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The Pope's problem is hypocrisy, not modernity

Discussion in 'Hard Talk' started by Archived_Member16, Apr 5, 2010.

  1. Archived_Member16

    Archived_Member16
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    source:http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/the-popes-problem-is-hypocrisy-not-modernity/article1520479/

    April 1, 2010

    The Pope's problem is hypocrisy, not modernity

    By Ian Buruma
    From Friday's Globe and Mail

    Power is no longer privileged, and leeway is no longer given. The vow of celibacy has become an unworkable anachronism

    <!-- google_ad_section_start -->In his remarkable apology to Irish Catholics, Pope Benedict XVI explained why he thought sinful priests have been tempted to commit sexual acts with children. There have been "new and serious challenges to the faith arising from the rapid transformation and secularization of Irish society. Fast-paced social change has occurred, often adversely affecting people's traditional adherence to Catholic teaching and values."

    As we know, the abuse of children by Catholic priests did not just occur in Ireland but in many other countries, too, which the Pope preferred not to dwell on. And Ireland is not the only place where social transformation and secularization have challenged religious values. When the Pope blamed the sexual transgressions on these challenges, he may have been at least partly right, but not for the reasons he believes.

    Not so very long ago, when God reigned supreme and most people still turned to their priests (or ministers, rabbis etc.) for moral guidance, sexual behaviour was often dictated by power. Christians may have believed in sin, and the values espoused by the church were paid their due deference. But hypocrisy gave privileged people, including priests, a certain leeway. Wealthy men had mistresses, professors had affairs with students and even the lowly village priest, a man of social and spiritual power, often enjoyed the sexual favours of a woman conveniently at hand to take care of his domestic needs.

    Such practices were accepted as facts of life, as they still are in many poor and southern countries - which might explain why the exposure of priestly abuse has taken place mostly in the north, where social change has been more rapid. This made bearable the notion of celibacy, a perhaps noble ideal that for most people is impossible. After all, in Renaissance Italy, even the popes had children.

    The life of women under such traditional arrangements tended to be tightly circumscribed. Except in small, libertine aristocratic circles, where women, too, were able to take on extramarital lovers, their role was that of mother and domestic caretaker. And the rights of children in most traditional societies, before the changes the Pope deplores came about, barely existed. Adults ruled supreme.

    To Benedict and other conservatives, the social and sexual revolutions of the mid-20th century may look like an orgy of libertinism. And to some, it was: the hedonism of gay life in Amsterdam or San Francisco, the sexual habits in some hippie communes, the almost feudal erotic privileges of rock stars. But this was hardly for everyone. The real changes, in such countries as Ireland, Germany and the United States, concerned the status of women and children.

    It was no longer all right for men to have mistresses, teachers to have affairs with students or priests to enjoy the favours of their chambermaids. People became less tolerant of hypocrisy. In a way, the social transformations of the 1960s and 1970s brought about a new form of puritanism. Especially in the United States, a man can lose his job for making an "inappropriate" sexual remark, marriages collapse because of one-night stands and any form of sex with children is an absolute taboo.

    Perhaps because so many other taboos have fallen, the taboo on sex with children is guarded with almost fanatical zeal. Even fantasizing about it, in the form of pornographic cartoons, is illegal in certain countries. To be sure, the exploitation of children, whether sexual or otherwise, is deplorable, if only because children rarely have the power to resist.

    Even the Pope would agree that the emancipation of women and the protection of children are good things. Indeed, as a cardinal, it was part of his job to stop priests from abusing minors. He does not appear to have been very successful. This may be because protecting the church from scandal was held to be the more important task.

    Catholics have tended to be more tolerant of hypocrisy than Protestants. The rise of Protestantism was in part a protest against this. Strict Protestants make a virtue out of brutal frankness, because they believe they have a direct pipeline to God. Catholics confess to their priests, not to God himself. Sins can be dealt with, as long as proper ceremony is observed. This explains why the Vatican chooses to describe the pedophiliac transgression of its clergy as sins rather than crimes.

    That this will no longer do in a more emancipated world is not because secularization has destroyed people's sense of morality. After all, secularism never implies that abusing children is good. No, the problem for sinning priests is that power in democratic societies is no longer as privileged as it once was, and people are less willing to tolerate hypocrisy. As a result, the vow of celibacy has become an unworkable anachronism.

    There is a solution to this problem. Or if not a solution, an amelioration: The church could allow priests to marry, or form homosexual relationships with consenting adults. The Pope, a strict conservative in doctrinal matters, is highly unlikely to countenance such an idea. Instead, he will continue to preach against the evils of secular society and the dangerous temptations of liberalism. But this will not be of much help, because the flesh is weak and will find a way to satisfy its needs. If this cannot be done legally, crimes will continue to be committed against people who are least able to defend themselves.

    Ian Buruma is professor of democracy and human rights at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y. His latest book is Taming the Gods: Religion and Democracy on Three Continents.
     
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  3. spnadmin

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    The pope's problem is hypocrisy compounded by his academic intellectuality which is haumei, to be viewed as an sophisticate and intellectual within his academic circles -- which is full of scholastics who have lost touch with the sense of ethics that should come with philosophy. Ethics is not a mind game. I wish I could put this more clearly, but sometimes words fail me.
     
  4. curious seeker

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    Narayanjot Ji

    I can't see why, any one would be surprised the Catholic Church has been protecting Pedophiliac priests for Centuries, perhaps ever since Jesus died!. When i went Catholic school it widely known among primary school students that a very high percentage of priests were homosexual and equally high percentage had illicit sexual relations with women, children etc. IT was a fairly common event to have kids leave school and often you heard horror stories. My own brother (7 years older than me) precipitated my father pulling us out of School, when I was 7 because he resisted the advances of a priest by beating the priest on the head with a chair. My father who was an ox of a man but very gentle almost killed that priest.

    Curious
     
  5. spnadmin

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    Curious ji

    First I breathe a sigh of relief that you and your brother were spared by a father, who was wise, and parents together, who must have created such a family environment of emotional safety and courage, that this could be shared and something would be done about it.

    There are many stories where the children,who were viciously abused, physically and emotionally, had no one. They were orphans. They were housed in catholic orphanages. The vast majority of Roman Catholics in past eras would also sweep this kind of knowledge under the rug for the sake of harmony and fear of the church. Or their children were too frightened to speak up.

    A few facts about sexual abuse of children.

    1. Many times the abuser terrifies victims by threatening to kill them or family members if they speak up.

    2. Abusers will often -- some have a 6th sense about this - seek out children they feel are emotionally deprived in their families. The abuse while frightening and shaming for the child becomes a substitute for genuine love and understanding. The children are seduced with money and favors.

    3. Abusers themselves in most cases, not all, were themselves abused as children and are acting out a pathological drama, which the average person could never understand.

    4. Most sexual abusers are heterosexual, not homosexual, both in terms of numbers and percentages within the population.

    Having said that we forget that the Roman Catholic church is a political entity, not only a religious one. Its machinery is immense and time-tested. It is good at keeping secrets. It is good at losing people. This has come out only because people today feel more empowered than their parents to challenge authority, including religious authority. And adherents have been leaving, with cover-ups of sexual crimes being a major reason. The Roman Church is still shielding miscreants who cannot be touched in Vatican City. The golden rule and lessons from the life of Jesus, were preached but not honored. He said, "Suffer the little children to come unto me." That was supposed to mean - I honor these little souls and protect them. And in the end, I have no other thoughts as to why the ethical dimension has been lost on this ancient tradition.
     
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