Celibacy is NOT the reason for the sex abuse scandal or the priest shortage!
With Pope Benedict retiring, CNN and other news media outlets are raging with stories about corruption, the papacy, and the problem of priestly celibacy. How many people are shouting from the rooftops that the Catholic Church needs to change! Anyone and everyone who has an agenda against the Church can’t help but join the frenzy.
Many people have bought into the myth that priestly celibacy is the main cause for the sex abuse scandals in the Church, as well as, the reason for the serious shortage of priests. If the old men in Rome would just get up with the times, ban priestly celibacy, and allow them to get married, then there would be a surge in the numbers and a drastic decrease in the number of children being abused. It sounds pretty simple, no?
The problem is that there are two gaping myths here that need to be examined:
1. That the out of control pedophilia rampant in the Catholic Church can be directly linked to priestly celibacy along with a host of other unhealthy problems.
2. That priestly celibacy is the direct cause for the lack of priests and the lack of interest in the priesthood.
ANSWERING THESE OBJECTIONS
Sexual abuse is not an issue of celibacy, but a lack of it! Pedophilia itself is also not an issue of celibacy but a psychological disorder, a mental illness. This goes for anyone, religious or secular.
While the media would have us believe differently – statistically and otherwise – the Catholic Church has been one of the least perpetrators of any institution in the world regarding sexual abuse. What the media usually fails to announce is that 99% of the abuse cases they report are old cases that they have rehashed – most of them from 30-50 years ago. Even though they are being presented today as if they were current, most of these cases took place nearly a half century ago.
Don’t believe me? Check out the “John Jay College of Criminal Justice” who has rigorously performed all the major research on this issue. Their latest reports from 2008 onward show that there have been only about six – seven credible allegations each year involving minors. Not seven-hundred. Not seventy. Seven. And, this is six out of the forty thousand priests and tens of thousands of workers employed in the Catholic Church. Obviously, one case is too many anywhere, but the charge that the Church still has a huge problem, or that priests are pedophiles, is a biased and unsubstantiated assertion.
Let’s push the envelope a little more and blow open the dirty little secrets that either people don’t know or wants to talk about:
– It is a fact that the majority of all sexual abuse takes place in the family! Studies reveal that about 85% of sexual abuse takes place in the family. The highest abuse rate comes from family members, then babysitters, then neighbors and friends.
– After families, the next highest perpetrator of sexual abuse is the public school system. These make up about 15% of all abuse cases.
– Toward the bottom of the abuse list comes religious institutions. And, within that category, non-Catholic faiths have an equal or higher rate of abuse than the Catholic Church even though Catholics have than 10 times the amount of people these other churches do. If celibacy, not allowing men to marry, leads to so many problems, including sexual abuse, then how do you explain families having the biggest problem? Spouses get married. They have sex. And, yet the child abuse rate is extraordinarily lower among celibates. The proof is in the facts.
Again, one case is too many, and the Catholic Church should be held to the highest standard more than secular institutions. However, it is a fabrication to state that the Church is the biggest perpetrator of abuse. That is not an honest statement. And, for all the people who yell, scream, protest, and complain that we need to crack down on the evil, corrupt Catholic Church in order to protect children, ought to stop turning a blind eye to families and public schools where the abuse rate is 100 times higher than the Church. 100 times! If these same people were really concerned about protecting children and not attacking the Church, they would crack down on all areas where the problem is truly rampant, but instead, their apparent anti-Catholic bias is revealed.
Remember, that nearly all priests are good, holy and faithful, and have been for the majority of church history. People like Jesus, St. Paul, Mother Teresa, and Pope John Paul II, to name a few, were all celibate and lived lives to perfection. Jesus himself (also St. Paul) was the one to teach celibacy, not the Church (Mt. 19:12; 1 Cor. 7:7-8). Do people who have a problem with the Churches teaching on celibacy have a problem with Jesus too?
What about the crisis and the growing shortage of priests. Wouldn’t allowing priests to marry draw more people to the priesthood and thus help the problem. The answer is no. Eastern Rite priests in the Catholic Church can marry, and they have the same priestly shortage that the Roman Catholic Church does.
Moreover, celibacy is not the problem, but rather it is a crisis of faith. Not only do people don’t consider the priesthood, many don’t even pray, go to Church or believe what their religion teaches – and this is across the board. I once asked an Eastern rite Catholic priest who was married if celibacy was the cause of the priest shortage. He told me that his church had married priests and still suffered the same shortage. He asserted that there wouldn’t be much difference if priests were allowed to marry. He then spoke of the great difficulties of trying to run a church and manage a family, something even Protestant pastors struggle with many times. This priest was talking from experience, what are those who persecute the church talking from?