In the wake of sex scandals involving children, the Roman Catholic Church should either change its mores or close its doors. Since 1950, the United States arm of the church has paid an astounding $2 billion to settle claims of childhood sexual abuse. Yes, that is billions with a capital "B" that could have gone towards raising orphans, housing the homeless and feeding the "foodless." Instead, the church has had to reach deep inside its pockets, because some priests can't keep their hands out of the pants of others.
About a quarter of the fortune paid to the unfortunate victims has come from the Los Angeles archdiocese. Its leader, Cardinal Roger Mahony, apologized Sunday to the hundreds of abused who will be compensated, as if you can put a price on the church's vice.
"There really is no way to go back and give them that innocence that was taken from them. The one thing I wish I could give the victims…I cannot," he said. "Once again, I apologize to anyone who has been offended, who has been abused. It should not have happened and should not ever happen again."
Of course, it will happen again, since none of the underlying structural problems have been addressed. The church simply cannot continue its practice of recruiting spiritual leaders from a pool of repressed, self-loathing, sexually and emotionally stunted men and not expect a sordid sequel.
An apology without genuine reform is an empty gesture and mere disastrous dogma that will continue to strip-mine more weeping souls. What substantial measure has the church taken to prevent future victims? Have they even once broken with orthodoxy or taken difficult steps that actually matter? The answer is an emphatic, shameful "no."
There are only three reforms that will alter the status quo:
• Ending celibacy and allowing priests to marry
• Ordaining openly gay people
• Allowing women into the priesthood.
Anything short of these dramatic changes is mere window dressing that will lead to future problems.
Celibacy: This largely discredited idea of "sexual purity" rarely works in practice. It may succeed for people with unusually low sex drives, but for normally functioning males, it is seldom a viable way of life. Sex is a natural drive and love is its magnificent emotional counterpart. To deny this aspect of one's humanity over an extended or indefinite period of time is wishful thinking. Until priests can get married and experience human touch, they will be dangerously out of touch. Sometimes, such deprivation leads to a twisted mindset that drives priests to take advantage of vulnerable people – such as altar boys.
Allowing marriage will also help end the priesthood as a place where self-loathing gay people can shield their true identity. Homosexuals (and heteros too) with such unresolved internal conflicts do not belong in the priesthood, as their repression may sometimes manifest in unhealthy ways.
Openly Gay Priests: Once the Church has weeded out emotionally disturbed closet cases, it can attract morally and spiritually secure gay people. To do this, however, Rome would have to allow marriages – or commitment ceremonies – for gay priests. Sadly, the Pope seems more interested in blaming gay people for the churches' scandals and calling them "disordered."
It is insulting for the morally compromised Catholic Church to blame gay people for its own dishonorable record. After all, if homosexuality alone was responsible for child abuse, it would be the gay rights organizations getting sued, not the Vatican. Rome's anti-gay campaign might be good politics, but it will also foster the perpetuation of pedophilia, even as they apologize for past transgressions.
Women Priests: The primary reason to allow women into the priesthood is because it is fair. Rome should terminate its archaic and discriminatory policy of sexist exclusion and send sisters to seminary. A secondary reason to admit women is that it will end the bad boys club that currently exists. Having women giving mass will make it more difficult to have mass cover-ups. Of course, this is common sense, which is a commodity in short supply if you consider the blithely blind child abuse record of the Holy See.
Unfortunately, there is a moral vacancy at the Vatican, so the drumbeat of denial goes on. Some "Good Fathers" will continue to fondle, the hierarchy will hide the horrors, Rome will retreat from reality and spin its festering sin. I don't have the faintest idea of where God resides in this dreary drama. But, faux apologies aside, it is my impression that Rome has yet to really go to confession.