|CELIBACY - SEX & RESEARCH|
In June 2009 a journalist posed the following six questions; she was doing research for an article related to celibacy and the sexual behavior of Roman Catholic priests. Her inquiry inspired me to think about the areas she asked about. Here is the result:
Question 1. I read in your research that at any given time only 50% of priests are celibate. I think that study was published in 1990 and I wondered if there had been any updated research since then. Do you believe those figures are still accurate?
Answer: I do think that the basic figures of Roman Catholic clergy sexual activity recorded in my 25-year ethnographic study still has validity and presents an accurate profile of celibate observance in the United States.i At any one time at least 50 percent of Roman Catholic clergy are sexually active in one way or another. The number of gay men among the ordained has certainly increased since that study was completed in 1985, but I have found that gay priests practice celibacy and are sexually active in a similar proportion to heterosexual clergy. I collected the data and processed it with an eye to its longitudinal significance so that future studies could examine and validate my observations. My wife, who is a psychiatrist, and I sought a "base line" of behaviors from the data we had. The study was not focused on one behavior, but the overall patterns of sexual adjustment aimed at celibate practice that the Catholic clerical system requires. The child abuse crisis, however, has made a great deal of data about that specific behavior available. Compare my figures of clergy sex with minors between 1960 and 1985 (6 percent) with the study the US bishops commissioned. The John Jay School of Criminal Justice using data from diocesan files, shows that 6 ½ percent of priests ordained during that same period were reported for minor abuse.ii My conclusion is that the "Celibate/Sexual System" of the Roman Catholic Church produces and will continue to produce similar proportions of sexual behaviors precisely because it is a cultural system. I no longer have access to direct interviews of clergy as I once did, but the increasing number documents from the files of various dioceses are being made public at the demand of court judges.iii
Question 2. Your study was about the US but is there any reason to think the figures are different in other parts of the world? (I read about the Spanish study in 1995 but wondered if there had been anything since.)
Answer: Yes, my study is limited to the USA. I think that combinations of sexual behaviors may vary from country to country and culture to culture, but from all the studies available it is safe to say that a substantial number of clergy are sexually active around the world. For instance Central and South American priests are "expected" to have a woman despite maintaining the cultural façade of celibacy. One bishop from the area famously said that it was „difficult to find a candidate for the bishopric who had not fathered a child.‟ The church in Africa is different. There is no cultural tradition or value placed on celibacy in Africa. In fact the opposite is true; the unmarried man is held in disdain and viewed with suspicion. Fecundity and sexual prowess are major components that merit respect for an African man. Missionaries report that some African bishops live
openly with more than one wife and family. Homosexuality and child abuse by Catholic clergy in these cultures certainly occur, but these cultures are more tolerant and supportive of heterosexual activity of clergy and opposed—sometimes violently—to homosexuality. Women reported research on sexual behaviors of priests in The Netherlands and Switzerland; many of them had been involved with priests. Some of the European studies were more directly aimed at questioning the validity and effectiveness of mandated celibacy and looked for support for the movement toward a married clergy.iv Fr. Victor Kotze is a priest sociologist from South Africa; although his primary focus was on clergy sexual activity with women he recorded a variety of behaviors.v Every study, however, no matter the method used, came to the conclusion that between 45 and 50 percent of the priests (respondents or observed) were sexually active in the previous three-year period. Pepe Rodriguez‟ study of sexual activity of priests in Spain gives a picture of a range of behaviors as does my study of clergy.vi My observations are limited to the Roman Catholic clergy in the United States as his are to Spain. Problems about sexual activity of supposedly celibate priests and bishops are as old as the priesthood itself. The effects of sexual/celibate malfeasance are demonstrated in the power system and human nature, namely: the way the system of clerical power imposes itself on sexual human nature and perverts and distorts religion and lives. Some sexual outlets for professed celibate men may find more tolerance in one place than the other, but historical documents show that all the problems and behaviors are represented over the long haul.vii
Question 3. You mention studies that suggest that a significant proportion of priests are psychologically under developed. Is there a specific link between that and celibacy? (Is it emotional immaturity that often leads priests to walk away from the responsibility of their children as I described?)
