Thursday, June 9, 2011
COMPARING APPLES TO ORANGES?
PRESS HERE TO READ "WHAT IF REP. WEINER WERE FATHER WEINER?" (Of course, I'd change my name!)
I don't think this comparison is fair. I fully embrace our Judeo-Christian sexual ethic and deplore Rep. Weiner's actions. Most of all I sympathize with him over his sexual addiction. Without really knowing him or his situation, it is clear that he is addicted to sex and the computer is his near occasion of sin, like the corner liquor store is for the alcoholic.
Congressmen make no promise to celibacy and their persona is not built upon sexual chastity even in marriage. The Catholic priest's idenity as such is founded upon his promises to celibacy and obedience. Although, unless we forget, married couples make vows to "exclusivity" in a public forum and this is no different and perhaps even weightier than the promise to celibacy that priests make at their ordination.
Nonetheless, when a priest is accused of sexual impropriety, he is in fact sinning against his very vocation and the laity have a right to a higher degree of accountability in this regard than they would toward the congressman.
But let's talk about addiction, sexual and otherwise.
I'm old enough to remember a time when alcoholics were treated as pariah. They were considered weak; they were abusive to their wives, children and friends and they were considered a scandal to the family and community. They were shunned; most lived their alcoholism in the closet.
But somewhere around the late 1960's and early 70's, AA and other organizations as well as medical science began to label alcoholism as a disease not a personal weakness, a disease that could be brought into remission especially through 12 step programs such as AA or even through various therapies and medication.
Today our attitude about alcoholism is very different. We see it as a disease, an addiction. People who are in recovery wear their sobriety as a badge of honor and are happy to call themselves "recovering" alcoholics.
Around the same time, late 1960's and early 1970's a move to treat those with sexual addictions as we treat those with drinking and drug addictions was also occurring. Guess who was at the forefront of this social engineering? The Bishops of the Catholic Church and the psychiatrists and psychologists who advised them.
Yes, we all know by now that priests who have promised celibacy just like congressmen and presidents who have vowed fidelity in marriage can suffer from sexual addictions which manifest in different ways. A priest was just arrested in Florida for soliciting oral sex from an uncover officer at a beach known for this type of activity. Some have addictions to pornography that they access on the internet or do what Rep Weiner did in terms of on-line sexual communications.
Others of course abuse teenagers and prepubescent children. Of course in these cases, the children and teenagers are unsuspecting victims of these sexually addicted adults who are scarred for life in many cases, especially if the person abusing is a respected figure, like a parent, a priest, a teacher or even a U.S. Representative. For a priest, though, the victimization is made worse because the priest represents God.
But there was a move in the Church and in society to treat sex offenders with true addictions as we would treat alcoholics. They were placed in recovery programs, treated with therapy and medication and expected to be an a 12 step program of continuing recovery. The hope was that just like with alcoholics, recovering sex addicts could wear their recovery as a badge of honor and be reintegrated into society and their professions.
In the 1980's I knew of bishops in some dioceses that returned priests who had sex with minors and went through therapy and recovery programs back to parish ministry and told the congregations of the priest's addiction and his recovery program. There was transparency. And like the alcoholic priest who is returned to ministry, everyone knows it and is prayerfully supportive of the priest's on-going recovery.
Alcoholics, keep in mind, in their drunken stupors hurt not just themselves but their families, sometimes scarring their spouses and children for life.
Today, with zero tolerance for sexual addictions especially those directed toward children and teenagers, every sexual addict is treated the same by the Church--they are humiliated, treated as pariah, shunned, castigated, mocked and marginalized, the same thing that the media and others are doing to Rep. Weiner.
What should the Church and our society at large do? Join the pummeling with great gusto to save face or to call the people of God and others of good will to Christian love and charity, not just for the abused who should always come first, but for the abuser who is addicted and thus suffering from a disease,not just a personal, moral weakness?