Vatican continues to dodge sex and the Catholic priesthood

On this evening's Tonight with Vincent Browne, guests Justine McCarthy, Andrew Madden and Fr Tom Stack will discuss the findings of the Apostolic Visitation to Ireland, published by the Vatican today. Below, Vincent Browne addresses some apparent shortcomings of the Vatican findings and raises some of the issues that will be examined on tonight's show.

The four apostolic bachelor visitors didn’t seem to stir themselves much while in Ireland, nor afterwards, in the preparation of their report on the Irish Catholic Church’s charter of clerical sex abuse. Everything was excellent, according to their eminences, except seminarians have to be more seminarian, when, arguably, the exact opposite is what they should be recommending.

Are they really sure that aspirants for the priesthood fully understand the demands and disciplines of celibacy; and are they sure that the inadequacy of the “formation” (awful idea) of seminarians on issues to do with sexuality, has been a contributory factor in the incidence of clerical sex abuse?

From what we know, issues to do with sexuality are hardly dealt with at all in that “formation”, which means that later, priests find themselves caught in a tension between normal sexual impulses and the demands they have bought into by their vow of chastity.

That, on top of the unreality of the life of priests - cut apart from the rest of society in the power they have as administrators of sacraments, in the forgiveness of sin, in the changing of bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ and their powerlessness as priests - entirely subject to their bishop or the head of their religious order, with little control over their lives and careers.

Also that culture of silence about sexual issues within the clerical life and therefore silence on maybe the gravest issues that most priests confront in their personal lives, a silence that leads to loneliness and isolation.

And then the absence of women from the clerical state - not just absence, exclusion. That too adding to the dysfunctionality, aside from the harm it does to the lives of women and their entitlement to an equality of status and respect.

The apparent failure to confront these issues seems to undermine somewhat much of what the Church is doing in relation to regulations and compliance with procedures designed to protect children.


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