Want to Cure Abusive Priests? Give ’Em Women!

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Paedophilia is so 2009. With a jaded international readership growing weary of repeated abuse claims against Catholic clerics, the Church is now confronting new depths of depravity: priests are having sex with women.

The Guardian reports that forty Italian ladies involved in affairs with Catholic clergymen have written an open letter petitioning the Pope to abolish compulsive celibacy. Their argument is not new: the shepherds of Christianity must share the life experiences of their flock in order to best relate to them.

That’s hardly scandalous – not a decade goes by without some bishop protesting the celibacy dogma. What’s new, according to commentators like James Brett, is that reform enthusiasts might be closer than ever to having their way with Church policy.

The past three months have seen Cardinal Christoph Schönborn piling up challenges to entrenched Church taboos. He wants to allow divorcees to take Communion, try abusive priests in civil criminal courts and – anathema! – respect stable homosexual relationships as a legitimate alternative to promiscuity. Schönborn was joined in early May by Paul Iby, a Bishop enjoying the relative freedom of his imminent retirement to defend voluntary celibacy and – blasphemy! – the ordainment of women as priests.

What’s most striking, says Brett, is that such progressive remarks have not been immediately and categorically rebuked by the Vatican. That could mean the higher Catholic echelons are seriously considering those suggestions. Especially at a time of crisis like this, with the Church’s credibility at an all-time low and dwindling numbers in ordainments, desperate measures would be justifiable to even the most resilient conservationists.

Any links between priest marriage and child abuse, however, might be mere wishful thinking.

Cardinal Schönborn has allegedly suggested that “the abolition of the celibacy rule might curb sex abuse by priests.” Now, am I the only one who sees slight logical faults with that argument?

No, I’m not. The counterargument is quite well-articulated in South Park episode Red Hot Catholic Love, where a priest in a Vatican meeting claims sex with boys is the natural alternative for clerics, forbidden as they are to have sex with women – and when someone suggests that perhaps men of the cloth are not meant to have sex at all, he incurs widespread laughter from the crowd of priests at the meeting.

That laughter gag might be the most objective comment on sacerdotal sexual indiscretions. After all, how reasonable is it to expect a human being to refrain from sex altogether? As if monogamy wasn’t already taxing enough. But the underlying argument of the joke evidences the long jump between abstaining from relations with women and indulging your passions with underage men. For starters, doesn’t that “natural alternative” entail homosexuality, another big Catholic taboo?

Greater flexibility in its dogma would no doubt make the Church better attuned to the concerns and needs of modern followers, and marriage wouldn’t interfere with a priest’s responsibilities any more than it does to their Protestant, Jewish and Muslim counterparts. But let no one assume that the good fathers chase their altar boys because the Holy See denies them pussy. Therein lies not a solution, but a much more serious and elusive cover-up. And the issue is not one of lust, but of denial.

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