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PostPosted: Mon Apr 19, 2010 9:46 pm 
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 19, 2010 9:57 pm 
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Well, lust is a complicated thing. Wanting power over someone, wanting to dominate and control them, wanting to bend them to your own will....wanting to hear them scream....this is pretty sick and twisted. But it also gives a high, which is why people enjoy watching certain types of violent movies. You can...sensualize violence, so that it turns people on. (cf almost any vampire movie clip from Interview with the Vampire)

I don't think you have to be a serial killer/sociopath/child molester to be influenced by that, but I think that most people will choose most of the time not to act on that baser nature that somehow takes pleasure in other people's pain. Or will indulge it only in 'small' ways that don't involve hurting other people. Meaning...love trumps lust. What parent hasn't wanted to strangle a child before? But the parent who actually does is the abomination....

Lust and using people and abusing power are always disgusting, just sometimes small and secret and no one knows. It's harder to hide it when you're leaving a trail of dead bodies and traumatized children behind you - and yes, some crimes are worse. Much, much worse than others. Not everyone who hated Jews sparked a Holocaust.

It is true that part of the horror comes when you don't share the temptation. If your reaction is 'why would anyone want to do that?' then, yes, you probably can't understand their dilemma. But we all have to decide not to use other people, whether it is in little petty ways or in huge life-destroying ways. It is my understanding that therapy does very little to stop pedophiles, so there must be some measure of compulsion to it. But...that doesn't mean it's not about power, too. Power is intoxicating, and likely feeds the same sorts of things as lust.

And I feel like a horrible person for even writing this post....so I think I'll bow out of this discussion for now.


Last edited by MithLuin on Mon Apr 19, 2010 10:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 19, 2010 10:07 pm 
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 19, 2010 10:28 pm 
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The nature of lust and abuse is a fascinating study, of course.

And yes, it is true that there are deviants in every group. Simply introducing women, or married people, or parents into the equation is not an automatic fix for the problem. It is possible to have a perfectly diverse team of complete and utter scum.

It is, however, worth considering that in this particular institution there were practically no women involved in the position of power, or married people, or parents - people who live out what most of us consider normal expressions of sexuality, hetero or otherwise. It is skewed definition, and perhaps in that population what we consider abnormal is more common.

Or maybe not. In truth, I think the problem is not with the nature of lust and abuse, but with the fact that the institution cared more about the institution.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 19, 2010 10:39 pm 
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Just out of curiosity, why aren't Catholic priests allowed to marry? AFAIK, Catholicism is the only denomination that has this rule. Protestants sure don't and neither do the Eastern Orthodox churches. And why aren't women allowed into the church power structure?

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 20, 2010 6:46 am 
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This is not an answer to River's question as I am not catholic or theological scholar, but marriage has not always been forbidden in RCC and as far as I know the goal is that the priest can invest all his enrgy in church and is not distracted by a family.

The other day, on Swiss radio, I heard a very interesting programm about the abuse scandals in RCC with a very interesting idea: men who become priests know that they will have to live in celibacy.
Now, given the power of human sexuality, it is a life-style that does not draw naturally a lot of vocations.
In former times, as a compensation, as a priest you had a form of power and social recognition which nowadays you don't really have any more. Also, the tradition to have one priest in the family is lost now, that families don't have several sons any more. So, those drawn to priesthood are often also those who have had beforehand problems with their sexuality and thus accept the obligation of celibacy in a first time or even see it as an escape to their difficult attitude towards sexuality.
Today, in seminars, priest undergo psychological testing to see how they can handle celibacy, but for the generation of priests which is accused now, no such testing was done and it is easily possible that this lack of control combined with the personality of those who can face the idea of celibacy at all, encourages individuals with potential of deviant sexual behaviour.
I found it an interesting explanation why celibacy could play a role, especially in modern times where other prestige as a compensation is less for a priest.
I also think it is a pity that a catholic man cannot live for his faith and act in an official role for his church if he wants to have a family. It must be a hard choice for someone who really has faith, I imagine.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 20, 2010 10:55 am 
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River
this article may shed some light upon your question as to why they are not allowed to marry.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clerical_celibacy

