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SEX AND PASTORS

'THINKING CHRISTIANLY' ABOUT THE ISSUE OF PASTORS AND SEXUAL MISCONDUCT.

[Letter to Editor: sometime in the mid-1990's].

The article 'Leaders Deny Widespread Sexual Misbehaviour' in last month's
Victorian Baptist Witness raised some of the most painful questions facing
today's church. An ABC-TV Compass program claimed that 15% or more of clergy
have sexually abused people in their congregations. And, of course, the
secular media take up this sort of issue with glee. In the 1980's TV
evangelists were misbehaving - now it's clergy generally...

Your article also called into question the conclusion I have reached from
ten years' research among pastors across all denominations that the 15%
figure was, if anything, conservative. Perhaps it's now appropriate to very
briefly offer some comments about that claim.

1. In the literature search for a PhD I am currently pursuing on the
subject, plus confidential private conversations with over 1000 pastors,
their spouses, denominational leaders and key parishioners; addressing an
average of one pastors' conference per week throughout Australia and in
other countries; and some wide reading of books and articles on the
struggles of being a parish clergyperson, I have come to believe there are
very heavy pressures and temptations facing our clergy that are unique to
our age and culture. Journal articles and personal letters I have collected
now occupy five full foolscap filing drawers.

I also belong to a consortium of about 40 counselors-of-clergy which meets
once a year in Colorado Springs. The statistics of clergy sexual offenses
they offer from the North American scene are somewhat higher than I believe
is the case in Australia. And in our country the incidence of 'sexual
adventuring' varies from denomination to denomination. The denomination I
know best and am proud to belong to - Australian Baptists - may derive some
comfort from the best informed expert opinion that they have a better record
in this area than most others!

2. In my experience, the majority of clergy, their spouses, and those
involved in 'sexual adventures' with clergy - whether hetero- or
homosexual - have not told their denominational superiors. The best people
to provide statistics in this area are not bishops or general
superintendents but confessors. One obvious reason for this is that there is
a role conflict between the authority-figure's being a key person in the
clergyperson's vocational future, and their function as 'pastor pastorum'.

3. Again, in my experience, the majority of adulterous relationships
involving clergy have a 'mutuality factor' built into them. 'Sexual abuse'
is the wrong term to describe most of these liaisons. This, of course, is
not to deny that some clergy take advantage of their position to seduce
parishioners or counselees. (Or that counselees sometimes deliberately set
out to seduce clergy). The rationale I've heard some American pastors give
for this behaviour is 'fornication therapy' - a terrible indictment of both
their lack of professional ethics and Christian integrity.

4. Clergy are now almost the last helping professionals to visit
clients/parishioners of the opposite sex in the privacy of their homes,
increasing opportunities for succumbing to sexual temptation.

5. The most important factor of all: Christian leaders are in the 'front
line' when Satan attacks Christ's church. The three primal temptations -
involving money, sex, and power - are more seductive than they have ever
been. In most pastors' conferences I hear myself saying: 'The devil has a
particular strategy to destroy your ministry, your church, and your
denomination: you'd better know what it is. You have to identify the enemy's
intentions and tactics if you are to counter them with the spiritual weapons
at our disposal.'

6. Should we sweep this whole issue under the ecclesiastical carpet? No. The
apostles didn't, and I agree with St. Gregory the Great's dictum: 'It is
better that scandals arise than that truth be silenced.'

OK, so much for the problems, what can be done about it all?

1. PRAY for your pastors that they will not fall into these temptations,
that they will be 'strong in the strength of Christ Jesus', who was also
tempted in every way - including sexually - as we are, and understands us,
accepts us and loves us.

2. REPENT of your own Pharisaism. With Pharisees repentance precedes
acceptance, with Jesus it was the other way around. The vast majority of
'sexual sinners' - inside or outside the churches - have not got the feeling
they're sincerely loved by most Christians. Sexual sinners in Jesus' day had
no doubts he loved them (while, of course, commanding them to 'go and sin no
more').

3. ENCOURAGE pastors to join a prayer/support group, and/or regularly seek
Spiritual Direction. They are the loneliest people in our community, and
that dramatically increases their propensity for succumbing to temptation.
Some denominations here and overseas are appointing 'pastors' friends' to
provide counseling, encouragement and support. Those appointees are ideally
elected from among the pastors themselves, and are not on any denominational
committees, or report to denominational 'officials'.

