Monthly Archives: May 2014

Clerical Celibacy

Now the sons of [the priest] Eli were corrupt; they did not know the Lord” (1 Samuel 2: 12).

In the context of the Catholic Church sex scandal, it is not unusual to read that celibacy is the root cause of child molestation by priests; that, if only the church would move forward into the modern world and abandon this bizarre requirement of its clergy, instances of child molestation by priests would vanish overnight.

This is in error. It puts the blame for the heinous crime of child sexual abuse on an “outmoded” system of belief, rather than on the shoulders of pederasts, where it rightly belongs.

The vow of celibacy taken by Catholic priests is akin to the vow of fidelity in marriage. There are those who would argue fidelity, too, is a lost cause, a pointless exercise in the face of an overwhelming evolutionary mandate. I am not among them.

The commitment to celibacy is a symbol of the commitment to hold oneself apart from the world, to save our highest and best for God alone [1].

In direct opposition to this, child molestation is, at heart, the abuse of power; an ultimate act of selfishness without regard for the negative impact to victims, in fact, the “sweeter” to the predator because of that impact.

Sex with children is “real” sex. It constitutes a violation of the vow of celibacy, rather than an exception to it. It is certainly a betrayal of the pastoral function.

Grown men and women, whatever their profession or calling, do NOT have sex with children.

[1] Not all would agree that this is necessary. Protestant ministers of various denominations follow a different model.

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Filed under Abuse of Power, Child Abuse, Christianity, Justice, Religion, Sexual Abuse

Abuse-Related Advocacy

Those of us committed to raising awareness of child abuse and violence against women often invest emotionally in the task. Since many of us are abuse survivors, we have a personal stake in bringing public pressure to bear on issues like the funding and oversight of foster care programs.

This is all to the good.

But the problem of abuse has long and pernicious roots. Neither child abuse nor violence against women is a new phenomenon. Both have been present throughout history, can be found worldwide, and are actually tolerated in certain cultures, if not encouraged. That makes the fight to abolish them or at least seek justice for victims extremely difficult.

Our goal is to do nothing less than change the world.

There are pitfalls associated with this fight. To begin with, depending on the cultural setting, advocacy can be dangerous. Readers will remember Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani girl attacked by the Taliban in 2012 for a blog post in support of women’s education.

Continual exposure to the ugly details of abuse can be disheartening. In March 2014, federal investigators shut down a global child pornography ring with over 27,000 predators [1]. Victims (mostly male) ranged in age from 3 y.o. and younger to 17 y.o.

Contact with such horrors may cause early burnout, a well recognized risk among social workers.  At a minimum, it can rob us of desire and our capacity to trust the opposite sex. Continue reading

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Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Justice, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse, Terrorism, Violence Against Women

Happy Endings

Americans love a happy ending. We cheer for the good guy. The hero overcomes every obstacle; walks away with barely a scratch. Our movies, our theater, our music all reflect that.

Oh, we can tolerate an occasional film noir or song in a minor key. Just for the change it makes. But, in the end, we want the good guy to win.

All too often, life does not work out that way. The good guy is beaten or at least beaten down. Some of us have to climb the same hill every day. So have we failed? Have abuse victims let down the audience?

No, we have not. We may have internalized an unrealistic standard, may believe we have come up short if our lives are not lived with Prince (or Princess) Charming in a rose covered cottage. But the reality is that it takes enormous courage and enormous strength simply to survive abuse.

We bear the wounds of a combat between the armed and unarmed, a war to which we were subjected before the age of consent.  The physical and psychological scars can last a lifetime. To have endured is to have won.

So, go ahead. Cheer for the good guy. We know what you mean, even if your image of a winner is not exactly the same as ours.

We make our own happy endings.



Filed under Child Abuse, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse, Violence Against Women

Common Bond

A rally was held in Nigeria earlier this week to protest that government’s inaction against the Islamic terrorist group, Boko Haram (translated “Western Education Is Sinful”). The group recently kidnapped some 230 school girls, and is selling them into slavery for as little as $12 or “marrying” them to their captors [1].

Though estimates vary, there are as many as 30 million men, women, and children entrapped in slavery, as I write this.

Included among these are forced laborers recruited under threat of violence, by governments and political parties; chattel slaves abducted from their homes – bought, sold, inherited, and given as gifts; bonded laborers whose loans – impossible of repayment – can be passed from generation to generation; child soldiers; child brides in forced marriages; children engaged in toil destructive of their health and well-being; and sexually exploited women and children, now a basis for sex tourism.

If any of this sounds familiar to Americans, it should. The impact of slavery on our country has been immense. It is a lasting scar the extent of which cannot be summed up in a few neat words.

But slavery has not been confined to a single race or nation. Slavery is referenced as far back as the Code of Hammurabi and the Bible [2]. Slavery existed in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome; in Ireland, Poland, and elsewhere across the globe. It existed among Christians and Muslims. Slave labor camps in the form of gulags were utilized as a political tool by Russia until 1960. They persist in China (under the name “laogai”) and North Korea today.

By focusing exclusively on grievances of the past – albeit, legitimate grievances – we may overlook the chance we have as Americans of every stripe to make a difference in the present.

The evils (and insidious after-effects) of slavery should, if anything, make America the nation foremost in seeking an end worldwide to that institution, once and for all. Instead, we remain a house divided, consumed by our own pain. Continue reading

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Filed under Abuse of Power, Child Abuse, Christianity, Justice, Poverty, Prostitution, Religion, Slavery, Terrorism