The early church
Recently, a book full of translated text from early Christianity, the Apocrypha, is published in Dutch, edited by Jacob Slavenburg. These old texts give a good view of the inside of early Christianity.
The texts date back from the first until within the fourth century. Many texts are attributed to the apostles, but are actually much later written by other authors. The text give a good view of the theological discussions in those ages.
Until the start of the fourth century, Christians have been persecuted in the Roman Empire. Thus, one had to write cautiously in order to avoid criticism by the Romans. But suddenly emperor Constantine was converted to Christianity, and Christianity became the state's religion of the Roman Empire.
Suddenly, everyone was Catholic - regrettably, because from then on it went wrong with the church, which organized itself along the model of the Roman Empire. Suddenly, there was power - but power corrupts.
Constantine demanded that the many persuasions should be changed in one and only one doctrine. This should benefit his empire. It was he who convened the Council of Nicea in 325. There are cut the knots, doctrines declared to be heresy, and formulated the one and only true doctrine, still to be read in the Credo.
Moreover, the Mother-God Sophia, until then widely respected - one believed in God as Father, Mother and Son - was changed in The Holy Spirit: a man, not created by a father and a mother - with the help of the obscene act of sex - no, remarkably enough "originated by the Father and the Son" - filioque, which word and the "-que" in it became the cause of the split between the western and the eastern church, a still nowadays existing spilt.
Originally, there were only the Mother-God and her Child; Father-God turned up much later in the human mind.
By doing so, the woman was effectively removed out of the theology. And with her also sexuality - so was imagined. Men do not have sex with each other - so was imagined.
Shakti (Sanskrit), Isis (Egypt), Chokma (Israel) en Sophia (Greek) disappeared. Her Spirit, Ruach, Hebrew, later Pneuma, Greek, all female words, changed into Spiritus, Latin, male. Maria Magdalena became 'the sinner', the other Maria was only accepted as a virgin, thus only without that obscene act of sex - Ugh! Shame! Sinful!
Sexuality in the early church
For the modern mankind, many of those texts are appalling. Especially the sermons attributed to Petrus are extremely female-hostile, while also Paulus is never at a loss in this respect. So are also Jacobus and the more mild Thomas. Petrus advises to have married your sons as soon as possible in order to curb their lust.
Every form of sexuality is seen as sinful and dirty. Only necessarily, the only exception is the monogamous marriage, but only on specific days and only to father offspring.
About one quarter of this thick book full of ancient texts concerns the necessity of chastity, if one wants to ever reach the eternal life unlike in hell. Early Christianity is obsessed with sexuality.
Supposedly, one has combated the quite loose morals in the then Rome, but one has overshoot this. Sex is seen as sin, 'thus' the very reason of pain, illness, misfortune and so on. Passage after passage chastity is preached. Even sex within a marriage is labeled as "the dirtiest act".
The classic and frequently told story is that an apostle starts his preaching somewhere; usually, the spouse of the consul or king is the first who converts to Christianity, id est incite to chastity, id est complete abstinence. The sovereign misses his spouse in his bed, becomes angry and starts to prosecute, if not kills the apostle.
The clerical officers are advised to refuse a woman as servant, but to prefer boys as servants. The evidence is that also the great prophets refused woman but preferred boys as servants.
Speaking about clerical officers, also remarkably for the modern reader is the strong emphasizing of the nearly absolute authority, thus power, of those officers, the bishops and their (once) primus inter pares the pope. It was the pope who crowned the emperors and who received the label of infallibleness.
Nevertheless, many a pope had fathered children and did know what to do with his male and female servants. Yet, the first infallible dogma was the virginity of Maria - thus no sex, no dirty and sinful fuss.
Speaking about boys, remarkably often in those ancient texts, Jesus makes his appearance to the apostles as 'a wondrously beautiful child' or idem boy, often nude.
