Nailing a protest to the door of the Church. Let the Reformation begin.
I have been doing a lot of thinking and that may be risky. For months I have been writing in this blog about the Hanoski case. This particular example is close to me as a Holy Rosary Parish member here in Belleville, Ontario. I worked alongside Father Paul Hamilton before his fall instructing people who wanted to join the Catholic Church. I quit that work with his removal and became a Reformist Catholic at that moment.
I also knew Joe Hanoski quite well and I had no idea that anything was happening as he alleges in his civil court action. I have experienced a betrayal that has placed me on an unpleasant but necessary track to dig out the truth specifically in the Hanoski case but generally to begin the process of opening up the Church to explore the origins of what has become a very deep malaise that affects the credibility of its clerics.
When the alleged sexual peccadilloes of the priesthood come to light in your parish and the chronic silence of the Church’s diocese hierarchy goes on for nine years, something has to break on the truth and hopefully reconciliation front if the principles of Christ are to be upheld and made useful to people’s lives. This top down male dominated system appears to have no idea about how they are going to solve this crisis. They are scratching at air and frozen by tradition. Their only answer is silence. Perhaps their embarrassment is so deep that they cannot respond adequately anymore?
All we get this stale status quo response that really doesn’t come close to providing the kind of leadership that is needed to make a difference on this file throughout the Catholic Church. Nothing changes. The status quo is maintained even when evidence that it is not working piles up. It is like a club with closed doors. Priests and their bishops cannot it seems open up their institution to any change to make a difference. It’s a closed shop to the laity and it is without merit.
In my experience, priests often find it very difficult to lead sexless lives. Many of them need to be married and or be allowed closeness with other humans and to be able to do so without guilt. Celibacy is a nutty idea with mediaeval origins that are simply passé. It certainly has no merit if the outcome is even a few strange twisted men playing out adolescent sexual fantasies with vulnerable people in their charge. It is equally twisted if it turns these men inwards.
Of course there is a lot of denial that celibacy has anything to do with this crisis. I hear this argument all the time from the church hierarchy combined with the other specious argument that “other churches with married clergy have the same problem.” Spreading the blame to other churches or the Boy Scouts, in recent memory, doesn’t face up to the question in a Catholic context and the male oriented them and us lifestyle forced on priests.
I would say that the Catholic Church has the biggest problem concerning sexual abuse because it is inherent in how the priesthood is structured. It is rife and the way to combat it is currently totally inadequate. It may be that this closed shop is now resistant to any useful change because the ingrained forms remains more important than the substance of Christianity.
How good is the screening of priest candidates who enter the seminary? The argument that they must be celibate or cannot be homosexual by Vatican decree, falls flat in practice. The questions, the inner turmoils of balancing a call by God with your sexual orientation is an automatic conflict for a number of candidates if you dig deep enough.
Imagine a system where you are trying to attract candidates who say they have a call to the priesthood and God's service and then they are told that they have to reconcile that call with a future sexuality that cannot be expressed to get into the seminary. They put their sexuality on hold or drop away knowing they can't measure up. Or they consider it a private matter that they must work out and simply go through the process and perhaps at considerable angst all while doing the tough job it is in a parish while also counseling others with their problems.
Or they think privately that they can work it out at some point. Or they suppress their sexuality squeezing it into a box called celibacy that is surrounded by an ethos of holiness so it doesn’t jump out of the box. This system does not work for some priests. They crack under the pressures and when that happens they are sent off to Church operated rehabilitation centres and always placed on “administrative leave”. A few descend into pederasty and all the hell that creates for the victim.
In addition, in Western Europe and North America the priest population is aging. That means replacement for priests who retire is not happening. So the second problem the church has is keeping churches and services open for the faithful. The management of this problem combined with the poor optics of the sexual scandals equals fewer and fewer men are willing to commit to the celibate life of the Catholic priesthood or to countless hours of work in clustered parishes.
The Church is now undergoing another somewhat quiet Reformation. For a long time this action has been in the context of the status quo, as Catholics try hard to make their Church work in contemporary times. In my view the Reformation stage we are now entering is first much more democratic than the present male oriented top down hierarchies would like to see. That change will be resisted by the existing system.
Finally, if the Vatican Church hierarchies do not democratize and open up the discussion of the current no discussion topics the Reformation will develop into fragments which is much in keeping with the current socio-technology aspects of contemporary life. Large structures fragment under the stresses of a high technology knowledge-based culture. These fragments will be seen initially as Protestants and perhaps they will be condemned heretics and excommunicated by the old order of the Church. That is the sociology of top down organizations and dictatorships.
The new catholic fragments will allow priests to marry. They will begin the process of bringing women into a fuller role probably first as deacons. Some fragments will see no difference between men and women an will ordain both sexes. Marriage and the priesthood will be a clear option. Some will fast track deacons to the priesthood. These fragments will take over vacant church buildings now downsized by the current church after the shortage of male priests forced more and more “clusterings” to maintain the status quo. It will be hard on everyone but the direction will be following the basic Love message of Christ and that is what is most important.
One final point: The fragmenting of hierarchies does not automatically mean a descent into anarchy although if you are used to the power of a hierarchy or like to be always told how to think there may be moments of high anxiety. Try prayer. The Holy Spirit is an action-oriented doer of deeds.
© Copyright 2012, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved.