nancylebov (nancylebov) wrote,

Why I Don't Think It's the Celibacy

Often enough, I see people claim that celibacy is a major cause of sexual abuse by priests, and if they were allowed to marry, there'd be a lot less sexual abuse.

However, it's quite clear that a great deal of sexual abuse is done by people who haven't taken vows of celibacy. Furthermore, priests could have consensual relationships with each other or with other adults -- there was a recent protest by Italian women who were sick of not being able to marry the priests they were involved with and having to conceal their relationships.

I've heard that sometimes the Catholic church tells men that the vow of celibacy will solve their problems with their sexuality. I'm not going to say that never happens, but there's plenty of evidence that the vow of celibacy doesn't change anything for a lot of priests. Meanwhile, the promise of an end to unwanted desires is going to attract pedophiles into the priesthood.

There's a theory that, aside from any other considerations, celibacy has protected the Catholic church by shielding it from nepotism. I have no strong opinions about that, though other religions seem to manage without requiring celibacy. On the other hand, the Catholic church is a bigger prize (richer and more centralized than any other religion, I think) and therefore greater concerns about nepotism might be reasonable.

I think part of the problem is simply structural-- any large organization with access to children faces the temptation of quietly transferring abusers rather than letting them be punished.

Another part is arrogance-- to the extent that Catholics (both inside and outside the hierarchy) believe that the Catholic church is worthy of automatic respect, abuse is going to be likely, and this is much harder to change than the celibacy rule.

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