So the Pope is visiting Britain, and being treated like a superstar, except for some rather vocal protestors. They tend to be people like Peter Tatchell who is in his own way as extreme as the Catholic Church.
I know that many Catholics such as Mother Theresa achieve splendid things. But I have my reservations about the institution and if I were invited to meet the Pope, I would be asking him some probing questions.
The persistent scandals about child sex abuse by priests are not something that is incidental, or marginal or exceptional. They present a pattern, and a very ugly pattern too. It happens all over the world and it has been going on probably for as long as the Catholic Church itself. The cover-ups are almost as bad as the scandal itself.
Apologizing - which he has only done rather tepidly - is not enough.
Saying they should have been more vigilant is not enough.
Writhing with guilt and doing penance in public would still not be enough because all of that only addresses the symptoms, not the real problem.
The Catholic church has practised hypocrisy too long. Setting up slush funds for the illegitimate children of priests is a two-faced and underhand approach.
The Pope should be asking WHY these recurrent patterns of child sex abuse happen. What is the cause? Let's go to the roots of the problem and admit that it is caused by the unreasonable rule about priestly celibacy. The Catholic Church does not allow its priests to marry. That may suit some people, and one outcome is that it attracts a lot of homosexuals. Another is that priests become warped, repressed and perverted. Denied a natural outlet for their sex drive, they resort to activities that most people would regard with revulsion.
The Protestant churches discarded the celibacy rule centuries ago, realizing that it just did a lot of harm. And in the Greek orthodox church there are plenty of married priests. So why has the Catholic church never caught up with reality?
It is scared to admit that it can ever be wrong. Or another way of putting it, is too proud and obstinate to admit that it has ever been wrong. There is nothing in the Bible that demands all followers of Jesus to be celibate. Jewish rabbis marry and have children. So do the holy men of many other religions. And let's face it, in the two thousand years that have passed since the time of Jesus, we have learned a lot more about the physiology of sex than people knew then. A sex-drive is hormonally built in to us. If you try to deny it completely, or bottle it up for life, the results can be far from pretty.
So I would say to the Pope: "Have the courage to think again about priestly celibacy. Set up some new orders for priests of both genders who will be allowed to marry, with your full public approval. It is not enough to apologize, while you continue the policies that have caused so much misery and suffering."
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