Fr. Hunwicke offers some suggestions to Australians investigating the roots of clerical sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
Rumour has it, back here in far-away Blighty, that a report generated somewhere within the Australian Catholic Church has raised a question about a possible relationship between the law of Celibacy, the style of Formation of the Catholic Clergy: and clerical sexual abuse of minors.
If such possibilities were to be explored further and in greater depth, I am in the happy position of being able to suggest a number of extremely helpful lines of enquiry.
(1) It seems to me, anecdotally and from my own experience in my four decades in the Anglican Priesthood, that there is quite a bit of sexual abuse in the Church of England (and that it is by no means confined to unmarried clergy).
(2) Over here, recently, the Scouts have been paying out big time for abuse by Scoutmasters. Indeed, since the 1920s, if not earlier, ‘scoutmasters’ have been a common source of vulgar jocosity with regard to paederasty. No law of celibacy there. The Scouts could provide another ‘control group’.
(3) Our own much loved Beeb has recently had ginormously large problems in this area. Sir Jimmy Savilles appear, in the past at least, to have carpeted the studios wall to wall! Another culprit sentenced just yesterday. Not much evidence of a law of celibacy in Broadcasting House! A veritably magnificent potential ‘control group’.
(4) Our late Holy Father Pope Benedict advanced the theory that the promotion by those teaching in seminaries, during and after the 1960s, of ‘relativistic’ theories regarding ethical issues, in which nothing isper se wrong, may have contributed to the problem of what, rather neatly, he called ‘the filth’.
(5) Since the 1960s, there has been much talk about mercy, and forgiveness, and similar very splendid things.
So: ‘merciful’ bishops were disinclined to ‘ruin’ a priest for ‘just one lapse’, or even two or three. Or four. After all, as we have been informed over and over again, sexual sins are not the only sorts of sins; spiritual sins such as Pride, and sins against Social Justice, are far more displeasing in the sight of God than mere lapses from Chastity. Our Oz friends could look into the problem of ‘liberal’ bishops as well.
(6) My own, again anecdotal, experience has inclined me to think that ‘charismatic’ leaders, admired by the media and surrounded by adoring groupies, can be peculiarly vulnerable to sexual temptation.
(9) Finally, a somewhat dangerous suggestion. Some say that the pervert priest phenomenon sometimes relates to activity with teenage boys rather than with those properly called children, and in some such cases should be seen as a product of a homosexual orientation.