The Perils of Pagan Clergy: First Argument

March 10, 2009

This is my first post on the issue of why I am very skeptical of having a Pagan clergy. I will come at it on an angle.

To have an official 'clergy' is to have some organizational structure with authority to say who is clergy and who is not. But organizations tend to become corrupt, confusing their interests with the interests they are supposed to serve. It happens everywhere, but is particularly tragic in religious organizations.

The past, recent and apparently ongoing moral depravity of many in the Catholic hierarchy (NOT Catholics in general) supplies one reason why I oppose even small steps towards institutionalizing Pagan practice through official 'clergy' UNLESS it is crystal clear that this term ONLY reflects their capacity to offer counseling or other secular professional skills. This is my sole concession to what I have learned since first making my case against it in Pagans and Christians.

Consider the hideous behavior of Archbishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho of Brazil who recently excommunicated the doctors who performed an abortion on a nine year old girl who had been repeatedly raped by her father. He also refused to excommunicate her father because his crime was not as bad. Just the actions of one man? No. The Vatican came to his defense when decent people were appalled.

Consider also the record of the Church hierarchy covering up the records of pedophile priests. I live in northern California, where pedophile priests were actively protected by former Santa Rosa bishops Mark Hurley and John Steinbock. The abuses went on for two decades. I wrote about them in the early 90s. They continue.

Consider Bernard Law, Cardinal and Archbishop of Boston, Massachusetts, resigned after Church documents surfaced suggesting he had covered up sexual abuse committed by priests in his archdiocese. Earlier when the media began emphasizing these scandals, Law spoke out powerfully: "By all means," he said at the time, "we call down God's power on the media, particularly the Globe." For reporting on the scandals. This was supposedly "anti-Catholic." After his resignation, Law moved to the Vatican, received a new post, and later gave a funeral Mass for Pope John Paul II.

My point is not that pedophilia occurred in the Catholic Church - abuses like that happen in any large organization and the number of priests involved is small. This issue is not unique to the Catholic Church. According to Christianity Today it happens in many other churches. My point is the organization's complicity in covering up the crimes, protecting the perps, and when discovered, blaming others.

Consider the current Pope's lifting the excommunication of a Holocaust-denying right -wing Bishop. Days before his being readmitted to the Church, Richard Williamson said on TV that the historical record indicated that there had not been any gassing of 6 million Jews. Defend excommunicating doctors who performed an abortion on a nine year old who had been raped, and welcome back a so-called 'bishop' who was a holocaust denier.

My point is not anti-Catholic - this is my second explicit statement on that issue - but a much more interesting one. Organizations tend to become corrupt. (See my Why Organizations Lie. ) Religious organizations are no better, and possibly worse, than secular ones. As we grow in numbers and influence there will be demands for Pagans to become more institutionalized, more organized, more "like everybody else" so Christians can better relate to us.

This is but one reason among a number we would be making a serious mistake to follow that beguiling logic.


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