The Catholic Church in a lurch

Breaking the Silence!

by josé colaço & ema souza-colaço© 2002

April 13, 2002

 

Rev. Fr. Armando Alvares aka Swami Animananda SJWe both come from families whose many sons and daughters consciously chose to serve as Roman Catholic nuns & priests. We both have first hand knowledge of the many sacrifices of these family members of ours.  While each and every one of these relatives of ours is special, we'd like to dedicate this script to Fr. Armando Alvares SJ aka Swami Animananda SJ aka "Swami"  or Tio (Uncle) Armando to us.  Swami gave up a life of infinite comfort in the Aldona homestead to live the life of a Jesuit hermit missionary in Deshnoor district, Belgaum, South India - the heartland of the Lingayat Hindu Brahmins.   Swami converted himself to asceticism and became a total vegetarian while preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.  He advocated simplicity to us, and lived it himself.  A testament of how much our  Tio Armando was loved by the people of Deshnoor was the number of people who attended his funeral.


Preface:

We are both Roman Catholics by choice.

This present sexual scandal involving the Church has not only shocked us, it has also       angered us. We do not intend to change our practice of Catholicism because of the awful dalliances of some deviant members of the clergy. However, we intend to speak out against these unscrupulous individuals who have not only violated our trust but also the lives of the unsuspecting many who were entrusted in their care. These predators are a menace, and those in the hierarchy who covered up for the predators unworthy of high office.

These predatory animals and their protectors have effectively slapped the faces of millions of hard working and devout Roman Catholic priests and nuns who continue to make extraordinary sacrifices  in the service of the Church and others.

The eerie near-silence among many Catholics is striking!. It is possible that they are still in shock at these horrible revelations. It is possible that there are those who are hoping that this is just a bad dream. It is possible that they are just too ashamed or afraid to speak out.

We are breaking this silence!




Once again, the Catholic Church has been rocked. This time, with serious charges of sexual misconduct on the part of a number of members of its clergy.

It has been a well known fact that those with the intent or tendency to molest use the cover & opportunity of certain organizations like the Scout movement, the Youth Correctional Services and the various religious establishments including the Catholic Church.

Even so, as far as we are concerned, it is irrelevant, if this type of abuse is prevalent in any other religious or non-religious institution. As members of the Catholic Church, we wish to state our position on the matter.

At the outset, we wish to state quite clearly our belief that homosexuality is a deviation from the norm.  However, we have no right to moralize on the issue as  we know not what goes on in the hearts, minds and bodies of individuals who externally appear to be male or female. Their situation is quite separate and apart from that of the predators whether they be homosexuals or heterosexuals.


The reports of sexual incidents could be classified as follows:

1. Sexual Abuse
2. Affairs between two consenting adults in love
3. One-off affairs not initiated by the priest
4. False accusations of affairs


At the outset, let us agree on a few points:

* Consensual Sex between two responsible adults is NORMAL.

* Promiscuous sex is NOT responsible; casual sex neither.

* Unprotected Sexual Activity can lead to pregnancy & sexually transmitted diseases.

* A significant number of sexually active young adults face unwanted pregnancies; the vast majority of the fathers in such pregnancies desert their children, leaving their mothers to fend for them, on their own. It is for this reason that Sex within marriage or a monogamous relationship is  considered ideal.

* However, Sex is NOT a sin as most religions have made it be.

* Celibacy is not uncommon in many cultures. It is neither a sign of homosexuality nor of impotence. Many individuals just choose to be celibate; some for variable periods of time, others for life. Those among us who have lived in the East are able to understand asceticism and celibacy as choices that individuals make and live up to for prolonged periods of time.

*  Celibacy has NO theological basis. The first 40 Popes of the Roman Catholic Church, including St. Peter, were all married. Celibacy was enforced upon the priests somewhere in the Thirteenth century, possibly reflecting the misguided view that somehow, conjugal sexual intimacy was impure.

