I suppose it's genetically impossible for me to examine any issue from a non-theological point of view. I'm just not capable of it, I guess, and if it's a failing of mine I don't know how to fix it. But I've started collecting articles and links and documents -- I've read the relevant selections of both Crimen sollicitationis, the 1962 document detailing how sexual crimes relating to priests are to be dealt with, and De Delictis gravioribus, the 2001 emendation to that document, and I’ve studied them in the Latin. I've combed through articles about the abusing priests, testimony from the abused, documentaries about the systemic nature of it, and I've sifted all of this like I'm trying to find a reason. Because there must be a reason, right? A reason why the culture of the Church is particularly prone to this?
It could be as simple as what Andrew Sullivan suggests:
"Has it occurred to Versaldi [Bishop Giuseppe Versaldi, emeritus professor of canon law and psychology at the Pontifical Gregorian University] that the repressed, contorted sexual teaching of the church leads so many priests, gay and straight, directly into dysfunctional and, yes, disordered sex lives, alone or with others? Does he realize that forcing gay Catholic kids to hate themselves and then to seek refuge in a celibate priesthood as a cover for their unconquerable nature is just asking for later breakdowns and acting out, with teens and kids as the victims?"
But the oppression/repression tells you just half the equation -- maybe, maybe it tells you why these men wanted to do what they did, why their dicks needed that particular thing to get off. It doesn't explain the compulsion to compound the abuse with silence -- why? Why would so many men engage in that kind of conspiracy of shame? Why didn't they recoil in horror, call the cops, kick the offending scum away from them like dog shit they had stepped in on their way to Matins?
My hypothesis is a little different from Sully's. I think the answer to that latter question lies in ecclesiology -- that is, the theology of the Church qua Church. "Tu es Petrus," proclaim the words emblazoned around the interior of St. Peter's. "You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." These words (a wildly fantastical insertion, if ever there was one) establish an institution known as The Church(TM), Ecclesia, and at the same time endow that institution with divine favor and protection. Indeed, according to the Church's vision of itself, the Church becomes the Body of Christ Himself: the institution becomes, in a very real sense, God.
And here Catholic theology goes the Supreme Court one better, because in their landmark Citizens United ruling in January, the justices ruled that a corporation, an organization of people, could be an individual endowed with the same rights and liberties as other individuals. Catholic ecclesiology does better than that, though, because the Church (since it literally IS God) is a sort of Super-person, with MORE rights than you (as individual church member) could ever possibly have. By investing an organization with personhood -- and even with Personhood -- Catholic ecclesiology made it possible to look at ordinary people and say, look. It's very sad what happened to you, and of course we all regret it a great deal, but the important thing here is that we must protect the Church, because she is Holy, she is Our Mother, she is the Very Presence of Christ on earth. And next to something like that - well, what could the needs of a puny 9-year-old kid possibly mean? What could a tiny little boy's sobs possibly mean, next to the Presence of God on earth?
So that is what underlies Papa Nazi's insistence, in "De delictis gravioribus" (the document written by him and issued when he was Prefect of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, otherwise known as the Holy Office, otherwise known as, yeah, THAT Holy Office, back before the Inquisition got re-branded) when he clarified some points in "Crimen sollicitationis." In DDG he specifically insisted that ALL instances of sexual abuse involving minors be remanded to the Holy Office, and the Holy Office would instruct the tribunals how to proceed from there. The only possible reason for this is to keep a tighter rein on things, and to squelch any whisper of scandal before it could even draw a good firm breath. And it's this 2001 document, I believe, that was the real impetus behind Papa Nazi's 2005 elevation to the papacy. His election was an act of acclamation for the one who had protected the Church, the one all these other little boy-fuckers (and I think it's likely that the preponderance of Cardinals have either engaged in or been party to boy-fucking) knew they could turn to for protection in the future. The one who would always put God first -- which is to say, the one who would always put the Church's interests above petty human interests, and whose heart would not be swayed by the anguished clamor of mere mortals.
And even if I'm right, and it's a flawed ecclesiology that led them there, that doesn't answer the real question, which is why do I give a bleeding monkeyfuck? I'm not a Catholic. But of course, behind that statement lurks the whispered any more, and it's that any more I'm so afraid of, that clutches at my chest and makes me think, will I never be free? Will I never stop caring so desperately? What must be wrong with me that I can't stop caring, can't stop obsessing over this? Why can't I be like other people, and shrug and step around this like it's something messy and unfortunate on the sidewalk?
In my better moments, I think, maybe I don't have to stop caring. Proud Jew though I am, I don't have to pretend that I didn't come from, well, where I come from. Though no documentary attribution of this can be found, there's a saying of St. Augustine's* that’s circulated for hundreds of years: "The Church is a whore," he is reported to have said, "but she is my mother." Just because I've moved away, doesn't mean I don’t still phone home now and again, and worry about how things are going -- especially when things are tough at the home place. As I get ready for Pesach, I expect I’ll still be thinking about these things as I’m chopping the apples for my charoset and nibbling the maror. Maybe next year. . . in Jerusalem, for all of us.
*did not fuck little boys.