Searching for “God” in the Catholic Church
08 Feb 2009
In the book “The Imperial Animal,” anthropologists Lionel Tiger and Robin Fox explain that a breeding system is one that operates to survive, defend and perpetuate itself, and that a political system is a form of breeding system. They point out the applicability of “lust” to both sex and political power.
In a curious way, we find lust conjoining the sexual and the political in a 2000-year-old breeding system; curious, because this breeding system is presented to us simple-minded pagans as a theological system, a system that reveals the true “God” and is for the salvation of our souls, in a way that we simple-mindedly think that sex and temporal power are irrelevant to it.
We simple-minded pagans couldn’t be more wrong.
That, both in theory and in practice, the Catholic Church is about sex has been examined in two earlier essays (http://www.vijayvaani.com/FrmPublicDisplayArticle.aspx?id=221; http://www.vijayvaani.com/FrmPublicDisplayArticle.aspx?id=231). That it is about political power is a matter of observation and its history.
An extraordinary book – a revelation, really – documents the lust that permeates this absolute monarchy that (simple-minded pagans, please note) actually has little to do with “God” and saving us for the next world, and everything to do with sex, wealth and power in this world.
The book is: “Sex, Priests, and Secret Codes: The Catholic Church’s 2000-year Paper Trail of Sexual Abuse” by Thomas Doyle, AW Richard Sipe & Patrick Wall (LA: Volt Press, 2006). It is pertinent that the authors are all Catholics; the first a Dominican priest and the other two former Benedictine monks. Thus the book is an authoritative first-hand inside view of the Catholic Church.
Sex, Priests, and Secret Codes (henceforth SPSC) emphasizes that celibacy – defined by the Church as the not engaging in of any kind of sexual activity – is a mandate of the Catholic priesthood. In fact, it is “essential to the continuation of the clerical subculture, the home of the elite minority who rule the Catholic Church… To abandon celibacy would be to risk the demise of the fortified clerical world and the consequent loss of power and influence.” At least till the Protestant Reformation (1517-1648), the Catholic Church “was the most powerful element of society and also the most influential.” Though its “fundamental and ultimate mission is the ‘salvation of souls,’ the Catholic Church in a very real sense ruled the temporal Christian world (SPSC 8-9, 62, 287).
At the same time, sex with minors has been a feature of the Catholic Church since its inception, with the complicity of Church fathers, from the pope downwards. Sexual abuse by priests is inherent in the system itself and the widespread sexual activity of its priests is no secret to the Vatican – “the rape and sodomy of children is woven into the tradition of clerical history” (SPSC 212, 215, 295).
Though preached as Church doctrine by the current pope as well, celibacy is not practiced by the majority of Catholic clergymen. It flourishes in the breach – sex as fornication, adultery, and pederasty was already a major concern for the Council of Elvira as early as 309 AD. Especially from the 4th century onwards, sex as masturbation, concubinage, homosexuality, either-sex (adult-adolescent) pederasty and (adult-prepubescent) pedophilia, bestiality, rape, and sexual solicitation (“intercourse, oral and manual sex, verbal sex, and sadomasochistic sex”) during the sacramental confession, has been rampant in the Church. Church celibacy theory made “sex” a dirty word, even in marriage, but Church theory was never a bar to lustful practice. By the mid-11th century, confessional solicitation had become common; and by the mid-12th century, sex between priests and nuns was a serious concern.
Certainly the Church hierarchy has always been aware of the lustiness of its clergy – but whether fulmination or canonical legislation or toleration, nothing has succeeded in curbing clerical concupiscence. Indeed, bishops too gratify themselves, and “much of the history of the Roman Catholic Church reads like a cheap paperback novel. Popes have been lechers, murderers, and pedophiles…” In the early 1970s, it was estimated that three-quarters, if not more, of American Catholic priests were psychosexually immature, and this immaturity manifested itself in heterosexual and homosexual activity (not unrelated, in the 1960s, about a quarter of American Catholic priests were estimated to be alcoholics).
At least a third of American Catholic priests are estimated to be homosexually-oriented and “it seems by all accounts that priests molest a larger percentage of minor boys than do abusers in the general population.” The number of non-celibate priests has to be in the thousands given that, of the total American Catholic clergy, 125,000 of them are estimated to have left the Church between 1965 and 1990. The post-1985 number of civil and criminal court actions against lustful priests are in the thousands (SPSC 60, 206; 276; 58; 67; 211; 59; 90, 178).
Relatively recently, in 1922, the Vatican decided this subject merited the deepest in-house secrecy with, from 1962, automatic excommunication of any church person violating this secrecy. From the relative openness with which the Church displayed its sex-stained linen in the early centuries, the 20th century saw it veiling harshly its handling of sex abuse.
SPSC speculates that this defensiveness “reflects a long-standing attitude at the highest level of church authority: denial and blame-shifting,” including blaming the victims of its abuse. More likely, however, in consequence of lawsuits and “the aggressive expose by the secular press,” it is a reflection of the Church’s desire to conceal and protect its vast temporal wealth from public scrutiny, in the manner of “just another corporation obsessed with its own financial security” – “It’s one thing to neglect to protect the faithful from sexual predators, it’s quite another thing altogether to neglect to protect the church’s assets from lawsuits. Action to protect church assets has never faltered or been neglected. Money speaks loudly” (SPSC 52, 63; 53; 257, 261, 280; xi).
Much of “Sex, Priests, and Secret Codes” focuses on the American picture, and SPSC shows this is representative of the entire Church album (SPSC 278-9). American bishops are subject to the Pope of Rome and it is clear that Rome knows of the sex abuse, not just in America but throughout its domain, and Rome decrees it be kept pardey ke peechhey (behind the curtain).
Detailed in SPSC is the control of the Church over civil authorities and the media, its scandalous blame-the-victim game, its propagation of misinformation, its cunning cover-ups and conspiracies to conceal the crimes of its clergy, and its co-operating with civil authority as strategy only when cornered by public exposure.
What matters to the Church hierarchy is “image, money, and control” – and SPSC proves beyond the shadow of a doubt “the fact and the awareness within the secret system of the Catholic Church of the ongoing presence of sexually abusing priests and the lengths powerful men within that system are willing to go to protect abusers and themselves from exposure.”
The pressing concern is “the possible cost to the Catholic Church of many millions of dollars and the potential devastating injury to its image.” “Spiritual considerations” concern the loosening of the Church’s hold over its faithful (implied is the consequent loss of revenue, since 92% of the money spent on Catholic charities comes from public funds). “Public relations considerations” centre round “the credibility of the church” with “positive programs utilizing imaginative and creative thinking that converts adversity to advantage.”
The evidence all “projects a portrait of churchmen mired in conspiracy and neglect” so that the Church hierarchy prefers pre-trial settlements to court trials as being “generally more economical”! By the mid-1990s, the American laity realized “the Catholic Church could not be trusted” and, even in the mid-2000s, the Church still “conspired to hide abusers” and engaged in “prevarication under oath” in “a pattern of arrogance, evasion, and mendacity” (SPSC 88; 98; 106; 162, 258, 281; 164; 177; 178; 203).
“Clergy exist and perpetuate a cult of secrecy. Lay Catholics are reared in a culture of the unimaginable and unspeakable sexuality of all Catholic clergy. And victims of clergy sexual abuse are cowed into silent submission by religious duress.” SPSC shows the Church’s conscious and pernicious exploitation of the blind faith in it as a breeding system that it commands of its followers – “sex and obedience are intimately connected at the core of the Catholic Church” – “corruption of the priesthood is generated and perpetuated within the clerical system. Corruption does not seep up from the bottom. Corruption is raining down from the top” (SPSC 204; 229, 288; 277; 278).
Catholic priests, by decree, are “charged with representing Christ.” They are “God’s interpreters and ambassadors;” god-like themselves, they are superior to angels; they are “the messengers of God,” a divinely-ordained fraternity – and SPSC shows that devout Catholics actually believe “that priests take the place of Christ… [the priest is] the earthly representative of God himself”.
