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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 6/12/10

Celibacy Is Not the Heart of the Matter in the Priest Sex Abuse Scandal -- the Bishops Are!

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Duluth, MN (OpEdNews) June 10, 2010 James Carroll has published a viewpoint piece about the priest sex abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church titled "Mandatory celibacy at the heart of what's wrong." Carroll's piece was published in the National Catholic Reporter, the independent weekly newspaper that has covered the priest sex-abuse scandal over the last twenty-five years.

As the title of Carroll's piece indicates, he considers the mandatory celibacy requirement for most diocesan priests to be at the heart of what's wrong in the Roman Catholic Church that led to the priest sex-abuse scandal. He is a learned critic. As a result, he is able to succinctly review the history of the celibacy requirement as church law "as a near universal prerequisite for ordination to the Latin-rite priesthood." (As he understands, the voluntary vow of celibacy in religious orders of priests, brothers, and sisters is a separate issue. Disclosure: Like Carroll, I was at one time in my life a seminarian for the priesthood in a religious order.)

Carroll also ably reviews how two extraordinary papal interventions prevented the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) from even considering the possibility of long-held church teachings regarding artificial contraception, on the one hand, and, on the other, celibacy.

Through these careful steps of historical analysis, Carroll is able to move to the question that he wants to raise, What is wrong with the Roman Catholic Church that led to the priest sex abuse? The title of his piece tells you his answer: Celibacy is at the heart of what is wrong.

But I want to question Carroll's analysis. To challenge his analysis, I propose that we try to imagine the counter-factual situation of what would have happened if the various bishops had immediately reported credible allegations of priest sex abuse to the local authorities to investigate.

As I say, I am asking you to imagine something that is counter-factual. As a matter of fact, the various bishops did not immediately report credible allegations to the local authorities to investigate. But Carroll, who lives in the Boston area and writes a column for the Boston Globe, does not even mention the role of the bishops in bringing us the priest sex abuse scandal by transferring alleged perpetrators from parish to parish.

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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