I am not the first person to identify serious flaws in the way the Catholic Church deals with allegations of sexual abuse. That priests are living double-lives and contradictions are apparent in the way they actually live with the way they profess to live is not in dispute. In her scandalous but rarely read 2005 book, Priests in Love, Jane Anderson makes an admission to widespread sexual infidelity amongst Australian Catholic clergy. The author surveyed thousands of priests promised anonymity and presented a compendium of confessions from men who have turned their back on mandatory celibacy to follow their own consciences. She rightly observed that “prior to Vatican Council II (1962-65) the liturgical practice reflected the firm belief that the Mass was a sacrifice in which the priest and his actions were distinctly separate from the people. Everything was centred on the priest at the altar.”  The priest was separated from the people and his role was so central to the lives of Catholics that they became revered as cultic leaders, almost the personification of Jesus on earth. The publicly promoted premise behind the insistence on celibacy was that the priest needed to be as pure and spotless as the offerings that he handled. A vow of chastity was what qualified a man to hold such an esteemed preaching position within the church. Of course, to maintain this façade, the priest must at least appear to be chaste even if he were not. Bishops, who rely on a number of such willing men to celebrate the daily Mass, will never pry into the priests’ personal lives to determine whether or not he was, for fear of finding out to the contrary. Today, in Catholic parishes throughout the world and particularly in Australia, men are pretending to be celibate in order to hold the exalted office of priest. They are keeping up the image for a church that is losing its way in secular society. Catholicism is significantly losing its influence with the community and even with its own remnant adherents. If it were not for its ubiquitous parochial school system and the government grants sustaining them, the Catholic Church would have died out long ago. The ongoing financial success and academic leadership of Catholic schools are propping up the Church’s flagging identity and topping up the church coffers depleted after endless sexual abuse compensation claims. But the church still needs to have enough men willing to celebrate the Sunday Mass o give the impression that it is business as usual. It doesn’t matter whether or not these men are in fact celibate, as long as they look like they are. No one within the organisation speaks publicly about this although most are aware of the hypocrisy. I should know… I was one of them.
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