NEW YORK (NY)
June 19, 2019
By Francis X. Clooney, S.J.
Several months ago I participated in a small campus conversation about the abuse crisis in the Catholic Church. A Protestant speaker diverted our attention for a few minutes by offering a set-piece critique of celibacy as essentially wrong and absolutely intolerable. He listed its many flaws and vices, pointed to its inhumanity and de facto impossibility and called for its abolition. I was caught off guard; I should have spoken up, at least to point out (as the speaker should have known) that I have tried to hold all this together for over 50 years as a Jesuit, over 40 as a priest, all of that time as a celibate. But no one picked up on his theme, and the conversation quickly returned to the conversation’s main concern.
The event, small as it was, is hardly singular. This year has been another dismal one for revelations about sexual abuse in the Catholic Church—painful for victims and their families, painful for all of us who care about the Catholic Church and especially dismal for the Catholic hierarchy that covered up so much of the abuse for so many decades. Analyses of this tragedy are unsurprisingly many, denunciations fiery, proposed remedies innumerable. Some essayists and opinion-makers with Catholic connections are now getting fiercer, proposing more radical solutions, and so the Catholic priesthood itself is now a common target of outrage. Abolish it!
Some essayists and opinion-makers with Catholic connections are now getting fiercer, proposing more radical solutions, and so the Catholic priesthood itself is now a common target of outrage.
Unsurprisingly, too, here in Boston where I live critiques of the priesthood itself have been fiery. The year began with Garry Wills’s January 2019 op-ed in The Boston Globe, “Celibacy isn’t the cause of the church sex-abuse crisis; the priesthood is,” an adequate recap of his caustic 2013 book Why Priests? His minimalist point: What we can’t find in the New Testament is illegitimate, and this includes much of the sacramental and hierarchical structure of the Catholic Church; the priesthood was never intended by Christ and cannot be saved: “I don’t think it should work again. The priesthood is itself an affront to the Gospel.”
Note: This is an Abuse Tracker excerpt. Click the title to view the full text of the original article. If the original article is no longer available, see our News Archive.