Action Alert!

Sexual Abuse: Not Insanely Bogged Down

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Apr 05, 2010

One has a tendency, after the long and busy Paschal liturgical cycle, to race through one’s email hoping to find nothing, the better to collect one’s thoughts for Whatever Comes Next. What awaited me, however, was an email asserting not only that making celibacy optional would eliminate sexual abuse but that the only reason the Church maintains the law of celibacy in the first place is because she insists that all priests leave their worldly goods to the Church instead of to their potential families. Now, Jesus Himself didn’t care about money. Therefore….

It is exceedingly helpful to know that sexual abuse of youngish boys is caused by the requirement (in the Latin Rite) that priests not take adult women to wife. And it certainly casts a new light on the Church to know that the gift of celibacy (which was explained in very different terms by Pope Paul VI in his encyclical Sacerdotalis Caelibatus) was really designed as a way for the Church to get rich. I’ve been looking for the key to all this for a long time. Finally, the lock opens!

Should I point out that honest priests do not accumulate large estates? That priests are not at all required to leave what little wealth they have to the Church? That sexual abuse of children occurs, by all reports, in higher percentages outside the Church? That there is no correlation between celibacy and sexual abuse? That it is important to understand a problem before proposing a solution? That to insist the whole truth be told about such things is not special pleading?

But that’s not all. Recently I received a different email from someone who was outraged that one of our news stories had mentioned that the great majority of children abused by priests in a particular country were male. This erroneously implied, my correspondent angrily asserted, that homosexuality had something to do with the problem. He accused us of being totally ignorant, of not knowing that sexual abuse of adolescent boys has its own name: ephebophilia. One could only conclude from this message that the sexual attraction of grown men to adolescent boys has nothing whatsoever to do with homosexuality because adolescent boys are not male.

At least the message reminded me that, should I happen to run across it anywhere, reason would be a surpassingly beautiful sight. Alas, we live in a post-modern society which is preoccupied with nothing so much as maintaining favorite myths against the criticisms not only of faith but of reason too. Is it any wonder that words like “marriage” keep being redefined? Can’t we just agree that things are exactly the way each of us wants them to be? Never mind truth as the mind’s grasp of reality. It is far more satisfying to make a duty out of desire. Under this view, the Church—like all keepers of intellectual standards (such as universities)—now owes everybody the worldview he or she wants. Anything else is denounced not only as ignorant but as contemptible. I am Desire; hear me roar.

All I can say is that it is a relief finally to have gotten through Easter so that we can have Christ Risen again. Without the Resurrection, we would be continuously bogged down in the palpable insanity of our broken world, with never a chance of breaking free at all. But He is in fact Risen, and that makes all the difference. Among other things, it means we need not be hopelessly mired in the sheer impossibility of making people think, of making people see. We who have witnessed the Resurrection are free. Free to say a prayer for those who curse. Free to hope while others despair. Free, above all, to set our hearts at ease, no matter how bad things are. Free, spiritually, to move on. Free, in the end, to get some place.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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  • Posted by: - Apr. 05, 2010 6:34 PM ET USA

    Ah, Easter! But the Wall Street Journal expressed some surprise that the Pope talked about our risen Lord rather than the scandals. Apparently, on Easter the scandal is the REAL story--according to the secular press.

  • Posted by: wolfdavef3415 - Apr. 05, 2010 5:38 PM ET USA

    That was an excellent piece, Dr. Mirus, thank you. It made my day.