On a recent Smerconish Radio Program, the host decided to poll his listeners on what they see as the root cause of the pedophilia problem in the Church. He gave them two choices: celibacy or homosexuality. He got a message from a listener and reluctantly added a third choice, mental disturbance. (I will be curious about the results.)
Think about it for a moment. To commit this crime, by definition you have to have a mental disturbance. One could argue that OCD, ADHD, and alcoholism or other addictive behaviors are also mental disturbances. Perhaps, but we generally don't lock up these folks -- it is too broad a term. Mental disturbance also makes it sound like we are looking at a genetic issue.
There is another cause that is encapsulated but being glossed over. Redefine the act of pedophilia as the act of raping a child, which, in essence, it is. Shift the vocabulary and all of a sudden you can add causes of rape and sexual assault to this list. Among causes of sexual assault is the need for power and intimidation in the person committing this crime.
Power. The addiction to power.
It is powerful to stand up and have people listen to you. I used to do stand-up on open-mic nights. I hesitate to call it comedy because I would rip through a five-minute routine in about three minutes and 30 seconds. No joke could settle in for the laugh because I was on to the next line. (Doing stand-up comedy with poor timing or delivery is like being a pitcher without an arm.) But when you hammer the joke and nail the real laugh, it is a natural high you can't get anywhere else.
Every Sunday morning the priest does ten or 15 or 20 minutes. It is not a comedy routine, although some guys can be pretty funny, but the power is there. Once a week, by religious fiat, groups of people come to hear what you have to say. And they have to listen and do what you say because sitting behind you is Christ on the Cross and in the Tabernacle. A few minutes later you will make dinner for everyone where you will transform bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ.
Next Saturday, in most places, you will hear confessions where you are protected, by law, to hear the most inner intimate secrets of those who come to you. You will tell these people what they need to do to be right in the eyes of God as you pronounce penance.
Given my brief time in the spotlight, I can only imagine how this type of power can make somebody warped.
When the draw of an addiction becomes too great, the addicted will do anything to get that feeling again. (I write goofy blogs and call talk radio stations.) Talk to someone in AA, if you know one. Addicted people are not stupid; many are highly intelligent. Drug addicts know their bodies so well that they know exactly how much of their selected cocktail they need to get the feeling they want. They are smart enough to get their fix until the emotional Ponzi scheme collapses under its own weight.
The drug here isn't ingested or mainlined. It is societal attention. It is Power.
It may be an oversimplification of what is going on when a priest abuses his power. I think the act of abusing a child in such a heinous way is an abuse of power. That need for power comes from an addiction to the power granted to these guys. It is an abuse of power when the next priest covers it up, because the source of power for that next priest is threatened by the first priest's behavior. Remember, each priest up the chain to the Vatican likes his power. Each priest's power source is threatened. We are now seeing the emotional Ponzi scheme collapse under its own weight.
This addiction to power is not just manifest in this sexual criminal behavior, but it also manifests itself when the Church wields its political clout. Leafleting cars against abortion on the Sunday prior to Election Day, refusing communion to pro-choice elected officials, and occupying six of the nine Supreme Court seats are manifestations of the political power.
The structure of the Church knows that they are caught. Writers are penning articles about those who would have the Pope arrested -- and they are being taken seriously (link). The Church is starting to make really stupid moves such as Easter Weekend's off-the-wall comparisons of this scandal to the Holocaust. These are folks addicted to power and seeing their supply being cut off. They are worried about their next fix. That makes things even more volatile. This will be a problem until some sort of intervention is conducted at the highest levels of the Church.
At some point, there needs to be recognition that an addiction to power plays a role in this massive tragedy.