Thursday, March 11, 2010

Let's Talk About Sex Benny*

I have to praise Cardinal Christoph Schönborn. Whether he actually meant that there is a link between priestly celibacy and child sex abuse scandal that's inflicting the Vatican, or merely that the link needs to be examined, he has reopened the debate

The Archbishop of Vienna, who is a protégé of Pope Benedict XVI and seen as a potential future candidate for the Papacy is hardly opening a can of worms. Although his hastily released clarification may well be a sign that the church is not prepared to publicly face that discussion.

His original article in his archdiocese's magazine called on the Church to make a "unflinching examination" of the causes of the scandal. He specifically pointed out that consideration should be made on "the issue of priests' training, as well as the question of what happened in the so-called sexual revolution of the generation of 1968".

He added: "It also includes the question of priest celibacy and the question of personality development. It requires a great deal of honesty, both on the part of the Church and of society as a whole."

In fact what he said is largely biblical. Considering that the rule on Priestly celibacy is not based on the married founding Bishop of Rome Peter but on Paul who wrote in 1 Corinthians:

"I wish that all men were like me. However each man has his own gift from God, one of this kind, and another of that kind. But I say to the unmarried and to widows, it is good for them if they remain even as I am. But if they don't have self-control, let them marry. For it's better to marry than to burn with passion."

All of what Paul wrote is contained within the article and focus of Cardinal Schönborn. The issues in Ireland, USA and Germany are the most severe examples. The Pope has already gathered the senior Irish Bishops to Rome for what can be described as a ticking off. But surely some self examination is desirable. The church hasn't always been celibate and indeed other pastors in other denominations have been allowed to take wives/husbands**. I'm not saying it is a perfect solution, there are still tales on infidelity even with the marriage of Christian leaders. But maybe the need or want is less that retaining a state of celibacy even if there is a passion burning unquenched as is the only state of service in the Catholic Church. The whole context of Paul's passage was not that you must, but you must do what is right for you, he also didn't rule anyone out of the role passed purely on the nature of their marital status.

It may do the Catholic Church no harm to realise that all humans are fallible, without it there is no need for redemption. Once they realise that and start to acknowledge that then, and I fear only then, will they be able to deal with this issue in a constructive way.

Cardinal Schönborn is calling for just such an examination. Though you wonder if his call will be heeded and acted upon.

* For the title to work properly as a pun on the song lyrics I had to refer to the Pope by taking a popular truncation of his name.

** Well I'm including the female pastors with the husbands, but there are also a number of same gender relationships.

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