Ruth Krall, Historical Meandering: Ideologies of Abuse and Exclusion (1)

Bilgrimage blog
July 24, 2019

The essay by Ruth Krall that follows below is the fifth in a series of essays entitled "Recapitulation: Affinity Sexual Violence in a Religious Voice." The first essay in this series appeared in two installments, here and here. The second appeared in another two installments, here and here. The third essay is here, and the fourth essay, in two installments, is here and here. In this multi-part series of essays, in which Ruth generously offers us the fruits of her years of research about these matters, Ruth hypothesizes the endemic natural of religious and spiritual leader sexual abuse of followers. The current essay continues this theme by arguing that clergy sexual abuse is a global public health issue whose noxious presence can be found inside multiple language groups and national identities. In this essay, which is rich and lengthy and which I'll offer to you in several installments, Ruth continues her investigation of these claims with an historical sounding. Ruth's essay follows (first installment):

Historical Meandering: Ideologies of Abuse and Exclusion

Ruth Elizabeth Krall, MSN, PhD

Introductory Comments

Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

~ Lord Acton (ii)

By looking slant at these issues of religious leader sexual abuse of members of the laity, we have begun to gather together a common language. We have also noted that, in addition to being a socio-cultural issue, a systemic religious institution issue, and a criminal justice system issue, clergy sexual abuse is also a global public health issue. Its noxious presence can be found inside multiple language groups and national identities. The phenomenon of clergy and religious leader sexual abusiveness and its institutionalized cover-up by religious administrators is present on all continents except Antarctica. In different religious groups, it takes different forms. In some religious cultures, the primary victims of religious leader abuse are adult women; in others, they may be adult men. In still others, the preponderance of victims is young pre-pubescent boys and girls. It appears, however, in Western cultures (and in Roman Catholicism, in particular) that the largest numbers of victims (historically and contemporaneously) are post-pubescent boys and girls in their early teenage years.

I often wonder if this phenomenon is an unconscious cultural remnant or a contemporary replication of an earlier pre-medieval and medieval custom, droit du seigneur). During that era, the lord of the manor had the rights of first sexual intercourse with all the women of a marriageable age who were his feudal subjects. (iii) This is not unlike the era of American slavery when the slaves' owners often raped their female slaves or established concubine relationships with them. (iv)

In thinking about the papacy as a feudal monarchy (an archaic remnant of medieval kings, lords, and vassals), somehow the clergy sexual abuse phenomenon begins to make sense. The bishops pledge their loyalty to the pope. The pope as the reigning monarch rules the worldwide church. As members of the nobility (lords of their diocesan estates), the bishops rule their parishes. The clergy are the minor nobility and pledge their loyalty to the bishop and the pope. In turn, the bishop assumes responsibility and control of the priest's career and conduct. Clergy, as members of the upper class, have command of their individual parish and its vassals (the laity).

The problem for North American bishops and clergy, however, is that they live inside twenty-first century democratic nation-states (i.e., secular modernity). The world's emerging secular ideology is that of a high-technology, communications-intensive post-modernity. The church’s vassals inevitably have, therefore, a dual identity or a dual loyalty. The organizational church's voice and law (as well as its shared sense of a communal morality) is, therefore, no longer the dominant law and moral outpost for most of its subjects. The institutional church's definitions of reality are no longer culturally shared definitions. This is particularly true in matters of human sexuality. In post-modernity, multiple voices and multiple moralities compete for each individual's attention and loyalty. (v)

In the Roman Catholic tradition (and most Protestant ones as well), women and their children continue to be contemporary vassals (i.e., second-class citizens). In terms of their religious identity, if adult women generically are second class citizens, sexually active (i.e., non-virginal) single women are third-class citizens. In terms of secular culture, this is no longer an acceptable ideology. It is no longer acceptable communal behavior.

