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Paul Kiesel
Paul Kiesel
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Appointment of Timothy Dolan as New York Archbishop Indicates It’s Business as Usual for the Catholic Church

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Platitude #1

”The recent sad scandal of clerical sexual abuse of minors, as the professionals have documented, has nothing to do with our celibate commitment.” -Timothy M. Dolan, September, 2003.

Platitude #2

Regarding sexual abuse of minors and other lascivious acts committed by clergy members, Mr. Dolan had this to say in response to a petition supporting optional celibacy by a liberal group of clerics and laypeople (which, naturally, was prompted by all of the sexual abuse revelations and victims speaking out in 2002 and 2003): ”This is the time we priests need to be renewing our pledge to celibacy, not questioning it."

Me thinks he doth protest too much.

Mary Ann Evans, who wrote novels under the nom de plume of George Eliot, had this to say of such overly broad assertions by Catholic and Evangelical church leaders:

“Like the writer of imaginary conversations, he [the church leader/speaker] may put what imbecilities he pleases into the mouths of his antagonists, and swell with triumph when he has refuted them. He may riot in gratuitous assertions, confident that no man will contradict him; he may exercise perfect free-will in logic, and invent illustrative experience; he may give an evangelical edition of history with the inconvenient facts omitted;–all this he may do with impunity, certain that those of his hearers who are not sympathizing are not listening,” (Westminster Review, 1855).

Convictions are fine, but they are not any more factual when spoken from a clerical member. When Timothy Dolan suggests that "clerical sexual abuse of minors [. . .] has nothing to do with our celibate commitment," what is he basing this belief on? Pope Benedict’s advice? The same erudition that led the Pope to reinstate a man who believes the Holocaust was a hoax? Has he been discussing issues of celibacy amongst the priests he’ll be inheriting at the New York Archdiocese with his west coast counterpart Cardinal Roger Mahony? Because if his assertion was fact, I’m certain he’d have empirical evidence and some scholarly citations that would confirm his careless statement.

In all the discussion over the role celibacy plays in clergy sexual abuse cases (how much of an impact celibacy has on the mindset of the perpetrator or pedophile), few people discuss the role of moral superiority in connection to celibacy.

From Ireland’s Western People (11/2/2005):

"[. . .] Not one senior member of the Hierarchy admits that obligatory celibacy of priests has been at the core of the church’s malaise. The Irish Church’s prospect of a recovery is zero for as long as bishops continue blindly to toe the Vatican line of Pope Benedict XVI that a male celibate priesthood is morally superior to other sections of society."

If one is morally superior, or holds him/herself as being morally superior to others, then how hard is it to inflict “superior” personal beliefs, including views on sexuality, on “inferior” others (the laity); beliefs that may be morally bankrupt?

So when Mr. Dolan suggests that celibacy has nothing to do with the extreme transgressions committed by innumerable clergy members, from the times of Titus Lucretius, Geoffrey Chaucer and Christopher Marlowe, up and through today, I’d ask him to prove otherwise.