Sunday, December 21, 2014

Luther was right

On Dec 21, 1943, my parents got married in a big North Minneapolis church.  While it was a large and happy affair, it was not expensive because neither of my parents could afford that.  My father, the photobug, gave his camera to a friend to record the event but friend neglected to take off the lens cap so one of the biggest events in my parent's lives would never make it to the family scrapbooks.  They would make it quite clear to us children that they had chosen the day with the longest night of the year quite deliberately—it was a family joke we all knew long before we had any idea what it meant.

The reason my parents could have a big sprawling wedding without it costing much was because my father was in his last year at a Lutheran seminary and my mother was this highly popular parish worker at the big church.  So we children would be preacher's kids.  This is a difficult life.  Everyone knows who you are and everyone believes they have a right to pass moral judgements on your actions. Personally, I hated every minute of it.  But my mother would make it a point to remind me just how many PKs in Nordic Lutheran history made important contributions to human progress.  This wasn't a lot of comfort but I grew up hoping that this highly stressful childhood could possibly lead to some very successful outcomes.

This leads to a very interesting question.  If becoming a clergyman was a preferred occupational destination for bright young students for the last 2000 years in Christendom, shouldn't there be a difference in outcomes between the societies that removed their clergy from the gene pool and those that did not?  When Martin Luther, a man once sworn to celibacy fell in love, he needed a set of rationales for why Lutheran clergy should marry.  Mostly, he explained, a man without a family is unqualified to understand the problems of parishioners who have families.  And from all accounts, Luther obviously loved his wife and children going so far as to compose music for them.  The Catholics who want to believe that Luther was a great heretic who destroyed the unity of the church often point to his failure to keep his vows of celibacy as proof positive that he was a bad person.

As a practical matter I decided as a child that I could never be a Catholic for the simple reason that if my father had been one, I would not exist.  Buying into my mother's notion that a childhood in a parsonage was this special gift that would lead to making me a significant person in the culture like Ingmar Bergman, was MUCH more difficult to believe when asked to sit on wooden pews through very long devout observances.  I still don't see the link.  Nevertheless, it is quite obvious that the Protestant clergy have far fewer problems with sexual issues like pedophilia.  Yes they have sex scandals, but they are of the regular variety—the preacher has an affair with the organist, etc.  Luther was right!  It is a good thing for the clergy to have normal sex lives—the kind that includes the preacher and his wife bragging to their children (every year on their anniversary) that they chose the longest night of the year to marry and that sex is a gift from a loving God that is intended to make us happy.  My parents had many hang-ups—sex was not one of them.

I see some Australian Catholics have come to agree with Dr. Luther.  And while I would strongly suggest that they abandon clerical celibacy, I would also suggest they look into the question of the resulting preacher's kids.  After all, they can be real troublemakers. They can also become real reactionaries—yes Frau Merkel, I am talking about you.

Catholic Church In Australia: 'Obligatory Celibacy May Have Contributed To Abuse'

Religion News Service | By Josephine McKenna  12/14/2014

VATICAN CITY (RNS) The Roman Catholic Church in Australia acknowledged that “obligatory celibacy” may have contributed to decades of clerical sexual abuse of children in what may be the first such admission by church officials around the world.

A church advisory group called the Truth, Justice and Healing Council made the startling admission Friday (Dec. 12) in a report to the government’s Royal Commission, which is examining thousands of cases of abuse in Australia.

The 44-page report by the council attacked church culture and the impact of what it called “obedience and closed environments” in some religious orders and institutions.

“Church institutions and their leaders, over many decades, seemed to turn a blind eye, either instinctively or deliberately, to the abuse happening within their diocese or religious order, protecting the institution rather than caring for the child,” the report said.

“Obedience and closed environments also seem to have had a role in the prevalence of abuse within some religious orders and dioceses. 
Obligatory celibacy may also have contributed to abuse.”

The council’s CEO, Francis Sullivan, who has held various administrative roles in the health sector, including heading Catholic Health Australia, said clergy training should include “psychosexual development.”

“It’s a no-brainer,” Sullivan said. “You need to address how sexuality is understood and acted out by members of the clergy.”

But the Chicago-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, which represents around 20,000 victims worldwide, said the latest report did little to help protect those at risk from abuse.

“Decisive action is needed, not more reports,” SNAP national director David Clohessy said. “The church hierarchy knows what’s needed. It simply refuses to give up its power and enable secular authorities to investigate and prosecute those who commit and conceal sexual violence against the vulnerable.”

The Vatican’s chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, could not be reached for comment Friday. But Maltese Bishop Charles Scicluna, the Vatican’s former chief prosecutor for abuse cases, tried to put the report in context in remarks to the Italian daily La Stampa.

“You mustn’t forget that most abuse occurs in the family,” he said. “Obviously I don’t exclude individual cases where celibacy is lived badly that may have psychological consequences. But it should be said clearly that it is certainly not the origin of this sad and very painful phenomenon and remember that there is no nexus between cause and effect.”

The suggestion of a link between celibacy and child sexual abuse has divided Australian Catholic leaders in the past.

Cardinal George Pell, former archbishop of Sydney and now head of the Vatican’s powerful economic ministry, acknowledged there may be a connection when he testified before a separate government inquiry in Australia last year. He was unavailable for comment at the Vatican Friday.

The independent Australian council is made up of church and lay members and is supervised by some of the nation’s senior archbishops, though its views do not necessarily reflect those of all senior clergy. more

No comments:

Post a Comment