Crimen Solicitationis: Church Law against Soliciting Sex Acts inside the Confessional (vi)

In general, there is no need for a law to be formulated unless there are transgressions needing to be addressed. In 1922 and again in 1962, the canonical instruction Crimen Solicitationis was sent by Rome to all bishops with the instruction to treat it as a highly confidential document. (vii) It was not to be made public in any manner whatsoever. In other words, members of the laity were excluded from information. This document teaches the worldwide cadre of bishops about how their Roman superiors expect them to deal with situations of seduction and sexual assaults inside the confessional.

Commonalities and Patterns

In these essays we have uncovered several fundamental characteristics of these pan-denominational phenomena of religious clergy sexual abuse. The noxious presence of clergy sexual abuse of the laity is not unique to any one particular culture or religious group. We have also noted that patterns of clergy sexual abuse and institutional mismanagement of the abusers are endemic inside today's world religious cultures. The historical presence of clergy sexual abuse has been noted — both in short-term history, i.e., the twentieth century (viii) and in long-term history, i.e. medieval and pre-medieval history. (ix) In addition, we have identified the term hyper-endemic as potentially useful in future studies and discussions of these religious community phenomena.

It has also been noted that adult men and women in vowed or dedicated religious life can be abusers. In addition, they can also be the victims of abuse. In some individual cases, they can be both.

Physical and sexual abuse can happen to its victims at any stage of their developmental life journey from infancy to old age. That said, those individuals with the fewest personal and cultural resources to resist abusers are the most vulnerable individuals to fall victim to religious leader sexual abuse.

Authoritarian religious arrangements such as churches, denominations, and institutions like seminaries and religious colleges appear to facilitate abuse. These religious institutions also appear to facilitate supervisory silence about abuse. In many situations, the acts of abuse are actively covered up by the religious institution's administrative caste. This practice of allowing abusers to continue their abusive behavior unchecked tends to provide them with on-going access to new targets for their abusive behavior.

For example, Father John Geoghan (1935-2003), a priest in the Boston diocese is believed to have sexually molested 150 children (mostly boys). (x) Prior to his arrest, the Boston diocese moved him from parish to parish without warning the parishes to which he was being sent. Geoghan died in jail — murdered by another prisoner.

Another example is Father Gilbert Gauthe (1945-) of Louisiana. I have heard estimates that he violated more than 200 children and perhaps as many as 500. (xi In court, he admitted to 37. (xii) Here, too, his religious supervisors and administrators moved him from parish to parish with no warning given to parishioners in his new location.

A third example is Father James Porter (1935-2005). Porter, who had been moved from parish to parish and from diocese to diocese, admitted to molesting children in five states. In 1975 the pope laicized Porter at his own request. He later admitted to abusing more than 100 children of both genders. After laicization, he married and was later convicted of abusing his children's babysitter. (xiii)

Moving priests from parish to parish has been a very common practice among American Roman Catholic bishops. Dominican priest and victims' advocate Father Thomas Doyle cynically calls this the church’s geographic solution to the sexual abuse problem in his denominational church. (xiv)

The Question of Mandatory Celibacy for Clerics: Reformation History

Canon law is driven by theology. (xv)

The history of mandatory celibacy for clergy in the Roman Catholic Church dates back to the Second Lateran Council (1139 CE) and was later reaffirmed by the Council of Trent (1563 CE). (xvi)

It is now an actively floated hypothesis on the worldwide web: mandatory clergy celibacy inevitably leads to sexual abuse by clerics and bishops. A secondary hypothesis is that a married clergy would be much less likely to sexually abuse the laity than an institutionally-coerced celibate one. These assertions by some Catholic authors and reformers need to be demographically tested. (xvii) Until that happens, we can do a bit of historical reminiscing and analysis.

Earlier in this series of essays, (xviii) I noted, in passing, the importance of the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation and the Counter-Reformation Council of Trent (1545-1563 CE). The history of allowing marriage to priests inside Orthodox forms of Christianity pre-dates the sixteenth century Reformation. (xix) I am now going to take a brief detour into Christian Reformation history in order to provide us with a common background of information. Most specifically I want to look at these questions of a married clergy, celibacy, and a homosexual priesthood in context of the Protestant Reformation's strong support for its churches' clerics to be married. I do this because a certain amount of debate exists inside the Roman Catholic tradition about the formative impact of mandatory celibacy on the clergy sexual abuse situation. In this reading, the centuries-old ideology of priest celibacy (as an essential aspect of the ordained clergy) is questioned. It raises the diagnostic issue of whether celibacy is the causative ideology that drives clergy sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic tradition.

The Question of Clerical Celibacy and the Protestant Reformation

After the Protestant Reformation began to take hold in Europe, its leading theologians, community elders, and clerics chose marriage (in a deliberate and frequently ideological contrast to mandatory celibacy inside the Roman Catholic tradition).

• Martin Luther (1483-1546)

I want to make explicit what I was taught in a graduate level seminary course: Martin Luther's complaints about moral corruption in the Catholic Church of his era were not only about the sale of indulgences. (xx) After a trip to Rome in 1511 he did began to oppose the sale of indulgences. It was also on this trip, however, that he became aware of sexual corruption in the papacy and inside the governing structures of Roman Catholicism. As a reformer, Luther advocated for marriage of the clergy. On June 13, 1525 Luther married a former nun named Katharina von Bora. Together they had six children. (xxi) Luther himself anchored the church polity principle of married clergy inside the rapidly-emerging German Lutheran tradition. Today, various Lutheran traditions exist in many of the world's nations. None are committed to and none mandate clerical celibacy.

• Menno Simons (1496-1561)

Simons was a former priest who became a leader in the Anabaptist wing of the Reformation. After leaving the priesthood in 1536 he became an Anabaptist leader. He married Geertruydt Jansdochter. Together, they had three children. Mennonite, Amish, and Mennonite Brethren traditions in many of the world's nation states are the direct descendents of the sixteenth century Anabaptists. There are no celibacy requirements for clergy in any of the wide variety of contemporary Anabaptist traditions. Unlike other reformers of this era, the Anabaptists also insisted upon the separation of church and state. Consequently, they did not seek the protection of the state as their reforms spread.

• John Calvin (1509-1564)

Unlike Luther and Simons, John Calvin was never ordained to the priesthood nor was he ever a member of a vowed Roman Catholic religious order. Calvin was a well-educated French humanist, theologian and Protestant pastor. He was opposed to clerical celibacy. In August, 1540 he married Idelette de Bure, a widow with two children from her first marriage. None of their children survived infancy. Presbyterian and Reformed religious traditions are descendants of Calvin's theology. Requirements for clergy celibacy in the religious traditions which arise from Calvin's legacy do not exist. Most clergy are married.

• John Knox (1513-1572)

Knox was a former notary-priest in Scotland. Living in England, he became licensed to work with the Church of England and eventually became the chaplain to King Edward VI. After Mary Tudor ascended to the throne of England and re-established Catholicism as the nation's official religion, Knox fled to Geneva and subsequently to Frankfort. In Geneva he met John Calvin. Returning to Scotland, he established the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. He married Margery Bowes and upon her death, he married Margaret Stewart. He fathered five children. As a theologian, he deeply influenced the development of Reformed theology and denominational polity. The Protestant Church of Scotland has no celibacy requirements for its clergy. Nor do churches in the Reformed tradition.

• The Church of England (1534), King Henry the Eighth (1491-547)

Henry had a falling out with the Pope over the question of a marriage annulment (Catherine of Aragon). Henry then pronounced himself the head of the Church of England and in 1534 he was excommunicated by the pope from all ties to the Roman Catholic Church. He was married six times and had numerous children by his various wives as well as illegitimate children with his mistresses. There are no celibacy requirements for clergy and bishops in the world-wide Anglican Communion.

