Saturday, October 17, 2009

A bigger problem than gay priests

From the NY Times, discussing how the Roman Catholic church covers up heterosexual relationships. The article tells the story of a woman who lived for a time with a priest and bore his child. Now, her son ill with cancer, she is seeking help.
Those files reveal that the church was tightfisted with her as she tried to care for her son, particularly as his cancer treatments grew more costly. But they also show that Father Willenborg suffered virtually no punishment, continuing to serve in a variety of church posts....
And, from a group that works with priests and their families, a more disturbing citation
"We quickly discovered that many of these priests were playboys. They weren’t looking for any discernment, they were simply staying and playing. It was the women who needed the support. Unfortunately, many women accept the kind of abuse from a priest that they would never accept if they were dating another man."
But the kicker is this:
A landmark study in 1990 by the scholar A. W. Richard Sipe, a former Benedictine, found that 20 percent of Catholic priests were involved in continuing sexual relationships with women, and an additional 8 percent to 10 percent had occasional heterosexual relationships....
Wow. But it's the gay guys they are banning from seminary? Does that make ANY sense?

Meanwhile, a recent articlereminds us there's a more honorable way to deal with the conflict of a calling to be married and a calling to the priesthood, by looking for former RC priests who have joined mainline Protestant demonimations.
Thanks to information gathered from the research offices of the five mainline Protestant Churches (Congregational, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian), I was able to identify 414 such men in the United States.....

Of the 131 respondents, 105 (80.2 percent) became Episcopalian, 15 (11.5 percent) Lutheran, eight (6.1 percent) Congregationalist, and three (2.3 percent) Methodist. I found a 40-year age range: the youngest was 42 and the eldest 82. Their mean age was 62.8 while the median was 64.....

In general, the respondents did not resign because they disliked ministry or had failed at it. Had the pope allowed them to marry, many would have stayed. Three of the respondents stated that they would return to the Catholic priesthood today—if they could bring their wives along with them.....

Other respondents spoke about their dislike for specific tenets of Catholic dogma. Many pointed to the publication of Humanae Vitae as a major turning point in their lives. One former diocesan priest, who is now 80 years old, said, “Humanae Vitae pushed me off the edge. I saw that act as the refusal of the Roman Catholic Church to enter the modern world.”
And perhaps of most interest to this crowd,
When asked why they chose their current denomination, the majority of respondents spoke of the strong similarity between their present church and the Catholic Church in terms of liturgy, ministry and theology. This was especially true for the Episcopalians and seems to explain why so many of the survey respondents gravitated to the Anglican Communion. Most of those who joined the Episcopal Church said that with only minor adjustments they “felt at home” from the beginning and that they found comfort in the fact that they could hold onto their core beliefs in the Resurrection and the Eucharist.
Yup, that's our experience. Liberal Catholics: find them in the Episcopal Church, which allows its clergy to have a much more healthy view of sexuality.

But I'm still reeling over the statistic:
20 percent of Catholic priests were involved in continuing sexual relationships with women
.

10 comments:

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

Amen and amen!

As I have said many times in Jake's place, we in Sweden never had Mandatory Celibacy nor did Iceland.

And we don't have the troubles you have in the Roman and Anglican churches...

Elizabeth said...

A friend of mine who was a Roman Catholic priest before he joined the Episcopal church simply said that he found that it wasn't that he wasn't called to the priesthood; he just wasn't called to celebacy. Rome lost a very good priest there.

Erp said...

I think there has always been a certain percentage in stable relationships with women. If anything 30% might be too low for those involved in adult heterosexual relations (stable or not).

JCF said...

The Medieval Church thought it could solve the problem of bishops leaving their churches to their sons...

...merely by turning those sons into bastards! :-0

I don't say this very often, but I'll say it now: THANK GOD for the Reformation!

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

Mandatory Celibacy as per Lateran 1139 most surely is repression - and many (3/4 according to sources) of the repressed go on repressing others.

Hence...

Grandmère Mimi said...

What a sad story for Ms Bond and her son. From the NY Times article:

He [Fr. Willenberg] was assigned to New Orleans to work with AIDS patients, and a few years later to the headquarters of his order’s province in St. Louis to oversee “spiritual formation” for priests, which includes educating them on how to remain celibate.

Unbelievable!

textjunkie said...

Twenty percent. One in five.

::shakes head::

Jim Pratt said...

The survey on former RC priests in other denominations is probably underinclusive.

I know several current Anglican/Episcopal priests who began their formation in the RC church, including one who went all the way through graduating from seminary, but withdrew before being ordained. Years later, having married and pursued other carriers, they came back to their calling and were finally ordained in the Episcopal Church or Anglican Church of Canada.

Fr Craig said...

I saw that article - the '414' seems very low to me. I've served in two smaller diocese and can think of over 20 former RC priests who are now Episcopalians. They all say the same thing - there is no substantive difference...

IT said...

Perhaps the record keeping practises have changed? In any case, the only substantive difference we've found is inclusiveness/bigtentism.