What has been interesting is that they cannot wrap their heads around the idea that I could be Italian and not be raised Catholic. More confusing is that I am conversant with Vatican II Catholicism, but can’t follow a mass in English like I can one in Latin. You just cannot be raised in my hometown ‘back in the day’ and not have learned something about it. Especially not when almost all the rest of your extended family are Catholics, and you’ve attended all their weddings and funerals.
The discussion turned to the current woes of the church and she feels that the press has blown all of this out of proportion. In her words, it hurts her heart that this has gone on, but it bothers her that it’s all over the media.
I had said that I knew guys who served as altar boys, and the way they dealt with groping priests was that the older boys passed the word along to the younger boys who never, ever to be alone with. It was a quiet way of dealing with the Roman hands and Russian fingers, as we used to say. Also not unknown was a visit from a father to a priest, usually in the confessional. As one story went, the guy entered the confessional, knelt, crossed himself and said, “Forgive me Father, but you have sinned. If you ever touch my kid again, I’ll personally shove the solid gold candlesticks up your ass.” The priest retired sometime after that, or so the tale goes. I cannot vouch for the veracity of this, but given my home town, it sounds entirely plausible.
At what point does what appears in the press become sensationalism and at what point do we begin ignoring the stories? I’ve been wondering this as I’ve followed the stories about the impending conclave in the Vatican. The American cardinals are lobbying for the church to own up to its part in the Sin of the Centuries, and the cardinals based in Rome are against that. They are the ones who have kept the lid on all of this, so I suppose they feel they have the most to lose.
Ultimately, the facts must be faced. Celibacy is a modern concept for the priesthood. The practice sets up the institution for failure, not only in how it deals with the transgressions of the priest on vacation in Hawaii who loses his dog collar and gets laid by as many women as he can, but also in how it deals with priests who are gay. Pedophilia is, by the percentages, more apt to occur among heterosexuals than homosexuals, so I’m keeping that as a separate category. I’m leaning toward the school of thought that believes these are men who are horny, don’t necessarily want boys, but will pursue what’s available and also what they have the power to control in order to keep it all secret.
When girls were allowed to serve at Mass, they were not immune to the errant pedophiles, so that would appear to support the idea that if they could get a girl, they would, rather than risk meddling with a boy. Any port in a storm, as it were.
Another fact is that priests didn’t necessarily have to be unmarried. You only have to examine the list of popes to know that they were a randy lot. Many had illegitimate children they’d fathered after they had taken orders. Some had legitimate children.
Similarly, many of the nuns back in the day were widows who sought the peace and quiet of the abbey to live out their days. After all, it was room, board and a life of service – not much different than marriage to a man who was always off fighting a war.
So the publicizing of the sexuality of the clergy has gob smacked those who thought they could keep that problem under wraps and now they must deal with it. And once again, the gay priests (who are not the pedophiles) are stuck bearing the brunt of the outrage. Jesus never issued a bull decrying homosexuality. The New Testament is silent on this, except for Paul, and Paul’s own misogyny is suspect from the get go. Why would anyone want to listen to him, for heaven’s sake? Paul wasn’t around to get it straight from the horse’s mouth, so it stands to reason he injected his own self-loathing into his condemnation of the practice.
As they continue to debate their issues, I’m rooting for the American cardinals who want the facts laid bare and the policy put in place to deal with the problem up front and decisively. If they don’t succeed, well, there is more than one kind of Catholic and I’m betting they would be welcome in the American Catholic Church. Something tells me they won’t give up that easily. Good for them.