“Suffer little children”, says Jesus. And while that is certainly not what he intended (and I’ve lost count of the number of times the words have been quoted out of context), countless children have indeed suffered as a result of the Catholic Church’s ridiculous rule of priestly celibacy. We all know about the paedophiles who have been sheltered behind their priestly robes and the suffering of their victims. But many cases are less obvious. Like children who never knew their father because he is, well a “Father”.
Not all clergy should be tarred with the same brush. Many are healthy heterosexual males with the same sex drives as the rest of us, and therein lies a big problem: Celibacy and denial. It’s human nature that the more one is denied something, the more one craves it, especially something as primal and biologically hardwired as sex. God, according to The Bible, created man and woman, and therefore presumably gave them the urge to procreate? I have long thought that the Catholic Church’s insistence on priestly celibacy to be, rather ironically, a denial of God’s will and intent. “Ah,” you might retort, “but surely it was the cunning serpent that led Eve into temptation and “sin”? And therein lies the root problem. The continued (and alarming) prevalence of literal interpretation of religious texts. The Bible is not, and never was, intended to be a factually accurate historical document. It’s truths are represented through allegory and parable, and to interpret the texts in a shallow and literal manner leads down a dangerous path to extremism and irrationality.
…oh, and here’s the news item that inspired my little sermon:
The secret children of a Catholic priest in New Zealand are about to reveal their identity to their local bishop, and a New Zealander who personally briefed the Pope on the topic says the Vatican has recognised the right to know one’s parents
The adult siblings are among thousands internationally who have contacted the Coping International website, which offers support to the children of clergy.
The site’s founder Vincent Doyle – an Irish man who himself is the son of a priest – said he expected many more New Zealanders who are priests’ children, or their mothers, to come forward as they gained courage to speak up.
“We’ve been contacted from a number of people in New Zealand – one family where there’s more than one child to the same priest, to the same woman – but they’re going to be making moves in the coming future to the respective diocese and they’ll be contacting the bishop concerned.”
The family had contacted his website in the last three months, and granted him permission to speak a little about their situation, such as how many children there were and where they had grown up.
They were among 13,500 people worldwide who had been in touch with Mr Doyle since he started the website in late 2014.
His site gained international prominence in August this year when featured in a new series by the Boston Globe‘s Spotlight unit, which is famous for exposing clerical sex abuse of children.
The response to the website has forced the Vatican to acknowledge the issue, and last month it began working on guidelines for how to respond.
“The expectation would be that the [priest] should go and be a father to his child,” said Bill Kilgallon, an Aucklander who personally briefed the Pope last month on the issue as part of the Pontifical Commission to help protect children.
Mr Kilgallon said the Catholic Church had no idea yet how many children have been conceived by priests.
The search phrase “I am pregnant and the father is a Catholic priest” featured in about 1500 of 96,000 hits on Coping International’s website, which its founder pointed out would be mostly from English speakers with Internet access.
“How many don’t fall into that category?” Mr Doyle said.