Wednesday, February 17, 2010

It's a Question of Loyalties...

A few people have accused me of believing, based on my last post, that mandatory celibacy some causes priests to act out and abuse children. This isn't true. I think it’s stupid to believe that mandatory celibacy is somehow creating molestors. The men who abused children were already messed up when they came to the priesthood, though certainly it may have been attractive to them as a place to hide their sexuality, justify the fact that they weren't married, and gain access to children.

But I'm certainly not so simplistic as to believe that mandatory celibacy somehow turns men into molestors. What I did say was that the institutional dynamics of mandatory celibacy (revolving around power and sex) are the same ones that caused, not the abuse in itself, but rather its COVER UP, the secrecy, the defensive closing of ranks on the part of the bishops, the instinct of institutional self-preservation, etc.

Without being grounded in families made up of the laity and organically integrated with society at large...the clergy is its own self-contained little social network and power structure. The loyalties of the men in a celibate all male institution are thus primarily homosocial and contained within the clergy itself.

Married men’s first loyalty is usually to their families, their instinct is to protect their family. Institutional celibate bureaucrats, however, are predisposed to be loyal to the bureaucracy above all, their instinct is to protect the Institution which, for them, stands in for a family. Quite literally when the marital analogy is used, as I pointed out 6 paragraphs up from the bottom in my post on seminaries, where I discuss how institutional celibacy functions in the exact same psychosexual space as a sexual relationship, and thus can potentially be abusive in itself.

Not every priest would have to married to solve this problem, but having some of them to help thaw the isolationism and institutionalism…would greatly help. As would, perhaps, giving the laity more say over, if not who their pastor or bishop is, then at least over whether they get paid or not. In other words, maybe we should control the purse-strings in a more democratic fashion instead of just blindly handing over our donations.

Certainly a huge part of the problem was the fact that, when it comes to the sociological structure and the prioritization of relationships...there is a tendency in an all male celibate institution for priests' most powerful bonds of loyalty and inter-personal incentives to lie exclusively within the priesthood itself. This is only exacerbated by a years-long re-socialization in the seminaries which serves to further strengthen inter-clerical ties while distancing them from outside relationships. It's a model that can be extremely powerful, but is also incredibly dangerous.

Married men may be no less likely to abuse, but they are known to be more likely to report it when they find out about it (having children of their own) or, if not the men themselves, then their wives, etc.

On the other hand, with mandatorily celibate priests, even ties to their own flock tend to be diluted by the fact that the flock is so big (and that priests are moved after so many years to keep them "detached"), whereas their relationship to the Old Boys Club is rather concrete and stable (and is their source of income).

Of course, we'd hope that anyone's highest loyalty would be to God and what is Right and Good objectively...but, in reality, it is simply a sociological fact that bonds to concrete visible human beings tend to outweigh ideological considerations when people make a decision.

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