4. MARRIAGE ENRICHMENT courses are very helpful: why not discreetly pay for
your pastor and spouse to go away to one?

5. PROVIDE a church office for pastors to do most of their counseling,
rather than in private homes.

6. IF YOUR CHURCH is into 'holy kissing' and hugging, be explicit about how
to be discreet in those behaviours. One church leader I've heard about has
become notorious for hugging women 'front on', and women instinctively know
they are the victims of a lustful attitude.

7. Our THEOLOGICAL COLLEGES are coming to terms with these issues in their
Pastoral Theology courses: let's encourage this trend.

8. READ some of the many excellent articles and books now being written in
this area. Perhaps begin with John Sandford's excellent book Why Some
Christians Commit Adultery (Victory House, Tulsa, 1989)).

Rowland Croucher, Director, John Mark Ministries, 7 Bangor Court, Heathmont,
Victoria 3135.

~~~

The sexuality (or asexuality) and sexual practices (or celibacy) of holy
people have always fascinated other mortals. When moralistic televangelists
have their adulteries exposed, the news pushes superpower politics to page
three. Morris West's story of the spiritual and sexual struggles of a
candidate for sainthood in The Devil's Advocate sells over sixteen million
copies, and is made into a film. Another bestseller - John Updike's A Month
of Sundays - describes in erotic detail the scandal of Rev. Tom Marshfield's
adventures with ladies in his parish. Andrew Greeley's novels about the sins
of cardinals etc. make us wonder how a celibate priest can know so much
about some things. And for some real-life stories about the sexual
frustrations of Catholic priests and religious there is the 525-page book
(with index and selected bibliography) Desire and Denial: Sexuality and
Vocation - a Church in Crisis by Gordon Thomas (London: Grafton Books,
1986).

Priestly and pastoral infidelity is now a matter for serious sociological
study. The book Sexual Practices & the Medieval Church has been placed in
the two-hour loan reserve section of Melbourne's Monash University library.
An article titled 'Puritan perverts' in The Sociological Review (February
1985) lists amazingly disparate male and female religious leaders accused of
various improprieties. (Why? Researcher Steve Bruce suggests two factors:
opportunity, and emotionally charged settings in which people are 'religious
o'ermuch'). Conservative evangelical Christianity Today's 'Leadership'
magazine devoted its Winter '88 issue to such matters as 'After the Affair:
A [Pastor's] Wife's Story', and 'Private Sins of Public Ministry'. I
photocopied an excellent article from Ministry (January 1987) - 'Battling
Sexual Indiscretion' ('Is your sex drive under control? Why are ministers
more vulnerable than most other people?') - to hand out at clergy
conferences. A recent issue of Australian Ministry (May 1990) contains an
evocative fable 'Sexual Harassment in the Church'. Then we have Newsweek
(Sept. 11, 1989) and other magazines running articles like 'When a Pastor
Turns Seducer'...

The latest offering in this genre, David Rice's Shattered Vows: Exodus from
the Priesthood, is a passionate plea to the Roman Catholic church to make
celibacy optional and open its priesthood to married clergy. His statistics
are alarming: an estimated 100,000 priests worldwide have left active
ministry over a 25-year period, with another 200,000 priests 'failing to
observe celibacy' (p.171). During the same period we have witnessed a
serious decline in vocations: in the year 2000 the U.S. will have seen the
number of priests diminish by half, with an average age of 65!

David Rice is a laicised Irish Dominican, and head of the Dublin School of
Journalism. He spent a year traveling the world talking to priests, bishops,
and ex-priests (442 of them) and their families. Rice is careful to preserve
anonymity when requested, but a lot of people are willing to be identified.
He chronicles many heroic commitments to ministry and but also struggles (by
priests wearing 'give-away' grey faces) with loneliness, and disillusionment
with the church-as-unfeeling-institution. He is brutally honest -
particularly about 'the shadow side of celibacy' (that will be the chapter
you'll hear about in the secular media when this book hits the fan). He
writes as a participant observer: Rice left the priesthood in 1977 to marry.

This book offers a devastating critique of two related matters: the
institutional bureaucracy of the Roman Catholic church, and that Church's
rationale for clerical celibacy.

1. The Church-as-institution. Malcolm Muggeridge once said he'd like to take
