Some of us are aware that there has been a Special Commission of Enquiry in Australia to investigate the dark secrets of Roman Catholic bishops who should have gone to the police or criminal authorities to report perverted priests abusing children and other vulnerable persons. The Church has come under such close investigation because its own moral standards are strict – no sexual relations between human beings unless they are a married couple and the act is at least open to procreation. It is all the more shocking when priests express this expectation of their faithful whilst they are buggering choirboys in the presbytery or behind the sacristy! Hypocrisy probably does the most harm to the credibility of anything.
Many have concluded that it is a systematic and institutional problem, and that the rot goes to the top. If so, it would suffice to put the entire Church under secular state control and dismantle the structure by crippling it financially. Good riddance, so the atheists and radical socialists would say. The big problem is that the problem would resurface elsewhere. It is a problem of humanity. At the level of nature, the truth is not flattering: we humans are no different from any species of animals. Our societies are dominated by the alpha males who have the choice of those they will have sex with. The more dominant the alpha male, the more the sexual act will have the character of rape and imposed humiliation both of submissive males and females.
For the purpose of comparison, seeing a documentary about American prisons for the hard-core of gang criminals is illuminating.
We see the extreme of the dominant male to whom everything is owed from sex to organised crime, prostitution to racketing and drug trafficking. They are truly very unpleasant people. The problem is that they are not all in prison. Many are clever enough to seize the reigns of power, domination and money for themselves. A parallel type of personality is also found in the Church because men can establish their base of power and domination, even if their religious vocation might have seemed genuine at one time.
The other dimension of this problem is described by the word ponerology, the study of evil. Human society rightly rejects the tyranny of people like Hitler or Ivan the Terrible, and redefines the balance after an event like the liberation in Europe in 1944-45. History comes and goes, between reactions against institutionalised evil and the period in which we live when we tend to forget this possibility. As I see it, we could go under a totalitarian regime much worse than Nazism or Stalinism in a heartbeat. The “soft” hostilities continue between the USA and Russia over Ukraine. Both Huxley’s Brave New World and Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four were written shortly after World War II and the onset of the Cold War. Our consumer-capitalist culture can lead in the same direction as any kind of “national” or “international” socialism. Evil men always find the right horse to ride.
Sex as a way of conquering and dominating people is but one aspect of this structure of unchecked human nature. Thus, I would not see it as a result of a “permissive” or non-conservative society. In the days of Victorian morality, it was probably that much more secret and furtive. The Church, celibacy and the façade of strict sexual morality were the perfect cover for the alpha male. Was there anything like a real organisation of paedophile priests? I have no way of knowing outside of the sayings of those who have a stick to beat the Church with.
What we are seeing is a kind of Perestroika and Glasnost and the crumbling of an empire that many believed to be invincible and “indefectible”. The “reforming” is being done by those who feel that the mask needs to be pulled away and the rot exposed to the examination of the rational mind. No amount of apologetics will defend the indefensible. It is not even a question of faith and atheism, but blow-back by decent ordinary folk against the dark shadow of evil. Many will never go to church again, and have to redefine their spiritual world-view as they find that life is worth more than money and material goods.
Can the notion of priesthood be “saved”? The Catholic priesthood is drying up and bishops have to try to find new ways of keeping parish life together – or give up. Priests are spread out thinly, and that is even more of a strain on the emotional and spiritual resources of a man in such a situation. Unless something radical is done in a country like France, it’s all over. The churches will be abandoned or turned over to secular use or demolished. Is that a “true church”? When the reality is seen, we hear in our minds the Lamentation of Maundy Thursday: All that pass by clap their hands at thee; they hiss and wag their head at the daughter of Jerusalem, saying, Is this the city that men call The perfection of beauty? I have said it often enough, that priesthood needs to be distinguished from clericalism, and that ambitious and power-seeking men need to be kept out. The problem is that, all too often, the bishops who make those decisions were themselves ambitious men riding piggy-back for power and domination. Who can we trust?
Another fascinating revelation was a documentary I watched yesterday evening on TV about the story of Bernard Tapie and Nicolas Sarkozy in the cesspit of French politics and financial intrigue. Those men are not sex offenders, but they used politics of all colours from Mitterand and the Socialists to Le Pen’s nationalism to line their own pockets. That situation is just as harrowing as paedophilia in the Church, and just as revolting to the taxpayer and ordinary citizen living in a country and suffering such abuse by the powerful.
Each phenomenon is not enough to indicate the rise of an evil power like that of Stalin or Hitler or the worst of church clericalism, but we have to be vigilant that we should both be lucid about the possibilities that can happen – and reasoned in our judgement to avoid becoming irrationally paranoid. We also need to avoid losing our faith in human nature completely, the very instinct that can lead us to believe in “sovereign election”, predestination and the damnation of most humans who ever lived. Most humans are fundamentally good and altruistic. Just a small percentage are those who would reduce us to slavery and servitude to their whims and insatiable lust.
I always seek to see things in a wider and more universal context, and the way everything is connected. It is a mistake to isolate any one thing, whether it’s a question of sexually perverted priests or rotten politicians in it to get rich quick.
The subject can be further researched by typing “sexual addiction and compulsivity” into Google.