The goal of this Church artifice, called “clericalism,” is “the retention of the power, prestige, and image of the members of the elite, especially the bishops” who are presented as apostolic successors but are really “bureaucrats in medieval garb” – and so “denial, dissimulation and deception… flow, quite naturally, from an understanding of the church as a society made up of unequals.” The Church consciously cultivates hierarchy and “reverential fear” among its members, and there are but very fine lines between “reverential fear,” “fearful subservience” and “religious duress.” To the Church, “image – bella figura – is more important than the spiritual and emotional welfare of the tens of thousands of clergy abuse victims” (SPSC 180, 236-8; 243; 289; 283; 248-9, 288-9).
SPSC reports that, even as victims who speak out are “re-victimized” by the bishops and the church lawyers, church officials “frequently requested victims and their families to avoid scandal and not to make an issue of their plight ‘for the good of the church.’” SPSC suggests that “the true good of the church is best served by holding accountable clerics and office holders who abuse the laity in any way” (but that would make the buck stop with the pope himself!), and even goes to the extent of proposing legislation to protect lay-people from the sexual depredations of the Church (SPSC 187-8).
What are we simple-minded pagans to make of all this?
The Catholic Church professes the business of saving souls. SPSC establishes conclusively and rivettingly that it actually murders them. It is guilty of “soul murder” (SPSC 244, 265).
Read SPSC through. The attitudinal parallels – perhaps even connections – of the Roman Catholic Church are remarkable with another institution of Italian origin – the Mafia (see, for example, Paul Williams, “The Vatican Exposed: Money, Murder, and the Mafia,” NY: Prometheus Books, 2003).
In earlier essays, I showed sexual lust is central to Christian creation mythology. SPSC distinguishes between what I call “Professional Christianity” (i.e., Christianity as a proselytizing imperium) and what it calls the “Christian Community and People of God” (SPSC 66). It is optimistic that with the Church’s obsession with sexual abuse of minors now in the open – and especially because of courts awarding enormous sums to victims – such abuse will end. Given news reports subsequent to the publication of this book of the Church’s unchanged handling of sex abuse cases, and given that there is no indication from the Vatican of any diminution in clericalism, this is a vain hope.
For us simple-minded pagans in India, the essential lessons to be learned from “Sex, Priests, and Secret Codes” are at least three:
1] The Catholic Church is emphatically not about “God,” true or not, and the salvation of our souls. Headed by the Pope of Rome, it is an imperial, missionary-colonial breeding system cloaking itself as a “religion.” Hence, its Pope’s 1999 clarion call in populous India for harvesting us simple-minded pagans.
It follows that, of the five kinds of visas India issues to foreigners, Church proselytizers should be allowed in only on Business Visas.
2] There is no evidence within the Church of all that sanctimonious virtue it preaches to us pagans as being inherent in its own belief system, over the vice that it propagates is ours. On the contrary, it itself reeks of dishonesty and depravity; it is “a sewer of iniquity” (SPSC 34).
It follows that its evangelical activity in our country should be banned.
3] Christian theory has it that it’s God created man in His own image and Catholic theory has it that its clergymen are avatar-s of this God.
Given the practices SPSC details so irrefutably of the avatar-s, it follows that the “God” they incarnate has to be in the same image.
Professional Christians vilify and abuse our divinities as obscene. They vilify and abuse us pagans as sinners. Yet, reading SPSC, there can be no doubt at all that Professional Christianity in the form of the Roman Catholic Church is the very personification of at least three of its own Seven Deadly Sins – pride, avarice, and lust.
Where in all this do we find “God” and the salvation of our souls?
“Sex, Priests, and Secret Codes: The Catholic Church’s 2000-year Paper Trail of Sexual Abuse” needs to be in every public library in our country, and sections from it need to be required reading for all pagans concerned in any way with Articles 25 to 30 of the Constitution of India.
The author is a retired civil servant and co-editor of “NGOs, Activists & Foreign Funds: Anti-Nation Industry” (Chennai: Vigil Public Opinion Forum, 2007)