A little thought amidst the furor over responsibility for allowing pedophile priests to continue unchecked for years, whether in the US, Ireland, Germany, or any other place that hasn't yet made it to the growing list of Priests Gone Wild.
The thought is this: can an institution - the Catholic Church, especially the Vatican - governed by men whose entire lives have been ruled by the tradition of celibacy, properly gauge the import of these outrages on children?
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd fulminates
I submit that the nature of this imposed celibacy, which was not a feature of early Christianity, has come to warp the human reactions of the Church hierarchy as to the "value" of children. Compared, that is, to the reputation of priests and the institution they represent.
Talk to parents of children, and you'll hear nothing but rage at the thought of their loved ones suffering at the hands of supposedly chaste priests. And the majority of celibate priests, nuns, and monks who follow the code, however difficult, and are tainted by the shame of their fellow religious.
I cannot imagine the hurt that this has caused good priests and nuns, which is the only kind of priest or nun I've ever known. Good name and reputation is essential in any calling, but none more than a religious vocation, which is based on a moral code.
While all priests are not predators, nor all pedophiles celibate (just think of the married monsters like Marc Dutroux who abused and murdered other people's children while his own were at home), there is a danger in imposing celibacy as a job requirement. Future Church, a liberal Catholic group which calls for Optional Celibacy (image above) and a priesthood open to women, has compiled an interesting "Brief History of Celibacy."
From married apostles at the outset, through enslavement of priests' wives and abandonment of their children in the Middle Ages, Church history regarding celibacy has been a downward spiral of demonization of women, with a subset of obsession over sexual matters. Priests, once permitted to lead lives that included wives and children, were forced to see them as the Forbidden Fruit. And we know how hard it is to resist temptation.
Making celibacy optional would not rid the Church of pedophiles, just as liberal modern society has not rid itself of a host of sex crimes. Predators there will always be, just like cheats, thieves, bullies and all manner of baddies.
But a Church where Children"R"Us - instead of just other peoples' kids - might come to regard women and children with an attitude befitting an inclusive, holy institution.