Are you satisfied with the pope’s message to Irish Catholics?
How are we to explain the fact that people who regularly received the Lord’s body and confessed their sins in the sacrament of Penance have offended in this way? It remains a mystery.
Sex offenders were able, like many addicts, to compartmentalize their lives. It’s a matter less of a rational analysis or even of religious behavior, and more one of psychology. The intellect can fail us. Or more accurately, the intellect can create its own delusions: the behavior can take over and the religious addict survives by splitting her or his life into two or more parts. It doesn’t make any logical sense to the outsider, but people in 12-Step recovery have realized this for decades.
A person has to be open to God’s grace. That means setting aside, sometimes, the old ways of doing things. God invited many saints to great rupture in their lives: Abram called in old age, Joseph sold into slavery, Ruth accompanying her mother-in-law to a new land. Career fishermen became apostles.
In many ways continuity is the friend of addiction. It minimizes upset. It permits secrecy and hiding. Addicts need not confront their wrongdoing. Continuity ensures their employment, their circles of allies, their friendly cover. Which came first, the ordination or the addiction? It wouldn’t surprise me that many addicts are drawn to a lifestyle in which one can avoid intimacy, achieve a certain level of comfort, and be insulated from the suspicions of others. Some addicts in the clergy have been able to live very fine lives indeed. When one’s focus is on sex and domination, the trappings of the sacraments are little more than regular dues paid, like a writer may have a nine-to-five job to pay the bills so as to create novels or poetry. Or a parent cleans and orders a household in order to care for a family.
I disagree with Pope Benedict on this one. It’s no mystery. It may be beyond his personal experience, but there’s nothing surprising about it.