The Catholic Church has much to atone for. It needs human forgiveness: from those abused (mostly young boys and nuns), from their families who have been hurt by their unsolicited activities, and from the communities that blindly trusted them. They should be more loyal to governing agencies in democratic states. It must become more transparent, with a zero-tolerance for cover-ups. No more secret guidelines (as that for priests who father children out of wedlock). No more denials and moving clerics from locale to locale (to be another district’s problem) thereby permitting individual priests to continue their disgusting, life-destroying patterns. But most of all, it must dismantle the hallowed notion that only men can become priests.
This blog is not a Protestant (though I am Jewish) rant, nor a secular (which I proudly am) tirade displaying anti-Catholic venom. Nor is it about abuse of children, seminarians, and nuns. Enough has been written about them, but never enough to assuage the pain.
It is about a general problem afflicting many Abrahamic traditions: Accepting only males into the priesthood. They have done this while inveighing against homosexuality, calling it a mortal sin. This double-edged sword has made forced many gay priests to remain in the closet, despite the published accounts that 30%-40% of all priests are gay. Unofficial estimates place the figure closer to 75%. I would rather have an openly gay teacher instructing my child than a pedophile. There is no correlation between being gay and abusing children.
The group most known for the practice of anointing only male clergy is, of course, the Catholic Church. The notion of celibacy heightens this charge of preferring one group over another, based on nothing more than gender. The fact that the Church fosters cloisters and missions to shield reprobates and keep them hidden from public scrutiny has added combustible wood to the already smoldering fire. Even when priests (and nuns) are not sequestered, the Church controls such vital factors as living accommodations, health insurance, and retirement pensions. Not your ordinary employer!
The practice of celibacy has many implications. The first is that it is unnatural. The sex act is part of nature, as is breathing. We are born, we die, and in between those times we breed, when we can. To deny men and women the opportunity to commit acts that are compulsory (or at least imperative to human growth) is to deny human freedom and expression.
Any organization that does not promote healthy sexuality should be immediately dismissed. The days of a family consisting of a father who rules a nuclear household like a drill sergeant and a compliant, self-effacing mother, devoted to her children and spouse is long gone. It is time to upgrade the cherished notions firmly held by many, especially Deists.
Beyond that, we should condemn any religious tradition that sees one part of the population more useful, more highly regarded than are others. A faith that elevates one group based on gender, abilities or other types of a deliberate selection process (be it voluntary or directed by others, including venerated texts and saints) should be suspect. When a group accepts only one segment (in this case, males) for the priesthood, it is saying that women are of a lesser kind, not worthy of leading a congregation or performing ecclesiastical tasks.