The Catholic Church takes its share of unfounded criticism from the media, but some of that criticism is well deserved. The Holy See has for decades covered up child rape within the church and only recently has a Pope seen fit do something about it. Before his retirement, Pope Benedict XVI defrocked 260 priests in 2011 and 124 priests in 2012 for crimes against children. Benedict, who retired in 2013, had apparently insisted on secrecy on the matter. That secret remained a secret...that is until the AP obtained and released the document exposing the purge last month.
Defrocking perverted priests is a good start, but it's not enough. The suspected priests should not only be defrocked, they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I realize the statute of limitations prevents prosecution in many cases, but they need to prosecute as many as possible. The Catholic Church needs to hold those that covered up the crimes responsible as well. Local legal jurisdictions need to prosecute those that helped hide the rapists. To date, no single person has been punished (administratively or criminally) for conspiring to conceal the crimes within the church and that needs to change.
Pope Benedict had good reason to want the defrockings to remain secret. Benedict had to know he was opening up the Church to even more lawsuits if this document were to become public. He also knew the Vatican would suffer a public relations nightmare if the actual numbers of rapist priests were known. Benedict's decision to keep this secret may have been smart from a public relations/financial standpoint, but it's morally wrong on every level. The Vatican not only needs to correct their past misdeeds, they need to figure out why priests are raping/molesting young boys. I realize young women have been victims as well, however, the vast majority of victims have been young males.
It's no secret the priesthood attracts homosexual men in great numbers and the reasons for that can be debated for perpetuity. Pope Francis recently admitted what everyone already knew. Francis said gay priests make up a significant segment of the Catholic clergy and deserved papal recognition. Pope Benedict XVI signed a document in 2005 that said men with strong gay tendencies should not be priests, but I really doubt that had much effect on gay men entering the priesthood.
Am I saying that all gay priests are predatory rapists? Of course not, but apparently many are and that's cause for concern. As I mentioned earlier, the view that many Catholic priests are gay is not a new one. The Reverand Donald Cozzens (in his book "The Changing Face of the Priesthood," suggested that the priesthood was progressively becoming a gay profession. Cozzens estimated that as much as 58% of current priests are gay, and the percentages for younger priests are even higher.
Should the Catholic Church allow priests to get married? If they did allow marriage in the priesthood, would that cure the problem? If they allowed heterosexual priests to marry, would they conversely allow gay priests to marry as well? That's one heck of a sticky conundrum. One Ugandan Friar recently asked that question and lost his job in the process. Fr. Anthony Musaala authored a letter arguing that priests and nuns should be allowed to get married. Musalla's argument is that many priests are involved in acts that are contrary to what is expected of them including defilement, homosexuality, and giving birth to children.
The Pew Research Center conducted a poll last year that revealed nearly six in ten American Catholics believe it would be a good thing for the Catholic Church if the next pope (Pope Francis) allows priests to get married. Pope Benedict XVI convened a meeting 2005 to discuss whether the vows of celibacy and the ban on marriage for priests who want to marry, or have married in the past, should be overturned. I don't know how that meeting turned out, but as far as I know priests still can't get married. I do know St. Peter was married and Catholic priests were allowed to be married until the 12th century.
This post isn't meant to advocate marriage in the priesthood and as a Methodist myself, I have no right to tell Catholics what doctrine to practice. I'm not even sure if the marriage of priests would prevent the rape of children in the church. Raping a child is pure evil and I doubt that evil exists because priests aren't allowed to marry. What I will tell the Catholic Church though is they should do what is morally right and not what's politically expedient. They should turn over all the information they have on the pervert priests to the legal authorities and they should punish those that covered up their crimes.
Until the Vatican comes clean in an open and transparent way, they will deserve to be looked upon with skepticism. Pope Francis has the perfect opportunity to build on what his predecessor began and expand on it. My guess it will be status quo at the Holy See and that's unfortunate.