A remarkable passage describes a vision in which the one sees Jesus as a beckoning little boy, another one sees him as 'a well formed beautiful man' with 'an attractive face' and 'scarcely a small flaxen beard'. A third sees Jesus as an old man 'with a bald head and a full flowing beard'. In another vision, Jesus takes Johannes at his breast. In a third vision, Jesus is 'a small man' and nude. Apparently, each has a vision according to his own preferences - never a woman, often wondrously beautiful cute boys.
Apparently, the young church is good in managing power, but does not know how to go about with women and sexuality.
Neither the Gospel, nor the young church knew celibacy as a plight. This appeared just in the eleventh century, and against a storm of protest. Petrus was married. Monks voluntarily accepted celibacy, but now it became a command for all priests.
The former married priests may already have been a bit unworldly, now priesthood became a cast, feeling it high elevated above the common people - with which one gradually lost the contact.
Our (Roman Catholic) bishops look alike: as completely unworldly, alienated from common life and society. They still they reject the use of condoms and other contraceptives; they still label gays, unmarried and even remarried couples as sinners, not worth to receive the Holy Bread. Some bishops are more mild and modern, but they work within the same system.
The education of the priests
Until recently, priests have been educated in closed communities of exclusively men and boys. This is of course asking for problems. The option was to gradually extinguish sexuality. Contrarily, sexuality was extra incited - as an obsession.
The education has changed now, but still there is scarcely attention for individual emotional and social grow, for social abilities and for one's own sexuality.
Sexuality is still often simply kept silent, denied, suppressed. The consequences are: underdeveloped men, who emotionally, socially and sexually still are pubescent. 'Puberty' is 'maturing', but they are all but mature.
The aim of the seminaries with only men and boys was, supposedly, to extinguish sexuality in view of the celibacy, by means of banish girls and woman. But no. One forgot homosexuality and did not see that just repression of sexuality incites an obsession for the same.
Nowadays, we know that sexuality better neither can be denied, nor suppressed. Sexuality is founded deep in the human genes - not too difficult to evolutionary explain this. It always will return. The aspirant priests knew this - as well as their educators, but they kept silence.
Is the point here whether, as a Dutch bishop said, 'a small group of fathers and sisters with a distorted sexuality' - individuals with a distortion? I don't think so. The point is here a church with a distorted sexuality and, moreover, an obsession with sexuality since the first ages of its existence, a church that denies this distorted obsession in its system, a church that project its obsessive distortion on individuals, on 'a small group' of its servants.
Supposedly, the celibacy is one of the working factors, but other factors are as well working:
In my family, we called this 'the Father's syndrome': the fact that the priests we knew all had a typical one-sidedness and were quite unworldly. They never are corrected by an equivalent partner or by up growing teenage children.
The church is crying crocodile tears. Already in 1962, and again in 2001, in a Epistula de delictis gravioribus (Letter about serious crimes) is ordered that the now challenged behavior as a secretum Pontificium (a secret of the pope) only intern had to be managed in a silentium perpetuum (eternal silence). The priests concerned were simply replaced.
Strange. A church that, following the chastity rules, refuses the Holy Bread to gays, unmarried and even remarried people, keeps the priest who has violated celibacy and other chastity rules in function as pastor. The same church that disqualifies its servants who have violated the silentium rule (thus also exclude from heaven - the pope has a line with God) maintains the functioning of its servants who have violated the chastity rules.
As earlier, the church reacts slowly. First, the facts are ignored, then denied, than played down and reduced onto incidents with distorted individuals.
The church makes the 'small group of fathers and sisters with a distorted sexuality' a scapegoat, whilst the whole system has a distorted sexuality, or at least never could cope with it. Sex has always been connected with sin, guilt and shame.
Those are the feelings of the people who now denounce the priests in their past: guilt and shame. But this are not individual characteristics, it are the characteristics of the whole system.
Such a system is also our society today; it cannot cope with the combination 'child' and 'sexuality'. In the meantime, most youngsters do have their sex. Also here crocodile tears.
