he calls the real world. He is among many men who have found their real vocation outside the institutional structure of the Catholic Church. He is grateful, not bitter, about his experience in the church, but continues to search the broader fields of spirituality and service without the constraints of formal ministry.

Education for celibacy and sexuality has been, and still is, notably deficient in training programs for priests and religious. The clergy sex abuse scandal has highlighted this deficiency that has been documented for decades, notably in the 1972 Kennedy-Heckler psychological profile of American priests and the National Opinion Research Center sociological study of the American priesthood published in the same year. Len Sperry’s book SEX, PRIESTLY MINISTRY & THE CHURCH 2003 (Liturgical Press) deals frankly with the spectrum of sexual and development problems of Catholic priests. Two-thirds of the book has to do with clergy sexual misconduct, its prevention, selection of suitable candidates, homosexuality, and removal of offending priests from ministry. It is a good book. Bishops and lay people should read it too.

Another book that makes sense and was also inspired by the clergy sexual abuse crisis is CLERICAL CULTURE: Contradiction and Transformation 2004 by Michael Papesh, a diocesan from St. Paul Minnesota. It addresses problems priests experience by being priests—they do exist in a special and rarified atmosphere, evaluated and challenged at the same time. Clericalism is a constant danger for men dedicated to religion, but supported by power, money and control. The challenge to integrity persists from the time of the Scribes and Pharisees to the present. Many observers claim that the clerical culture is at the center of the abuse crisis and how it is still playing out in the American church. The more priests and people examine clerical culture—clericalism—the greater chance the church will have of “purifying” itself in ways Pope Benedict XVI has indicated are needed.

The clergy abuse crisis has also brought the question of homosexuality and the priesthood into renewed focus. I don’t know of anyone, in or out of the clergy culture, who will argue against the proposition that a larger proportion of priests and bishops have a homosexual orientation than exists in the general population. One of the misconceptions, however, that does need to be clarified is that homosexuals are more prone to be child abusers than heterosexuals. That in not true. The fact is that sexual orientation and object of sexual attraction are distinct and separate psychic and physical realities. Homosexual orientation is just as distinct from the abuse of minors as heterosexual orientation is. That is the simple reality.

But blame for the huge problem of Catholic clergy abusing minors—that is indeed connected with clericalism—is wrongly foisted on homosexuality. If any good comes out of this error it will be in the open discussion and exploration of the real issues involved. A new book of essays GAY CATHOLIC PRIESTS & CLERICAL SEXUAL MISCONDUCT: Breaking the Silence 2005 (orders@HaworthPress.com) goes a long way toward intelligent discussion of the issues.

Another book, one I have not yet seen, purports to be an exposť of homosexuality—primarily among the American hierarchy. The advertisements claim to name 30 homosexual bishops; that, of course, is fewer by half of the names on other vetted lists, and one fourth of the number of names on a list that has been circulated for several years.  Investigative reporter Tracy Engel seems to have pieced together a great number of journalistic reports to come up with 1,300 pages entitled THE RITE OF SODOMY that will be available in July. It will be interesting to see if this contributes to the clarification of issues or an attack. Videbimus.

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