OT: The Real Problem With The Church

One of the headlines in today’s newspaper was a quote from the Pope. It read, “Church must recognize truth of child abuse“. The article went on the quote the Pope saying, “Today we see in a truly terrifying way that the greatest persecution of the Church does not come from outside enemies but is born of sin within the Church“. This reminded me of something that happened to me when I was 16 years old. At that time I was schooling at Don Bosco High School in Panaji, Goa, a school that was run by the Salesians of Don Bosco.

One day at school I got a message that the Rector, who was a priest, wanted to see me. So I went to his office to meet him. I was quite surprised when he asked me to close the door behind me. He made me sit down and started making small talk with me about a range of totally unrelated things, possibly to loosen me up. Normally, when you were called into the Rector’s office, it was almost always because you did something wrong and a spanking was in the offing. After he figured that I was loose enough, he asked me a question, “So Deelip, have you ever heard the call?“. I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about and I let him know that, politely of course. He went on to explain, “You know, the call from the Lord.” That was when it hit me what this whole meeting was all about. The Rector wanted me to become a priest! At that point the only thing I knew was that I had to get myself out of the room immediately. So I told the Rector two things: (1) I had not heard any call; and (2) I had just remembered an extremely important thing that I needed to do. And before he could react I was already out of room.

My point here is that at the age of sixteen I was being asked to make the most important decision of my life. At that age, I was legally incompetent to do anything substantial. I could not vote. I could not get a driver’s license. If I had committed murder I would be sent to juvenile court and not a regular court. The funny thing here is that I could not get married till I was 21 and here I was being asked to decide at the age of 16 whether I wanted to be celibate all my life. Ironically, a few years after I passed out from school, I heard that the Rector had left the priesthood. My school Principal, who was also a priest, was notorious for his closed door “meetings” with young girls after he served has daily mass. Needless to say, the last I heard of him was that he was married and settled in Canada. The exploits of the priest in the parish adjacent to mine are so well known that the parishioners have approached the Bishop to have him removed. I could go on and on.

Here is the thing. I believe that part of the problem of pedophile priests lies with the fact that boys are made to decide what their lives will be at a time when they are clearly not capable make such critical decisions and neither are in a position to understand the implications of those decisions. True, priests are given an option to walk away just before they are ordained. But only the ones who are strong willed and are capable of taking on the public ridicule that follows actually end up exercising that option. The weak stick to their sad story and spend the rest of their lives trying to come to terms with it. I have a cousin who left a year or so before he could be ordained. He is now happily married with a kid and running a business. In my part of the world, the generation previous to mine invariably had large families. The eldest son was educated and sent to work to help support the family and the youngest son was usually “given up to the Lord”. That was told to him at an early age and when the time came the decision was already made for him.

As a result of this flawed system we have ended up with a bunch of priests who are frustrated with the choice that they made earlier on in life or that was thrust upon them. Some of them eventually take it out on children because kids are less likely to expose them. I mean, after years of prayer, community service, spiritual studies and what not, if someone abuses a helpless child, you can only imagine how messed up that person is.

One possible way to solve this problem is to let a person make the decision of joining the priesthood only after he has seen or experienced what he is going to miss. The problem with that solution is that the Church will end up with an acute shortage of priests. But the few priests that would be ordained would be worth their weight in gold. Besides, to make up you could also allow women to become priests. Frankly, I cannot find a single thing that a male priest does that a female priest could not, possibly in a better way. Another more sensible solution is to let priests get married and finish off the problem once and for all. Frankly, I think priests would be far more effective at solving the marital problems of others if they could experience the same problems themselves.

This is just me venting out at what I believe to be a flawed system that probably will not drastically change, at least in my lifetime.

  • There is a problem, I won't deny that. (I thought you were heading in the wrong direction with your article, but you tied it in quite nicely.
    I am not Catholic so I cannot weigh in on the problems therein, but I discuss children (I have 2). I use Japan as a reference here, to mention how children are urged to make major decisions early in life. I think however, these are staged throughout their development. They can still shift gears, but are encouraged to make sound judgements early on.
    There are pitfalls to having children wait too long before making important decisions about the future, but this would make for a HUGE discussion.
    As for the call of the Lord, there needs to be sound direction from the top in the church about what this is, and how it should be thought out. The church should demand interviews with those for and against it. Too often we hear about the call, and get caught up in it emotionally.
    I think we can employ the John Evans method: Immerse the 16 year olds in all the [decent] activities that they will have as Christians in their life. Girls, Various activities, and social venues, and more Girls. Then take it all away immediately and then immerse them in the life [and drudgery] of a Priest's life.
    That will shake out quite a bit. Don't just tell them; let them spend the a few days with Betty Sue, at the lake and with their friends, and take them shopping for some new threads. Then take it all away. 😉
    I'm not saying don't do it. We need GOOD guidance and people who have dedicated themselves to that call. But like you said, we need those who do not regret their decision, and a system that does not punish [but encourages] those who decide not to enter the priesthood.