Jesus around the Vatican and watch his reactions. Well-known parish priest
in London's Bayswater parish, Father Michael Hollings, said to the author:
'Canon law is strangling the Church. I think if Jesus Christ came today,
he'd be condemned by the Curia' (p.144). 'The deeper into the institutional
Church I penetrated,' Rice complains, 'the higher up the pyramid of Church
authority I went, the more indifference and sometimes cruelty I encountered'
(p.66). '[Other groups'] harshness is usually softened by structures like
courts and juries to ensure fair play. But the Church has not yet developed
such structures, so there is nothing to protect the individual from the fury
of its defense mechanisms' (p.89). Happy priests tend to distance themselves
from the issues and agendas of the institutional Church (p.146). And one
study published by U.S. bishops found the most frequently mentioned reason
for priests leaving was a 'feeling that they could no longer live within the
structure of the Church... Priests leave because they perceive the changes
in thinking at Vatican Two have not been made concrete through parallel
changes in structure' (p.177).

The worst structure, says Rice, is clericalism, the essence of which is a
kind of ecclesiastical apartheid. And 'the great bulwark of clericalism [is]
enforced celibacy' (p.190).

2. Celibacy. Priest-sociologist Andrew Greeley (Confessions of a Parish
Priest) says his research proves that Humanae Vitae (the birth-control
encyclical) is the main reason Catholics are leaving their Church. David
Rice is absolutely sure that compulsory celibacy is the main reason priests
leave that Church. Celibacy, when it works, works very well, but when it
does not work, it can be horrid. Celibacy is not chastity: celibacy is the
permanent state of being unmarried. Chastity, for the unmarried, means
abstaining from genital sexual activity. Compulsory celibacy, says Rice
'simply does not work' (pp.157, 172 etc.). He cites one study which
estimated that at any one time no more than 50 per cent of American priests
practise celibacy (p.170).

There are powerful arguments for freely chosen celibacy, but none for
enforced celibacy. So why insist on it? For part of the answer we must go
back to the Council of Trent. Protestants were recommending marriage for
priests, insisting that celibacy was God's gift only to a few. 'Therefore',
says Rice, (quoting a Professor Jedin), 'the Church entrenched its position
and did not let itself discuss the problem...' (p.222).

And so you have anomalies like a resigned married priest in Columbia being
put in jail after celebrating Mass, for 'usurping the powers of the clergy'
(p.123), whilst in other dioceses bishops are sometimes allowing married
priests to continue their ordained ministries. Indeed, the American National
Opinion Research Centre says 79% of Catholics would prefer a married priest
as their pastor (p.198).

The final article in the Code of Canon Law is 'In ecclesia, suprema lex,
salus animarum' - in the Church, the supreme law is the salvation of souls.
But millions of souls now exist without priest and eucharist because of the
Vatican's 'putting people's needs last, and the institution's survival
first' (p.190). Sociologist Robert Merton has shown that bureaucracies are
degenerative. They end up defending their own entrenched interests
(especially their power) before the needs of those they were founded to
serve. Pharisaism is essentially putting mechanical obedience to regulations
above the human needs of people (p.185). The ban on contraception and the
enforcement of celibacy are both undermining the credibility of the
Church-as-institution. As is the widespread practice of turning a blind eye
to the priest and house-keeper living in adultery, but withholding
dispensations from those who want to legitimize their relationship. 'So we
find the Vatican forbidding employment of married priests, withholding
dispensations from men long married, sometimes until their deathbed, and
failing in the simple courtesy of even acknowledging receipt of the
petitions for dispensation. And we hear of the Pope saying, "I'm in no
hurry. We didn't leave them: they left us." I suppose it is understandable:
the institution perceives the married priest as a threat to its structures.
But it is sad, and so different from the father of the Prodigal Son, who
came running to meet him' (p.242).

A footnote: David Rice wonders (p.44) why ex-priests 'are not sought out and
cared for by the Church they once served.' It's the supreme 'forbidden
topic: those 100,000 have ceased to exist' (p.238). It's not only a Catholic
problem. Many of the estimated 10,000 ex-clergy in Australia from all
