From blogs

Best analysis about Catholic clergy abuse I’ve ever read

Catholic priest at Mass praying
Image: iStock

I have rejected the idea that the child sex abuse scandals is a case of just a few bad eggs within the Catholic (and other Christian) clergy. For a while, I had a niggling feeling that more ingrained cultural and even theological beliefs have been at play.

Annie Hutchinson, writer of the blog Diary of Heretic Catholic has written the best analysis on the Catholic Church child sexual abuse scandal I have ever read. She argues that, like the coffee shop franchise, Starbucks, all the Catholic churches around the world are under the same guidelines and the same hierarchy. Systemic abuse and cover up has happened in multiple parishes around the world including in Australia, Chile and, as we now know, the U.S. In the U.S. it was revealed that 300 priests had abused 1,000 children over a seventy year period. Do you really expect me (or anyone else, for that matter), to think this was a fluke?

As Hutchinson pointed out, parishes around the world follow the same hierarchy and the same standards. The issue hasn’t just affected one parish, but, as I pointed out, multiple parishes around the world. Something is rotten culturally, and the injustices are to be blamed on the Catholic hierarchy. It needs to change.

Australia ended a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The commission gave the Catholic Church a number of criticisms and recommendations to help prevent abuse in the future. To their credit, many Catholic clergy have been open to at least some of these recommendations, although breaking Confession secrecy is still strongly resisted.

Personally, I think the problem is deeper than the Confessional. When the revelations of clergy abuse in Pennsylvania came to light, a number of prominent Catholics blamed a ‘homosexual subculture’ for the abuse.  Essentially in blaming gay men proves, at least to me, that too many prominent Catholics don’t get the gravity of what occurred.

I think a part of the problem with the Catholic Church has been their theology, particularly around human sexuality. I don’t think priestly celibacy itself is the problem (it was the topic that dominated the media during the Royal Commission), but it is their overall ethos of shame around human sexuality.

The Catholic Church has been quite infamous for their ‘prudishness’ around human sexuality. Not only did people have to wait until they were married to have sex, but humans weren’t meant to be a sexual being until marriage. This created a shame around consensual and harmless sexuality and a conflation with sex crime, which gave predators a foothold.

I believe shame around homosexuality in the Catholic Church has been anther factor. Most of the victims by predatory priests have been boys and it’s a fact that Many male survivors of sexual abuse become confused about their sexual orientation, especially when it happens in adolescence. This makes the conflation of gays and the abuse detestable. Too often, male victims of sexual abuse are afraid to speak out in fear of being shamed for their sexuality (whether the victim is gay or not). All victims of sexual abuse are victims of violence. It is NOT a reflection of ANYTHING the victim is or what they allegedly did or didn’t do.

Unless these changes occur within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church (and probably more), I don’t think Catholic hierarchy can be trusted despite “abuse hasn’t happened in [insert number of years] arguments. Unless the Catholic Church hierarchy is willing to examine themselves and make fundamental changes, then, I really don’t think there is anything to stop the abuse from starting again.

If this post has raised any issues for you, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636. For medical or safety emergencies, call 000. As usual, for anyone from other countries, feel free to leave numbers email addresses, etc of mental health or emergency services in your area/ country in the comments below.

From blogs

Perfectionism: is it ever healthy?

Patheos post: You will never be perfect by Chris Williams, June 7, 2018


Last month, Patheos contributor, Chris Williams wrote about perfection and how we’ll never achieve it in this life. He also suggested that our imperfections can strengthen both faith and relationships:

If perfection was the goal, I’d never keep a friend. I’d be afraid of letting them down. I’d be afraid they’d let me down. I’d let every hurt feeling be a reason to burn a bridge.

He argues that argues that imperfection opens up the door to grace: a key characteristic of a Christian life:

Imperfection opens the door to grace. If we were held to perfection, there would be no reason for anyone to forgive us. There’d be no opportunity for us to forgive others. Imperfection humbles us and allows others to show us grace.

Read the whole article. It’s very interesting. It was a great read for me personally, because I can be a bit of a perfectionist. And of course, I fail. Every. Single. Day. I might start off alright, but if I’ve been awake for more than an hour, then stuff happens. So finding this article last week offered a bit of comfort, I guess.

What about the Bible?

Some readers rejected Williams’ conclusion by alluding to Mathew 5:48:

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect

(Matt 5:48 New Living Translation)

Does the verse mean what people think it means? To life a perfect life? It may not mean what others think.

Commentaries on Bible Hub offer various interpretations of this verse, including an extension to the Jewish law demanding that people aren’t just pious, but also courteous to their neighbour, while others refer to the perfection that comes with being complete in Christ. It’s interesting to point out that Matthew 5 is a part of the Sermon on the Mount and only four verses above (Matt 5:44), where Jesus commands his listeners to love their enemies.


Perfectionism and psychology

While psycho,ogists, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals encourage people to strive for excellence, many warn against perfectionism — the personality trait that’s characterised by striving to make all facets of life perfect, or at least seem to be perfect.  While perfectionism itself isn’t a mental illness, it can be a symptom of a mental illness like anxiety disorder or OCD. Perfectionism can lead to depression.

However, there is debate among psychologists and psychiatrists whether a ‘degree’ of perfectionism is ever beneficial.  ‘Degrees’ of perfectionism’ between healthy and unhealthy can be seen on perfectionism self – screening tools on sites such as Psychology Today and Dr. Jeff Szymanski. Both these self – screening quizzes indicate that there are ‘degrees’ of perfectionism, and a low degree can be beneficial.

Paul Hewitt PhD  from the University of British Columbia completely rejects the idea. Dr. Hewitt, along with Gordon Flett PhD concludes after twenty years of research that perfectionism is hazardous to one’s well – being and relationships. Unlike other researchers from the 1990’s, Hewitt and Flett  don’t buy the argument of adaptiveness. Both Hewitt and Flett, however, do agree that there are different varying extremes of perfectionism that come with various results, none, they argue, are completely positive.

Do you consider yourself or someone you a perfectionist? How has it affected your life, life of another person and their (or your) relationships? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below.