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Sexual hypocrisy and the western church



Jesus condemned the Pharisees for following the letter, but not the spirit, of the law. They valued religious observances that made them look holy, but which ordinary people could not easily follow. In western Christianity, pharisaic-like hypocrisy is also evident, but over the centuries chastity and sexual austerity became the measures by which the goodness of people would be judged.

Jesus and the PhariseesAnd just as loud prayers and costly animal sacrifices did not measure the true holiness of the Pharisees, so too has sexual propriety provided a false measure of one's closeness to God in the western world. If someone has multiple sex partners but is helpful to strangers, are they better or worse than someone who has only slept with their spouse but is racist or unkind?

Principles of charity and humility must instead underlie our moral discernment. When Jesus told the Parable of the Good Samaritan, the outsider, looked down upon by upright Jews, was the person who fulfilled God's law to love others. Jesus made it clear to his followers that they needed to be humbly aware of their own failings rather than judging others, 'Why do you see the speck in your neighbour's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?' (Matthew chapter 7 verse 3).

Jesus did not denounce people for their human frailties. He refused to condemn the woman who had committed adultery (Jonn chapter 8 verses 1-11), and spoke to the woman at the well, despite her five husbands plus! (John chapter 4 verses 4-18).

This is not to say that someone seeking Jesus will not be called to a life of greater chastity, but it should be seen as a part of their journey, not the whole. Jesus presented a clear invitation for the woman at the well to follow a more holy life. He similarly offered the path of righteousness to the adulterous woman when he told her, 'from now on do not sin again' (John chapter 8 verse 11).

The challenge for the Church is to be invitational in the same manner as Jesus himself, offering God's love, first, and his call to holiness second. Many Christians today are inspired by Pope Francis' teachings about homosexuality. Under Francis' leadership, the Church is coming to recognise the need to compassionately embrace the God-given dignity of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation.

The same sense of mercy is also evident in Francis' moves to be more inclusive of divorced couples, who have traditionally been alienated by the Church. We are all sinners, but the Eucharist provides the ultimate source of grace that nourishes us on our quest to live more holy lives. How can it be right to punitively withhold this grace from those whose so-called 'weakness' is same-sex attraction or a failure to sustain a life-long marriage?


"There is a transcendent wisdom to Church doctrine. Christian teaching helps us to live a good life."


A redirection of the Church towards greater compassion and acceptance of others may be particularly difficult for people who have striven to live in accordance with Church doctrine on sexual morality. What is the purpose of their own chastity and fidelity if others can do what they like and be equally embraced? Jesus' own teachings can help us with this dilemma.

In the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (Matthew chapter 20 verses 1-16) the labourers all received the same payment, despite starting at different times of the day. It seems patently unfair. Yet Jesus points out that it is not up to us to dispute God's generosity. His next sentence, 'Thus the last will be first, and the first, last', links this teaching to the many other countercultural challenges laid down by Jesus — to love our enemies, to lead through service to others, to strive for unity despite our differences.

But we should not believe that living the best Christian life we can is a penalty. In Deuteronomy chapter 4 verse 6, God makes it clear that his laws will be of great benefit to his followers: 'other peoples will admire your [laws] ... they will exclaim, "No other people is as wise and prudent as this great nation!"'

And indeed, there is a transcendent wisdom to Church doctrine. Whether it is the value of a stable family in raising children, the protection of young people from sexual exploitation, or prevention of the trauma of abortion in girls too young to understand the harm being done, Christian teaching helps us to live a good life.

The prize for those who come to the vineyard early is clear when the father talks to his resentful older son in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, 'My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours' (Luke chapter 15 verse 31).



Vicki BuchananVicki Buchanan is a religious education teacher at Iona Presentation College. She is currently completing a Masters in Education at the University of Notre Dame (Fremantle).

Topic tags: Vicki Buchanan, same-sex marriage, adultery



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“the Eucharist provides the ultimate source of grace that nourishes us on our quest to live more holy lives. How can it be right to punitively withhold this grace from those whose so-called 'weakness' is … a failure to sustain a life-long marriage?” Any celibate separated or divorced person can receive communion, even divorcees in an irregular marriage. The Eucharist provides grace to help them battle the difficulty of remaining celibate in those circumstances. The problem is that incelibates in an irregular marriage simply want to brandish permission to receive communion as a public sign that their irregular incelibacy is licit. Catholic marriage is a covenant, not a deal. Covenants can’t be broken. A covenant can only expire – when one of the parties is no longer on the planet to live up to his or her end of the covenant. A celibate in a subsequent irregular marriage is at least acknowledging that the covenant, although betrayed, still exists, and the merciful reciprocity for that act of faith is to make available the Eucharist as a source of help in a difficult circumstance. Only God as the merciful injured party can substitute a new covenant for one that has been betrayed.

Roy Chen Yee | 25 September 2018  

"We are all sinners, but the Eucharist provides the ultimate source of grace that nourishes us on our quest to live more holy lives. How can it be right to punitively withhold this grace from those whose so-called 'weakness' is same-sex attraction or a failure to sustain a life-long marriage?" An excellent article, thank you Vicki Buchanan. This point that you make is a crucial one in terms of the future of the Church, regardless of denomination in terms of who may or may not receive from Christ's table. Many have forgotten that it is Christ's table, and not the Church's. Anyone who seeks a deeper relationship with God through Christ must be welcome. In my theological opinion, to withold the Eucharist from anyone with a sincere heart is an injustice and sinful on the part of the Church.

Thomas Amory | 25 September 2018  

Thank you for a beautifully articulate article, written through s very Christian lens. We are not the judges of anothere’s life; that’s best left to God.

Maria Weatherill | 26 September 2018  

This is a thoughtful article, Vicki. I was drawn by the title because in my area of study, I see the greatest hypocrisy regarding sex is the reality that so many clergy are not living according to their projected images of men (and women) who have made vows/promises or celibacy/chastity. It's not even these clergy that are my focus but the other people they become sexually active with. What becomes of them: https://www.theherald.com.au/story/5641623/celibate-priests-its-a-sham-calls-for-catholic-church-me-too-campaign/. Sex needs the support of strong commitment from both involved, to protect the vulnerability inherent in the sexual relationship (see Lebacqz - Appropriate Vulnerability). Without this, sex increasingly comes under the heading of abusive. Sex is a powerful force in human life and it abuse or infidelity thereto destroys lives, families and societies and as such needs to be questioned, researched and taught about. So applying Jesus concept of Love with more detailed understanding of sex, individuals and society is always needed. However, people should not be given social permission to go for it in any way they want - one of the osmotic outcomes of the sexual revolution - and then think there will be no personal or social repercussions.

Stephen de Weger | 26 September 2018  

Thank you, Vicki, for this stunning iteration of a contemporary Catholic theology. As a gay man once married to a teacher at Iona, I hope and pray that the college will be blessed by your good work in it.