denominations feel betrayed by their churches. This reviewer is currently
researching this phenomenon in the Protestant and Pentecostal churches, and
plans to send questionnaires to 1,000 of them, followed by personal
interviews with some who so indicate. Anonymity will be respected. Help in
locating names, addresses and phone numbers of ex-pastors would be
appreciated. Send to Rev. Rowland Croucher, 7 Bangor Court, Heathmont,
Victoria, 3135.

David Rice, Shattered Vows: Exodus from the Priesthood (London: Michael
Joseph, 1989, hb, 280pp. Available in Australia from Penguin Books, 487
Maroondah Highway, Ringwood, 3134. RRP $35).

Rowland Croucher

Rowland Croucher is an Australian Baptist pastor, working full-time as a
writer and speaker at clergy and church leaders' conferences. He is
currently pursuing a Ph.D on the topic 'Ex-Clergy: What Happens when Pastors
leave the Parish Ministry'.

STRESS AND SEXUALITY

Visited Salzburg Cathedral, and the tour guide read: 'This fine early
baroque cathedral with its two symmetrical towers, fine marble facade, and
massive bronze doors was consecrated in 1628. When fire destroyed the
previous late Romanesque cathedral in 1598, Archbishop Wolf Dietrich wanted
to build a new one larger than St. Peter's in Rome. But he was condemned for
misconduct (he had 12 children by Simone Alt, his mistress...).

One of the great American novelists, Nathaneal Hawthorn, in his The Scarlet
Letter, - New England Puritans, who represent par excellence, the way of
oppression and denial. Woman Hester Prynn ? and Rev. Mr. Dinnisdale ? - HP
becomes pregnant out of wedlock - community isolates her causes her to wear
on her breast ? a large letter 'A'. As the novel progresses, this A stands
for many things. In the Puritan community she's adulterous. But later you
wonder whether it could be 'angel'. She's pregant to Rev. Mr. D, who's going
through hell knowing he's the father, though nobody else but Hester Pr knows
this. Agonizing over the enormous contradictions... more and more ascending
in the respect of those he's ministering to. Hawthorn seems to come close to
saying sin is good. As Irenaeus put it, Adam has to fall. The only path to
salvation is through falling from grace. The only way to grace is to fall
from grace in the first place.

I read only four or five newspapers or newsmagazines a week, and about two
or three religious papers/journals. In the last couple of years I've clipped
47 articles on ministry and sexuality. Samples: * 'Unholy Scndals on the
Path of Righteousness' * 'Sexual Abuse Within the Clergy' * 'Sex Abuse Cases
Rock the Clergy' * 'Priest Sexually Assaulted Young People, Court Told' *
'Church Denies Cover-Up on Archbishop' * 'Priests Have Active Sex Lives -
Study' * 'Sexual Molestation of Children by Church Workers' * 'A Priest Dies
of AIDS' * 'Cleric Fined for Indecent Assault' * 'Bishop in Love Letters
Hush-up...' * '$1000 fine for Priest: Girl fondled, court told...' * 'Sex in
the Forbidden Zone' * 'After the Affair: A Wife's Story (A pastor's wife
describes the impact of her husband's adultery...) * 'Private Sins of Public
Ministry' * 'When a Pastor Turns Seducer' * 'Sexual Harassment in the
Church...'

the line spoken by the defrocked preacher in John Steinbeck's The Grapes of
Wrath: 'There ain't no sin and there ain't no virtue. There is just stuff
people do. And some of the things folks do is nice and some ain't nice, but
that's as far as anyone got a right to say...'

Sexual intimacy is an expression of a larger reality: our need for love, for
belonging, for closeness.

At a conference in Colorado Springs, November 1990, for counselors of
clergy, I was told: 'The senior minister of one of the largest Episcopal
churches in the U.S., had two days a week when his secretaries simply filled
in his counseling appointments book. He found, over time, a high incidence
of women Frank Lake termed 'histrionic/hysterical' would ask for his last
morning or afternoon sessions...'

G.K.Chesterton says our civilization is like a desert island on which a ship
has wrecked. The castaways wander around picking up treasures - gold coins,
fine clothing, a compass: good things, but now not related to their original
purpose. A lot of things in our fallen world are like that: originally good
and meaningful, now dislodged from their original context and intention.

Glorify God in our bodies. Immoral society.

Leadership (Winter 1988), Christianity Today's journal for church leaders,
in a survey on the sexual temptations pastors face found that 70% of the
respondents felt pastors are particularly vulnerable in this area; one in
five said they had some form of inappropriate 'sexual contact' with someone
other than their spouse since they had been in pastoral ministry. The cause:
'physical and emotional attraction' (78%), 'marital dissatisfaction' 41%.
Gary Collins, a well-known American psychologist and professor of
counseling, said the problem was our seminaries' preparing people to
minister in a Victorian age when we live in a Corinthian age. What are the
consequences of inappropriate sexual behaviour? Collins asks: 'What are
these people doing with the guilt and the fear that they'll be found out?
[Such fear] tends to push pastors toward one of two extremes. It either
makes them tentative, holding back even from healthy involvement with other
people, or it leads them to preach strongly against sexual sin so the
congregation won't suspect what they've done'.

Almost half of the pastors surveyed said they had no one they could
comfortably talk to about sexual problems. Larry Crabb (1988: 12,13) another
psychologist/professor, says pastors aren't encouraged to admit their
vulnerability: 'It's rare for a pastor to feel comfortable as anything other
than a model Christian. Most churches require their pastors to live in
denial.'

Margaret Evening, a missionary teacher, remarks in her book Who Walk Alone
about 'the strange phenomenon, observed by missionaries, of a higher
incidence of sexual immorality following a religious revival.' (Leadership
Winter 1988?).

'Fervent prayer,' she observes,' often heightens our awareness and longing
for love in all directions and not only Godwards... Prayer not only
expresses love but engenders it too.'

Researchers suggest that the same passion leading to spiritual fervour and
the passion leading to sexual activity stem from the same kind of
physiological chemistry. (Shelley, 1988:3).

Pastors - tempted to misuse privilege of the confessional/ counseling
situation. Crass: You want love? I'll give it to you. To the pastor who
seduced a gullible woman when the two of them were alone rehearsing for a
baptismal service.

Guidelines/ experienced pastors and counselors suggest:

* Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation (not just sin)! The spirit
may be willing, but the flesh is weak. There is no sin you could not commit:
take heed lest you fall (1 Corinthians 10).

* Maintain a disciplined spiritual life: take occasional or regular
retreats; find a spiritual director and be honest in that relationship.

* Acknowledge that sexual attraction is normal: the issue is not its
occurrence, but how it is dealt with by counselor and counselee when it
occurs (Rassieur, 1976).

* Understand your own sexuality, your vulnerabilities and weaknesses, and
female sexuality

* Enhance your marriage: marriage enrichment; plan time together, write it
into your diary, and you can say 'I have a commitment that night' to anyone
who wants you for something else. Realize that your marriage is a constant
choice of one another, over and above and beyond any other sexual
attraction.

* Take precautions. Set limits on male-female counseling relationships. Some
women with unresolved anxieties or hostility can be attracted to the
mystique of the pastor. She'll come on with a 'You probably don't have
anyone to talk to, who understands you' kind of line: it may either be a
conscious or unconscious seduction/infatuation at work. Resist talking with
members of the opposite sex about your own private sex-life. When
counseling, the door should be shut for confidentiality, but counsel in a
building where other people are obviously around. Pastors who visit members
of the opposite sex alone in their homes are asking for trouble!

* Watch for signs that indicate your attraction to a counselee. Ask
yourself: Do I enjoy talking to this person more than to my spouse? Are we
too easily finding reasons to meet and talk? Do I enjoy too much physical
contact when we pray or hug?

* There are biblical principles: coveting what belongs to someone else;
relating to the 'weaker brother/sister'; 'fleeing immorality' (if it can
happen to Solomon, David, Samson and many other Christian leaders ancient
and modern, it could happen to you!).

The sexuality (or asexuality) and sexual practices (or celibacy) of holy
people have always fascinated other mortals. When moralistic televangelists
have their adulteries exposed, the news pushes superpower politics to page
three. Morris West's story of the spiritual and sexual struggles of a
candidate for sainthood in The Devil's Advocate sells over sixteen million
copies, and is made into a film. Another bestseller - John Updike's A Month
of Sundays - describes in erotic detail the scandal of Rev. Tom Marshfield's
