From the Vatican to Neverland

“He is like a poster child for the sex abuse scandal” said Barbara Blaine in describing Cardinal Bernard Law who gave a memorial mass for Pope John Paul II at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome this week. Ms. Blaine is a U. S. Catholic who was in Rome as a representative of the Survivor’s Network of those Abused by Priests to protest. Ms. Blaine says she was sexually abused as a child by her parish priest from 1969 to 1974. Cardinal Law is the former archbishop of Boston who was forced to resign in 2002 because he purposefully moved priests from parish to parish when he knew they were sexually abusing minors in their parish. Cardinal Law appeared to be an enabler of priests involved in criminal activity as well as complicit in a criminal conspiracy.

The sex scandal in the Boston diocese implicated dozens of priests who were sexually abusive to their young parishioners and resulted in Cardinal Law being named in over 500 lawsuits. The disturbing stories of sex among the sacred and cover-ups by higher-ups across the U.S. exploded in the media. Cardinal Law went on “retreat” and then quietly became chaplain to the Sisters of Mercy of Alma in Clinton, Maryland. In a startling rebuke to elemental principles of justice Pope John Paul II named Cardinal Law as the archpriest of St. Mary Major Basilica in the holy city of Rome on May 27, 2004. Living in a classical Roman apartment on a $12,000 monthly stipend, Cardinal Law was selected for the honor of celebrating mass on one of the nine days of mourning for Pope John Paul II and will now join the other Cardinals in choosing the next Pope.

Throughout human history, religious dogma has distorted the beauty and reality of human sexuality into a doctrine of guilt and repression. The unreal, unrelenting and misguided view of human sexuality of the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy is mind-boggling. Their stridently pedantic pedagogy on priesthood celibacy, divorce, birth control, sex out-of-wedlock and masturbation is in desperate need of a real-world update. While John Paul II was a Pope of peace, outreach and understanding among the religions and nations of the world he was certainly a traditionalist on human sexuality.

When those “closest to God” in the priesthood of the Roman Catholic Church take the vows of celibacy, they purposefully turn away from the “aims and desires of the world.” This is a most unnatural course for the ultimate purveyors of spiritual advice on human sexuality to all Roman Catholics. The Christian Church has used a presumption that Jesus never married or engaged in sexual activity, but no biblical or authoritative sources in the early Christian communities affirm his celibacy.

Behind the image of a celibate Jesus is sexism that supports a social system giving men dominance. The thought of a non-celibate Jesus was an anathema to the Church Fathers of the first centuries who established the connection between sex and sin. St Ambrose wrote that, “The ministerial office must be kept pure and unspoiled and must not be defiled by coitus.” St. Augustine (354-430) became the Church’s greatest advocate for celibacy. He felt sex was always tainted and the “original sin” of Adam could only be passed on by intercourse and conception. St. Augustine said he considered an erect penis a visible sign of man’s inner revolt against God.

Celibacy was used to expand the political power of the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages. It was used to separate every priest from the economic and political ties of family inheritance and local politics and bring them into a powerful international bureaucracy in Rome. The Church’s economic power was further enhanced as celibacy was used to end the inheritance of real estate from priest to son. Celibacy made Rome a power broker in real estate as the Church became the owner.

Monastic orders gained immense power from mandatory celibacy in the 11th and 12th centuries. Catholic scholars describe the phenomena of monastic homosexual activity reaching proportions the Church had never known previously. The celibacy-oriented monastic movement and its asceticism also found a powerful ally in St. Thomas Aquinas who taught that women were inferior beings whose bodies cause their emotions to rule over reason. Celibacy’s sordid history is based on the pursuit of power. The issues of birth control and women in the clergy lurk behind the ugly revelations of sexual improprieties among men in the clergy.

In the mega-media story of child molestation alleged to have occurred at Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch in California we have an enabling mother testifying for the prosecution at Jackson’s trial in Santa Clara, California that she was lavished with gifts by the pop star for allowing her 13 year old son to share Jackson’s bed with him in 1993. The mother also testified that Jackson took her family on vacation to France and twice to Florida. The family reportedly settled a civil case with Jackson for over $20 million.

From the Vatican to Neverland, it pays to be an enabler of child molestation—even if you get caught!!

Tom Turnipseed is an attorney, writer and peace activist in Columbia, South Carolina.  

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