Declaring himself to be “deeply ashamed” by the misbehavior of Catholic priests in the sexual abuse cases, the Pope said it “is more important to have good priests than many priests.” While this remark may seem obvious, it strikes a hollow note for many Catholics in the United States and around the world who suffer from the lack of adequate priestly ministry in their parishes. As the numbers of Catholics grow, and the numbers of priests decline, an increasing number of Catholic parishes lack resident priests. They make do with lay leaders, women and men, who, while dedicated, lack the ability to administer the sacraments that are key to Catholic religious life.
It is not that there is a lack of Catholics willing to serve in the priesthood, but a lack of those who are willing to take on the vows of celibacy. There are also increasing numbers of women who are theologically educated and eager to serve in the ministry, but this Pope, like his predecessor, has been adamant in rejecting the possibility of the ordination of women at a time when most other Christian churches have changed their minds on this historic exclusion of women from ordained leadership. The limited social base from which Catholic priests are recruited is the obvious reason why there are dwindling numbers of Catholic priests. It is also directly connected not only with why there are not “many,” but also why some have proved themselves sexually abusive.
When a church recruits its leadership exclusively from those who repress their sexuality and are taught to view sex as the opposite of sacredness, it is inevitable that some of those who take such vows have an immature sexuality that will be acted out secretly in sexual abuse of the vulnerable, young boys and girls. Until the Catholic Church faces up to the way its negative views of sexuality are connected with sexual abuse, it will continue to be faced with the problem of priests who are both not “good” and also not “many.”
“Feminist Theologian” oxymoron. Get the matches. Time to burn another one.