Answer: A significant proportion of clergy are psychosexually immature (underdeveloped). The clerical system and culture fosters and preserves this immaturity that can and does allow priests and bishops to absolve themselves from personal responsibility for their sexual behaviors. Dr. Conrad Baars delivered a paper to bishops in Rome in 1971 that outlines the problems of psychosexual immaturity of a majority of Catholic clergy.viii Psychological Investigations of the American Priesthood was published in 1972. The US bishops commissioned that work conducted by Fr. Eugene Kennedy and Victor Heckler, but they never paid any attention to either statement or study in an operational way. The US study concluded that 2/3 of priests were psychosexually underdeveloped—immature. Eight to 16 percent of clergy were considered "mal-developed." The basic observations of this study remain equally valid today because the clerical culture that develops and preserves immaturity remains solidly in place. Now I would place the proportion of underdeveloped Catholic clergy even higher. I say this from my ongoing experience with sexually offending clergy and the bishops and chancery officials who cover-up offences. "I only lie when I have to" is clearly the operational motto of the hierarchy.ix I have witnessed (and the documents are on record) of cardinals and bishops who patently perjure themselves in depositions and on the witness stand.x They practice "mental reservation." We lay folk call it lying. Inability to take personal responsibility is certainly one aspect of the underdevelopment of clergy. Placing organizational image above personal integrity—and hiding behind it—
is a childish maneuver and defense. It is pervasive in the clerical culture.xi Many bishops and priests operate as if they are above mere human law, and responsible only to a higher authority. That, of course, ends up to be themselves.
Question 4. What is the psychological process that enables such significant numbers of priests to live a life that is different from the one they profess to live? (And which they preach for others.) In your experience, do many suffer from guilt - or does the emotional immaturity you write about enable them to compartmentalize different parts of their lives?
Answer: Roman Catholic Clerical Culture by the operation of its structure and authority absolves a bishop or priest from guilt and personal responsibility—avoidance of scandal and the preservation of image, not truth are preeminent.xii This is one manifestations of clergy psychosexual immaturity. Also the clerical culture fosters a sense of superiority and entitlement. This is based on the idea and teaching that an ordained priest is ontologically transformed to a higher level of existence than the ordinary human male. He is next to God and "above the angels."xiii Clerical culture preserves and fosters this attitude and translates it into demands for reverence and social advantage simply because one is a cleric and not based on any personal merit; the culture fosters a "reverential fear"xiv of clergy that translates into religious duress whereby the faithful must submit and obey even against their better judgment and interests.xv Narcissism and hostility are other manifestations of clerical psychosexual insufficiency. Two kinds of clerical narcissism allow and encourage clergy to live double lives: the first is Altruism in the Service of Narcissism. Duplicitous and even bad bishops and priests can do good work and provide many useful human, social and spiritual services to grateful, supportive and even adoring people. These good works can hide and provide a cover for selfish and self-serving hidden lives and the abuse of women and others. This becomes a deep seeded personality and character pattern and adjustment for some men in the ministry and ic common among abusers. Father Andrew Greeley elegantly portrayed this dynamic via two of his characters in his novel The Cardinal Sins.xvi One, Pat Donahue, lives a double life from the time he is a seminarian, bishop and cardinal. His classmate, Kevin Brennan, develops his celibacy, but covers up for his friend who is repeatedly abusive toward women and even fathers a child. The cultural tolerance for abuse and cover up are more graphically portrayed in this literary work than any other I am aware of.xvii The second element is Acquired Situational Narcissism: and it is woven into the warp and woof of clerical culture. RC clerical culture is laced with superiority and entitlement, not based on personal merit or achievement, but assumed by simple association and incorporation into the culture. Men who are basically more mature and whose service is relatively unmarred by immature narcissism can operate within the system for more or less extended periods of time under this institutional umbrella; others succumb to the system and never recover. Unsublimated Hostility is the other element that fosters duplicity and tolerates a "double" life that can be submerged and unincorporated into one‟s ego. "I deserve it" is the attitude of the double-dealer to his illicit pleasure. Society "owes" him for all his grudging sacrifices and service. Clergy who abuse minors demonstrate these elements of narcissism and hostility in the extreme. These cultural elements are also generally conducive to the development of sociopathic personalities. Sex (and especially mature
sexual love) is a modulator of anger or hostility. A majority of clergy is unable to deal with sexual deprivation in healthy ways such as sublimation. What other culture can tolerate (or produce) 6 to 10 percent of its population to be sexual abusers of minors? The 2009 revelations from the Irish schools and Dublin make important studies.
Question 5. The church is sometimes accused of seeing women as either Madonna or temptress. Do you believe the church attitude to women IS a bit skewed and does that, in a way, make it easier for heterosexual male priests to absolve themselves of responsibility for their actions?
Answer. The Catholic clerical culture is not only skewed, in operation it is anti-women. Women cannot have a rightful place in the clerical power system as it currently exists. And power is the key. (Cf. Bishop Geoffrey Robinson on Confronting Power & Sex in the Roman Catholic Church)xviii Over-and-over-and-over-again I have seen a number well meaning productive priests use women for their sex education that is absent and inadequate in every seminary that I know of in the USA. Some priests after they experience enough sex to reassure their male identity—that usually is to their mostly adolescent level of growth and development—they settle themselves comfortably into the male dominant system where they wield control over women. Priests and bishops use women in an institutional way—for their advantage, not in a way that actually shares power. Some priests and bishops (Sanchez, Marino, McCarthy xix, and others) have to repeat the pattern of a relationship for reassurance during most of a lifetime. Others settle into a long-lasting arrangement with a woman (Fr. Joseph Fichter, SJ estimated that 30 percent of priests in Germany and 50 percent in the Netherlands had „mistresses‟). A similar pattern and process of relationships develops with homosexually oriented priests. Archbishop Rembert Weakland is a courageous example.xx An estimated 30 percent of US bishops have a homosexual orientation. This in itself contributes to the double-life, duplicity and an inherently hypocritical attitude where sexual reality, use and abuse exists and is denied. Both heterosexual and gay bishops and clergy often absolve themselves of any guilt about their sexual activity. Only when caught is there any expression of sorrow—and that sadness is usually for being caught. (i.e. Eamon Casey)xxiThese clerics are "just being normal." In the USA the current crop of seminarians is rigid and conforming without a sense of themselves or others. Law and their view of orthodoxy reigns supreme.xxii We are developing a clerical time bomb that will explode in the future with revelations of misbehavior and malfeasance. But a sense of personal guilt and responsibility toward women or sex partners (even children) is not in the forefront of clerical culture or education. Why should they feel guilt? They are the ones who absolve others of sin. [One priest who admitted to having sex with 300 minors said, "I only gave them what they wanted."] This attitude prevails toward women—if a priest gets romantically or sexually involved the clerical culture judges it as the fault of the woman.
Question 6. Do you believe the church will eventually be forced to take a different approach to celibacy? (Making it optional, for example.) Is that likely any time soon?
iA Secret World: Sexuality and the Search for Celibacy. Brunner/Mazel, New York: 1990.
ii Report of the John Jay School of Criminal Justice, Feb. 27, 2004. P. 30-37. Of the priests ordained between 1960 and 1984 6 ½ Percent were eventually reported for abuse of minors.
iii (Cf. VT and CT) There are 2 items on my Web that show this: Burlington Vermont and Church Archives.
iv The figures from The Netherlands and Switzerland were published by groups of women who were involved in relationships with Catholic priests some who fathered children.
vVictor Kotze, Stress Among Roman Catholic Priests in South Africa, 1991.
viPepe Rodriguez. The Sexual Live of Clergy, 1995. According to his study of 354 active priests who admit sexual relations: 53% have sex with adult women; 21% with adult men; 14 % with minor boys; 12% with minor girls.
viiDoyle, Sipe & Wall, Sex, Priests & Secret Codes: The 2000 Year Paper Trail of Sexual Abuse. 2006.
viiiCf. Baars on <www.richardsipe.com>
ix This is an actual quote of Bishop John H. Ricard.
x Cf. trial and deposition documents (Stockton & November, 2004) of Cardinal Roger Mahony.
Answer. The Church has been in a process of evolution from its earliest beginnings. That evolution of doctrine and discipline will continue. At times that process has been marked with dramatic interventions called reformations. We are currently in a period of Church reformation as deep and broad as that of the 16th Century. Sexual understanding is central to the present struggle, just as sexual and financial corruption prevailed at the time of the Protestant Reform and (science) cosmology was central to the conflict at the time of Galileo. The insistence on clerical celibacy in the Latin Rite will eventually change because he Roman Catholic Church's attitude and teaching about human sexuality is wrong—just as wrong as it was about heliocentrism; Galileo was condemned, but he was right. Luther and company were accurate in their evaluation of the corruption of Rome. How and when the 21st Century Reformation will solidify I do not know, but sex and celibacy (along with honesty transparency) will head the list of doctrinal and disciplinary changes. Optional celibacy as it has existed in Orthodox Catholicism since the Seventh Century serves as a traditional model for (incremental) change—marriage prior to ordination is tolerated, but celibacy is required for bishops. Religious celibacy is probably necessary for the authoritarian structure of the Church. The Orthodox custom rather than the Anglican model is more likely. Demands of the Latin rite for mandated celibacy will have to change because of the lack of observance and absence of cultural support noted above in Africa and the South America where vocations to the priesthood are numerous. The problem of change is a problem of power and control. Doctrinally the whole house of moral teaching cards falls when and if the Church officially changes its position on sex. It must insist on the Intrinsic Evil of any sexual activity outside marriage to keep its teaching in tact. The church‟s teaching on human sexuality is an untenable and ridiculous position from the point of view of practical life. Priests can neither live or teach it. The concepts that masturbation,xxiii contraception,xxiv sex before marriage, after divorce, homosexual lovexxv, etc are "unnatural, absolutely and intrinsically evil" cannot stand the test of reality and the discoveries of modern biological, genetic, evolutionary, and psychological sciences. Reality will always win out in the end because Truth is One. The Church does evolve.
xiOver a dozen Grand Jury Investigations of US dioceses beginning in 2002 have all come to similar conclusions: „the church has put image and the avoidance of scandal above the protection of children.‟ Cf. NY, MA, NH, PA, etc.
xiiCf. The Scarlet Bond: When a man is created a cardinal he kneels before the Pope and promises fidelity to Christ and the gospel. He vows obedience to the pope and unfailing communion with the Roman Catholic Church. And "…Never to reveal to anyone whatsoever has been confided in me to keep secret and the revelation of which could cause damage or dishonor to Holy Church." This is a code of secrecy.
xiiiThe Council of Trent on the priesthood.
xivIntroduction to Spoils of the Kingdom by Anson Shupe, University of Illinois Press, Chicago: 2007. P.xviii.
xvBenkert and Doyle. "Clericalism, Religious Duress and its Psychological Impact on Victims of Clergy Sexual Abuse," Pastoral Psychology, Vol. 58 No.3 2009.
xviAndrew M. Greeley, 1981.
xviiA.W.R.Sipe, The Serpent and the Dove: Celibacy in Literature and Life. 2007.
xviiiThe Liturgical Press. Collegeville MN. 2008.
xixFive women in Santa Fe, NM say they had sexual relations with Archbishop Robert F. Sanchez. He admitted guilt in deposition. James Burbank, "New Mexico reels in wake of sex allegations against Santa Fe Prelate", National Catholic Reporter Mar.19, 1993. Archbishop Eugene Marino was installed as Archbishop of Atlanta in 1988 and was engaged in an affair with a female lay minister, Vicki Long, which became public knowledge in 1990. McCarthy was an auxiliary bishop in NY and admitted that he has sequential affairs with 4 women.
xxA Pilgrim in a Pilgrim Church, 2009.
xxiFrom Steve Edwards‟ Website: Bishop of Galway, quit his post in May 1992 after confessing to his love affair with an American woman, and revealing that they had a child together. Most Irish seem to regard the resignation of Bishop Eamon Casey as the point at which the Irish Catholic church went into decline. Revelations of truly pathological behavior would make one reassess just how criminal it was for a man to have a love affair. Not criminal at all. The affair was, however, the event which appears to have set other events in motion, a turning-point when people began to suspect aloud that the all-powerful church was fallible; that in fact its troubles were deep.
xxiiIn 2002 the Vatican decreed a visitation of all seminaries in the US. In December 2008 an English Translation of the Report of that Visitation was published by Rome. These two documents show clearly the concerns of the Vatican and its expectations: no homosexuality and obedience and order.
xxiiiMchael S. Patton, "Twentieth-Century Attitudes Toward Masturbation" Journal of Religion and Health, Vol. 25 No. 4, Winter: 1981.
xxivAndrew M. Greeley, "Contraception a baby among church‟s sins" National Catholic Reporter October 15, 1993. A majority of Catholic women in the United States reject the Vatican teaching