Michael Furtado | 26 September 2018  

Thank you for this clear, thoughtful and provocative piece. Truly Gospel. Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggeman says that we - all of us, church and the world - are ‘thick into idolatry’. So many false gods, with all the human misery that ensues. In the church, chastity is and has been an idol, a false god - and perhaps not just chastity but the whole complex area of human sexuality. The human suffering which results from such idolatry and hypocrisy we see portrayed in films like The Magdalene Sisters and Philomena . Terrible cruelty and inhumanity. Jesus’ generous and compassionate words over against the harsh condemnations of the religious leaders of his day demonstrate a different, more hopeful, way for us all.

Fiona Winn | 26 September 2018  

Thank you so much for this compassionate article Vicki. As one who has committed much sexual sin, it’s always good to be reminded of the grace of Christ.

Nils | 26 September 2018  

Vicki thanks for such a wonderful wise and compassionate article. A couple of discussions I have taken part in recently make me long for more WA Catholics in general and more teachers in particular to think along these lines.

Margaret | 26 September 2018  

Thank you Viki for your thoughtful discourse. Sadly the Church's attitude to sexuality has been hypocritical for a long period , as evidenced by a deep delving into its history. At one stage in the pre Vatican II era, when I was a child at school, the attitude to sexual matters shown by the Nuns and Brothers who taught us was in retrospect, almost laughable. I often wonder whether the experiences of those of us who were in boarding schools during that period have resulted in adverse impacts later in life. I am aware of many unstable marriages, divorces and strained relationships amongst my cohort ( 1950's/60's) . In view of what we now know about the extent of sexual abuse in such institutions , what impact has that trauma had on the generation/s so afflicted?

Gavin O'Brien | 26 September 2018  

How lovely to hear the voice of a woman on this divisive subject. Vicki you are so thoughtful, so balanced, so realistic and so charitable. Thank you again to Eureka Street for giving we women in the Church a forum to contribute so freely and so easily.

margaret a | 26 September 2018  

Perhaps this reflection could be furthered by pondering the connection between, on the one hand, Eucharist as a proactive memory of mission in the spirit of Jesus, the going out two by two, the gathering of twos and threes here and there in his name, and on the other hand the table fellowship that suggests the feeding of the five thousand, the comfort of the collectivity. Eucharist, with mission, needs to maintain its sharp end, its vector quality, and not rest with the setttling in of the scalar.

Noel McMaster | 26 September 2018  

Brilliant. This article could stand on its own with no further work as a PhD thesis!

john frawley | 26 September 2018  

Jesus's response to the woman taken in adultery (Jn 8: 1 -11) provides is an exemplar for pastoral practice: it displays both compassion and counsel.

John | 26 September 2018  

"This is not to say that someone seeking Jesus will not be called to a life of greater chastity, ... He similarly offered the path of righteousness to the adulterous woman when he told her, 'from now on do not sin again' (John chapter 8 verse 11)." What's with this "greater" chastity? Jesus said "Go and sin no more." Not "Go and sin less frequently."

HH | 26 September 2018  

thank you Vicki for your very carefully thought out and compassionate understanding. So many of us are very quick to assume a moral high ground and issue hard judgements when it comes to sex. Whilst I can understand Stephen de Weger's investigation of priests who fail to remain celibate it seems something of an injustice and an expression of shrill morality to smear every minster who fails to live celibacy with the tag of abuser. So many of those in priestly ministry made the committment under sufferance and without any real sense of what they were capable of living or getting into. Why not go harder at the institution that has insisted its priests live such lonely intimacy devoid lives. Yes much damage has been done by the church and its minsters but arguments conflating consensual sex between clergy and other adults with that of clergy child sexual abuse cannot be morally equivalent. One group of people are overly demonized and another is to easily left unscrutinised.

vince | 26 September 2018  

Well done Vicki in throwing down the gauntlet to the leaders of the church as we prepare for the Plenary Council. You ask awkward questions for those who rely on orthodox Catholic teaching to answer. It’s not that they cannot appeal to it - they can and will - but that you have highlighted the inadequacy of such an approach as being out of step with that of the Jesus portrayed in the gospels. Once more - well done.

Ern Azzopardi | 26 September 2018  

The safest way to success is to write according to the capacity of the naivest member of the audience.

AO | 26 September 2018  

I agree with the general consensus, that this is an excellent article… “The challenge for the Church is to be invitational in the same manner as Jesus himself, offering God's love, first, and his call to holiness second”... Yes, and he does this with this proclamation Repent! (change direction); “for narrow is the road that leads to life”…“Principles of charity and humility must instead underlie our moral discernment”…We are all sinners ‘Only God is Good’ and His Word (Will) is Inviolate. Relativism has no part to play in Christian doctrine. Compassion/mercy yes, but God’s Mercy can only be received in humility, leading to the on-going transformation of the human heart. Care needs to be taken, as sin can never be justified, no matter what its face, in time or place. So yes, all should be welcome to partake of His table, but the Wedding garment of humility, by necessity must worn (Manifest). Without which many would be led onto the broad highway of spiritual destruction. Thankfully Our Lord Himself has recently given the church the means to permit those who presently cannot receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the means to partake of his table, dressed in the Wedding Garment of humility, via the true Divine Mercy Image/message, one of Broken Man. kevin your brother In Christ

Kevin Walters | 26 September 2018  

Reading, and deeply comprehending, Scripture is the greatest joy and challenge for all people who are searching for 'who they are'. Women in Jesus' day, and even now, are defined by 'who they belong to'. The story of the woman at the well shows that society's judgment can alienate and place women in a harsh landscape. The church should be that place where women find acceptance and are able to live authentically and so go out to the world and change it. The gospel stories also speak powerfully to other stories in the Bible, particularly those in the OT.

Pam | 27 September 2018  

How can it be right to punitively withhold this grace from those whose so-called 'weakness' is same-sex attraction … Why 'so-called'? Surely, forgivable or not, same-sex attraction is a weakness.

Gavan | 27 September 2018  

O.K so who benefits from this replacement of chastity for charity in the church? An all male celibate and supposedly sexually inexperienced group of teachers and seminarians studied moral theology in a skewed way. Moral theology text books had more on the 6th and 9th commandments than almost all the other commandment sections combined. Why? My theory is that elaborate discussion of sex was about the only respectable way to have anything to do with the matter. Considering sex is a major human drive it craves expression. So the teaching and learning about it, the detailed discussions of minute sexual details provided some form of expression. Details of all kinds of normal and abnormal sexuality, bestiality etc were there in the moral theology textbooks. Actual case. A student asked a moral professor what constituted adultery. "Deposit of semen in the vagina." Student. "So if a condom was used that would not be adultery". Professor's response. "Curiously enough absurdly really nevertheless actually deposit of semen in the vagina is required for canonical adultery". So an immature group of young men had to learn this stuff which they often derided as being titillating though seriously out of touch. Women were seen as the enemies to celibacy. And one could argue that priests who abused saw this whole area as so unreal that it didn't matter.

Michael D. Breen | 27 September 2018  

Vince I think you may be confusing consensual relationships with abusive relationships although I find it confusing that’s priests would be able to justify having consensual relationships given the importance that the church places on celibacy and the important implications that follow this when interacting with others in their care.

Sheila | 27 September 2018  

Thank you for such a perceptive and insightful reflection on one of our western Church's failings, Vicki. In the work I do in two public universities in WA, teaching units in Catholic studies that meet the requirements for accreditation to teach in Catholic schools, I am saddened every semester when I here those in my classes, many - but not all - of whom have come from twelve years in Catholic schools, talk with frustration about their experience of RE classes in their secondary years. Their frustration does not come from their experience of life in a Catholic school, as their recollections of this are overwhelmingly positive. But they talk of being told in their RE classes 'Don't ask questions', of being told 'This is what the Church tells you so just accept it' or 'Read the Bible if you have any questions'. These examples don't capture the full range of experiences, of course, because some are choosing to teach in Catholic schools because of a particularly influential RE teacher in one or another of their senior years. I also hear words like 'She really believes what she teaches us', 'He lets us express our opinions and ask questions about what we don't understand', 'She listens to us' 'He makes us think' and other highly affirming comments. After thirty years of teaching and working in Catholic schools, at both primary and secondary levels, I understand the challenges that teachers face, especially teachers of RE and especially now, when any sense of religious faith in Australian society is easily dismissed as ignorance, foolishness or hypocrisy. But this is why I'm saddened to hear of young people being discouraged from asking questions when many of them are searching for answers about life and their own lives that they can't find anywhere else. So, Vicki, knowing some of those who teach/have taught at Iona College in Mosman Park, I hope you all continue to 'scatter the seeds' in ways that will bring forth much fruit in these times when many young people find it difficult, almost too difficult, to 'identify' as Catholic and to live by the foundations that religious faith can offer for healthy, happy and well-adjusted adult lives.

Alan Wedd | 27 September 2018  

Oooooh Gavan. Surely same-sex attraction is part of the intrinsic makeup of many in our society, and the means by which they express their deepest love.

Anna Summerfield | 27 September 2018  

Well done Viki: an extraordinarily interesting article, evoking such a range of opinions. Totally amazing to see what disparate belief systems rub shoulders in our parishes. A Catholic educator, I'm sure you've a well-used copy of the 'Catechism of the Catholic Church'? My copy (published by St Pauls, Strathfield, 2009) is prefaced by observations from the then Pope John Paul II (now in sainted glory). This is ". . a full and complete exposition of Catholic doctrine enabling everyone to know what the Church professes, celebrates, lives, and prays in her daily life." "Through the harmonious and complementary efforts of all the ranks of the People of God, may this Catechism be known and shared by everyone, so that the unity of the faith whose supreme model is the Unity of the Trinity may be strengthened and extended to the ends of the earth." "May the light of true faith free humanity from the ignorance and slavery of sin in order to lead it to the only freedom worthy of the name, that of life in Jesus Christ under the guidance of the Holy Spirit . . ." To my eye, our Catechism has much that bears on your article.

Dr Marty Rice | 27 September 2018  

See also, whoever has given up....... For my sake and the sake of the gospel shall be rewarded 100 times over IN THIS LIFE, and inherit eternal life in the world to come. As a very idealistic person I have really struggled with this at times. Thank you for telling us this story!

Robert Stewart | 28 September 2018  

@ vince | 26 September 2018. Vince, you misunderstand me as does everyone who does not read my work. I am concerned about the voiceless person in all these so called 'consenting relationships'. It's not just about the clergy and their journey to celibacy, as much as clericalist clergy and their supporters may think it is. It is, and should be, about the other person who gets seduced, groomed and lured into sexual misconduct by clergy they trust and had no desire to do so. Did you read the article by Joanne McCarthy by any chance. That will give you just a little taste of what I am on about. Please take the time to read such things before accusing me of being a judgemental puritan. Here's the link again: https://www.theherald.com.au/story/5641623/celibate-priests-its-a-sham-calls-for-catholic-church-me-too-campaign/ And remember, I'm by no means the only oe saying this. I am being strongly supported by Tom Doyle and (was) b Richard Sipe as well as the other mentioned in Joanne's article. So lets get out of this reverse even liberal clericalism which always makes it about the priest.

Stephen de Weger | 28 September 2018  

And Vince, this is what I am talking about: "Some months later, one of the bishop’s key advisors invited me to have a “friendly chat” with him. We met in his rectory. He welcomed me with a Scotch on the rocks and we started talking. Very friendly. Then he became very serious: “You know of course that the bishop is very disappointed in you. The bishop and I want you to come back. Please come back. Forget that marriage nonsense. Most married people are unhappy and the sex is not always that good. We want you to understand that, as a priest, you can always have a boy or a woman whenever you need sexual relief.” That was my introduction, and invitation, to clerical sex abuse. As I sat there, speechless, staring at him, my host started laughing and continued “God loves his priests and will always give his priests cute guys and sexy women for their sexual comfort.” I put my glass on the table and walked out. Never saw the man again". Source: https://anothervoice-greenleaf.org/author/jadick/ You can choose to believe such a statement, or not. I believe it wholeheartedly.

Stephen de Weger | 28 September 2018  

Just one more thing, Vince, I might agree with your premise if the Church didn't keep going on and on about celibacy, and it was made optional. so that clergy as well, could be free to the possibility of full relationships and marriage with another human being. I don't know where tat will leave the gay clergy, though, and there are many, many of them who will somehow feel understandably left out if mandatory celibacy was abolished. The church teachings on sex, and on celibacy are wonderful ideals, but when people choose to ignore them then it creates a climate of guilt and secrecy, ripe for blackmail and inaction when abuse of any form is discovered. You (and anyone) might want to add this to your reading list: http://www.awrsipe.com/Docs_and_Controversy/blackmail.html

Stephen de Weger | 28 September 2018  

Wow! 24 comments already & it's not yet 10.30 in the morning. Sex stimulates. Michael Breen illustrates only too clearly what our celibate priests in training had to study & read about regarding the sex drive in their Moral Theology courses. I'm reminded of a story told about a broadminded German moral theologian lecturing on Approved Sexual Intercourse Positions to an international group of student priests. He began: 'There are 40 approved positions....' He was interrupted by an Indian priest in the class: '41!' The professor being professionally cool replied: 'Young man, we can agree to disagree but we can discuss your point after my lecture.'He then proceeded: 'First sprinkle the nuptial bed with rose water....' Again the Indian priest interrupted: '42!' Probably no subject requires greater attention to the maturity of the child than sex education. Maturation is the process of learning to cope and react in an emotionally appropriate way to the instincts we share as human beings. Not all children mature at the same rate. The influences of Nature and Nurture can have various consequences. Children are told to avoid occasions of sin. They come to believe their very bodies are occasions of sin. Sad.

