No one ever wants to admit the truth if doing so means that not only will it cause great shame and hardship to themselves, but to the organization to which they belong. It’s hard enough for politicians to own up to salacious and unwanted sexual behavior of any kind that would make them look bad — or worse yet, cast shadows upon their election, reelection, or appointment — and that would be with female adults for the most part; so one can only imagine how it must be for a man of the cloth to own up to such behavior… with a child.
But just what does a “man of the cloth” mean? From the Merriam-Webster editors: One of the professions about which the term [man of the cloth] was used was the clergy. Around 1608, a writer warned of the dangers of indifference among God’s servants: “Many wear God’s cloth, that know not their master, that never did good chare (work) in his service.” By 1634, the word “cloth” had acquired the transferred meaning in which it denotes one’s profession, especially the profession of a clergyman, because of the strong association between a clergyman and his
clothing. Eventually, “cloth” took on the still current meaning of “clergy.” It is this last sense that comes to mind when we hear the phrase “man of the cloth.”
To those who grew up Catholic, or had anything to do with the Catholic Church at large, men of the cloth were seen as “men apart,” those who chose to remove themselves in certain ways from the rest of society — meaning they accepted and agreed to the restrictions that included such things as celibacy, not being allowed to marry or have children, to date, or to indulge in sexual activity of any kind. All that might have been viewed as the “negative” to becoming a man of the cloth, yet apparently, there was a very “positive” side to their restricted lifestyle: that of living in such a way that would help bring others closer to God by their actions in their community, their prayers,
their dedication to helping others, their spiritual availability to save souls, and such. In other words, the so-called negative aspect of living a single life of celibacy granted the man that much more time to be of service to mankind, all those in his community or his world who needed his ministering in whatever way.
So couldn’t a man of the cloth do all that while married? Well, not according to Catholic tradition. A good explanation for that can be found on Wikipedia: Advocates [for celibacy] see clerical celibacy as “a special gift of
God by which sacred ministers can more easily remain close to Christ with an undivided heart, and can dedicate themselves more freely to the service of God and their neighbor.”
I would think that needs to be reevaluated in light of all the sexual crimes that are coming to light. Not that there can ever be any legitimacy for grown men to force their sexual urges or desires upon children — and allowing marriage for the clergy will not solve that problem, but at least those men would not be in a position where they
could gain the trust of those children within their own church. In today’s world we can easily see that permanent celibacy is not the way to go for any group of men for the rest of their life. (Those who choose to accept that kind of life voluntarily, without it being imposed upon them, are in a different category.)
Obviously, there are many men of the cloth who take their vows seriously and would live up to them no matter what. They would live a life of serving others, helping others, letting their own lives be a source of inspiration to others, and — in ways perhaps unknown except to those who have experienced being on the receiving end of it —
Those who have been married know how both parties to that relationship are expected to give of their time and attention to the other. No matter what else they do or have to do, they are obligated to pay some attention to that commitment they made to the other. Why bother taking on that relationship if one is not also willing to take on the
expectations that go with it?
Yet some men of the cloth, those who have made a commitment to serve the Lord, have also been abusing children in secret all these many years, apparently not viewing their sexual predatory crimes against those who were in their physical and spiritual care as acts of a grave nature that were of the worst kind; and not only that, those who were
in charge of those men of the cloth, the higher-ups in the Church’s administration, chose to look the other way, to cover up the crimes, and to hide those secrets for the so-called “good of the Church.” It is hard for me to believe that the Pope, the head of the Catholic Church, did not know anything about it, but I will still grant him the benefit of the doubt. It is possible that all the Pope’s men put up some kind of barrier around him and the Church, in general, to keep the horrors of the truth from seeping through to the world at large.
Well, the dam has burst, and those men of the cloth can no longer hide. Reports and class action suits against many of those guilty of such crimes are surfacing all over the country. Today, Oct. 30, 2018, at a news conference in Times Square, the names and histories of 20 perpetrators kept secret by New York bishops have been revealed for the first time. The Diocese of Brooklyn is being sued for exposing the public to known child abusers, and one young man, a survivor of that abuse, spoke and told of being raped at the age of 12 by the very priest who was hearing his confession, something that is a sacrament to Catholics. All eight Catholic bishops who were complicit in that
particular cover-up were named.
(Disclaimer: I was raised Catholic, but am no longer one.) As Catholics, we were always taught that sexual thoughts come and go, but we are to ignore them, fight them, do something to distract ourselves away from them, and of course, to pray for help so we no longer have such thoughts. Apparently, none of those “helps” were ever good enough for the priests who allowed those temptations to overtake them. And yet they were our spiritual leaders, our teachers, our role models.
They were the men who had given over their life to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, the “son of God” who ostensibly came to this earth in his human form to show all men (people) how to live. It can’t be that Jesus didn’t do a good enough job of teaching what he came to teach, so we can assume that many who chose to take up the cross and
follow him, as they believed they were doing, did not think it through enough, thought that going into the priesthood would be their refuge from all those earthly sexual temptations, or — heaven forbid! — thought that having access to all those innocent children, whether through teaching them and hearing their confessions, or getting even closer to all those altar boys who believed they were doing a good and holy thing to serve at Mass, was a good way to further their own perversions.
The truth is finally coming to light, both regarding the perpetrators and those who chose to cover up their horrendous crimes. Perhaps now, in some way, a bit of the suffering can be lifted off the shoulders of all those former children.
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Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her at email@example.com.