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 20, 2010 11:39 am 
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Some thoughts

I have been reading Karen Armstrong’s Through the Narrow Gate, which documents her calling as a nun in the early 1960s. She left her Order in 1969. This was pre-Vatican 2, and the sweeping changes from that certainly failed to permeate Armstrong’s order. She paints an unforgiving, legalistic environment in which the young nuns are taught to subjugate themselves totally to the will of God, as specifically expressed in their spiritual elders. Harsh criticism is all part of this character-building. The self is emptied out and this is all good for the soul. Emotions are weak and must be denied. The will must be broken, by any means necessary.

Frankly, it makes for very painful reading (written without any self-pity, btw, and you do understand why Karen was attracted to that life in the first place, she wanted to be close to God). But it is harrowing.

In one incident, an elderly priest makes a clumsy pass at Karen, much to her bewilderment and disgust. When she tentatively reports this to her Mother Superior, the senior nun refuses to credit her story. Questioning one’s spiritual superiors is not allowed. Thinking about sexuality is not allowed. That a priest could be guilty of such a thing is simply unthinkable to the Mother Superior, so she curtly dismisses Karen’s distress and sharply orders her to resume her duties with the priest.

Given such a harsh religious environment, where the word of an ADULT NUN – a grown woman, for pete’s sake! – was not believed by her bosses, then what chance would vulnerable children have, if they protested about abuse by a priest? :help:

"How DARE they make up such wicked stories about such a holy man?" -- you can just imagine it, can’t you? :( Horrible to think about. :cry:

I absolutely don’t want to be seen to be anti-Catholic, so I will point out that very similar abuses took place in British boy’s boarding schools. Of course this kind of abuse is all about power.

And to make the point that it’s definitely not just a Catholic sin, here is a conservative Baptist pastor with some very sharp things to say about the failings of his own church, the Southern Baptists, to deal properly with allegations of sexual abuse (with terrible results). It makes for grim reading:
http://kerussocharis.blogspot.com/2010/ ... thern.html

He has several entries on his blog about this subject – listed under the heading on his sidebar under ‘Child Abuse’ – and they are all worth reading.

I once read a report in a British newspaper about an Evangelical church who had sought to handle a case of alleged abuse by means of a ‘church court’ (I have no idea how such a thing operates outside the legal system, but anyway, this ’church court’ exonerated the man accused). The victim was outraged, and took her case to the criminal courts. She won. The judge in the case said that the church had acted irresponsibly. I could not agree more.

In my Anglican diocese, everyone in a position of responsibility within the church gets training on child protection and you cannot hold a position of trust and responsibility in the church without being CRB-checked:
http://www.crb.homeoffice.gov.uk/

(The CRB drives me mad, actually. :D We often mock them for their lack of efficiency. There’s a mistake on my own current record which apparently is beyond the power of their database to correct. :roll: But I agree completely with the principle).)

For church leaders to fail to humble themselves and make themselves accountable to both their own people and the laws of the land is the height of arrogance. And is really ungodly.

Women and allegations of abuse

Nerdanel, Mith and Vison have all made fascinating points about this. I agree with Mith and Vison that women are not necessarily nicer or more empathetic than men. But I also agree with Nel when she says:

nerdanel wrote:
If I am right - that many women consciously or otherwise understand themselves to be potential victims of sexual violence, and factor into their activities the importance of guarding against this threat - it seems likely that women would bring this same understanding and sensitivity to positions of power within the church hierarchy. It seems reasonable that women would be more likely to prioritize the removal of sexual predators from positions in which they could victimize children (or anyone else), and to report those predators to the civil authorities. I do think it's relevant that the type of abuse that was committed here is a type overwhelmingly committed by men and (outside the pedophilia context) experienced by women.