Uncle Pat | 28 September 2018  

Well said Stephen de Weger! Amidst a welter of emotional and self-indulgent heterodox commentary, your work stands out as fact-based and well-reasoned. We can all learn from you that, to be effective and publicly acceptable, Church governance must move on to become fully transparent; deferring to unrestricted, properly researched and logically-critiqued data. And, OF COURSE, in obedience to such lucid New Testament directions as in Ephesians chapter 5: "Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure person, or one who is greedy (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the realm of Christ and of God." "Try to find out what is pleasing to The Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them." Following Paul, who follows Jesus, we have indeed found true freedom as obedient servants in Christ; but, it's in an entirely different dimension to the maelstrom of sexual immorality and deceit that is whirling so many to perdition. "Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes on those who are disobedient." So: smarten-up all you shepherds and people of God - live clean AND good (no false dichotomy needed).

Dr Marty Rice | 28 September 2018  

Thankyou for a thoughtful article which has called forth thoughtful and compassionate comments. I would so much like to see priestly celibacy become optional. My concern is largely for priests' partners, who accept a situation where they are never acknowledged in public, never have the joy of spending leisure time openly together, but are expected to make themselves available in the times when priest have a small space in their lives. Among other priests they may be openly acknowledged, but this surely leads to a repeat of the situation that occurred when priests covered for those priests who abused children--let's pull the wool over the laity's eyes and give them the impression that our lives are different from what they are in reality. An optional married priesthood would do away with much hypocrisy, priests who left to marry after Vatican II would be able to return, and there would probably be many more young people opting for the priestly life.

Anna Summerfield | 28 September 2018  

Thank you for your thought-provoking, topical article Vicki. The sentence "But we should not believe that living the best Christian life we can is a penalty" says it all. I once heard a young man say that he thought it unfair that someone who had led a dissolute could accept Christ on their deathbed & go straight to heaven, suggesting that living a life with Christ was some sort of burden. What sort of Christianity is that? That the Church has got its thinking about sexual matters skewed is reflected in this recent article: https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/her-too.

Elizabeth Harrington | 28 September 2018  

Well said Stephen! Amidst the welter of emotional, often heterodox commentary your work shows the way to a more dispassionate and effective morality. First, it's essential all Church records and personnel be available to qualified research workers; no restriction of access nor veto of truth. Then, Church leaders must respect professionally researched and logically critiqued data. As in large corporations, progress hinges on accurate data. Plus, on our obedience to lucid New Testament directions like Ephesians chapter 5: "Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure person, or one who is greedy (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the realm of Christ and of God." "Try to find out what is pleasing to The Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them." Following-Paul-who-follows-Jesus we have true freedom as obedient servants in Christ (an entirely different 'freedom' to the maelstrom of sexual immorality and deceit whirling so many Catholics to perdition). "Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes on those who are disobedient." So: shepherds and people of God, let's smarten-up; so as to live clean AND good (no false dichotomy needed).

Martin Rice | 28 September 2018  

Vicki, I didn't want to detract from your excellent article, but, I've been on the other end of this whole approach to sex and sexuality. I have been sexually assaulted by a priest when I went and sought help for previous abuse/assault-related sexual problems. A few decades later my abuse was seriously disturbing my marriage and parenthood because of my still present confusion. A friend recommended I see a certain priest in (redacted), good for this kind of stuff (funny that's what people said about the priest I was told to go and see when I was 20). That priest got almost angry at me for my choice to be faithful to my wife and children as being some kind of puritanical thing and said I should have been more of the Prodigal Son. So, seriously, I don’t know what this church believes anymore, and I certainly do not trust its clergy. I still believe in the high-quality teachings about sex and sexuality, but none of it really makes a lot of sense anymore when the supposed teachers of those ideals have no idea what they mean or simply don't believe them. As such, my main concern now is for those who suffer as a result of clergy sexual misconduct.

Stephen de Weger | 29 September 2018  

Roy, I’d like to know where you get your doctrines from- although I fully support your right to have a personal opinion. Since the Catholic Church doesn’t recognise divorce, there’s no way someone can be celibate and divorced at the same time. And thanks to Gavan for so succinctly giving an example of the hypocrisy outlined in the article!

Aurelius | 29 September 2018  

The clergy sexual abuse crisis might be the "earthquake" that liberates the pilgrim Church from the patriarchal culture. For your consideration: http://pelicanweb.org/CCC.TOB.html#SUMMARY

Luis Gutierrez | 30 September 2018  

“The prize for those who come to the vineyard early is clear when the father talks to his resentful older son in the Parable of the Prodigal Son….” Unless one believes that there are varying grades of happiness in heaven, the point of the parable is that one prize fits all. There is no entitlement to be rewarded for effort because no human effort can compensate for the infinity of the offence of just one sin. The crucifixion was not merely of a man but of a god. Crucifixion of a man only would have done nothing. Being saved from hell is an act of mercy, not payment for effort. Coming early means that you loved God earlier, which is what you were obligated to have done anyway. Further, the infinite plenitude of the gift of being saved means that those who proved their love early must not begrudge those who proved their love late. After all, wouldn’t we wonder about the sanity and balance of a lottery winner of ten million dollars who can’t stop thinking that if the number of winners had been fewer might have got twenty?

Roy Chen Yee | 30 September 2018  

I shared the article with a friend who said Vicki should become a priest and if the Catholics won't have here she should become an Anglican.

Noel Jeffs | 01 October 2018  

Vicki. Too many compliments are not to your or anyone who calls himself a christian agvantage. As you know. Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets. The Beatitudes. My advice? Total immunity to charm. Vanity of vanity...you know the drill. Probably best to trust those who dislike what you say. Wearing the crown of humiliation and dishonor, is more Christlike. BTW. I like Brett Kavanaugh. He is innocent of the accusation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SoZAhiJZXgA Body language interpretation and more. Hang in there Brett! Best time to catch (or point out) a liar is in the beginning.

AO | 01 October 2018  

An interesting reflection, Vicky. You are right in identifying the Catholic church's return to compassion and mercy for all people as it's first item to proclaim to a broken world. What is unsaid in this article, however, is the hypocrisy of the author in having formed a coalition to bring down and ostracise staff members within Iona school who do not align to the churches' traditional teaching, especially they with same-sex attraction. To reduce and diminish their dignity and assume that you know what occurs in their private lives was a destructive action, and it is important that this comment be published.

