The 2,000 year old Catholic Church, for 1,500 years just called “the Church,” has faced some of the most heinous and twisted scandals, all the way up to shenanigans with the papacy, selling indulgences, and sex crimes of many different kinds. So, today’s pedophilia scandal, while horrifying, is not so shocking as one might initially think.
The main purpose of this post is to explore the roots of today’s pedophilia scandal, and to put to rest a couple of popular theories among more conservative leaning Catholics; ie, blaming communists and/or homosexuals for infiltrating the church and encouraging these heinous acts, rather than owning up to the fact that the Devil got to the hearts of their priests through their loins.
It’s not a New Scandal
Many people are aware that the current scandal began in 1984, and has blossomed into a horrid bloom of terrorized children which gets bigger and bigger; however, the really sad and scary fact about it is that there is nothing new about this scandal. It was dealt with in the Council of Trent, hundreds of years ago, and there are hints that it was dealt with back in the earliest days of the Church.
What must be understood is that the culture of Rome in the earliest days of Christianity included men using boys for sexual pleasure. The practice was forbidden by the church, but it did not stop men, including priests, from doing it. The church had to enact stiff penalties for anyone caught doing it, but priests were never handed over to civil authorities. Remember, priests at that time were not required to be celibate, and many were even married with children, so blaming celibacy isn’t the entire answer.
Because the issue kept coming up over and over in various parts of the world, it is clear that at some point a cabal of priests was formed who encouraged this practice, and have long covered for one another. However, the extent and influence of this cabal on the current crisis is unsure. Unfortunately, I have heard reports from priests about such things spreading around some Catholic seminaries. I don’t think every priest who touched kids was a member of this cabal, but the cabal surely acted quickly to assure those priests were protected.
Masons and Communists and Gays, oh my!
Catholics, like any group of people, have their boogeymen; the people they like to blame for anything wrong in the world, especially within the Catholic Church. The two groups they blame the most are the Freemasons and the Communists. Because there has been a movement within the Catholic Church, including among the priesthood, to accept homosexual couples, they now also like to include “the gays” as part of the conspiracy, usually working with the Freemasons and/or the Communists.
Lest you think they’re totally nuts, there is good reason behind their beliefs, as they’ve seldom gotten along with these groups. The Freemasons started as a Protestant movement, which some say has connections to the excommunication of the Knights Templar. They have never liked the Catholic Church, and Catholics are forbidden by the Church from joining the Freemasons; nonetheless, some still do. Communists, a misnamed group which misapplies an extreme dictatorial version of Marxism, have never like religion at all, and the Catholic and Eastern churches are the prime examples of religion in many countries they influence. The Catholic church has straight out denounced Communism, because of the atrocities done in its name against Christians and others. “Gays” aren’t a singular group, and there are many different kinds of gay people who are Catholic, with varying beliefs about what they’re allowed or not allowed to do, but generally when a conservative Catholic says, “the gays,” they mean priests and bishops encouraging a “homosexual agenda” of accepting homosexuals in the church, and gay men becoming priests.
The Masons and the Communists haven’t been around long enough to be at the root of this scandal. They have no interest in spreading homosexuality in the church, and have their own concerns. We can immediately dismiss them from consideration for being behind the pedophilia scandal.
Homosexuality has been around forever, but it is not homosexuals who have encouraged sex with prepubescent boys; homosexual adults are attracted to adults of their same gender. In fact, in most cultures in history which allowed such abuse of boys, sadly too many, it was considered a heterosexual thing to do, as long as the boy wasn’t old enough to grow pubic hair and thus look male. Boy bodies were considered feminine until maturity. In some cultures even today boys are still dressed as girls until they reach puberty.
Now, don’t get me wrong, pedophilia is neither heterosexual nor homosexual; it’s pedophilia, and it’s disgusting and evil. It’s awful that this truth is not universally accepted even still today. However, in many cultures, especially hundreds and thousands of years ago, the thinking about it was quite different than our more compassionate view of children today.
It’s understandable that Catholics want to have some other nefarious group to blame for the evils of holy men. It’s painful to know that men who took such sacred vows did such heinous deeds, and many of them were priests some of us knew and trusted. Thankfully, I have not known any personally, but friends of mine have known some of these priests and bishops, and used to respect some of them. It’s understandable that they want to pass the buck, blame someone else, but the fact is that it is the men themselves and those who would cover for them who are to blame.
