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Comment II
Last Updated: 06/15/2010
Paedophilia and Sacred Power
Pablo Richard

Pablo Richard discusses the crisis of credibility facing the Church in the wake of ongoing paedophilia scandals.


My intention with this article is not so much to analyse the crimes of paedophilia in the Church, but to go to the causes and consequences of this perversity, which has detonated a crisis in the Church, not just a temporary crisis, but a deep crisis of credibility which could last many decades.

The Church between Inequality and Liberation

It is revealing to compare the attitude of the Church towards paedophilia with the radically different attitude of the same Church towards the theology of liberation. On the one hand, the hierarchy was tolerant of, legitimated, and concealed paedophilia; on the other hand, and at almost the same time, the same Church hierarchy took a repressive and condemnatory attitude towards the Theology of Liberation.

Laws, Structures, and Dogma which activated Paedophilia in the Church

The Law of Obligatory Celibacy

This law, in many cases, has damaged the human nature of those that feel themselves to be under pressure to be celibate. This law has been the source of much sexual deviance, including paedophilia. An exception, from the perspective of the Evangelists, is celibacy which has been freely assumed in the cause of God’s Rule, regardless of whether the person in question is in the clergy or not, if they are male or female, or if they are inside of outside of the Church.

The Justification of Obligatory Celibacy and the Condemnation of Homosexuality

Homosexuality is legitimate when it is guided by an ethic of respect for life. A frequent problem arises when the clerical condition is used to conceal homosexuality, which, when further manipulated, repressed, and denied, can cause serious sexual perversion. Some bishops claim that the causal relation is not between celibacy and paedophilia, but between homosexuality and paedophilia. With this claim, through which they justify celibacy and condemn homosexuality, culpability for the crimes of paedophilia which have occurred is unfairly shifted away from the Church and towards homosexuals.

The Law of Female Exclusion from Church Hierarchy

The Catholic Church is one of the oldest religious institutions, and has a long history of maintaining an exclusive, males-only hierarchy. This imposition affects all other laws and doctrines of the Church relating to human sexuality. What would be the opinion of the Church if a woman were to assume a high and important position in the Vatican?

The Church, since the 19th Century, has felt threatened by modernity, generating a conservative tradition that has kept it from accepting the best achievements of modernity, especially in terms of human sexuality.

Sexual Perversion and Sacred Power

The Archbishop of Poitiers, Monsignor Albert Rouet, in his 2009 book J'aimerais vous dire, writes: “The Catholic Church has been shaken over the past months due to the revelation of paedophilia scandals. Is all this a surprise? First of all, I would like to make one thing clear: for there to be paedophilia, two conditions must be present: a deep perversion, and power. This is to say that all closed, ideological, and sacred systems are a danger, as they allow for all kinds of financial and sexual deviations.”

Paedophilia and Church Credibility

The Church has long considered paedophilia to be a sin and not a crime. Sins can remain hidden within the confidentiality of the sacrament of confession, while a crime must be publically brought to justice. The Church hierarchy denied culpability for the cases paedophilia in order to maintain its credibility and prestige. The Church also evaded the criminalization of paedophilia in order to avoid judicial condemnation and its economic consequences.

The Cries of Victims and the Cries of the Catholic Hierarchy

It is not enough that the Church asks pardon for the crimes of paedophilia committed by its bishops and priests. It is not enough to know that the Church feels wounded and repentant. This is all just and necessary, but it does not account for the most important thing: to listen to the cries of the victims themselves. Those affected by these crimes have the right to demand that the deeds be clarified, the aggressors must be condemned, and compensation must be made for the damages inflicted. As individuals, they also have the right to stand in solidarity with other victims of paedophilia, who may still be suffering in silence.

The Church which eventually emerges from this crisis must be a transparent Church, one that does not hide its deviances, a more humble Church, with less power and more interest in the liberation of humanity – a Church which builds its identity on the historical movement of Jesus Christ.

Pablo Richard,PhD in Theology and Sociology, Professor Emeritus of UNA, Costa Rica.


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