DeannaC | 01 October 2018  

Well said Anna Summerfield! How sad that many clergy feel they were press-ganged or conscripted into a life-style that they find they can't sustain. True - joyful volunteer celibacy is a beautiful life-choice, with opportunities for bearing special fruit for the Church. In contrast, tight-lipped, conscripted celibacy soon leads to cognitive dissonance and much bad fruit - as the current scandals show. Isn't it time for the Church to invite and welcome both married and unmarried candidates for the priesthood? After all, we have many convert clergy from protestant churches who are still married and doing great work among us. Like faith itself, celibacy simply must be a freely-made, fully voluntary choice.

Dr Marty Rice | 01 October 2018  

1 of 3 A good post, Roy Chen Yee “Being saved from hell is an act of mercy, not payment for effort”…Yes, but His mercy can only be received in humility. Today many say “If God is so hateful and wrathful, then I want nothing to do with him.” So in the context of a wrathful God of the Old Testament, how do we as Christians explain the ever-lasting punishment of Hell, as given within the Gospels, to none believers..-Many cultures throughout the ages have believed in Heaven and Hell and it could be said that this belief is innately known; as we hide in the bushes so to say, to cover our nakedness (Sinfulness/evil) before God (Goodness) “All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven to men”…My understand of these words, are that, when one deliberately destroys the potential of the soul, by persistently denying the Truth (light/grace/living water) of the Holy Spirit, who prompts the heart to flourish and grow spiritually, it would eventual result in that person, been able to call evil good, and good evil.-Any individual, who deliberately separates the intellect from the heart, Continue

Kevin Walters | 01 October 2018  

2 of 3…receives a cold light, the product of which is an intellect, free from the normal constraints of conscience, as self-will rules. Because the light is cold, its deliberate application via free will upon the heart/soul, has a drying effect, resulting in that soul/heart been devoid of true love and compassion, a self-contained dwelling place of spiritual desolation. We see this in the parable of the Rich man and Lazarus as Jesus throws some light on the state of been in hell. A dry place, “where their worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched”… John 12:48 “The one who rejects me and does not accept my words has a judge; the word I have spoken will judge him at the last day”… continue So for clarity it is in the knowing (believing), that the word of God (Truth) is good. Then to deliberately set your face against the Spirit of Truth, You would in time rid yourself of innate knowledge, in effect destroy the divine spark within your soul. Enabling/creating the blasphemy against the Holy Spirt, by calling good, bad, and bad, good. For many this rejection can and does become subliminal,.. continue

Kevin Walters | 01 October 2018  

3 of 3… as sin can never be justified, no matter what its face, in time or place. As they wander down the broad highway of spiritual destruction (the drying/hardening of the human heart) as they make God to conform to their own image (Ego). We cannot and must not make God in our own image, as we are all sinners, relativism has no part to play in Christian doctrine. Compassion/mercy yes, but God’s Divine Mercy can only be received in humility/honesty, as we stand before Him in our nakedness, as He leads us via the Holy Spirit, out from the bushes, so to say, to the on-going transformation of the human heart. Please consider continuing via the link, kevin your brother In Christ. www.catholicethos.net/god-old-testament-hateful-wrathful/#comment-205

Kevin Walters | 01 October 2018  

Well written Kevin Walters! If only those in positions of leadership would teach - preach and live The Gospel of Life so clearly and cogently . . .

Dr Marty Rice | 02 October 2018  

DeannaC, Vicki may not be at liberty to respond to your comment, but freed from the burden of the double-standards and lovelessness that she critiques, I can speak with some authority about life at Iona, as I knew it when my former spouse taught there. It was a deeply conservative place at the time (1977-85) drawing for its religious presence from a community of Presentation Sisters recruited at the time almost exclusively from Co Cork. There was but one Sister who was Anglo-Thai, but she had no particular influence on the college and its student life, despite her extraordinary wholeness and holiness. A prominent male member of the staff was a closeted gay man. The priest-in-charge of the church attached to the college was a deeply conservative man who objected to Bastille Day Masses because they 'unleashed' the terror of anti-clericalism. A younger priest who suggested to staff that the pregnancy of a student could be attributed to love was asked not to return to his position. A teacher on staff was later convicted for accessing child pornography. The Billings method was actively taught. A staff member had an abortion. Please wish Iona and Vicki's presence at the school well!

Dr Michael Furtado | 04 October 2018  

Oh dear Vicki, now you see what happens when you challenge the latter-day scribes and pharisees. It's the rules that matter, don't you see? And you've committed the unpardonable sin of questioning their rationale and efficacy. Now where would we all be if everyone else spoke up like you have?

Ginger Meggs | 04 October 2018  

In regard to the following accusation brought against unnamed persons (ostensibly in positions of high responsibility in the Catholic Church) "We want you to understand that, as a priest, you can always have a boy or a woman whenever you need sexual relief”, and after due consideration, I am of the view that Stephen de Weger should either put up or shut up. Sitting on information such as that cannot be allowed, in the current climate of suspicion, accusation and counter-accusation, to remain unaddressed. Stephen must either name the persons whom he accuses of having said that to him or 'swallow his tongue'. A useful way to start is to make a sworn statement, countersign it and send it to the appropriate Vatican authorities, report the matter to his diocesan canon lawyer and lodge a copy with his lawyer. The endless innuendo and accusation that he engages in has no more than a sensationalising effect that serves no other purpose than to denigrate the Church and spread scandalous gossip about its senior members. It also, with respect, raises questions about the state of mind of the author of his remarks. Zola himself illustrated the power of the unleashed epistemic voice.

Dr Michael Furtado | 06 October 2018  

Puzzled by your post dear 'Ginger Meggs'. If I understand, you perceive a tension between compassion & the teachings of Jesus Christ made plain by 9 authors in the 27 texts of The New Testament. To me this looks like a classic false dichotomy: aren't you claiming that God's commands clash with God's character? Yet, Jesus Christ is revealed as fully human & fully God: omnibenevolent & omnicompetent. His tortures and crucifixion show the fullness of divine benevolence; then, the resurrection & outpouring of The Holy Spirit show supreme divine competence. There's no hiatus. Without exception, the Christ of our Bible (and of nearly 2,000 years of saints and martyrs) calls us to obedience, holiness, perfection. Yes, indeed, we all fall short but the Christ teaches us how to repent and get back on track (e.g. see 1st Corinthians chapter 5 and 2nd Corinthians chapter 2). Refusal to embrace this New Testament methodology insinuates that God is wrong and we are right; a sort of disbelief in God's competence and a rejection of God's benevolence. Above other religions, we're graced with eye-witness accounts of the life and teachings of God-with-us. If that is our cement, who could separate us? (continued)

Dr Marty Rice | 06 October 2018  

continuation 'Ginger', my heart breaks over the current pervasive lack of clarity about Christian basics and the resultant moral mess and malicious factionalising in the Church. Mahatma Ghandi - not a Catholic but a great respecter of Christ - founded a movement called 'Satya Graha' meaning "We insist on truth". The debilitating culture of secrecy emanating from Rome surely demands that today, all of us of good will should form a 'Catholic Truth Insistence Movement'. The giant international corporations all accept that transparency in their organisation and management is a sine qua non for healthy success. It's the right time now for Catholics everywhere to insist that qualified researchers be given free access to all the documents and personnel of the Church. Our foundation texts are based on the observations of 9 reliable witnesses. Let's pray that our Church returns to the original solidity of a fact-based reality and learns again how to 'shame the devil'.