What’s really to Blame
The Devil Hates Priests
God loves His priests, and the enemy hates them. Priests are doing some of the most important work God has for humans to do. Thus, the demons work extra hard at trying to make them falter. It’s also true of Protestant pastors, and even religious leaders from other religions. There are too many stories of people who started out good and holy, but who were led to doing some of the most heinous things in history, and it’s not even just limited to religion. Along with the truism that power itself has a corrupting influence, religious leaders face the most temptations.
Priests are human beings
Necessarily, priests are human beings, and chosen from the populace. While most priests are good men who have good intentions, some nefarious people also look into any position of authority where they work closely with kids, because they see it as an opportunity; they go in with full knowledge and intent to do it. Most of those are weeded out in seminary, but some slip through, especially because of the efforts of those who have in the past been part of other such cover-ups in one way or another.
In addition to those who go in intending good, as was mentioned in the section above this one, some good men are tempted to do bad, and then the bad becomes worse, and the worse becomes pure evil. It starts out with minor temptations, whatever the priest’s weakness might be. If he gives in to the first temptation, they start becoming more risque, but still perhaps not even actual sin yet, or not anything mortal. Eventually some take it the next step and actually start committing other mortal sins before falling into the temptation of using the most vulnerable people to whom they had private access.
What’s not as talked about is that the sex scandal doesn’t just involve children, and it’s not just male children. Priests have done things with nuns under their watch, with adult men and women, and with teens. Keep in mind that after a person reaches puberty, it’s still wrong in today’s society, but it’s not technically pedophilia. Pedophiles are strictly attracted to prepubescents. Why was it mostly young boys? Because that’s who most priests had the most control over, and that’s who those who would do this evil had access to. It had nothing to do with homosexuality.
To digress slightly, I need to say that I know some of you will hate that I call pedophiles “evil,” even though their actions are beyond heinous. “They have a mental disorder,” you will say, and I’ll agree with you. Yes, they do probably have a mental disorder, but it is one rooted in pure evil. Whether they can be “fixed,” or how their punishment is handled is not the topic of this post. I am not the judge of anyone’s soul, and I have no idea of their confessions and what forgiveness they’ve been offered. I think even in any of the ancient cultures which accepted it, I think I’d still be against pedophilia, but I suppose that’s easy to say from the perspective I have from our culture which abhors it. Nonetheless, this is the culture in which we live, and in our culture it is an awful act.
What’s the Solution?
Of course, I don’t have an easy answer, but I think that confession is a big part of it. Priests must be encouraged to confess much more, and have good, moral confessors assigned to each diocese specifically for priests. Now, a priest can’t act outside of confession on anything heard within confession, but a good moral confessor can help strengthen priests against temptation. Of course, the church has always had confession, and it’s not a stand alone solution.
Prayer has to also be a part of the answer. Of course, many of us pray every day, and some of us pray for our priests and bishops every day. Also, God will help priests whether or not we pray for them; it’s not like we’re voting on God’s blessings and it needs a certain number of us to reach God. God doesn’t say, “well, only 1/3 of the parish prayed for their priest, so I’m not sending anyone to help that one. Oh, and they hardly ever pray for their bishop, so of course I’m not wasting resources on him.” That’s not how God works. Praying for our priests is for our own healing, our own drawing close to God and allowing God to restore our faith in the majority of the priesthood who had nothing to do with this scandal, and to heal our relationship with the priesthood in general.
Otherwise, I’m proud of the steps the church is taking to eliminate this crisis. They have taken major steps in watching who gets access to children, how much time anyone spends alone with children or anyone by whom they may be tempted, and they are beginning to turn over at least some of the information to law enforcement. Perhaps they need to do more in these regards, but I am glad that they are at least taking it seriously.
I need to say some things about Pope Francis. I don’t know what pressures he was under, or what he knew or didn’t know when he was allegedly involved in a cover-up of a sexual abuse case before he was Pope. I do know that one of the reasons God called him into the church was to throw open the curtains on all the greed and financial corruption, as well as to heal the church from the stain of the evils committed by these priests against children and others. So, it makes sense that they will take anything to try to push him down. Make no mistake, the enemy is scared of Pope Francis, and he needs us to stand behind him and make our Church whole again.
I suggest researching the early councils of the church if you’re interested in knowing more about this topic. My information comes from years of study, but most of it can be readily found online. Here is a well sourced article on the subject as just one example of the myriad information available out there.
Shalom and love always.