Showing posts from February, 2017

How Did This Happen, Part 5--They Just Don't Get It

Just as you don't have to be the actual autocrat to believe in autocracy, or have any capital to believe in capitalism, you don't have to be a cleric in order to fully absorb the norms and values of clericalism.  And no one demonstrates this better than Michael Sean Winters, columnist for the National Catholic Reporter.  His article today in defense of Pope Francis's handling of clerical sex abuses cases shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that the folks on the "inside" of the Roman Catholic Church and those that circle around their orbit (i.e. Winters) fundamentally do not understand the origins of the problem or what needs to be done to fix the problem.

Let's begin, first, with the one thing Winters gets right--the accusation that Pope Francis is "soft" on sex abuse cases is being used by the anti-Francis faction as a club to smack around the Pope.  Surely true.  But the fact that these stories are being exploited for political purposes doesn't m…

"This Old House" as a Model of the Church

Here's an idea that has been bouncing around in my head for a while.  It's in its most preliminary phases, so this is more of "getting something down on paper" than any kind of polished product.

The Christian church, in many ways, is like a very old house.  For one thing, it is old--2,000 years old.  For another thing, like many old houses, it has a bunch of stuff in it that is not in keeping with modern times, some of which are actually dangerous--old school fireplaces that vent gases into the house, asbestos coverings on pipes, etc.  And, even if you don't have things that are affirmatively dangerous, you still have a number of things that don't make sense in the context of the way we live now.

Now, there is a school of thought that says, "why bother with these old houses?  Let's just tear it down and start from scratch."  So, on this plan, you tear down the old house and build something new.  Maybe you build some sort of gigantic "McMans…

How Did This Happen, Part 4--What Is To Be Done?

Summing up what was included in the last three posts (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), I would say that the Roman Catholic clerical sex abuse crisis was caused by:
a completely closed and insular clerical culturewhich prioritized its own autonomy from judgment by non-clerical institutions, andwhich developed a culture of "don't ask, don't tell" with regard to sexual indiscretionsformed in light of its own internal struggles around the fact that a majority of its members were closeted gay men, andwhich was also struggling with shrinking numbers, thuswas incentivized toward doing whatever possible to keep priests in the fold and on duty, whilelacking robust tools to recognize the true harm and danger of the sexual abuse of children. In light of this diagnosis, what can be done to rectify it?  One thing that will certainly not rectify it is creating a culture of paranoia around homosexuality inside the priesthood.  And yet, that seems to be what has happened, and in many respect…

How Did This Happen, Part 3--Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Any honest discussion of sexuality and the Roman Catholic priesthood must start with the elephant in the room--something approaching a majority of priests are closeted gay men of one form or another.  That seems impossible to believe for many people, but no one speaking honestly has ever seriously challenged this premise, at least not to me.  And my own experience confirms this assessment.

If you think it through, though, it's not really surprising.  In a pervasively homophobic culture, a priesthood in which you were not allowed, and thus not expected, to enter into a (opposite sex) marriage would be logically attractive to men who understood that such a marriage was not an option for them.  It doesn't even have to work on a conscious level.  I remember asking an elderly priest how he knew he had a vocation to the priesthood, and his response was, "I remember being 14 and seeing all my friends starting to get really into girls, and I was never particularly interested, so …

How Did This Happen, Part 2--A People Set Apart

In the previous post, I framed question #2 of "how did this sex abuse crisis happen?" as "how did it come to pass that the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church covered up the fact that some number of Roman Catholic priests had and were sexually abusing children, either actively or passively, thus facilitating the abuse?"  The answer to that question, in my view, can be answered in a one sentence response--"because the culture of the Roman Catholic priesthood is sick and broken, and the sex abuse crisis is the most visible manifestation of that pathology."

It is extremely important here to emphasize the word "culture."  While people contribute to cultures in which they are a part, a culture is a conceptually distinct entity from any particular member of that culture.  There are deeply decent and honorable men who are Roman Catholic priests.  But the culture in which they swim is not decent and not honorable in the main.  And, in what is perha…

How Did This Happen? Part 1

Less than a month ago, I said I would stop talking about Roman Catholicism, and I had every intention of sticking to that.  But I am going to break that promise to talk about the release of the report of the Royal Commission in Australia about clerical sexual abuse.  The results are shocking--if the reports are correct, the scope of the problem in Australia was even worse than in the United States or in the UK/Ireland.  To give an example, there was a reference to a Benedictine monastery in Western Australia in which 17.6% of the monks had an abuse allegation lodged against them at some point in the 1950s.  Think about being in a room with a group of monks in which one out of every six of them had someone in the 1950s accuse them of committing a sexual violation on a minor.  Think of how many complaints were not made in the culture of the 1950s.  One in six.  My God.

I had a twitter exchange last night with Maureen Clarke about the report, focusing on what is the obvious question--how…

Good Christian Sex--Post-Script

Previous Posts in the Series
Introductory Chapter
Chapters 1 and 2
Chapters 3 and 4  (Especially good!)
Chapter 5 and 6
Chapter 7
Chapters 8 and 9

Rev. Bromleigh McCleneghan's Good Christian Sex is great.  I've given it to a couple of people who have told me they have benefited greatly from it.  It is the book I would give to a teenager or young adult trying to work their way through the process of integrating sexuality with spirituality and wholeness.

Rather than recap the book again, I figured it might be useful as a post-script to think about "where to go from here"?  McCleneghan sketches out a vision of an authentic progressive Christian sexual ethic, but it is no criticism of the book to say that there are places that would benefit from further reflection and development, as no one book can be a comprehensive account of something like sexuality.  Here are a couple of places that I think she or others might jump off from to expand the good work don…

How Shall We Live in the Age of Trump?

It has only been two weeks.

I thought it was going to be bad, and I thought it was going to be chaotic, but I was not prepared for the pace of the chaos.  Many have suggested that this break-neck pace is intentional on the part of Trump or his thought-leaders (Steve Bannon, who appear to be Trump's primary advisers, strikes me as perhaps a real life version of the Joker).  Maybe so, but whether intentional or not, I sense that many people are reeling, or flailing around trying to hold on to something solid.  I am certainly one of those people.

In times like this, the question is always "how shall we live?"  What are we going to do to get through this?  I am not a judge that can evaluate the propriety of the new rules and laws that are coming down the pike, and I am not a legislator that can vote for or against them.  I don't have a media platform to try to influence a mass of people.  What should I do?  What should we do?  We hear much talk on social media of "r…