I think that is true. Not true of all women – since I don’t regard women as intrinsically nicer than men – but it is true of the many mature Christian women I know who exercise spiritual responsibility in their own communities. Many such women have a very strong pastoral and nurturing component to their ministries. They are true spiritual mothers. (I am not saying that every woman in ministry has to be a nurturing type!! But all women ministers I know take child protection very seriously indeed).

Quote:
I think it would be much harder for women than it has been for men to place "other considerations" such as the reputation of the church above the moral and ethical need to respond swiftly to sexual abuse. Thoughts?


Sadly, Karen Armstrong’s Mother Superior did not seem to have that attitude. :( And some women certainly collude with the abuser. But she is an isolated case, set in the past. Such an attitude would not be true of the women I know and describe above.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 20, 2010 12:42 pm 
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River wrote:
And why aren't women allowed into the church power structure?


Primarily because of these 2 verses in I Timothy 2, where Paul describes how churches should be run:

Quote:
A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.


Many of the more conservative Protestant churches have the same rule, for the same reason.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 20, 2010 1:40 pm 
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It's a man thing?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magdalene_ ... Revelation



It should be pointed out that, in the US at least, the declining number of priests has resulted in diocesan staffs increasingly comprising nuns and laywomen; bishop's offices are hardly boy's clubs any more.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 20, 2010 1:52 pm 
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Di, that was a very good post.

As for Southern Baptists, it's slightly different and yet there is still some of that same old "circle the wagons" mentality. Since we are a loosely connected community of churches, there is not the same hierarchical structure as other denominations nor is the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) really a governing authority, as such. Each church is autonomous.

As the first article you linked to said (which was about a pastor who murdered his wife and had been guilty of sexual assaults on women prior to that that had been ignored), there is no group database of offenders. The level of involvement with the SBC varies widely from church to church. So I'm not sure how effective a database like that would be.

When we did the search for our pastor, we ran a full background check on him, just as any other good organization would do. I'm not sure the database would give more info than that, and committees should be doing criminal background checks on pastoral candidates. (It's really just insane not to.)

However, I don't think the database would hurt anything, and it might help. If you have a church that doesn't take the time to do a background check, they might at least check a SBC database. Maybe.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 20, 2010 2:27 pm 
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I think it is true that women and men have different experiences and attitudes towards sex, power and violation. But if power corrupts...putting a woman in a position of power could just lead to a corrupt woman, not necessarily a renewal of the halls of power. Reform is something that is constantly needed, and becoming complacent means it won't happen. There are popes who need a Catherine of Sienna to tell them off, and most religious orders have needed to be reformed/reshaped multiple times (sometimes quite painfully) to get back in line with their original purpose and reason-to-be.

I think that calling for reform in the current situation makes perfect sense - especially looking at priestly formation and how bishops do their jobs. I am just suspicious of people who state the answer without addressing the usual topics of reform - conversion of heart, prayer, holiness, etc.

Of the three vows religious sisters take, by far the most difficult one to live out is obedience, not poverty or chastity. Part of religious life is that you are subject to a superior, and yes, it is to cultivate humility and surrender to God...but the superior is human, and thus never perfect. I am sure some people have had quite harsh experiences of religious life...but you do have a long time to make your decision to stay or go. Some people would feel it is dishonorable to leave, so they'd be ashamed to 'quit'...and if you joined young, you probably are lacking some of the life skills to live on your own (like balancing a checkbook or paying taxes or any of that), and of course you don't own anything, so it can be a scary prospect to just walk out if your family isn't there to support you.

Celibacy is not completely unique to the Catholic church, but it is often viewed as unusual. Jesus said it wasn't for everyone, and that's certainly true...but it is good for some people, especially for the purpose of serving the kingdom of God.

