Addressing the Root Cause of Clerical Homosexual Behavior and Pederasty
The Church has attempted to address the issue of clerical pederasty—arguably belatedly—as a problem of crime and punishment on the one hand, and personality on the other. The announced appointment of Robert Geisinger, SJ will hopefully address the problem of abuse with a more streamlined instrument of justice. As well, several years ago, there was a seminary visitation and an instruction that was an instrument of formation, encouraging greater care in the selection and training of seminarians.
Both steps are positive, but fall short of the root cause of “life style”. Personality and lifestyle are concepts that are difficult to untangle, even for a psychologist, and this has contributed to the difficulty in the Church of knowing how to address this problem in its current manifestations.
The way out of this difficulty is to understand that sensuality is the taproot of the problem of lifestyle and that sensuality can only be confronted with ascesis. Ascetical discipline will need to be addressed by each bishop individually in his diocese. This will not succeed as a group effort, or a policy of bureaucracy. Each bishop will need to conform his own behavior to a life of ascetical discipline, and then insist that his priests also live the ascetical life.
Our current Pope is an ascetic, and his statements suggest that ascesis is fundamentally a vehicle to identify with the poor; I think, rather, in the context of the pederasty scandal, ascesis is an instrument in spiritual renunciation used in two complementary ways: negatively as a repudiation of Satan, his works, and his pomp; and positively with a view to spiritual friendship with the Lord.
Ascetical practice must start in the seminary but must carry over into parish life. Only the example and insistence of the bishop can make this work during and after seminary.
In a seminary or parish environment where the clergy live a life of radical simplicity, males that are temperamentally or by habit prone to sensuality, and who are unable to change, will simply get tired and leave on their own, or be asked to leave for failing to live up to the ascetical standard.
Seminary training should introduce the practice of ascesis, the bishop should model it in his own life, and then enforce policies of rectory life that ensure that it is carried out reliably long after ordination. This will go a long way to address the clerical pederast problem in particular, and the clerical homosexual lifestyle problem in general, because, they are both rooted in sensuality.
Richard Cross is a psychologist and a long-time occasional contributor to CatholicCulture.org.
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Posted by: 1Jn416 -
Sep. 15, 2014 4:44 PM ET USA
It is very difficult for anyone to live an ascetic life without being immersed in a culture that supports it. A rectory with like-minded priests who support each other in fasting on Fridays, minimal television, less than comfortable heating and cooling, and so forth, I think is a necessity for successful asceticism by the diocesan clergy. Religious communities and families can foster asceticism too. A big part of that is NOT BEING AFRAID OF asceticism, which so many seem to be today. And prayer!
Posted by: garedawg -
Sep. 15, 2014 1:26 PM ET USA
I'd be careful about trying to find correlations between waist size and spiritual health. St. Thomas Aquinas was not exactly petite.
Posted by: FredC -
Sep. 15, 2014 9:04 AM ET USA
We learn to love another by sacrificing for that other. Ascetic practice should start in childhood, done for God. Fridays, Advent, and Lent are reminders.
Posted by: John J Plick -
Sep. 14, 2014 6:15 PM ET USA
So... If this is true we were in serious trouble "years ago..." "Poverty" seems to have replaced sin and damnation as the greatest evil, and for all of Francis' own discipline he along with John Paul, now canonized, seems to be practically promulgating this. The holy poor, however miserable they may indeed be, are far safer than we in the United States, for the most part far richer, and often more nominal in our faith.
Posted by: Don Vicente -
Sep. 12, 2014 11:40 AM ET USA
OK. What does this ascecis in the Rectory look like in practice? Could the author give some specifics?
Posted by: -
Sep. 12, 2014 10:42 AM ET USA
And it might be good to add that if one is unsure if one qualifies as an ascetic, a waist size on the back side of 50", or even the front side of 50, is a "good" indicator.