The Other I

September 18, 2018

More than Pope Francis can deal with?

Filed under: Catholicism and other questions of religion,Just Stuff — theotheri @ 2:17 pm

Concept conceptual yellow cross religion symbol silhouette in nature over sunset or sunrise sky Premium PhotoI have been surprised at the scope and depth of responses to my last post discussing what Pope Francis should do about the problem of pedophilia and other sexual misconduct among supposedly celibate priests.  Most of the responses have come to me privately, almost all of them with deep feeling.

Some responders think Pope Francis should resign, along with all the other hierarchy who over the years have failed to deal effectively with errant priests.  Others have argued that, although Francis is out of his depth, at least he acknowledges his mistakes, and if he were to step down from the papal throne, there is a significant danger that he would be replaced by a cardinal who thinks the problem is basically homosexual priests, and that in any case, it should be the sole authority of the Roman Catholic Church to deal with the problem, that it should not be put into the hands of the political justice system, and that, as far as possible, the abuses should remain out of the public domain.

But by far the most arresting response that I had never thought of before is the doctrinal one.  An ex-Protestant minister told me that the reverence the Roman Catholic laity give to Catholic priests is far greater and even essentially different from the respect offered to Protestant ministers and even Anglican vicars.  Catholics believe priests are ordained with an irrevocable ability to change the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ.  This ability lifts them onto a level of sanctity even in this life that the mere laity cannot achieve.

As someone else pointed out, even Vatican II did not suggest that priests should not be addressed as “Father,” rather worrisomely the term used to address God.  She and her husband have left the Catholic Church and attend a Unitarian Church whose vicar is a woman.  She says the difference between the unquestioning obedience by her Catholic friends to their priests is qualitatively different from the respect given to their vicar whom they are even free to address by her first name.

I fear the hypothesis that belief in the unique power of the priest to consecrate bread into the body of Christ might be more supportive of clerical sexual misconduct than most people think.  If so, the problem is far more difficult to address effectively than I have appreciated.

The fact that so much misconduct is being exposed today, in the context of so many people’s loss of faith in the infallibility of Catholic doctrine, may support the suggestion that the Roman Catholic Church needs a “Protestant Reformation.”


  1. I like your posts although I don’t always comment.
    Keep posting


    Comment by rayvoith — September 18, 2018 @ 4:43 pm | Reply

  2. Terry, this is such an interesting blog…it shows how varied the thoughts on this troubling issue!
    Having been raised Catholic I understand the loyalty to the church. But with this long-standing unresolved issue I strongly believe it has to be taken out of the hands of the hierarchy and put solely into the hands of the police, FBI, and Grand Jury system. In fact, based on my reading of Richard Sipe, (RIP Aug 8, 2018 – former Benedictine priest, psychologist, lifetime commitment to reform in the church regarding this issue, and married to Marianne Benkert, former Maryknoll Sister) this issue is not limited to Boston (SPOTLIGHT the movie) or Pennsylvania. It is a universal problem.
    Also with reference your statement about sanctity of the clergy…my understanding from first grade on, is that church teaching says the sanctity of the priest has no bearing on the efficacy of the sacraments. So these sexually disturbed priests, when acting as priests, saying Mass or Baptizing etc, are not an impediment to the sacramental act. That is how powerful ordination is!!! Think of that!!!
    The priest is an ALTER CHRISTUS…another Christ…and it is thru the sacraments that CATHOLICS encounter the Christ.
    The separation of the clergy, from day one of entering the seminary, thru ordination and then the clerical lifestyle, is part of the problem.
    The demand for celibacy likewise. I think everyone knows by now that it was required due to property…if the priest died his family inherited the house and property. HOW AWFUL! Let’s make them celibate. Problem solved. I can’t remember the date but it was either 910 or 1000 something…so for more than 900 years priests could marry.

    Best to you and everyone,


    Comment by tbastasch — September 18, 2018 @ 5:07 pm | Reply

    • As you well know, I too was raised Catholic. And we are very much on the same page. There is no way I think the Church should get away with hiding sexual abuse and pedophilia in their private files and theoretically dealing with the priests themselves. As with every other citizen, the issue should be in the hands of the criminal justice system. Terry


      Comment by theotheri — September 19, 2018 @ 3:50 pm | Reply

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