Good Gift, Bad Rule


There has been a lot of loose talk about the current crisis facing the Catholic Church and the Vatican in particular. Some conservative writers have suggested that the liberalization of the Second Vatican Council led to an atmosphere that encouraged clerical sexual abuse, and have gone on to say that the American bishops appointed by Pope Paul VI at the recommendation of Archbishop Jean Jadot did little or nothing to discourage it. On the left, some blame celibacy itself for the crisis. As an Orthodox Christian who was a Catholic in his youth, and who encountered sexually active priests in a Catholic high school (which I attended between 1959 and 1963, before Vatican II), I have to disagree with both extremes.

The Catholic priests who taught at my all-male high school were on the whole decent men, but two tried to seduce friends of mine. This was before the era when some fools argued that celibacy was about being available for all rather than about, you know, actually being celibate. (That argument led to its own abuses. I met one post–Vatican II monk who was indiscriminately predatory—he went after both sexes and, for all I know, the household pets.)

Recent news reports have shown that when the alleged sexually rapacious activities of Fr. Jeyapaul Palanivel came to the attention of Bishop Victor Balke, in whose Crookston, Minnesota, diocese the priest had served, Balke tried to get the Vatican to remove Palanivel from any further opportunity to abuse. He...

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About the Author

John Garvey is an Orthodox priest and columnist for Commonweal. His most recent book is Seeds of the Word: Orthodox Thinking on Other Religions.