As Pope Benedict XVI leaves office today, his adversary Hans Küng, the German theologian, has a hopeful op/ed piece in today's New York Times. Küng holds out some hope that a new pope might bring some positive change to the church. He points out that the early church was not the authoritarian institution it is today, and that some of the most destructive doctrines, such as priestly celibacy, were not instituted until the 11th century:
"It was not until the 11th century that a “revolution from above,” the “Gregorian Reform” started by Pope Gregory VII, left us with the three enduring features of the Roman system: a centralist-absolutist papacy, compulsory clericalism and the obligation of celibacy for priests and other secular clergy."
Also in the New York TImes, columnist Frank Bruni sees celibacy as the root cause of the child rape epidemic among priests around the world:
"The promise of celibacy most likely factored into the church’s child sexual abuse crisis. Many years ago, when I wrote a book about it, more than a few mental health professionals told me that men trying to vanquish a sexual attraction to kids might well drift toward the priesthood in the hope that extra prayer and an intention of chastity would make everything right. One Catholic archbishop, Daniel Sheehan, who has since died, told me: “It could well be that a person with this kind of a hidden psychosexual problem could escape to the seminary and the like, thinking in some way that this would be a way of sublimating this problem.”
No one has written more about the psychology of the priesthood than Eugen Drewermann, a brilliant theologian and pyschologist who was forced from the priesthood by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. In his 1990 study Kleriker: Psychogramm eines Ideals [Clergy: Psychogram of an ideal) Drewermann deals extensively with the church's distorted views on human sexuality and its destructive impact on priests. For Drewermann, none of the reforms hoped for by Hans Küng can happen until the celibacy requirement is eliminated:
"A system which (for centuries!) has forced people again and again to choose between God and the love of a human being - what is this system but a really inhuman and ungodly system, because it is literally loveless and caught up in the purely external structures of power and administration! It is not disloyal priests who were courageous enough to 'lose' themselves to a woman against all the censorship of the superego who need to confess and repent before the system of the Catholic Church, but the Catholic CHurch itself is accused and has to confess before humans (and then also before God) its intentional inhumanity and mental cruelty."
Read the open letter to Pope Benedict by sexual partners of priests.