Everyone wants to find a one-step solution to the problem of priestly abuse of children, although there is no sign the institutions involved are interested in taking much blame, or pain, in the process. The priesthood places a man on a pedestal that he believes ranks him alongside Christ in matters of morality. That’s a lot of authority for anyone who is, after all, just human. And a man, for that matter.
As a long time man, I think back over my life, particularly the part where I thought I wanted to be a priest, and wonder how anyone could sort the conflicting statements and promises and enticements from the reality of serving here on earth as another Christ, which was what the call involved for many of us. It doesn’t confuse me at all to ponder the question, “Will you give up sex?” when you realize that it was being asked of kids who had no idea what human love and sexual expression was.
Consider that proposition, some pimply boy just out of grade school is being encouraged by armies of nuns and priests, too, to join this exclusive club where the temptations of normal life are pushed aside so you could be, what, “spiritual?” You could go to heaven and sidestep all the messiness of human relationships.
I didn’t have intercourse until I was, like, 17 years old. I had no idea what I was doing. She had no idea what she was doing. It did not go well. It was intimate and scary and all kinds of other things. And I believed I was committing a sin, me, a boy who only a few years earlier was ready to give all that up to go unto the altar of God, the God who gave joy to my youth.
If I could find her today I would tell her thank you and please forgive my ignorance. Everyone deserved better in that situation.
What I was up to was completely natural and healthy and the one think I can’t forgive the church for is making that into something questionable. It was my nature to pursue and charm and kiss and hug and everything else. I was built for that so that my species could continue stumbling along. It came naturally.
Make that into a sin?
What the fuck?
What the fuck indeed. Sex is, beyond anything else, a huge delight and affirmation of personhood. Ideally, it is complete acceptance in two directions, warm embracing, throbbing explosions, the whole nine yards, to be technical. Any solution the church tries to create that doesn’t recognize that is doomed. What you are going to get if you don’t recognize that are people who think sex is somehow dirty, sinful, wrong.
Which, of course, is what we got.
It’s no surprise that people who are drawn into positions of great power would climb that mountain with their kinky parts all wrapped up and ready to roll at first opportunity. Not all of them, of course. There are real saints, after all, reformed sinners, all manner of people in religious positions. But kinks, too. And that’s the problem.
The church needs to recognize that it opened the door to the people it helped to ruin by telling them sex was evil and abstinence was saintly. Of course they rush to it. It’s safe for them, a place where sex is just not going to happen. Except that it did and does. People who are so warped in their sexuality that they blush any time it’s mentioned, people who are so guilty about any feeling at all. That’s where all of this awful stuff comes from.
So I honor the pope in his search for a solution.
The church simply has to stop hurting children. That’s where it starts. It has to be one of the entry level questions: “Do you know what it is like to hurt a child?” “Do you understand your own sexuality?” would be another question.
If it can’t confront this honestly and examine it from a variety of different perspectives, despite his noble intentions, Francis is going nowhere. Deal with the nature of human beings, not with ideals about human beings. Start by loving sinners as much as saints and understanding the risk when you ordain the former thinking you are creating the latter.