It is good that the negative narratives are brought up now. It is good that it turns out how much power can corrupt. Thus, do not strive to power but to good and equivalent contact.
Some nuance may find its place here. Of course, there have been lots of fathers and sisters, the great majority, who honestly have loved the children they had in care, and who have unselfishly committed themselves to this task, in spite of the shakiness of the system they had to work within. Undoubtedly, there is educated with care and love, clothed, fed, bathed, comforted, embraced and hugged, and maybe a bit petted.
The preference boy-father couples were well known at my secondary school; they never have been seen as a problem. I appreciated the intimate talks with 'my' father, including the subject of sexuality. It is unbelievable if the then leaders now say that the have not known it. The whole school knew.
One of the fathers had a great painting of a beautiful child in his room. We discussed: is this a girlish boy or a boyish girl? What was the preference of that father? I visited the father and touched the question in passing. It was a girl. We knew what we wanted to know. We, boys, had no reason to visit him anymore.
One of the fathers guided me in my hobby. Going to him, I kept wearing my gym shorts, or I wore my shortest shorts. He was able to cope with this. I felt love but did not have sex. The only problem was that this father suddenly was replaced. All could pass without any problem, despite the idiot system around us.
One might also remark that is not only have been the priests who have misbehaved. The rates of misbehavior of 'the normal heterosexual man' are quite higher. Be it, that you do not expect such behavior of priests who have made their vow of chastity.
What now has come into public attention is only one side of the story: the negative feelings, the abuse of power. There are also neutral and even positive feelings, then and afterwards, about intimacy experienced in childhood.
Asking for pervasive harm, they found 4% (thus not 100%), especially in the case of girls who are forced to sex - by a pedophile? - no, by there fathers.
Thus, we may suppose that there are also neutral and positive feelings afterwards - but they do not appear in the public media, and in the cases of the priests, we do not know the exact rates.
Reasonably spoken, not every intimate contact can be labeled as sexual abuse. For the time being, we might accept a zero-hypothesis that the rate is a normal curve; if not, try to test and to find the falsification of the zero-hypothesis with facts and arguments.
I myself have been privately bathed by our father (pastor), who, remarkably enough, planned his house visits just on Saturday afternoon. The father did this carefully and loving, without sexualizing the situation. He took all the time for his favorite altar boy, he was loving but neither erotically nor sexually. This is possible.
Language and thinking influence each other. 'Sexual abuse' is a strange and illogical concept to interpret and to think about the problem here concerned. Does 'sexual use' also exist? And 'educational abuse' or 'use'? Strange use of words.
It might be better to speak about 'unwished intimacy', 'misbehavior' or 'abuse of power'.
... of power
loneliness, homesickness, lack of contact, banning of real friendships between the children.
The sexual revolution?
Historically incorrect is the defense of Bishop Walter Mixa from the German Ausburg, that not the church but the sexual revolution is guilty here. Most of the behavior concerned here is dated before that revolution, just in the age of the taboo. One also cannot claim that the sexual revolution of the sixties quickly has reached the churches. There, the taboo maintained. It is just the break-down of that taboo that made the openness nowadays possible.
Openness; be open
There is only one way out of these problems: speaking openly and being open for all experiences and aspects, the negative, the neutral, and the positive ones. This creates room for a constructive and critical dialogue, room for rethinking and change. But not only for the individual priests, also for the whole system that has formed them, has deformed them and that has hold them imprisoned in very unnatural situations and communities.
There might also be attention for an unhealthy theology that sex associates with sin, guilt and shame. Our Creator must feel shame now for his servants as well for his theologians. They have misunderstood or not accepted that is said that the human is created along the image of God - thus good just as the human is. Don't label all sexuality - love, creation - as evil, dirty, unchaste, sinful, guilty. Better to search for the correct ways to experience the beauty of human beings. And speak about that.
Of crucial importance is that the church will change itself in some respect. The chance is not too much, but let us at least mention the most important points - and let's try to fulfill them in our life: