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It comes out of the dark. Memories like steam leave the person confused, ashamed and scared. Survivors of childhood sexual abuse won’t know for years what happened to their bodies. The hot hands of the pedophile are folded into the depths of forgetting until some jarring moment, some odd connection opens a passageway to daylight. When the pedophile’s face becomes visible in the mind, the next shock is that it’s someone they know.

And what if that face is supposed to be the face of God? It is a learned fear and respect for figures of authority that creates silent victims of abuse. Their mute suffering deepens to the degree that the sexual predator has social status, which is why for decades, pedophile priests were invisible: above them was the blinding light of God. It has only been in the past two decades that the mystique of the Catholic Church has been eroded enough for everyone to see the shifty shuffling of pedophiles from one parish to another by church leaders in Rome, including former Pope Benedict Ratzinger.

The Catholic Church, with its 1.2 billion followers, is the largest Christian denomination in the world. It’s a top-down hierarchy: standing at the summit is the Pope, an elderly man who is God’s representative on earth; next are the dioceses, which are led by a bishop; below them are the parishes, which are overseen by priests, deacons or lay ministers. Ornate Catholic churches can be seen in every country, sometimes nestled between tall modern skyscrapers, sometimes in the tangled foliage of the country. For hundreds of years, millions of people have gone through those doors in search of salvation and now we learn, many have emerged scarred with guilt and shame.

The reported numbers on child sex abuse are inevitably too low. Many victims are too ashamed to speak. Many are silenced when they do. And some kill themselves because the pain is too great to endure. Only a few victims fight back. Only 3,000 lawsuits have been filed against the church. According to, U.S. bishops received allegations of abuse directed at about 6,115 priests from 1950 to 2011, and they calculated about 16,324 victims or about three per priest. Based on a report by the Dallas Morning News, at least two-thirds of U.S. bishops kept priests accused of pedophilia serving in the ministry and moved them to new assignments.

But why this culture of sexual predation? Maybe it is because the first victim of monotheistic religion is the body itself. Clerical celibacy, the idea that one must sacrifice bodily desires to be closer to God, comes from the separation of the body and the soul that is at the core of church doctrine. The temptations of the flesh are seen as dangerous diversions. The body is a vehicle for the transmission of life, a sacred essence that comes from the Lord, and life must be valued above all. Masturbation and contraception are wrong because they waste the “seed.” Abortion is wrong because it kills life. Sex outside of marriage and not for procreation is wrong. The only right way to live one’s sexuality is to have unprotected sex within marriage.

If you intend to serve God within the church, you must renounce even sex within marriage to be absolutely dedicated to the divine messages God whispers into the world. The body is a swamp of desire that one can escape by climbing the glowing steps of prayer. And these social ideals, set in the early centuries of Christianity, are a giant anchor embedded in the past that is being stretched to snapping as history moves forward.

So here’s the picture: the Catholic Church, a global institution of 1.2 billion people, a network of churches that span the world, has been led by a cabal of chaste men who preach against bodily desires to the millions of people who pour through the pews. And yet in the dark quiet rectories, some of these men have, like cheetahs in National Geographic shows, isolated young, weak or helpless believers to prey upon and feed their hunger for sex and power. The others who are not targeted leave the church, erotically mangled as they vacillate between their desires and the ideas they are taught come from God.

Child sexual abuse is the most extreme form of the violence the church does to the erotic body. It is one pole on a spectrum that includes unwanted pregnancy, unequal power relationships between men and women, guilt at masturbation, self-destructive rebellion against those very religious rules or the “Catholic girl gone bad” stereotype and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases because of the prohibition on contraception.

The only protection the church has is people’s habitual, learned subservience to power. Once that breaks, so will its hold on human history. So let’s imagine the new Pope Francis at the Vatican. He recently held his first homily saying, “Let us protect Christ in our lives, so we can protect others.” Thousands of Catholics sat in hot sunlight and fanned their faces. The Pope paused as he shuffled his pages, so imagine in that moment, a hundred people in audience standing up and unfolding a banner that reads, “I was raped by a priest and the church protected him.” Imagine reporters rushing the barricades, aiming cameras at the protesters as burly security men plow through the seats to wrestle them down.

This article was first published in the Indypendent:

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (6+ / 0-)

    And sometimes, when the void stood between us, we got all the way to each other - Paul Celan

    by Nicholas Powers on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 06:36:37 AM PDT

  •  Here is another scenario (or more) to imagine... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The US withdraws its diplomatic ties to the Vatican.

    Catholics all over the world wake up and realize that they have been sold a bill of goods by an institution that concocted the whole Jesus story.

    The Vatican fails financially without the $ from the masses and has to auction off all its wealth which is then distributed to the poor and needy in every country.

    The ONLY reason that we continue to suffer at the hands of this institution is because we allow it.  The abuses of children, the massacres of millions of people over 2000 years, the theft of art and riches from the families of Europe, the torture and abuse of native peoples in north, central and south America... the whole history of this institution should have rendered it gone a long time ago.

    The fact that none of this happened has built a culture within this institution of sheer ARROGANCE.  They have gotten away with crimes unspeakable for 2000 years, and we wonder why the Roman Catholic Church is such a monster now?  

    •  You are correct & accurate, of course, but I (0+ / 0-)

      think than tactically we survivors need to focus mostly on the situation for the last hundred years or so--what is legally actionable.

      A substantial portion of RC survivors want the Church to live up to the Gospels & regard themselves as Catholic.  Hans Kung (a fellow seminarian of Pope Rat) advocates an uprising from below.  This is happening to an extent in parts  of Europe & now here.

      Much more to come.  Soon.  

      Love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we'll change the world..-- Jack Layton

      by sturunner on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 07:51:52 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  What does it mean to (0+ / 0-)

        "live up to the Gospels".  Those stories have been manipulated and do not even represent reality.  Plus the main character of those mythologies, "Jesus Christ", represents the idea of "salvation", which is a divisive view of the universe.  I see very little moral content in those stories.

        That being said, why in the world with all the history of this institution and its present corruptions would any person, survivor or otherwise, put any hope or effort into an "uprising" or change of any sort in the Roman Catholic Church?

        It would be easier just to walk out the doors and start a new church, if you must have one at all.

    •  How many members of the SCOTUS are Catholic? (0+ / 0-)

      Think again.

      Happy little moron, Lucky little man.
      I wish I was a moron, MY GOD, Perhaps I am!
      —Spike Milligan

      by polecat on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 08:27:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  If people won't protest when (0+ / 0-)

    our leaders are following the "golden rule" (who owns the gold rules!) I cannot see people actually getting off the pews and protesting the RCC. After all, they have been through all the learned efforts of that institution for how to keep people in those seats and harmless (to them).

    American Television is a vast sea of stupid. -xxdr zombiexx

    by glitterscale on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 07:35:36 AM PDT

  •  And where does the new "old man" fit in this? (0+ / 0-)

    Covering up like his predecessor, being an extreme homophobe as the Church is presently, misogynist treatment of women as the status quo, trying to undo Vatican II as the conservative cardinals would hope, or putting in the tiniest bit of social justice and somehow preserving the institution for another decade?

    The world wonders.

    (and so does Opus Dei)

    Happy little moron, Lucky little man.
    I wish I was a moron, MY GOD, Perhaps I am!
    —Spike Milligan

    by polecat on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 08:26:33 AM PDT

  •  One of the of the things that has always bothered (0+ / 0-)

    me is that the separation of the body and soul was NOT originally a Christian idea.  Being grounded and growing out of the Jewish religion, the body and soul were considered one and indivisible.   The introduction of body and soul as separate entities were introduced from Greek philosophy as the church spread throughout the Hellenistic world.   Many of the "perversions" of the faith stem from this, including the subject you address here.

    Anyone who isn't confused doesn't really understand the situation. - Edward R Murrow

    by gc10 on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 11:17:25 AM PDT

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