"A Vatican official was asked this week that if allowing priests to marry would solve the problem. He said, 'That’s ridiculous, you can’t marry an eight-year-old.'" — Bill Maher, March 26, 2010.
Now that Pope Benedict XVI has been directly linked to the cover-up of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests, we can all act shocked. But is anybody honestly surprised? Anybody following the steady stream of abuse stories over the last decade should have concluded that the church was a bit evil, obviously hypocritical, and a major disgrace.
According to a comprehensive 2004 study of clerical sexual abuse in the United States, 10,667 individuals had made allegations of child sexual abuse between 1950 to 2002. The dioceses was able to substantiate 6,700 of those accusations.
In response, the Holy See argued that sexual abuse is not unique to the Catholic church. Well, that's no defense, and they're kind of missing the point!
The crimes are absolutely despicable. But now, the scandal is over the cover-up, the complicity, and the inexcusable failure to protect children while Catholic bishops only asked one question: "will this damage the church?"
So, in a recently revealed story more predictable than shocking, top Vatican officials -- including the future Pope Benedict -- allowed a priest, Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, who molested as many as 200 deaf boys to walk free. Murphy was never put on trial, never defrocked, never disciplined, and instead, allowed to continue his work with children until he died.
In all the macabre fascination and angry hand-wringing over this story, I've only seen one writer attempt to explain the Catholic mindset behind this scandal. Andrew Sullivan explained the religious notion of child rape as a sin rather than a crime. He's not offering excuses, of course, but for the non-religious like me, it's an understandable explanation about why priests are so screwed up over sex:
So they use these children to express themselves sexually. They barely see these children as young and vulnerable human beings, incapable of true consent. Because they have never had a real sexual relationship, have never had to deal with the core issue of human equality and dignity in sex, they don't see the children as victims. Like the tortured gay man, Michael Jackson, they see them as friends. They are even gifted at interacting with them in non-sexual ways. One theme you find in many of these stories is that until these screwed up priests' abuse and molestation is revealed, they often have a great reputation as pastors. As emotionally developed as your average fourteen year old wanting to be loved, they sublimate a lot of their lives into clerical service. But they also act out sexually all the time.However, I'm not convinced that an end to priestly celibacy will solve the problems of the Catholic church. But if you want to see the Pope "screwed," you can hope that he gets arrested. Some may still call him the "Vicar of Christ," but he is just a man. He does not define what's right and wrong. We do.
However, realistically, I think Pope Benedict will simply resign for his moral failings, and the Catholic church will continue on with business as usual.