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Child Molestation & the Catholic Church

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, celibacy for the clergy of the Catholic Church is "the renunciation of marriage implicitly or explicitly made, for the more perfect observance of chastity, by all those who receive the Sacrament of Orders in any of the higher grades" (Thurston, 1999, This disciplinary rule was initiated in the 12th century in an effort to systemize and regulate a scattered church (White, 1999). During the Middle Ages, offering daily Mass had become the standard and some considered it inappropriate to have sexual relations the evening before celebrating Mass, a celibate clergy would relieve this concern. In addition, there was the consideration of whether or not sons of clergy could inherit Church property (National Catholic Reporter, 1998). These were two of the major reasons that celibacy was instituted.

However, either despite this rule, or because of it, the Catholic Church has had a history of abusing the very people that they are pledged to pastor. During the Middle Ages, for example, clergy were known to solicit sexual favors from their female penitents and some priests kept concubines. It was also known that Pope Alexander VI had several illegitimate children and that the nuns of Godstow were the ones who spread syphilis to the husbands of the families who lived around their convent (Durant, 1980; Mee, 1972). This type of abuse has continued down through the centuries to the present time. The result is that a majority of Catholics believe that the notion of a celibate priesthood is not only outdated, but dangerous, and there needs to be more participation by the laity as to the running of the Church (Stern, 2002). This paper will argue that the most ethical position for the Church to take would be to allow priests to get married if they desire. No other denominations or religions carry such a requirement and there is the danger that this rule may cause...

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