May 20, 2006

Sex and Power

The recent punishment of Fr. Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, has produced a lot of feelings. Conservatives feel bad for the Legionaries because they can forget ever having the joy and prestige of a canonized founder. Liberals indulge in the sick satisfaction that a community known for its strictness and traditionalism also has its problems with clerical sexual abuse.

For me it's just more evidence of how the church suffers with the disease of sexualized power. Sexual sins are often sinful not because they are about sex, but because they are about the abuse of power. One party in the sexual act has power and the other doesn't. In pornography I can look at you but you can't look at me. In prostitution, I have money and you don't. In clerical sexual abuse, I have ecclesiastical or (imaginary) divine power and you don't. When these imbalances of power express themselves through our sexuality, we have the recipe for some of the most damaging sins we can imagine.

Celibacy is a great charism, given by the Spirit for the building up of the church. But it's too hazardous a spiritual path to take without also letting go of power. If celibacy becomes a form of power and presige, we are setting ourselves up for sexualized violence.


Don said...

Celibacy may be a charism. Nonviolence might be a charism also. Just as there are violent seeds in people called to nonviolence there must be seeds of sexual expression within celibacy. Until the church and society embrace those opposites we are bound to have a demonization of those who can't live up to their calling. That doesn't make it easier for their victims, but it gives us a path to redemption for all.

friar minor said...

Thanks for the elaboration Don. It helps me understand the reconciliation angle in all this.

Paula said...

It is sad....for all.
Timothy Radcliffe OP, said that some people lack proper training for the discipline called celibacy.
Here is a good link that lead to other links on celibacy and sex scandals: