Archbishop says sexual revolution could have motivated clergy sex abuse

August 22, 2019

Sweeping changes by the Roman Catholic Church and the sexual revolution of the '60s and '70s may be among the reasons for the rise in clergy sex abuse. That's what Archbishop Michael Byrnes explained during a speech today before local business leaders.

In trying to explain why so many Catholic clergy, including here in Guam, became involved in the far-reaching child sexual abuse scandal, Archbishop Byrnes referenced the reflections of the retired Pope Benedict. He says the Pope believed that an unprecedented 1962 gathering of top religious leaders to discuss church doctrine known as the Vatican Council II lead to a transformation that not all clergy could adjust to.

"It was kind of, at least in the United States, there was just this mass defection of priests. I remember being in a parish in Detroit, the parish I grew up in, and in one year, four of our priests left the priesthood," Byrnes said.

He says many became disaffected and unhappy, and not just with the doctrinal changes.

"A lot of the priests were used to praying like this, the idea was that the priest was leading the prayer and everyone was joining him and he didn't have to look at the people," Byrnes continued. "They literally were turned around and we're comfortable with that now but some of these guys weren't comfortable with that, but it wasn't just that, it was a whole new idea of the priesthood, of engagement of the lay faithful.

"It's not saying that that was bad, this was a time of upheaval, and I even remember my dad, his favorite priest, his friend left the priesthood, it hurt. It hurt."

Byrnes says the changing attitudes toward sex in the 60s and 70s, may have also impacted the church's training of priests, an example.

"It became the practice of teaching moral theology for the sake of confession was that they would show pornographic movies to these seminarians so that when they heard of particular sins they wouldn't freak out somehow," he said. "There's probably a better way of doing that."

His comment was met with laughter from the attending Rotarians.

But the archbishop says the cause may boil down to one thing.

"Pope Benedict, I think, is more to the point," he said. "He said the problem is the absence of God. I would say it was the loss of the fear of God."



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