* Enforced celibacy is fraught with the problems of enforced anything.

It is in the light of the above points that we may to wish to examine the present sexual crisis facing the Catholic Church.

True that only a small minority of priests have been involved in such aberrant behaviour, but every single member of the Catholic Church has been tarnished by it.

The Catholic Church needs to wake up, smell the coffee, take responsibility for those who committed crimes under its watch, pay the damages and find methods to prevent any future use of its milieu for such abusive nonsense.



1. SEXUAL ABUSE

There is NO way that any sensible person can condone the acts of sexual abuse committed by anybody.

ANY form of sexual advances towards ANY minor or unwanted sexual advances towards ANY individual, constitute SEXUAL ABUSE.

There are horrific stories, mainly from the US, of the molestation of minors, and from Africa, of the molestation of nuns by priests.

We condemn this vile behaviour in the strongest of terms.

We all know that the Catholic Church is not the only organization that is affected by this sexual abuse of power; we will even accept that the Catholic Church was infiltrated by individuals with such predatory tendencies.

What we will never accept is the behaviour of those in authority who "turned a blind eye" or tried to pay-off and cover up this horror.

Any individual in the Catholic hierarchy who did not act after being aware or being made aware of this abusive behaviour, needs to step aside immediately from the leadership position.

You have not only failed the victims who were at the mercy of the predators but also ALL the other members of the Roman Catholic clergy and faithful who are absolutely distraught at this unbelievable breach of trust.

To those who committed acts of abuse under the cloak of the cloth, we say....please leave the religious order, and face the legal consequences coming your way.

Sexual Abuse is NOT a crime of passion. It is crime of violence, and needs to be treated as such. These abusers are sick and hence, also in need of serious psychiatric treatment.



2. AFFAIRS BETWEEN TWO CONSENTING ADULTS IN LOVE

The Catholic Church needs to seriously wake up. There are numerous stories of many a priest who has gone up to his superiors and told them that he has fallen in love with a young lady, and would like to leave and marry that person.

In a good number of reported cases - and we can only comment on the ones we hear about, the advice given to such priests, has been abysmal.

The troubled priests were either made to feel that 'falling in love' was something utterly sinful or that 'this was a temporary feeling which they should try get out of their system'.

Now, we all can understand how difficult it would be for a priest to leave the clerical order and start life as a married man; it is difficult for non-clerics to do that. However, the superiors in the Church can only be faulted for not having guided the young priests appropriately.

Not all priests wish to marry but those who so wish, should be counseled appropriately. This counseling should be handled ONLY by those who have experience both in counseling and married life.

We submit that unmarried priests generally, are in NO position to counsel anybody including priests, regarding marriage.

One has to add here that the impediments to marry are NOT the cause of Homosexuality or Paedophilia. In addition, the incidence of Homosexuality and Paedophilia will reflect their respective prevalence in the community at large.

The impediments are also NOT the cause of cases of "forced sexual incidents" as reported from Africa. African nuns were reportedly being sexually assaulted by African so-called priests.

These were nuns pleading for help. What happened to their pleas?

There is one small measure to correct this and all other evils like this. Those who perpetrated these horrible acts and those who tried to sweep them under the carpet, must step aside immediately or be removed. The law of the land should then be allowed to take its course.

There is NO way that The Catholic Church should even contemplate defending the indefensible.

As far as celibacy is concerned, it should be made optional and not compulsory. Lifelong celibacy is an unnatural state. It is an unnecessary burden on the priests.  As long as it is enforced, it will be broken, that too in a clandestine fashion.



3. ONE-OFF AFFAIRS INVOLVING RELIGIOUS

There is no question that promiscuous sexual activity is a disaster waiting to happen and that extramarital sex is very unwise, given the hazards of unwanted pregnancies, sexual transmitted diseases. But, somehow, somewhere and at some point and time, ALL the major religions decided to
give sex a bad name. In short, Celibacy is good, Sex bad. Just like saying Constipation is good, Normal bowel activity bad!

