Pope Francis was undeniably courageous in openly confronting the issue of pedophilia within the Catholic Church. He encourages reporting pedophiles, (priests, religious, bishops and cardinals) to the civil authorities for prosecution and punishment. In the Roman encounter for the Protection of Minors, in late February 2019, the Pope imposed 8 Determinations, among which were “zero pedophilia” and “protection of the victims of abuse”.
Pope Francis identifies the root of the problem as “the scourge of clericalism, which is fertile ground for all these abominations”. Clericalism here means the concentration of all sacred power in the clergy, to the exclusion of other levels that are considered to be above all suspicion or criticism. As it happens, some clergymen use that power, that in itself ought to irradiate trust and reverence, to sexually abuse minors.
However, in my opinion, the present Pope and his predecessors, for reasons that I will try to clarify, have not dealt adequately with the issues of sexuality and the law of celibacy.
As to sexuality, we must recognize that the Church, the-great-pyramidal-institution, has historically held a distrustful and extremely negative attitude towards sexuality. The Church is hostage to an erroneous understanding that derives from the Platonic and Augustinian traditions. Saint Augustine saw the sexual act as the path through which original sinenters. Through it, from birth, each human being supposedly carries the stain of a sin, regardless of personal responsibility, in solidarity with the sin of the original parents.
With less procreative sex, there are fewer “massa damnata” (condemned masses). The woman, who bears the off-spring, is responsible for bringing original sin into the world. This is why the woman is denied full humanity. She is called “mas” which in Latin means “incomplete man”. Herein lies the theoretical grounding of the anti-feminism and machismo in the Roman Catholic Church.
Hence the high value placed on celibacy, because without sexual-genital relations with a woman, no children will be born. Thus, the original sin will not be transmitted.
In the analyses and condemnations that surround pedophilia, the basic problem has yet to be discussed: sexuality. A human being is not defined by gender. In body and soul the human being is sexualized. It is so essential that the continuity of life passes through it. But this is a mysterious and extremely complex reality.
The French thinker, Paul Ricoeur, who philosophically reflected on Freud’s psychoanalytic theory, wrote: “deep down, sexuality remains perhaps impermeable to reflection and inaccessible to human dominance; perhaps that capacity means that sexuality cannot be reduced to an ethics or a technique” (Revista Paz y Tierra n. 5,1979, p. 36). Sexuality lives between the law of the day, where established behaviors prevail, and the law of the night where free impulses function. Only an ethics of respect towards the other sex and permanent self control of that volcanic energy can transform sexuality into an expression of affection and love, rather than an obsession.
We know that insufficient preparation is given in the seminaries to priests for integrating sexuality. Normal contacts with women are so circumscribed that it results in a certain atrophy in the development of their identity. Why did God create humanity as man and woman? (Gn 1,27). It was not primarily for procreation, but so that men and women would not be alone, so that they would be compañeros. (Gn 2,18).
The sciences of the psyche show that a man only matures under the gaze of the woman, and a woman, under the gaze of the man. Man and woman are complete but reciprocal, and they mutually enrich each other through their differences.
Cellular genetics shows that the difference in chromosomes between man and woman is limited only to one chromosome. The woman possesses two XX chromosomes and the man has one X and one Y chromosome. Hence one can deduce that the basic sex is the feminine (XX), with the masculine (XY) being a differentiation of the feminine. Consequently there is no absolute sex, only a dominant one. “A second sex” exists in each human being, man and woman. Human and sexual maturity. lies in the integration of the “anima” and the “animus”, namely, of the feminine and masculine dimensions present in each person.
Celibacy is not excluded from this process. It can be a legitimate option, but in the Catholic Church it is imposed as a condition for becoming a priest or a religious. On the other hand, celibacy cannot be born of an inability to love, but from a super abundance of love of God, that is transferred to others, especially to those most lacking for affection.
Why doesn’t the Roman Catholic Church abolish the law of celibacy? It would be contradictory with her structure. The Catholic Church is, socially, a totally authoritarian, patriarchal, machista and hierarchical institution. A Church structured around the sacred power encounter what C. G. Jung denounced: “where power predominates, there is neither love nor tenderness”. That is what occurs, in part, with machismo and rigidity in the Church. To correct this deviation, Pope Francis tirelessly preaches “the tender and affectionate encounter”. Celibacy exists in function of the isolated and solitary clerical Church.
If this type of Church prevails, we should not expect abolition of the law of celibacy. That law is useful for that type of Church, but not for the faithful.
And where is Jesus of Nazareth’s dream of a fraternal and egalitarian community? If His dream were to be fulfilled, everything would have to change in the Roman Catholic Church.
Leonardo Boff Eco-Theologian-Philosopher,Earthcharter Commission
Free translation from the Spanish sent by
Melina Alfaro, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Done at REFUGIO DEL RIO GRANDE, Texas, EE.UU.