After Jesus said that divorce wasn't an option, his disciples became quite alarmed by his teaching:

Quote:
The disciples said to Him, "If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry."

But He said to them, "Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother's womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it."

Matthew 19:10-12


Jesus took their exclamation seriously, or at least responded to it charitably. He did not accept their idea that marriage as it was meant to be is too hard and thus should not even be attempted. But he also thought it worth pointing out that there was some validity to the idea of foregoing marriage. "Not marrying" is not supposed to be a way of escaping the travails of marriage, but there are reasons why someone would choose not to marry. [Other translations use the words "chaste" and "celibate" rather than "eunuch," so the meaning isn't limited to those who are physically incapable of consummating a marriage.] But life circumstances aside, the third reason he gives is voluntary celibacy to intentionally serve God's kingdom.

The monastic tradition goes back to the beginnings of Christianity, and the flight to the desert after the legalization of the religion in the Roman empire. St. Paul advised the Corinthians that both marriage and celibacy were good life options (whereas most of what they were interested in was...not.) It is true that most Protestant denominations do not have any tradition of vowed celibacy (either in religious communities or as pastors), but this is at least in part because of the views of the Reformers - Luther wanted to marry, and did. There are some mixed communities, such as Taizé in France, which accept Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox men into their community. Eastern Catholics and Orthodox have a monastic tradition, and choose their bishops from among their monks (though their priests are not usually celibate).


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 20, 2010 2:44 pm 
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So, other translations use the words "chaste" or "celibate" since the word "eunuch" refers, of course, to a man who has been castrated by removing at least his testicles. I must say this information puts a whole other spin on the issue of priestly celibacy.
The verse quoted makes no sense if any word other than eunuch is used:
Quote:
But He said to them, "Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are chaste (men?) who were born that way from their mother's womb; and there are chaste (men?) who were made chaste by men; and there are also chaste (men?) who made themselves chaste for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it.


There is a long tradition of men (all over the world) voluntarily undergoing castration in order to be freed of sexual desire, so that they might concentrate their energies on communing with their deity.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 20, 2010 3:29 pm 
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Catholics are forbidden from castrating themselves or otherwise mutilating their bodies, and that's not a new rule. Castration as a medical procedure (as in the case of someone suffering from testicular cancer) is another matter, since that does not involve damaging an otherwise perfectly healthy body. Christian theology is very incarnational, and thus one does not need to be freed of the body or simply 'spiritual' to commune with God. The goal isn't to remove sexual desire, but to order it properly. Again, expressions of sexuality should be the result of love, not lust. Concupiscence has to be dealt with regardless of one's state in life, and that's a matter of the heart, not the body.

Tyndale used "chaste" in his 1526 English translation:
Quote:
Ther are chaste which were so borne out of their mothers belly. And ther are chaste which be made of men. And ther be chaste which have made them selves chaste for the kyngdome of heves sake. He that can take it let him take it.


The New Living Translation uses eunuch, but not in all three instances:
Quote:
Some are born as eunuchs, some have been made that way by others, and some choose not to marry for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone who can, accept this statement.


GOD'S WORD translation:
Quote:
For example, some men are celibate because they were born that way. Others are celibate because they were castrated. Still others have decided to be celibate because of the kingdom of heaven. If anyone can do what you've suggested, then he should do it.


International Standard Version:
Quote:
For some men are celibate from birth, while others are celibate because they have been made that way by others. Still others are celibate because they have made themselves that way for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.


But the Latin Vulgate used 'eunuch', so most translations go with that. Jesus was responding directly to the question of whether or not to marry, not discussing castration as such. There are people who, for whatever reason, never marry...but that is not the same thing as celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Here is a brief reflection by Pope John Paul II on the topic. There is more where that came from, if anyone is interested....


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 20, 2010 3:47 pm 
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ALL men are celibate and chaste at birth. ALL men are celibate and chaste until they have sex for the first time. The words "celibate" or "chaste" are in no way synonyms for "eunuch" or "castrate". Those words have specific meanings and I find it very interesting to see how they are tossed about.

