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the catholic church and war, not related to each other for a change

There's an old saying that I like: "If you want to have a friendly conversation, don't talk religion or politics." This saying exists for good reason, as people tend to have deep convictions about both subjects, and discussion of said subjects tend to incite impassioned and heated debate even amongst the closest of friends. That said, today's post is mostly about religion and politics, not because I want to be unfriendly, but because that's what's on my mind. Well, ok, maybe I'm a little unfriendly. Kind of surly, actually. But I digress.

The first thing I'd like to blab on endlessly about is that nice little scandal going on in the Catholic Church. I've had an opinion on this (and many other policies in the Catholic Church) for quite some time now, even before the latest rash of accusations, but I figured I'd wait until the media ruckus died down a bit before I commented. If you're tired of hearing about this subject and would rather gouge your own eyes out with a fork than read one more word about the "Catholic Church scandal", then go ahead and skip down to the "I'm not anti-American, damn it" section.

Priests molesting children: Holy shit, the jokes were all true

The current situation in the Catholic Church in the United States is alarming. It appears that the Church's leaders have been engaging in the cover-up of serious child molestation allegations for decades. Reports of various cover-ups in several archdioceses that have happened in the past are now coming to light, and new allegations, some of abuse that may have occurred decades ago, have surfaced. The questions that are immediately facing the Church are thus: Why did this happen? What can the Church do to stop it? And how can the Church recover from this horrendous turn of events?

First, let's examine why pedophilia seems to be so prevalent amongst Catholic priests. Many people seem to think that Catholic priests sexually abuse children because of the priestly requirement of celibacy, or that eliminating the celibacy requirement would be a cure-all for the Church's ills. Celibacy could be a contributing factor, but it is not the main factor. Priests who are required to be celibate could break this rule by engaging in intercourse with an adult more easily and with far less harm to the both the Church and the participants in the sexual activity than they could with a child. Why, then, does this aberration happen? The most likely reason for this high occurrence of pedophilia amongst priests is that the priest is already afflicted with this particular mental disorder when they enter the priesthood. To some, this may make it seem as though people become priests in order to indulge their pedophilic tendencies; on the contrary, the pedophile becomes a priest so that they may attempt to overcome their pedophilic desires through their devotion to the Church and to God. Similarly, in the past, homosexual men who were raised as Catholics would be drawn to the priesthood because they would rather devote themselves to Church and God by being celibate than admit that they were attracted to other men. Pedophiles who are raised in Catholic families are likely drawn to the priesthood because they mistakenly believe that they can overcome their desires through sheer willpower and devotion to a higher power. However, their jobs require them to work closely with children, who are the objects of their desire, and so their willpower and devotion is tested on almost a daily basis. This, of course, leads to pedophilic activity amongst these aberrant priests.

The above is only applicable to those priests who are true pedophiles. A small percentage of the priests who molest children are probably not clinically pedophiles, but become attracted to children over time because their young charges show them affection and admiration. These priests generally make advances towards older children, mostly teenagers.

Another matter that needs to be examined is whether all of the claims of abuse are substantiated. The United States is a notoriously litigious society. When word of Church financial settlements with families of abuse victims was first publicized, it is reasonable to assume that there were unscrupulous persons who learned of these settlements and invented false claims in order to collect money from the Church. The Church is notorious for being extremely protective of its priests and preferring to keep all charges against them away from the public eye, so it is also reasonable to assume that the Church would probably offer a financial settlement if a new allegation against a priest, especially one who had already been accused by other families, came to light. Therefore, it is entirely possible that some of the allegations that have been made against Catholic priests are unfounded or false.

Unfortunately, it is far more likely that many of the accusations are true. This means that the Catholic Church's leaders have taken an active role in not only shielding their priests from deserved criminal charges, but also in hiding the allegations from the public and placing more children in harm's way by placing priests accused of child molestation back into parish service. This is a grievous offense against the Catholic faithful. It appears as though the Church is taking steps to change the way it handles these types of allegations, but there is far more work to be done.

