Monday, April 26, 2010

Sexual Abuse in the Church, A Key Resource

The book, After Asceticism: Sex, Prayer and Deviant Priests, by the Linacre Institute, has been added to others recommended as resources for understanding sexual abuse in the Church posted on previously.

This book fills in a missing piece of the issue by probing deeply into the movement of the priests of the Church—during the mid-twentieth century—away from the traditional asceticism practiced by its saints; an asceticism strengthening the priest against sin and whose rewards were reflected most notably by Pope Pius XII among the popes under which the Church has gone astray over the past 60 years, a waywardness against which he fought so mightily and a battle slowly being revealed as his cause for sainthood moves forward.

Two excerpts.

“The heart of the spiritual life is a spiritual union with God, and this union constitutes a type of friendship. In a theory of friendship, three factors require close attention: love, insight, and zeal. Philosophers such as Aristotle note that the foundation of true friendship is the mutual love between the two friends, which depends at a minimum upon the cardinal virtues of temperance, courage, justice and prudence. Once the friendship is established, the communication between the friends will nurture the relationship. Hence the psychology of the ascetic must be directed to enhancing communication between man and God and limiting those things that interfere with this communication.” (p. 157)

“We draw three important lessons from this doctrine. First, the aspiring ascetic who has not cultivated a friendship with the Lord has failed to achieve the primary benefit of the practices of self-denial. Without keeping their proper purpose in mind, the ascetical practices will result at best in a barren life, but more likely in self-deception or even the destruction of true religion in the person. This further suggests that the disintegration of asceticism may be signaled by ascetical abuse, or by its insidious dissolution. Either way, persons with no zeal for maintaining their friendship with God will not long persevere in the practice of self-denial without doing harm to themselves or to others. Of course, we would suggest that the dissolution of ascetical discipline may not occur all at once, and in most cases, is probably gradual and insidious. In fact, the complete surrender of one’s chastity may be the final moment of a process that began many months or years previously. (This observation would be consistent with the finding that most abusive priests were many years past their seminary training when the first abuse incident occurred.)” (p. 160)