Tag Archives: priest sex abuse

Is Pleasure a Sin? – Thoughts on Maureen Dowd’s NYTimes column

Columnist Maureen Dowd addresses a question that has been on my mind a lot recently.  The headline is a little misleading, and I think that she doesn’t give the real question enough time, but the facts that she points out are illustrative.

Is Pleasure a Sin? – NYTimes.com.

From the column:

“Just Love: a Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics,” by Sister Margaret Farley — a 77-year-old professor emeritus at Yale’s Divinity School, a past president of the Catholic Theological Society of America and an award-winning scholar — came out in 2006.

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, which seems as hostile to women as the Saudi Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, spent years pondering it, then censured it on March 30 but didn’t publicly release the statement until Monday.

The denunciation of Sister Farley’s book is based on the fact that she deals with the modern world as it is. She refuses to fall in line with a Vatican rigidly clinging to an inbred, illusory world where men rule with no backtalk from women, gays are deviants, the divorced can’t remarry, men and women can’t use contraception, masturbation is a grave disorder and celibacy is enshrined, even as a global pedophilia scandal rages.

Dowd then contrasts the focus of Sister Farley’s book, and the hierarchy’s response to it, with this:

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York blasted The New York Times after Laurie Goodstein wrote that, as the archbishop of Milwaukee in 2003, he authorized payments of up to $20,000 to sexually abusive priests “as an incentive for them to agree to dismissal from the priesthood.”

Cardinal Dolan insisted through a spokesman that it was “charity,” not “payoffs.” But if you were the parent of a boy abused by a priest who went away with 20,000 bucks, maybe “charity” is not the word that would come to mind.

Its crisis has made the church cruel. The hierarchy should read Sister Farley’s opprobrium against adults harming vulnerable children and adolescents by sexually exploiting them; respect for the individual and requirement of free consent, she says, mean that rape, violence and pedophilia against unwilling victims are never justified.

Dowd’s ultimate point is that the Catholic Church has lost track of right and wrong, which is obviously true.  However, what she misses is that in terms of personal relationships and human sexuality, the Catholic Church has never been concerned with questions of right and wrong.  They are now, and always have been, concerned with the question of personal hierarchies; that is, which persons are not permitted to have agency or control over themselves.

In Sister Farley’s world, we are all agents of our own lives.  In the Catholic Church’s world we are not, women and children especially.  It isn’t difficult to see why the Church is prioritizing the punishment of uppity nuns over the punishment of child raping priests.  Men, and priests in particular, are allowed to make such errors.  Priests raping children does not upset the Catholic hierarchy’s view of the world.  It is the place of women and children to accept the dominion of these men over them, and to do so without complaining or requiring recognition as being fully human also.  To the Church, these personal hierarchies are an unchangeable truth.  Uppity nuns, on the other hand, threaten these systems of domination in a way that threatens the church.  If enough Catholics truly believed that we are all agents of our own lives, the systems that support Catholic authority would be decimated, and the Church would eventually disappear.

This is what the Catholic Church is, and what it always will be.

Advertisements

More details emerge on Dutch Catholic Church child rape and castration scandal

Via the Daily Beast, journalist Robert Chesal describes how this story developed.  It’s hard to express how vomit-inducing this sordid tale is.  I find it difficult to believe than anyone on this planet can still look to the Catholic Church as a source of moral authority.

The article provides the following details of the sad story of Henk Heithuis, which were preserved in letters by Dutch sculptor, Cornelius Rogge, who met Heithuis after he had fallen ill as a result of his castration at the hands of doctors in a Roman Catholic institution, and at the instruction of Catholic authorities:

Rogge…had met Henk Heithuis when the young man arrived, extremely ill, at his mother Thea’s home in Amsterdam in 1957. He’d never forgotten the stories Henk told of sexual abuse he suffered in the care facilities where he grew up. Especially the story about abuse by a monk named Gregorius, the brother superior at Harreveld, the Roman Catholic boarding school where Henk lived from 1950 to 1953.

Henk said the monks there preyed on the boys,” Rogge told Dohmen. “When he was seventeen he became the brother superior’s plaything. Henk compared the place to a bordello. We could hardly believe our ears.”

In 1956, Henk, then 20-years-old and legally a minor, reported the clerical abuse to the police. Hearing about the abuse, the police treated him as if he were insane, bringing him to a Roman Catholic psychiatric hospital where he was involuntarily committed. People there told detectives Henk was “a homosexual, untrustworthy, a liar and mentally disturbed.”

One month later, at St. Josephs hospital in the southern Dutch town of Veghel, Henk was surgically castrated or “eugenized,” as the hospital records put it, using a term previously attributed to the Nazi program of systematically sterilizing the mentally and physically handicapped.

In one of his letters, Henk wrote about how he was “maimed.” The surgeon, he told Rogge, played records to calm the other boys who were in the hallway, waiting to undergo the same procedure.

“I didn’t believe him,” Rogge said. But when Henk took off his pants to show him, he was shocked to see the truth. “When he undressed I saw that, indeed, there was nothing left there where his testicles used be. It blew us away to see that this was not a joke. He was mutilated.”

And, as was typical for the Catholic Church in responding to allegations of child rape, they disappeared the perpetrator, likely foisting him off on another unsuspecting parish.

A few weeks after Henk reported brother superior Gregorius to the police, Gregorius was spirited out of Harreveld boarding school. Records in the Dutch state attorney’s office reveal that he was never prosecuted, for “lack of evidence.” His congregation quickly moved him to New Glasgow, in Nova Scotia, where he helped set up a home for the mentally handicapped and worked for many years, according to a Dutch newspaper.

Gregorious, whose given name was Gregory van Buuren, died in 1993 of natural causes, at the retirement home of his congregation in the Netherlands.

As for Henk himself?  He suffered immensely, due to hormonal imbalances caused by the castration.  He did not die quietly, cared for by the church that had brought so much unforgivable harm on him.  He died in a car accident in 1958, and by the time Rogge got to Henk’s apartment, the police had already cleared out all of his personal effects, including all his documentation of the castration.

What makes this story even worse, if such a thing is possible, is that all of this information was there and available to the commission that the Catholic Church had authorized to investigate allegations of sexual abuse in the Netherlands.  But, while the commission did report that there may be as many as ten times the 1000 complaints received, the commission reported not a word of the castrations that were carried out on innocent boys.

 


%d bloggers like this: