Friday, September 17, 2010

Has the Pope absolved paedophile priests of sin?

His Grace is troubled.

He had planned today to do an exposition of the Pope's comments on 'aggressive secularism' and the purposeful juxtaposition of this with the forces of Nazism. He was going to write upon the 'dictatorship of relativism' which 'threatens to obscure the unchanging truth about man's nature, his destiny and his ultimate good'.

But he has been pondering throughout the night the Pope's words in the interview that His Holiness did just before he set foot on British soil. Whilst still on the aeroplane, he told journalists that paedophile priests are suffering from an illness: the condition, he said, 'is a disease and free will does not work where there is disease'.

Does the Pope mean by this that a priest's sexual attraction to children is the same type of 'objective disorder' as homosexuality?

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger has always been careful to distinguish between the practice of homosexuality (which is a 'grave matter' which 'cries to heaven for vengeance' and so constitutes mortal sin) and the inclination (which is 'objective disorder'). Homosexuality is not simply wrong, which is harm, disorder, destruction in the objective world; it is sin, which is self-distancing from God in the heart.

We sin when we deliberately do what we believe to be wrong. In our hearts we opt for evil, and then move away from goodness and from God, who is good.

If homosexuality is a state which lies beyond a person's choice, it is not a sin unless and until it is acted upon, which is a matter of choice in the exercising of free will.

But Pope Benedict has said that paedophile priests have no control over their lust. He said that the rape and torture of children is not a sin of commission, for the perpetrator has lost their free will 'which does not work where there is a disease'.

A mortal sin cannot be committed accidentally: a person who commits a mortal sin is one who knows that their sin is wrong, but still deliberately chooses to commits the sin regardless. Mortal sins are therefore premeditated by the sinner and so constitute a rejection of God’s law and love.

But if 'free will does not operate', the paedophile priest has not chosen to sin, for there can be no choice where there is no expression of will. God's law is not rejected, for there is no premeditation where there is no free choice.

His Grace is troubled.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Full remarks:

ITN also has vid online of his comments (in Italian) on the plane.

I don't think Your Grace need be troubled.

17 September 2010 at 10:57  
Blogger Archbishop Cranmer said...

No, His Grace has read in its entirety and already linked to the whole interview, and he remains troubled.

17 September 2010 at 10:58  
Anonymous Flossie said...

YG must not lie awake at night pondering. Let not your heart be troubled. You will become ill again.

Save your ponderings until the daytime.

17 September 2010 at 11:09  
Blogger Gnostic said...

Sounds like the Pope has minted a gilt edged get-out-of-jail free card for paedophile priests. If this is true then he deserves the shitstorm of protest that's blowing his way.

17 September 2010 at 11:15  
Blogger D. Singh said...

Your Grace

This is indeed a disturbing report that your article carries.

For if they be excused on the ground that they could not help it (the material cause being ‘diseased’); what then do we make of those who commit similar acts?

17 September 2010 at 11:40  
Blogger Phil Taylor said...

Hang on, Peter Tatchell, who is well known to espouse pederasty being legalised, is campaigning about older men who have had sex with children?
I know there is more to it than that, but I can't help but cry "HYPOCRITE!" when I see the picture of him with that poster!

17 September 2010 at 12:03  
Anonymous CMD said...

The Pope made his remarks when he was speaking of what to do with "the guilty persons." In a theological sense it's impossible for a person to be guilty without having sinned. Secondly, the Pope, in his letter to the Church in Ireland, wrote: "I can only share in the dismay and the sense of betrayal that so many of you have experienced on learning of these sinful and criminal acts and the way Church authorities in Ireland dealt with them."

17 September 2010 at 12:15  
Blogger Rebel Saint said...

"We sin when we deliberately do what we believe to be wrong."

No, no, no!

YG, it's not often I do not agree with you theologically, but in this instance I profoundly disagree. We sin when we break one of God's Holy laws ... be that intentional or not.

Intent has nothing to do with it. Our perceptions of our actions have nothing to do with it. God's law is absolute.

When an alcoholic gets drunk it is no more or less of a sin than when someone without that particular 'disease' gets drunk.

Whether someone acts according to their nature or not is immaterial. That is why we are all condemned by God's law, for sinners sin - it is in our very nature - we are all afflicted with the same 'disease'. How it manifests itself differs from person to person.

I do not face the same temptations as alcoholics or paedophiles or homosexuals or gluttons, but I often succumb to other lusts that beset me and which I am sure others would shrug off.

"So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

17 September 2010 at 13:14  
Anonymous cranmer the concern troll said...

His Grace should crawl back into the ash-heap.

17 September 2010 at 13:18  
Anonymous potato eater said...

I that the fundamental point here is the His Holiness is explaining what to do with priests who are found to be pedophiles. He is saying that is insufficient to trust to these men's free will when children's interests are on the line. This much is something that most people would agree with. It's always been the Catholic position that situations of temptation are to be avoided. Thesis certainly a position of temptation for these men.

Whether His Holiness is saying something further about the nature of pedophiles is unclear. However, I'm fairly certain that he is not 'absolving them of guilt.'

17 September 2010 at 13:25  
Blogger D. Singh said...

Your Grace

Dan Hannan has written an article on you over at the Telegraph titled:

Papal visit stirs the shade of Thomas Cranmer

17 September 2010 at 13:55  
Blogger Anabaptist said...

This is great! Normal service is resumed. Cranny is writing long, thought-provoking and relevant articles, and I'm away from home, unable to comment much, and, as usual, behind the curve.

Whooppee! Familiarity provides such comfort.

17 September 2010 at 14:16  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I ask your pardon for missing your link. Nevertheless the trancripts accord with one another. And I do believe, in context,(and bearing in mind Ratzinger's swift actions to remove many perpertrators often bypassing ecclesiastical trials) that some of this dreck are 'irredeemable' in the sense that they can never be restored to a position of trust because their sin is so deepseated. Hence, of the guilty he says:

So we have to protect these people against themselves and find ways to help them, protect them against themselves and exclude them from any access to young people.

I have no problem with that. Hec, like Charles Manson, I'd lock some of these men up for life. And as I am not the Pope I am free to say that too.

17 September 2010 at 14:36  
Blogger English Pensioner said...

Like you, I have difficulty with the phrase "free will does not operate" and would like to know whether the Pope considers this doctrine also applies to any other crimes. What about rape? Many rapists would claim that they had no control over their actions, but as far as I'm aware British Law (and indeed that of most other countries) certainly doesn't take that view. Whether the Church is able to forgive these paedophile priests is presumably between them, their confessors and God, but certainly in any civilized countries they would end up in prison and their employer (the church) could presumably be charged or sued in the same manner as any other organisation employing staff. A person who is shown to deliberately hide a crime and protect someone involved is presumably guilty of aiding and abetting.
I hope that the Pope makes himself very clear on this issue, as, although I'm an Anglican, I had great hopes for him. Certainly, in respect of many issues of the modern world, I would rather listen to his views from Rome than the present incumbent at Canterbury .

17 September 2010 at 15:31  
Blogger Graham Davis said...

It is bizarre to listen to you lot perplexed by the absurdities that your (various) religions provoke. There is no such thing as sin or even totally free will. Both the heritable and environmental components of our personality and character can in theory explain all our actions rendering the notion of free will as irrelevant.

However society could not function if we were not accountable for our actions so we have invented protocols in order to create order and stability. But these are not absolutes, there is no right and wrong, something that most here cannot deal with. So you fall back on ancient myths and superstitions. Rather than think for yourselves you cling to the certainty that you seem to crave but then become confused by the conflicting claims of these competing beliefs.

17 September 2010 at 16:09  
Anonymous len said...

Catholicism (quite evidently) cannot deal with sin so it covers it up or excuses it (when it is in house) so to speak.

Jesus found the same thing existed during His earthly ministry,

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean."(Matthew 23-27)

17 September 2010 at 16:27  
Anonymous Voyager said...

If you do not believe in Papal Infallibility there is no circle to square. Free Will and Determinism is one of the basic philosophical tenets, and if the acceptance of Determinism excuses behaviour in a position of Trust within The Church then the question of Free Will itself becomes moot and the notion of Repentance null and void.

Pederasty, for it seems young boys are the preferred prey, may be a disorder that is untreatable - a Personality Disorder - one belonging to the DSM Catalog - indeed Homosexuality did until 30 years ago belong to that same DSM-Catalog - but being an Untreatable Disorder does not make it excusable.

In fact it means the Church has a duty of care and it should be exercised by Bishops. Indeed the role of Bishops in both Anglican and Catholic Churches is worthy of some debate. When recently an Anglican priest Brown was jailed for conducting sham marriages and failing to read the Banns, one wonders if his Bishop ever inspected the Wedding Register or the Returns since his priest was acting as a Registrar under the aegis of the C of E.

Just how much supervision and oversight do Bishops exercise as they engage in politicking upwards ? If they are really closer to God they must be fearing his wrath more than those in the pews.

Simply put - Aaron was afflicted with leprosy when he transgressed - what do Bishops really believe in when they fail to uphold The Faith ?

17 September 2010 at 17:07  
Blogger Gregory the Eremite said...

Your Grace,

In interpreting the Holy Father’s words, you may have to remember the concept of “habitus” in the western theological tradition; in this case the notion of a negative habitus. When we sin repeatedly we build up a stable disposition to continue sinning, even to the extent, in the case of some sins, of repeating the sinful act without the intervention of free will.

So for example, the repeated drunkard becomes the alcoholic who one day drinks without a second thought before driving and killing someone. Their initial sin has developed into the diseased habitus that destroys free-will. The sin lies in developing that negative habitus; their guilt is of all the consequences that flow from that initial sin.

It is argued in some quarters that this effect applies to the paedophile: the initial sinful behaviour lies in giving in to the temptations of a misdirected appetite. A stable disposition develops though repeated sinning and eventually the behaviour becomes almost automatic. If it is in fact true that the free will is no longer operative, then still the guilt of all the consequences can be traced back to the root of the habitus.

17 September 2010 at 17:42  
Anonymous AGS said...

Your Grace, allow me to help assuage your sense of being troubled.

In his interview Benedict first spoke of his difficulty in understanding how those who had vowed to serve Christ as priests could have fallen in such a perverse way. Clearly he views these priests as people who freely acknowledged their human destiny and freely committed to fulfilling this destiny in a particular way. That they then engaged in acts of perversion and cruelty that annulled and contravened their free intent was no doubt only explicable to this shocked man in terms of disease (objective disorder) which overcame their freedom, and to that extent mitigated culpability attributable to them.

On the other hand, those who recognize the truth of their human destiny, or who are in a position to recognize this truth but freely reject it, and who freely indulge their homosexual disposition when they could freely refrain from doing so, these people are without excuse and are fully culpable.

No doubt there are abusive priests who fall in this latter category, but let’s not blame Benedict that this was not made explicit in his actual answer to one question in one interview in one airplane.

17 September 2010 at 18:02  
Blogger OldSouth said...

Your Grace is wise to be troubled. Many words thrown at you in the comments, but yours still are the most cogent.

17 September 2010 at 18:34  
Blogger Jared Gaites said...

A very difficult subject matter. I don't pretend to understand what fate lies at the end for sinners of all kinds, and I shall look to the law of the land for guidance, for it is within the realms of common grace that we sometimes find God's will.

Good luck with your troubled mind Your Grace, I shall pray that you will find peace.

I found this down-loadable booklet called Common Grace and The Work of The Christian Institute, which explains the existence of two communities at large and how common grace is extended to all per se regardless, yet which is distinguishable from saving grace.

When I read the questions and answers from the interview on the plane, it strikes me that the Holy father is indeed troubled himself by the entire situation and is displaying a very sensible and mature attitude with regards to our human responsibilities and Christian beliefs about God's extended common grace, and the responsibilities for Christians who are seeking the salvation of God's saving grace through the understanding of scripture and with open hearts and sincere repentance.

17 September 2010 at 18:45  
Anonymous len said...

Has the Pope absolved paedophile priests of sin?

No! The pope cannot absolve anyone`s sin!

1st Timothy 2:5, "For there is one God, and ONE MEDIATOR between God and men, the man CHRIST JESUS."

Romans 8:34, "Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, WHO ALSO MAKETH INTERCESSION FOR US.

John 14:6, "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: NO MAN COMETH UNTO THE FATHER, BUT BY ME."

Hebrews 7:25, "Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him (Christ), seeing he (Christ) ever liveth to MAKE INTERCESSION FOR THEM."

1st John 2:1, "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an ADVOCATE with the Father, JESUS CHRIST the righteous:

Isaiah 53:12, "...and he (Christ) bare the sin of many, and made INTERCESSION FOR THE TRANSGRESSORS."

17 September 2010 at 19:15  
Anonymous Anguished Soul said...

Len, may the Lord bless you!

17 September 2010 at 20:08  
Anonymous cranmer the concern troll said...

Cranmer errs when he says that Pope Benedict said "that the rape and torture of children is not a sin of commission, for the perpetrator has lost their free will". His position is actually extremely clear.

HOMOSEXUALITY - seemingly unchosen (i.e. free will does not operate) appetite for the immoral
PAEDOPHILIA - seemingly unchosen (i.e. free will does not operate) appetite for the immoral

SODOMY - deliberate commission of wicked acts
CHILD ABUSE - deliberate commission of wicked acts

The Pope's words about paedophilia are in line with what many of the mental health professionals who deal with paedophiles say; they can't be "cured" of their mental disorder, which they do not choose. Nonetheless, they must be kept away from children (something the Pope said, which our dear Cranmer omits) and, when they choose to act on their perverse appetites by abusing innocence, severely punished.

If His Grace is troubled, it is because his reading comprehension is limited.

18 September 2010 at 00:03  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"there is no right and wrong"

So, I assume, if you were walking down the street and 5 guys started bashing your brains in with clubs, you wouldn't cry for help because, after all, maybe they have a point?

I admire your stoicism and fortitude. Clearly, you are superior to the rest of us chumps.

18 September 2010 at 05:28  
Blogger falterer said...

To "cranmer the concern troll":

"Child abuse"? I think we can be more specific than that: it is child rape.

Moving on: here's an excerpt from the Vatican's own transcript of Mr. Ratzinger's interview:

"We know that this is an illness, that free will does not rule where this illness is present, and that we must protect these persons from themselves and find a way to assist them and to protect them from themselves and exclude them from access to young people."

The message is quite clear: pedophile priests are not in control of their own actions. They must be kept away from children because they _cannot_ (according to Mr. Ratzinger) control themselves. "Free will does not rule where this illness is present."

If these perpetrators have, as Ratzinger suggests, lost their free will, their rape of children cannot be a sin of commission. I'm sure Mr. Ratzinger is wrong about this, and that these men are fully in control of their own actions, but Cranmer's reading comprehension can't be faulted for that.

18 September 2010 at 20:32  
Blogger berenike said...

What potato-eater said: it seemed to me clear from the context that he was saying "it's something that doesn't just go away because you want it to". That is, that even if someone repents sincerely etc, then the inclination doesn't go away.

18 September 2010 at 20:55  
Anonymous Septimus said...

I like your explanation of mortal sin. At one time you could go to hell for eating meat on Friday,receiving the same punishment as a mass murderer.I wonder if the offending Friday carnivores are still languishing in hell since the rules have been changed.I think the Pope should apologise to them also.
How could anyone take this nonsense seriously?

20 September 2010 at 04:29  
OpenID Scottspeig said...

My most and least favourite Bible verse is an ideal one to quote here:

1 Cor 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

30 September 2010 at 12:54  

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