I try not to comment on things I have little expertise in, but my year spent at a Catholic seminary school in Rome (with at least one resident pedophile among the clergy) gives me a bit of experiential basis for commenting on the Roman Catholic Church sex abuse scandal. Here’s my rhetorical question:
If the society you grew up in denied and suppressed the expression of your sexual urges, but at the same time offered you ONE institution in which you could not only spend a lot of time in the exclusive company of other members of the sex/gender whose contact you craved, but ALSO gave you power over them in large numbers, mentoring them as they were groomed to gain entry into the class and position of authority that you were allowed to have, why would you NOT become a priest?
There are, to my mind, three things the Vatican ought to do at this point:
(1) Institute a policy of no tolerance for the sexual abuse of minors by priests, and apologize unambiguously and make amends for what’s gone on up to now.
(2) Advocate greater tolerance for minority sexual persuasions in society at large (of the homosexual kind, not of the pedophilic kind that resulted from the Church’s public suppression and private enabling of the former). Or at least stop advocating against such tolerance and acceptance.
(3) Allow priests to marry, just as the Eastern Rite Catholic churches have done for centuries, with little apparent harm.
(A fourth step, only a little less directly related, would be to open positions of religious authority up to women as well.)
That way, wouldn’t Catholicism be able to get back to modeling the right ways to practice Christian (brotherly, and sisterly) love?
Over the past several days I’ve gone from the cool wetness of Alaska’s southeast coast to the high dryness of north-central New Mexico. The first was pure holiday, accompanied by loved ones (including those who generously funded it) and featuring glaciers, salmon, a black bear (devouring one of the salmon), a ride on one of the most scenic train routes in the world, and the ambiguous eco-ethics of spending a week on a cruise ship (but I decided not to look such a gift horse too closely in the mouth). The second has been a kind of work vacation involving a week of conversations on the topic of science, nature, and religion, generously funded, hosted (and wined and dined — there’s even a book about their culinary tradition) by the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe.
The SAR has been funding anthropological research, hosting seminars and residencies, publishing books, and working alongside Native American artists to collect and preserve art and material culture for over a hundred years now. Its campus, a former artist’s colony called El Delirio and cheekily referred to as an “anthropologists’ resort,” is just outside downtown Santa Fe, which, at 7000 feet, is a deceptively uncitylike state capital; buildings are restricted to three stories and a limited range of variations on deep-cream-colored adobe (or adobe-style) architecture. The late summer days here heat up, albeit sweatlessly, but the mornings, evenings, and nights swell up invitingly into the big starry sky, with sweet summer smells of lush semi-desert vegetation (pinyon pine and juniper, cottonwood, fruit trees, yucca, Russian olive blossoms, cholla cactus), layers of soft cricket chirpings, and the occasional coyote chorus or quite (but communicative) prairie dog (see above) scurrying around in the grasses. The city is greener than I remember it from a brief visit in 1994, and it seems to be dealing with its water issues reasonably well (water being the limiting factor in these parts). It feels good to be in the southwest again (having visited this part of the country only briefly a few times since my fieldwork in Arizona in the mid-1990s).
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