We went to see the feature film Spotlight, in my opinion the best American movie of 2015. Spotlight is about the team of investigative reporters at the Boston Globe who wrote a series of articles that exposed the role of Catholic Church in covering up a massive scandal of priests sexually abusing children. What I especially appreciated was the way the movie showed the reporters doing their jobs - no heroics, no melodrama - just the hard work of reporting: doggedly interviewing victims and perpetrators, poring over phone directories, hanging around courthouses and lawyers' offices. And also noteworthy is the role of the managing editor, who, instead of publishing sensational articles about individual pedophile priests, waited until there was enough evidence to reveal the systemic criminal cover-up of crimes that could be traced to the Vatican. The movie is not fiction; read the story behind the Spotlight movie.
Spotlight also raises the uncomfortable question: why the epidemic of child rape among Roman Catholic priests? Not just in Boston, but everywhere the Church has a presence - even Germany. One of the characters in Spotlight - a psychologist who works with pedophile priests - states bluntly that Church doctrine, namely the celibacy requirements for priests, is a root cause of sexual abuse of children.
Church officials and their apologists always deny a connection between celibacy and child rape by priest, but two highly respected German theologians - Hans Küng and Eugen Drewermann - have been consistent in their criticism of the celibacy requirement. Küng sees celibacy as a contributing factor; it reflects the Church's distorted view of human sexuality:
Nicht zu bestreiten ist zwar, dass solcher Missbrauch auch in Familien, Schulen, Vereinen und auch in Kirchen ohne Zölibatsgesetz vorkommt. Aber warum massenhaft gerade in der von Zölibatären geleiteten katholischen Kirche. Selbstverständlich ist nicht allein der Zölibat schuld an diesen Verfehlungen. Aber er ist der strukturell wichtigste Ausdruck einer verkrampften Einstellung der katholischen Kirchenleitung zur Sexualität, wie dies auch in der Frage der Empfängnisverhütung und anderem zum Ausdruck kommt.
And Küng had harsh criticism for his former classmate and friend Josef Ratzinger for his pivotal role in covering up the worldwide sexual abuse scandal, essentially allowing these priests to move from Diocese to Diocese where they raped other children:
"There is no denying the fact that the worldwide system of covering up cases of sexual crimes committed by clerics was engineered by the Roman Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Cardinal Ratzinger (1981-2005). During the reign of Pope John Paul II, that congregation had already taken charge of all such cases under oath of strictest silence. Ratzinger himself, on May 18th, 2001, sent a solemn document to all the bishops dealing with severe crimes ( “epistula de delictis gravioribus” ), in which cases of abuse were sealed under the “secretum pontificium” , the violation of which could entail grave ecclesiastical penalties"
Eugen Drewermann is a former priest and trained psychotherapist who is not as well known in the US as Hans Küng. Drewermann has psychoanalyzed the priesthood and written extensively on what he considers the dehumanizing aspects of Catholic Church doctrine. His seminal work Kleriker: Psychogramm eines Ideals (1991) has unfortunately not been translated into English, but many of his key ideas can be found in A Violent God-Image: An Introduction to the Work of Eugen Drewermann by Matthias Beier (2004). Drewermann sees the celibacy requirement as one component of a cruel system of psychological oppression which, in some priests, will manifest itself in deviant sexual behavior:
"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."
Pope Francis has shown some refreshing willingness to discuss openly the need for fundamental reforms in the Church. It is unlikely, however, that priests will be allowed to marry anytime soon. Until the celibacy requirement is abolished, children will continue to be at risk and lives will be damaged.