Since there is no way of knowing what Jesus supposedly said, it is merely a matter of semantics.

The "proper ordering of sexuality" is common to all priestly structures, but the ordering varies from religion to religion.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 20, 2010 3:54 pm 
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Self-castration had long been viewed with horror in both Hebrew and Roman societies, since it was associated with the bloody and orgiastic cult of Tammuz/Adonis; under Roman law it was punishable by death, and the Jews cast out any man who did so.

Of course, the practice of maintaining eunuchs as court functionaries grew up later in the Byzantine empire; under what influences I don't know. But the Church never, ever endorsed it for the clergy; in fact, for many centuries a Pope-elect had to be physically inspected to ensure his tackle was all there.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 20, 2010 5:06 pm 
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The practice of creating "castrati" was not exactly endorsed by the Catholic Church. but for a long time, they simply looked the other way.

A castrato is a male singer who has had his testicles removed just prior to puberty, resulting in a male soprano with the clear voice of boy, but the power of a grown man. The quality was apparently something quite special and desired for certain kinds of music. Many composers wrote for them, and wrote pieces specifically designed to be sung in church services. Famlies were sometimes paid big bucks to allow one of their sons to undergo this procedure.

From Wiiki:
Quote:
The Catholic Church's involvement in the castrato phenomenon has long been controversial, and there have recently been calls for it to issue an official apology for its role. As early as 1748, Pope Benedict XIV tried to ban castrati from churches, but such was their popularity at the time that he realised that doing so might result in a drastic decline in church attendance.


There were some very famous castrati. Oddly enough, they were not always impotent and there was one case of a noblewoman carrying on a torrid affair with a castrato right under her husband's nose. He would come to call on her in costume from his latest theatrical production and the woman's husband simply thought it was one of his wife's lady friends come to pay a visit.

Alessandro Moreschi, the last famous castrato, died in 1922. There are still some recordings in existence.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castrato

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 20, 2010 5:27 pm 
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 20, 2010 5:34 pm 
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I agree that eunuch and celibate are not synonyms. But the context suggests that Jesus was not discussing the practice of castration when he said that those who could accept it should make themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of God. The translations I've presented were likely trying to give nuance to the context rather than being strictly literal. The majority of translations use the word eunuch, and interpret it as I've explained.

A celibate person does not engage in sexual activity. Neither does a eunuch (hence their use as harem guards). There are several eunuchs mentioned in the Bible (such as the Ethiopian converted by Philip and the story of Esther), so reference to the social status of a person who does not marry (and will never do so) was an appropriate lead in to his discussion of voluntary continence.

'from the mother's womb' suggests a physical deformity, or someone who never experiences any desire for marriage. 'made so by men' refers to the practice of castrating other people and also to life circumstances that prevent marriage (for instance, someone who cares for elderly parents and never marries herself). Neither of these situations has much to do with personal choice, it's more just what got dealt to you in life. So, there are people who won't marry because they can't or the opportunity never really arises. That's not the same thing as choosing not to marry, regardless of circumstances. Jesus recommends this last choice for certain people to whom it is given, as a way of furthering the kingdom of heaven. Vowed celibates are not eunuchs, though.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 20, 2010 5:38 pm 
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Why the frown, yovargas? JewelSong speaks sooth.

I have never understood and never will understand the passion some people have to this day for the boy soprano's voice. It is held to be "purer": a virgin boy's voice, as compared to a mature woman's voice. The practice of castration to preserve these voices might not have been "allowed" by the church, but it was encouraged at some times as JewelSong has explained.

It is part and parcel, IMHO, of the male-centric institution that viewed women as lesser creatures than men. The reaction of the RCC to the abuse scandals is a logical result of what I see as inhuman and inhumane ideas about sex in general.

However, I doubt that the pope is going to care what I think.


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