  • So the Brainwashing failed on you?
    Thank (not) god for this.
    I'm not going into a religion discussion on the internet because that is stupid.

  • I like the John Evans method. Do you happen to have pull in the Vatican? 😉

  • There was no brainwashing. I believe the Rector was simply fishing around.

    Don't get me wrong. I got some of my best values in that school. I hope to one day put my two boys in that very same school.

  • randallnewton

    [Sigh]. We've talked very little in person about our faith. There's so much more to “the church” than the Roman Catholic church. And that's all I'll say here.

  • cadguy

    I can think of a parallel between commitment to priesthood and companies' adoption of a CAD package :-).

    There is a “lock in” in both scenarios. Getting out involves an expense. There is a lot of pain for the practitioner if the decision was made by top management (parents or priest) and is perceived to be wrong by the practitioner at a later date.

    I wonder what frustrated engineers in large companies do when they don't like the CAD package used by their firm – find another job or put up with it?

  • Wow! Maybe I should remove the “OT” from the title of this post. 😉

  • cadguy

    John – this approach is used by the Amish in rural PA. The Amish kids are exposed to the outer world and are given a choice at the age of 18 whether to follow the Amish way or not. I was told that 80% choose the Amish way.

    But there is a bias. The level of education of an 18 year old Amish kid is same as 8th Grade. So no wonder many don't leave even after being exposed to outside world.

    I feel many catholic kids who become priests are “groomed” from childhood. So there is very little to choose.

  • cadguy

    Find another job or put up with it and go after young interns :-))

  • Age 16? Ha! That's nothing. In Germany, all school children have to pick their future life of employment at age 14. My cousin's son, for instance, picked tax lawyer.

    But it doesn't have to be as old as 14. In grade 4, one of my daughters realized she wanted to be a teacher; she is one year away from her certification. My other daughter was exceptional at art in Kindergarten; she is halfway through her Bachelors in fine art. My son, however, is still puzzling things through at age 23.

    In your case, I think the priest may well have just been asking you to consider his profession. I do the same with my own kids, but none want to be a writer. “Too boring!” they say.

    As for lack of marriage being a problem for problem priests, nah. The issue is that perverts go where there is a ready supply of victims. Here in Canada, we have currently in the news a married hockey coach, and a public school teacher, both of who were diddling with youths. In the case of the teacher, the school board moved him from school to school, as complaints surfaced.

  • Tony

    There's a US Navy saying: “Avoid talking about religion or politics in the wardroom”, because doing that invariably leads to heated discussions.

    I'll just make a few notes:
    1. Pedophiles are a major problem in many organizations, including schools (I've seen plenty of cases just checking the local paper) and non-Catholic churches
    2. Although I'm pretty sure the Vatican tries to impose some rules, priestly formation is handled on a local level, e.g. by the diocese or order. And, at least in the US, a fair number of priests started at older ages.
    3. It takes a long time to become a priest or religious, and there is ample time to leave — and it's OK to leave (one of my sisters spent a couple happy years in a convent, but decided she didn't have the vocation and is now happily married)

  • murda

    It is okay to leave, but orders of the Catholic traditions don't provide severance benefits that're part of employment packages in other fields, which can be devastating to the prospects of a secular life, as can prisoner-like institutionalisation.

  • Not so different from those of us who are self-employed. No benefits, no severance, no unemployment insurance, locked like a prisoner to our work — the list goes on.

  • stevejohnsonCAD

    Waiting for Paul to come in and draw parallels between priestly vows and Autodesk's EULA…


  • murda

    A friend was a monk in the Brotherhood of Saint Patrick from adolescence until his late forties, thirty years, give or take. He withdrew from the order. Unequipped for “civilian” life financially, emotionally and materially, and unsupported to the point of abandonment by the order and the church, he took his own life. The church's final concession was to ignore his suicide to allow his family to bury him in consecrated ground. You have the option of putting something aside for the just-in-case, if you can. The church doesn't allow that.

  • murda

    A friend was a monk in the Brotherhood of Saint Patrick from adolescence until his late forties, thirty years, give or take. He withdrew from the order. Unequipped for “civilian” life financially, emotionally and materially, and unsupported to the point of abandonment by the order and the church, he took his own life. The church's final gift was to ignore his suicide to allow his family to bury him in consecrated ground. You have the option of putting something aside for the just-in-case, if you can. The church doesn't allow that.

  • Ralph: “The issue is that perverts go where there is a ready supply of victims.”

    That's like putting the cart before the horse. You cannot join the priesthood by doing some crash course, submitting an application and appearing for an interview, like you would to do become a school teacher. I highly doubt that boys in their teens realize that they want to become perverts and go join a seminary.

  • According to the 2004 John Jay Report, 4% of the priests in active ministry had allegations of child abuse against them. Almost 70% of them were ordained before 1970.

  • My mistake. I didn't realise that men could only become priests by applying in their teens.

  • A neighbour experienced a similar story last week. His self-employed nephew got his business tangled with the Hell's Angels, who began extorting more money by threatening his daughter. Unable to cope any longer, he committed suicide last week.