adventures with ladies in his parish. Andrew Greeley's novels about the sins
of cardinals etc. make us wonder how a celibate priest can know so much
about some things. And for some real-life stories about the sexual
frustrations of Catholic priests and religious there is the 525-page book
(with index and selected bibliography) Desire and Denial: Sexuality and
Vocation - a Church in Crisis by Gordon Thomas (London: Grafton Books,
1986).

Priestly and pastoral infidelity is now a matter for serious sociological
study. The book Sexual Practices & the Medieval Church has been placed in
the two-hour loan reserve section of Melbourne's Monash University library.
An article titled 'Puritan perverts' in The Sociological Review (February
1985) lists amazingly disparate male and female religious leaders accused of
various improprieties. (Why? Researcher Steve Bruce suggests two factors:
opportunity, and emotionally charged settings in which people are 'religious
o'ermuch'). Conservative evangelical Christianity Today's 'Leadership'
magazine devoted its Winter '88 issue to such matters as 'After the Affair:
A [Pastor's] Wife's Story', and 'Private Sins of Public Ministry'. I
photocopied an excellent article from Ministry (January 1987) - 'Battling
Sexual Indiscretion' ('Is your sex drive under control? Why are ministers
more vulnerable than most other people?') - to hand out at clergy
conferences. A recent issue of Australian Ministry (May 1990) contains an
evocative fable 'Sexual Harassment in the Church'. Then we have Newsweek
(Sept. 11, 1989) and other magazines running articles like 'When a Pastor
Turns Seducer'...

The latest offering in this genre, David Rice's Shattered Vows: Exodus from
the Priesthood, is a passionate plea to the Roman Catholic church to make
celibacy optional and open its priesthood to married clergy. His statistics
are alarming: an estimated 100,000 priests worldwide have left active
ministry over a 25-year period, with another 200,000 priests 'failing to
observe celibacy' (p.171). During the same period we have witnessed a
serious decline in vocations: in the year 2000 the U.S. will have seen the
number of priests diminish by half, with an average age of 65!

David Rice is a laicised Irish Dominican, and head of the Dublin School of
Journalism. He spent a year traveling the world talking to priests, bishops,
and ex-priests (442 of them) and their families. Rice is careful to preserve
anonymity when requested, but a lot of people are willing to be identified.
He chronicles many heroic commitments to ministry and but also struggles (by
priests wearing 'give-away' grey faces) with loneliness, and disillusionment
with the church-as-unfeeling-institution. He is brutally honest -
particularly about 'the shadow side of celibacy' (that will be the chapter
you'll hear about in the secular media when this book hits the fan). He
writes as a participant observer: Rice left the priesthood in 1977 to marry.

This book offers a devastating critique of two related matters: the
institutional bureaucracy of the Roman Catholic church, and that Church's
rationale for clerical celibacy.

1. The Church-as-institution. Malcolm Muggeridge once said he'd like to take
Jesus around the Vatican and watch his reactions. Well-known parish priest
in London's Bayswater parish, Father Michael Hollings, said to the author:
'Canon law is strangling the Church. I think if Jesus Christ came today,
he'd be condemned by the Curia' (p.144). 'The deeper into the institutional
Church I penetrated,' Rice complains, 'the higher up the pyramid of Church
authority I went, the more indifference and sometimes cruelty I encountered'
(p.66). '[Other groups'] harshness is usually softened by structures like
courts and juries to ensure fair play. But the Church has not yet developed
such structures, so there is nothing to protect the individual from the fury
of its defense mechanisms' (p.89). Happy priests tend to distance themselves
from the issues and agendas of the institutional Church (p.146). And one
study published by U.S. bishops found the most frequently mentioned reason
for priests leaving was a 'feeling that they could no longer live within the
structure of the Church... Priests leave because they perceive the changes
in thinking at Vatican Two have not been made concrete through parallel
changes in structure' (p.177).

The worst structure, says Rice, is clericalism, the essence of which is a
kind of ecclesiastical apartheid. And 'the great bulwark of clericalism [is]
enforced celibacy' (p.190).

2. Celibacy. Priest-sociologist Andrew Greeley (Confessions of a Parish
Priest) says his research proves that Humanae Vitae (the birth-control