If the hierarchy of the Catholic Church was really paying attention, it would have noted the number of times this enforced Vow of Celibacy has & is being broken, and the grief that followed.

Enforced celibacy is like Prohibition. It forced sexual activity to go underground. We don't need to be Einsteins to work out the cascade of problems which followed.

Many a priest has fallen into the trap of blackmail after a clandestine affair which may or may not have been instigated by the priest. A situation which could easily have been avoided by making celibacy an option.

The above is not to suggest that priests be afforded a license to promiscuity. Promiscuity and religious life are not compatible with each other.


4. FALSE ACCUSATIONS OF AFFAIRS

History is full of such situations. It is a well known fact that a number of women target "men in uniform". Many a priest would relate the difficult times he is having just trying to fend off the unwanted, uncalled for & unrelenting advances of these very aggressive ladies. These ladies utilize every trick in the book to try corner the targeted priest. They just turn up at the rectory at any odd hour of the day or night, engage the priests in endless telephone conversations and even stalk priests, following them where ever they travel. The confessional is another site where these women "turn up".

Some priests escape unscathed while others face the wrath of a woman who feels scorned.

In the prevailing climate, it is very difficult for a wrongly accused priest to "prove his innocence". Even if he is, who will believe his story?


IN CONCLUSION:

1. The Catholic Church has been infiltrated by individuals with deviant tendencies.

2. Senior members of the Church's hierarchy have "fiddled while Rome was burning".

3. Some probably believed that this problem would just go away.

4. Enforced celibacy is unworkable, isn't working, has no theological basis for existence and definitely is not worth it. At best, it remains a torment to many young priests & nuns who keep battling with their own natural feelings. It is infinitely better to encourage priests wishing to marry, to do so than end up with clandestine affairs and the blackmail that such affairs are fraught with.

5. Members of the Church's hierarchy who have participated either in the abusive crimes or in the subsequent cover-up have seriously betrayed the trust of ALL Catholics.

6. This is only the tip of the iceberg. All manner of individuals & stories will come out of the woodwork. Not all the stories will be true or accurate but many will be. The Church must plan its future, NOW, if it expects to retain the trust of its flock.

7. This scandal will not go away on its own. If anything, it will get worse.

8. In the coming weeks and months, the number of bewildered Catholics will grow exponentially.


RECOMMENDATIONS:

1. The Catholic Church must invite an Independent agency to conduct a full and impartial inquiry into this horrible infiltration of its ranks by deviants.

2. With immediate effect, The Catholic Church must weed out ALL individuals who are known to be involved in deviant & abusive behaviour. These individuals and their files should be handed over to the respective law enforcement agencies. The Church has no obligation to defend the deviants.

3. The Church needs to urgently look at how it deals with this unnatural thing called enforced celibacy. Of immediate import is the matter of how it deals with young religious who wish to continue serving while attempting to live normally.

4. The Church must live up to its own teachings: Come clean, apologize to the aggrieved & the entire flock which continues to be embarrassed, and pay reparations. It is much better to be a poor Church which has reformed itself than a rich Church with skeletons stowed away in some dark crypts.

5. ALL members of the hierarchy, who have tried to ignore, cover up or condone the abusive acts or turned a deaf ear to the pleas for help, must either step aside voluntarily or be removed with immediate effect.

6. It is better to face up to the realities, cut the losses and move ahead.

Final Word: Writing this piece has been a painfully excruciating experience for us. We know that the Rt. Wing enemies of the Church, be they Muslims, Hindus or even other Christians will make selective use of this material to further harass Catholic minorities.

We believe that it is a risk worth taking.

If the Catholic Church opens up and reforms now, it can only be a to the spiritual benefit of the hundreds of millions of Catholics world wide.

April 13, 2002


The challenges facing the Catholic Church in India [ read here ]

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