How can the Church begin to remedy this situation? First, it should implement a zero-tolerance policy against child molesters. If a priest is accused of sexually abusing a child, he should be immediately removed from parish service pending an investigation by both Church officials and police. If the allegation proves to be true, he should be defrocked and turned over to civil authorities for a criminal prosecution of his actions. This is the only way that the Church can ensure that the priest will not harm any other children. Second, the Church should maintain a strict screening process in seminaries. Potential priests are require to attend seminary for several years prior to becoming ordained. This provides ample opportunity for the Church to provide psychological counseling and screen out persons with a tendency towards pedophilia. Third, I think that the Church should reconsider its policy towards married clergy. I do not think that allowing priests to marry is the only solution, nor do I think it will prevent priests who are already clinically defined pedophiles from molesting children, but I do think that it will open up the priesthood to many people who would not consider becoming a priest while the celibacy rule is in effect. This would help the Church with its current shortage of priests as well as provide the Catholic faithful with a priesthood that understands marital issues from their own life experience, and therefore will be in a better position to counsel their flock.

This isn't a problem that has a quick fix. It will take a long time for the Church to repair this serious breach of trust. Let's just hope that no more children or families are hurt in the process.

I'm not anti-American, damn it

I'm a pretty freakin' patriotic person. I love my country. I love baseball, apple pie, and strip malls. I especially love the fact that we have the freedom to say whatever we want in this country and not have some commandos show up at our house at 3 a.m. and take us away to a secret interrogation room where we'd be beaten and tortured for 2 months. But I've noticed a disturbing trend in the past nine months.

People get pissed when you say anything critical about the government or the president.

Granted, there were people who got pissed about this sort of criticism prior to Sept. 11. But it seems that now, anyone who speaks out against the campaign in Afghanistan, against internment of prisoners without trial, against the bills that have been passed that are tossing our constitutional rights out the window - anyone who criticizes the disintegration of our civil liberties in exchange for our so-called safety - is branded as an anti-American. The favorite slogan seems to be, "If you don't like it here in America, then leave." Remember back in August, when everyone used to make fun of President Bush? Can't do it anymore, you're anti-American. I think that's a load of crap, and so did one of the greatest presidents in American history. Refraining from criticism of the president is far more unpatriotic than just blindly following him.

As I said, I love my country. And as an American citizen, I have the right, if not the duty, to pay attention to what my elected leaders are doing and speak out if I think something's not right. I disagree with a lot of the policies that have been implemented in the last nine months, to varying degrees. But there's one thing in particular that's been bugging me, so I'm going to bring it up, because it's my constitutional right to do so.

Our government has been holding over a thousand prisoners who they suspect were involved with the events of September 11. Some of these prisoners have been categorized as "enemy combatants", which means that they can be held indefinitely and are not entitled to legal counsel. The Justice Department says that this is because "There is no right under the laws and customs of war for an enemy combatant to meet with counsel concerning his detention, much less to meet with counsel in private, without military authorities present." They also say that civilian courts cannot challenge the military's determination of the detainee as an enemy combatant.

This doesn't sit well for me, for many reasons. First, there has not been an official declaration of war. If this policy applies to "the laws and customs of war", and no war has been declared, then why is this policy being implemented? Second, it is quite frightening that a court cannot examine the military's reasoning for detaining a suspect in this manner. Under this policy, anyone (including U.S. citizens) can be held indefinitely, without a lawyer, and without a hearing. Third, haven't we learned from our past mistakes? Our country interned thousands of Japanese-Americans and German-Americans during World War II because they were deemed "security threats". We interned German, Austrian, and Hungarian people during World War I. We persecuted and detained people who were members of the Communist Party during the Cold War. All of these actions were deemed to be serious mistakes in hindsight. Does the current government, not to mention the American public, not see the similarities between the current detainment activities and these past errors?

Obviously, this issue doesn't have an easy answer. We can't just detain everyone who looks "different", practices a particular religion, is a recent immigrant, and so on. On the other hand, we can't just look the other way and not defend ourselves against people who are attempting to destroy us. But internment without trial is not going to stop terrorism. It's only going to create more people who are willing to martyr themselves.

I'm done now

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babbled by Kat @ 10:40 AM |