encyclical) is the main reason Catholics are leaving their Church. David
Rice is absolutely sure that compulsory celibacy is the main reason priests
leave that Church. Celibacy, when it works, works very well, but when it
does not work, it can be horrid. Celibacy is not chastity: celibacy is the
permanent state of being unmarried. Chastity, for the unmarried, means
abstaining from genital sexual activity. Compulsory celibacy, says Rice
'simply does not work' (pp.157, 172 etc.). He cites one study which
estimated that at any one time no more than 50 per cent of American priests
practise celibacy (p.170).

There are powerful arguments for freely chosen celibacy, but none for
enforced celibacy. So why insist on it? For part of the answer we must go
back to the Council of Trent. Protestants were recommending marriage for
priests, insisting that celibacy was God's gift only to a few. 'Therefore',
says Rice, (quoting a Professor Jedin), 'the Church entrenched its position
and did not let itself discuss the problem...' (p.222).

And so you have anomalies like a resigned married priest in Columbia being
put in jail after celebrating Mass, for 'usurping the powers of the clergy'
(p.123), whilst in other dioceses bishops are sometimes allowing married
priests to continue their ordained ministries. Indeed, the American National
Opinion Research Centre says 79% of Catholics would prefer a married priest
as their pastor (p.198).

The final article in the Code of Canon Law is 'In ecclesia, suprema lex,
salus animarum' - in the Church, the supreme law is the salvation of souls.
But millions of souls now exist without priest and eucharist because of the
Vatican's 'putting people's needs last, and the institution's survival
first' (p.190). Sociologist Robert Merton has shown that bureaucracies are
degenerative. They end up defending their own entrenched interests
(especially their power) before the needs of those they were founded to
serve. Pharisaism is essentially putting mechanical obedience to regulations
above the human needs of people (p.185). The ban on contraception and the
enforcement of celibacy are both undermining the credibility of the
Church-as-institution. As is the widespread practice of turning a blind eye
to the priest and house-keeper living in adultery, but withholding
dispensations from those who want to legitimize their relationship. 'So we
find the Vatican forbidding employment of married priests, withholding
dispensations from men long married, sometimes until their deathbed, and
failing in the simple courtesy of even acknowledging receipt of the
petitions for dispensation. And we hear of the Pope saying, "I'm in no
hurry. We didn't leave them: they left us." I suppose it is understandable:
the institution perceives the married priest as a threat to its structures.
But it is sad, and so different from the father of the Prodigal Son, who
came running to meet him' (p.242).

A footnote: David Rice wonders (p.44) why ex-priests 'are not sought out and
cared for by the Church they once served.' It's the supreme 'forbidden
topic: those 100,000 have ceased to exist' (p.238). It's not only a Catholic
problem. Many of the estimated 10,000 ex-clergy in Australia from all
denominations feel betrayed by their churches. This reviewer is currently
researching this phenomenon in the Protestant and Pentecostal churches, and
plans to send questionnaires to 1,000 of them, followed by personal
interviews with some who so indicate. Anonymity will be respected. Help in
locating names, addresses and phone numbers of ex-pastors would be
appreciated. Send to Rev. Rowland Croucher, 7 Bangor Court, Heathmont,
Victoria, 3135.

Basham, Lead Us Not Into Temptation

Crabb, L., 1988 (Winter), Leadership, Christianity Today.

Fortune, Marie M. 1989, Is Nothing Sacred? When Sex Invades the Pastoral
Relationship, San Francisco: Harper & Row.

Fuller, Cameron Lee [research]

Keller, W. Philip 1988, Predators in Our Pulpits, Eugene, Oregon: Harvest
House Publishers.

Mowday, Lois, The Snare

Peterson, The Myth of the Greener Grass

Rassieur, Charles L. 1976, The Problem Clergymen Don't Talk About,
Westminster.

Rice, David 1989, Shattered Vows: Exodus from the Priesthood, London:
Michael Joseph.

Sandford, John L. 1989, Why Some Christians Commit Adultery, Tulsa,
Oklahoma: Victory House Inc.

Shelley, Marshall 1988 (Winter), Leadership, Christianity Today.

Sex in the Forbidden Zone

Sexual Ethics

Rowland Croucher

Rowland Croucher is an Australian Baptist pastor, working full-time as a
writer and speaker at clergy and church leaders' conferences.

 
rowland @ johnmarkministries . org
Email Jan and Rowland