Personal Conclusions

Five hundred years after the Protestant Reformation, we now know that inside the extended borders of Christendom, sexual corruption and clergy sexual abuse is not only a Roman Catholic phenomenon. It seems self-evident to me (while reading the daily news) that the phenomenon of a married clergy has not functioned as a deterrent to clergy and religious leader sexual abuse of the laity. The most recent evidence of this is visible inside the United States Southern Baptist tradition. (xxii) As an outsider to both the Roman Catholic tradition and the Southern Baptist Convention and as an insider to the Anabaptist one, I do not believe that church-mandated clerical celibacy causes ordained members of the clergy to sexually abuse children, adolescents, or adult members of their parishes.


i. Polenov, V. (1874). Le droit du seigneur. The original is at the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. This image is in the common domain and was uploaded to Wikimedia from the gallery's catalogue.

ii. Acton makes this statement in an 1887 letter to Archbishop Mandell Creighton.

iii. French: droit du seigneur; Latin: jus primae noctis: see Shakespeare's Henry VI (part two) (ca. 1591). There shall not a maid be married, but she shall pay to me her maidenhead ere they have it. See "Droit du seigneur," Wikipedia.

iv. For example, the relationship of Thomas Jefferson to his slave Sally Hemings. See "Sally Hemings," Wikipedia.

v. In today's limited monarchy in the UK, the following ranks of nobility are: the Monarch and royal family, followed by Dukes (and Duchesses), Marques (Marchioness), Earl (Countess), Viscount (Viscountess), Baron (Baroness), Baronetess, Knight. For additional information, see "Aristocracy in England, Nobility, Peers, Peeresses, and Other People" at the All Things Victorian website. . Retrieved July 9, 2019.

vi. Cornwall, J. (2014). The Dark Box: A Secret History of Confession. New York: Basic Books.

vii. For general information, see "Crimen sollicitationis," Wikipedia. For the text of the document, see the copy uploaded to Document Cloud by Rafael Shimunov of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

viii. Boston Globe Investigative Staff. (2002). Betrayal: The Crisis in the Catholic Church. Boston: Little, Brown and Co.

ix. Doyle, T.P., Sipe, A.W. R. and Wall, P. (2006). Sex, Priests, and Secret Codes: The Catholic Church's 2000 Year Paper Trail of Sexual Abuse. Boulder, CO: Taylor Trade Publishing.

x. Finer, J. (August 15, 2003). "Geoghan's Death is Described." Washington Post.

xi. Minnesota Public Radio (July 21, 2014). "Betrayed by Silence: A Story in Four Chapters: Chapter One, It All Began in Lafayette." Minnesota Public Library website.

xii. See "Gilbert Gauthe," Wikipedia.

xiii. See "James Porter (Catholic priest)," Wikipedia. See also "James R. Porter" at the website of Jeff Anderson & Associates.

xiv. Personal conversations with Father Doyle.

xv. See "When Does the Pope Speak Infallibly?" at the Canon Law Made Easy website.

xvi. See Owen, H.L. (October 2001). "When Did the Catholic Church Decide Priests Should Be Celibate?" History News Network.

xvii. Terrell, R. (September 4, 2018). "Is Priest Celibacy at the Root of Catholic Church Scandals?" New American.

xviii. See essay four, "Looking Slant: Oppressive Ideologies and Belief Systems," and also here.

xix. The Great Schism, 1054 CE. For more information, see "East-

West Schism," Wilkipedia.

xx. See "Indulgence," Wikipedia.

xxi. See "Luther's Marriage to Katharina von Bora" at the Luther Biography site maintained by KDG Wittenberg. . Retrieved July 5, 2019

xxii. Meyer, H. (June 5, 2019). "Why Sex Abuse in the church is expected to be front and center as Southern Baptists Meet in Alabama." Nashville Tennessean








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