Dr Marty Rice | 06 October 2018  

Dear Dr Michael Furtado, surely you should not attack the academic process, whereby excellent sociological researchers such as Stephen de Weger gain privileged access to information. From my own first-hand experience over many decades, I take Stephen's commentary on systematic clerical sexual abuses to be fair, representative, reasonable, and, in fact, quite reserved. Someone I know well confidentially shared their experiences at a well-known Australian seminary, where they were shunned for criticising the involvement of staff and students in pornography and profligate sexual activities of all imaginable types. There's only one effective way to get our clergy 'back-on-track'. This is to remove the veils of privilege and secrecy, so that qualified academics are able to research these matters in an on-going way. That is simply to be obedient to the Apostolic instructions (e.g. see Ephesians 5: 11-12). Otherwise we may continue to be 'served' by parish priests and bishops who are burdened down by the guilt of their hypocrisy; subverting their best attempts to minister to their parishes and to evangelise Australia. Hey Michael, an apology to Stephen would be a beautiful grace . . .

Dr Marty Rice | 06 October 2018  

Dr Michael Furtado, not all priests are Christian, as I can testify. There is a war going on within the Church and the powers of darkness on the surface appear to be winning, self-protection is what the leadership sort, dereliction is what it bought. I found the comment.. "We want you to understand that, as a priest, you can always have a boy or a woman whenever you need sexual relief”,.. more than plausible, as I have personally encountered similar situations, many times over the last thirty-five years, that incorporate duplicity, gesture, implied talk, murmurings and symbolism, no lawyer or agency can expose what these evil men use, while smiling, as they are the tools of the Evil One. This living reality within the Church needs to be openly acknowledged. Over the said years, as a sinner and outsider, I have observed the on-going demise of the church by manifestations of evil. From laity in ‘privileged positions’ some of whom sing Deo Gratias as Deo ‘arse’us, while coyly smiling at each other. Others I have seen walking down the aisle flipping up and holding (Signalling) jacket vents, in an haughty manner. While witnessing other Christians been accompanied by a ‘fiend’ in many different situations, who covertly signals others with glee “May God help us!.. Yes! the weeds must grow with the wheat, but only the serving of the truth in all situations can expose these men with evil intent. The leadership (Bishops) need to “Wake up! and face reality, and stop hiding behind a worldly “image” of the good Shepherd and do their duty, as Peter, and be seen to commence to clean up the putrid stink of corruption, emanating from the Vatican, and protect what is left of the flock. kevin your brother in Christ.

Kevin Walters | 07 October 2018  

Michael, you must have missed the link to the source: it was in the comment. "Sex in Church", by J. A. Dick. August 17, 2018. https://anothervoice-greenleaf.org/author/jadick/ Most if not all of what I write is directly from (anonymous) victims/participants in my study (perhaps you want to doubt them) or as in this, case material I come across in my study from respected authors who themselves write from experience rather than feelings.

Stephen de Weger | 08 October 2018  

Ginger, this is a serious question: Who are the modern day pharisees? I challenge the modern-day clergy about sexual misconduct and (I think) I am accused of being pharisaical by some? Jesus was angry at the religious elite who preached one thing but lived a different life themselves. While it’s unknown whether that included sexual misconduct, what is it about sex that gets us so heated up. Do we truly believe that we cannot control our sexual urges, or, that, according to the 'prophets' of the sexual revolution, we shouldn't control those urges and indeed express them, and if you don't you are a puritan and probably sexually repressed judgemental creep. The Law of Jesus is Love, of God, others, and self. Thing is, most of us these days no longer understand what that kind of Love means. There's the problem. That's what's being argued here the erroneous conflation of sex with Love. Yes, of course sex is one form of Love (erotic), but is that what Jesus was talking about? How and when is sex being Loving? That's the question we need to be discussing. I recommend Karen Lebacqz's article "Appropriate Vulnerability" and Erich Fromm's The Art of Loving for answers. Sadly, Jesus had little to say on sex. The modern pharisees are those who abuse sexual Love and call it a virtue.

Stephen de Weger | 08 October 2018  

There is one main issue coming through these comments: a clashing of the heart and the head; but both are needed. What is being argued about is truth and reality from the perspective of: individual emotions and compassion; and ideals and guidance based on theories and teachings. There does not have to be a clash or an argument. Judgementalism is when people (Christians) in the desire to maintain high standards (ideals which are mostly upheld by social and personal psychology as leading to greater happiness), refuse to embrace, but instead reject and judge the ‘sinner’. There does not have to be a contradiction: The story of Jesus and the woman being stoned, makes that so obviously clear: “Where are your condemners?” “Gone!” “Then neither do I condemn you - go and sin no more”. And yes, because Jesus put Love first, she became a follower of Him and (presumably) gave up her sexual past.

Stephen de Weger | 08 October 2018  

Thank you Stephen for your serious question. When I used the phrase 'latter-day scribes and pharisees' I was thinking of those who, unlike Vicki, when they are confronted by honest and challenging questioning, seem to me to resort to the 'rule book', or to some allegedly infallible source or text, to trot out a pat answer that has been formulated by others, more than likely in a time of greater ignorance of the natural world, and usually expressed in some esoteric form of language, which more often than not has been subverted into a form of social control, and which now enables them to avoid having to think through the challenge and articulate their own response in their own words.

Ginger Meggs | 08 October 2018  

Stephen. I expect the parable does expect us to assume that the woman to be stoned did give up her sexual past. The problem with our society is that few these days would be prepared to do that! It is said the Church has a "fixation with matters sexual". Doesn't compare with the fixation of our society on sex from the early years at school upwards, as an entertainment medium wherever you care to look and promoted as a human right outside the bonds of "oppressive" morality.

john frawley | 08 October 2018  

@ john frawley It's not just the Church's fixation on sex John, but rather its fixation to the (almost) exclusion of all other areas of morality.

Ginger Megga | 11 October 2018  

Stephen, I feel uncomfortable about the revelations of J. A. Dick. Its not that I deny the existence of corruption in the form of cover-ups by senior clergy of clerical wrong-doing. Its the explicitly sexual nature of your and J. A Dick's revelations. There is a plausible alternative explanation to your own, viz. that clericalism is the real problem with the Catholic Church. Power abuse undoubtedly has sexual manifestations, but it takes a Freudian extremist to suggest that the abuse of sex is at the bottom of the current crisis in the Catholic Church. Some of the clerics associated with J. A. Dick and critical of the Pope include Archbishop Vigano and Cardinal Raymond Burke, both of them staunch homophobes. Not only that, Cardinal Burke has gone on the pubic record as claiming that the advent of female altar servers rang the death knell for young men wanting to become priests. This kind of analysis plainly lacks substance and holds the Church as well as its critics up to disrepute in being associated with it. I sincerely mean what I say when I suggest that, if your respondents are alleging salacious clerical sexual behaviour on a grand scale, name them!

Michael Furtado | 13 October 2018  

Sorry, Michael, when you say "if your respondents are alleging salacious clerical sexual behaviour on a grand scale, name them!" you are asking me to break the seal of anonymity and my ethics approval requirements. It is about power, but it is also about distorted sex and immature mentalities within the perpetrators. And then, it is about the levels of sexual activity in the context of fear and judgement in the RCC which generates an atmosphere of bribery, inaction and very low morale. In saying this I am only echoing Richard Sipe's 40 years of work and intimate knowledge of the goings on back stage among clergy. I am researching how this effects ordinary people (particularly adult women and men) who get caught up in such a context - your emphasis is on conservative anti-gay attitudes. So, we are on different pages. We'll just have to leave it at that.

Stephen de Weger | 16 October 2018  

We speak to the same issue, Stephen. I, and many others like me in these columns, and whether gay or not, allege that the heresy hunters in this debate are religious fundamentalists and reductive theorists who would seek to purify the Church by policing the sexual frailties of some of its members. As far as I have understood it, I and many others, such as Professor John Warhurst, who publishes insightfully on this website, attribute the many problems with the Church, to the abuse of power, and not to the exclusively sexual symptoms that preoccupy your posts.

Michael Furtado | 16 October 2018  

I obviously need to write a longer post in order to explain myself yet again. So, this will be in two sections: The reason my posts are about sex is because that's what my topic of research is about - sexual misconduct and even more so, how people's lives have been so harmed by this form of power abuse that uses sex. I am also now, thanks to your insistence about it not being about sex, starting to believe that it probably is more about the sex or at least that the two are so intricately interwoven that they cannot be separated. Yes, abuse of power can be manifested in so many ways but the way that seems to cause the most upset and harm is when it involves sex. As I have pointed out (and tried to have an article published here about), is that it is in the sexual act that we are so very vulnerable, and that's why sexual abuse is so harmful and why the sexual act so needs to be protected.

Stephen de Weger | 17 October 2018  

Why is it an issue for you that I focus on the sexual aspect of abuse. Is this not the same focus on the sexual abuse of children by clergy? It IS the sex part that harms. Yes, it certainly is a form of power abuse but that has more to do with the perpetrator, and less to do with the effects on the victim. It is those effects and why sexual misconduct, especially by a ‘celibate’ cleric, that makes it so harmful and what I am interested in and trying to understand and then write about. If you want to know how I feel about sexual misconduct as abuse of power, read my journal article here https://journals.equinoxpub.com/index.php/JASR/article/view/32747 I’ll say it one more time: my research is about how clergy sexual misconduct affects the victims thereof. It is also about how the church responds to such victims when (if) they report. I hope that make things clearer, but somehow I doubt it will.

Stephen de Weger | 17 October 2018  

Just one more addition: Here is the abstract for my and Dr Jodi Death's article. Hopefully that will convince you that I do fully understand that this is from the perpetrators position, an abuse of power: Abstract This article describes and discusses the power–vulnerability intersect in the lives of 23 women and 6 men who experienced clergy sexual misconduct against adults (CSMAA) within the everyday life of the Roman Catholic Church. It argues that framing CSMAA around a ‘vulnerable victim’ rather than an ‘abusive cleric’ has led to the misinterpretation and continuation of CSMAA, and an overall attitude of victim blaming. However, when victims/survivors of CSMAA are given the opportunity to tell their stories, a different picture emerges. The article concludes that CSMAA does not occur because there is a vulnerable adult but, rather, because there is a cleric willing to misuse their powers to abuse adult vulnerabilities. This article also argues that the unique dynamics of CSMAA become more evident and understandable when those clergy powers and adult vulnerabilities are clearly delineated as being both positional and personal realities.

Stephen de Weger | 17 October 2018  

So, I have one last question for you: Why are people on the more liberal side of the church, so frightened of tackling sexual misconduct against adults, because they are, you know? I never wanted to take sides and believe that this is definitely not a lib/cons issue as it occurs on both sides of the fence, but as to dealing with it, only the cons are supporting or responding positively to my study of clergy sexual misconduct against adults and the need to care for victims thereof. The libs just seem to be seeing this as a judgemental puritanical attack against compassion, but ONLY for the cleric it seems. Is there still a element then of victim blaming when it comes to abuse of adults?

Stephen de Weger | 17 October 2018  

Stephen, the most recent of your posts exposes the flaw in your analysis. The battle-lines in the clerical-abuse question categorically do not cleave along a liberal-conservative continuumThere is a vast sociological and theological body of analysis that locates sexual abuse - obviously counter-intuitive, but always to be read within the context of a wider and more politically literate framework of explanation that includes reference to the vast body of literature, called Foucauldian - within a complex and widely-researched discourse of obsession with power, authority and control, and which overturns the quaintly Freudian terms in which you, as a sociologist, seem to express your many thoughts in these columns. One such book is by the Anglican priest and scholar, Steven Ogden ('Church, authority, and foucault: Imagining the church as an open space of freedom', Oxford: Routledge). As one who examines higher research theses on your topic, I fear, from the lengthy explanations that you have already tendered, that they are replete with subjectivities, not least of which is your preoccupation with sexual behaviour between adults.

Michael Furtado | 17 October 2018  

This is the final group of posts - (Capitals are not yelling but emphasising as we cannot italicise; also, apologies for the length – it doesn’t bother me though if people want to respond in length to explain themselves – sorry it upsets you so much Michael): Michael, you do not understand even though you are so obviously immersed in theory. Perhaps that’s WHY you don’t understand – theory can bias you away from the ability to truly see reality, in this case, the reality of the victims/survivors of clergy sexual misconduct against adults (CSMAA). There is no way to make what I am doing or trying to say any clearer. You have again misread what I wrote as I also said and keep saying this is not a lib vs cons issue and I really hate the way people interpret my work through either one of those agendas. I trust neither 'side' because they are not capable of free thought but rather keep sprouting their pet theoreticians or spokespersons of the day. Church Militant wanted to buy my website - I said quite strongly, ‘no’ because I do not agree with the reasons they are so passionate about this issue - they see it as a political issue and the chance to sink the boot into Francis and his like, and all the gays who they believe have destroyed the church and who continue to do so.

Stephen de Weger | 17 October 2018  

However, I also do not agree with the liberal side who so fear raising the realities so painfully obvious and revealed in the McCarrick case, and which is so plain to see for anyone who wants to see it - the whole issue of gay clergy and their chastity, or not - this is also not just a simple gay/straight issue either as the whole issue of chastity, or not, is one that is all through the religious life communities in the church. You have only repeated what almost anyone focusing on gay issues in the church have done: ignore the actual reality that adult men and women are being seduced and abused by clergy and then saying over and over "this is not a gay issue" No matter how many times I also say this is not a gay issue, nor a liberal issue, it just doesn’t seem to sink in. Why? Well, all I can assume is that there is a sort of fear dominating the ability to look past one's own agenda to what may be really going on 'sexual abuse of adults by clergy’. Why can't you see that? Answer – Because you do not believe it is a real or important issue or, you are suffering a liberal form of clericalism.

Stephen de Weger | 17 October 2018  

But this also applies to the heterosexual clergy who no longer want to be celibate. Great. Go for it - get rid of mandatory celibacy but that won't solve any problems much, especially for the gay clergy for whom sexual activity is totally forbidden at present. So, what are we, or what am I talking about - the VICTIMS/SURVIVORS of all your theoretical talk which tries to excuse the reality of clergy sexual misconduct against adults. You NEVER mention them. How would you feel if it was a psychologist who seduced a patient? I know you will again want to present a counterargument, but I am not going to respond anymore, because it is obvious to me at least that we are discussing two different things, but you cannot see that, or, simply that you want to turn your erroneous perception of me and/or my work, around to your way of seeing reality: Not possible in your way of thinking – reality is relative (I’m sure Foucault would back me up on that). The theorist I will be basing my research on would agree with your premise about Foucauldian power obsession, but I am starting to doubt it as a too theoretical explanation of what actually happens in the heat of misconduct. Now, if you want to see me as some quaint Freudian, I can live with that, even though I have never studied or mentioned him ever. So, that’s it. DO you mind then if I see you as a fantcising Foucauldian? If my PhD fails, I’ll let you know. I’ll also let you know if it passes.

Stephen de Weger | 17 October 2018  

"not least of which is your preoccupation with sexual behaviour between adults". Your interest in this part of my overall study, and me, is interesting. So, Michael, how do you feel about Trump's, Clinton's and Kavanaugh's alleged misconduct against women: Is that being preoccupied with sex between adults. You cannot have t one way for politicians and another for clergy who should be setting an even higher example for society. Obviously, according to your thinking and supported perhaps by this article, we in the West should not be so judgemental of such things. One LAST thing: Why have you not ever actually mentioned the victims/survivors of CSMAA, AND why have you never answered my questions to you? That's it. I don't care what you write now: I know I have many women and men who have suffered, grateful for what I am doing - that's enough for me. I just know there are so many out there still. I do hope you answer at least the questions in this final comment, but I will not respond anymore. Good bye.

Stephen de Weger | 17 October 2018  

Stephen, you might find relevant the following statement by Michael Hanby, associate professor of religion and philosophy of science at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at The Catholic University of America. Referring to the present crisis in the Catholic Church, he writes: "Explanations abound for how we got here, ranging from the theological to the sociological and from the universal to the particular. The spectrum runs from the mysterium iniquitatis (the mystery of sin) to a clerical culture of deference and secrecy and a homosexual subculture (or superculture) within the hierarchy that imposes a structure of silent duplicity even upon the innocent . . . In keeping with the Aristotelian/Thomist principle that the same effect can proceed from multiple causes . . . I am inclined to think that all these theories contain at least some element of truth, and some more than an element, though each risks condemning the good and the innocent along with the wicked and the guilty." ("A False Paradigm: against the de-Hellenisation of Christianity", First Things, November 2018).

John | 18 October 2018  

Thanks for this John. I have become more and more adamant that theory is meant to be ONLY a tool for understanding and that as you say, all theories can tell us something. Where we go wrong is when we become so absorbed in defending a theory that we lose clarity of sight regarding the issue. No one has all the answers no matter how good they are. Advancement of understanding and knowledge is about freely investigating an issue using predeveloped theories to help understand, or, to research and then develop theory. The theory itself is not and should never be the end in itself. One reason our current society is in so much trouble is that more and more, people's identities seem to be married with a theory or agenda. Anyway, enough about theory.

Stephen de Weger | 19 October 2018  

My theory is that the church is getting nowhere because it/they are approaching the sexual abuse issue from a "let's-deal-with- symptoms-as-they-are-(unfortunately)-exposed' mentality. This issue is absolutely one that needs to find the source that is creating the myriad of symptoms. That source is the refusal to fully come to terms with all clergy sexual activity, and power; the issues of bribery, immobility and low morale that it causes; the suffering for layperson and clergy alike; and concepts of sexuality as well. Approaching it via a forced-to-deal-with-symptoms approach is pathetic and will achieve nothing but an increase in recidivism and the walking away from the church. What I am exploring on the other hand is how the reality of those who self-report CSMAA compares with Anson Shupe’s theory of Clergy Malfeasance (1995, 2007, 2008). I'm also interested in Erving Goffman's front stage/back stage theory - it relates particularly well to the current church's approach to almost everything. Thank you again for your academic challenge and support - I will look into Michael Hanby.

Stephen de Weger | 19 October 2018  

Thanks, Stephen - I think your work is very important and your commitment to it admirable.

John | 19 October 2018  

They say fools rush in where angels fear to tread, John; but I have always admired you for knowing where you stand. The encouragement you have given Stephen is therefore a mystery to me, much as I too would not want to mire him in his well-earned despondency. Stephen is a staunch admirer of Richard Sipe, who hardly shares your theology, other than that he, like all persons, religious or otherwise, as well as Stephen himself, stands opposed to child abuse. Beyond that, the Church is divided between progressive Catholics, like myself and Richard Sipe, on the one hand, and conservative Catholics, such as yourself, though I must confess that where Stephen stands on this is still a mystery to me. That said, Sype has stated that, were celibacy to be made an optional condition for ordination to the Catholic priesthood, as well as were women to be ordained, both recommendations which I heartily endorse, child abuse would disappear from the priesthood, for which supposedly empirically research-based conclusion no less a scholar than the eminent Catholic sociologist, Fr Andrew Greeley, has publicly stated there is no objective evidence. One thing I have never accused you of is hedging your bets.

Michael Furtado | 20 October 2018  

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