Finally! For the first time since the wave of sex abuse scandals surrounding the Catholic church began almost ten years ago, a high-ranking church official faces criminal charges in the US. Monsignor William Lynn, former secretary of the clergy for the Philadelphia Archdiocese, is being accused of child endangerment. From The Associated Press release:
The three priests and the teacher were charged with raping boys. Lynn, 60, was accused not of molesting children but of endangering them. A damning grand jury report said at least two boys were sexually assaulted because he put two known pedophiles in posts where they had contact with youngsters.
It’s telling that the primary significance of this is that a top official is being charged, rather than simply the fact that three priests raped young boys–a scenario that is now all too routine. So why is it that church officials, likely decent people (read: not pedophiles), are compelled keep child molesters among their ranks and plead ignorance when it all comes out?
I suspect it has everything to do with the shortage of priests. Church officials have a powerful incentive to do everything they can to retain priests, even if it means covering up sex abuse. The shortage itself is easy to to understand. Not many men want to forgo having sex with women for a shot at an alter boy. And if you’re only recruiting from the subset of people that have decided sex isn’t for them, some of them are bound to be crazy for reasons other than believing in an old man in the sky.
And why can’t priests interact with vaginae?
So they can focus on God, duh!
It was Pope Gregory VII who finally succeeded in making this mandatory over 1,000 years after the church was established. Secular (real) historians suggest that the move was motivated by a desire to consolidate wealth. During this time period, the Catholic church was making a killing selling indulgences (tickets for less time in Purgatory) and church officials could become quite wealthy because of it. When they died, the estates went to the wives and children, not back to the Holy See. The leadership desired to make clerical celibacy, an optional and fairly unpopular practice, a requirement to pad the church’s already bulging pockets, and Gregory VII strong-armed the issue by telling people they didn’t have to obey clergyman with spouses. (Obedience, at this time, was mandatory.)