Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

Category: Christianity

Catholic Church and sex scandals

Sex scandals involving Catholic priests are making news with regularity. USA, Canada, Ireland, Spain, Holland, Germany, Austria and some other countries have reported sex scandals. Some scandals are cases of paedophilia. One case refers to a priest who was in Munich when the present pope Benedict XVI was then Joseph Ratzinger, archbishop of Munich.
Though the number of priests involved in scandals is around 5% it tarnishes the image of the whole church and causes crisis of faith. The question of continuing clerical celibacy comes up.
While there is no proposal of changing the rule of celibacy to Latin rite regional rites without clerical celibacy may be allowed. Dutch, English, Irish, German and such rites for Holland, England, Ireland, Germany and other countries may free the church from paedophilia and other scandals. These rites need to be restricted to their regions otherwise there will be problems with multiple jurisdictions.
Many cases of scandals are said to be of long time back. Some of them are more than 30 years old. It is not clear why the victims kept quiet for so long and all of a sudden they have come out in the open. It is not known how many priests will face prosecution. Some are too old. In some cases the statute of limitations has expired. In USA the church paid huge sums to victims.
There may be more scandals to be revealed. Lessons are to be learnt from these scandals and steps should be taken to prevent them in future.
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Apostolic Administrators

Apostolic Administrators are appointed when the bishop is unable to carry on in the diocese. The person appointed as Apostolic Administrator is not supposed to have any other diocese under him. For many years, following the ouster of the Portuguese, when Archbishop of Goa and Patriarch of East Indies was in Portugal, Raul Gonsalves was the Apostolic Administrator.

Since Benedict XVI became pope many bishops who are transferred to other dioceses or promoted as archbishops are appointed as Apostolic Administrators where they were bishops. This is not a good sign. Thomas Dabre after becoming Bishop of Poona is the Apostolic Administrator of Vasai.

When a bishop is transferred or promoted a new bishop must be appointed or diocesan consultors or curia must elect an administrator or Vicar Capitular. A bishop being Apostolic Administrator of another diocese reminds me of Pre-Reformation days when many bishops had two or more dioceses under them. In some cases those appointed as bishops were not consecrated for years.

The practice of one bishop having two or more dioceses under him must stop.

Catholic Church and Clerical Celibacy

Bishop must be husband of one wife.

St. Paul said that in his first letter to Timothy, chapter 3 verse 2.

Roman Catholic Church has three Western Rites and 22 Eastern rites. Bishops, priests and deacons are clerics. Latin, Ambrosian and Mozarabic are Western Rites. Celibacy is obligatory for priests in Latin, Ambrosian and Mozarabic rites. Celibacy is not obligatory for priests in most of the Eastern rites. Celibacy is obligatory for priests in Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara rites which are Eastern rites. Celibacy is obligatory for bishops in all rites.

Latin rite is spread all over the world and in these years many scandals regarding priests have come to light. Some scandals have involved bishops. One bishop is said to have fathered children from three women. Later he became the president of Peru. In USA many priests were involved in sexual abuse of boys and some dioceses had to pay huge sums in damages. The revelations about Fr. Macial Maciel, founder of Legion of Christ, shocked many. One of his defenders had to apologise. However a priest being found on a beach with a woman in bikini does not mean he has committed any sin, even if he is a radio talk host and has followers in USA and Latin America. It may be unexpected but not adultery or fornication or sin against the order of nature.

Clerical celibacy is of ecclesiastical law. In the first three centuries celibacy is not obligatory for priests in Latin rite. Synod of Elvira in 306 decreed clerical celibacy. It was not enforced till the Council of Trent in the 16th century.

Catholic Church does not impose celibacy on anyone. Priests accept celibacy willingly. Most of them remain faithful. Some fail. The failings make news. In recent years the scandals have been too many. In USA about 24 million people have left the Cathoic Church over the years.

Should those who have already become priests and bishops be allowed to marry? Considering the number of scandals it is better to allow them to marry. The number of priests has decreased in many countries over the years. With clerical celibacy remaining it may become even less. Considering the number of scandals in the Cathoic Church it seems desirable to allow clerics to marry. Then they will have families and there is need to think about meeting the expeses of their families. Transfers will create problems.

Protestant churches do not have obligation of clerical celibacy. They have less scandals. However divorce rate for pastors is said to be higher than ordinary Protestants. Besides, some pastors and bishops have engaged in homosexuality. Making clerical celibacy optional will not mean there will not be any scandal.

Benedict XVI will have to decide about making clerical celibacy optional. So far he is not in favour of it. However rising number of scandals makes it necessary to think about it. If he thinks these scandals will go away and church will emerge stronger he is free to continue with obligatory clerical celibacy.

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