Catholic sexual abuse scandal sharpens church rift over what a priest should be
Progressive Catholics and theologians in the US and Europe say the Vatican's model of a priest is outdated. The global sexual abuse scandal has sharpened the church's inner struggle over how to reform that model.
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When a handful of Catholic theology students at the University in Tubingen were asked at a recent informal meeting if they wanted to be priests, they looked at each other and laughed. None did.Skip to next paragraph
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At Tubingen, among more than 400 students studying theology to work in the church, which together with the Protestant church in Germany, is the second largest employer in the nation – only eight say they want to join the priesthood.
How the scandal has hurt
The current pedophile scandal which may reach some 8,000 priests guilty of predatory behavior dating from 1965 to present, and payouts of $6 billion worldwide – has harmed the atmosphere for recruiting and for a normal priestly life.
Frank Flinn, a religious studies professor Washington University in St. Louis and author of the Encyclopedia of Catholicism says that models promoting a mystical class of priests is taking place “in the face of gut-wrenching corruption of priests themselves. I really feel for the good priests out there, and there are many.”
Luis Cesbron is head priest at a chapel of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit – an order that helps set up African churches and train local clergy. He worked in Cameroon nearly 30 years before giving communion at Sainte Therese de l’efant Jesus in Paris. Cesbron describes a life working with good priests “who live close to the people, walk with them, and are very good at listening to them."
“The gospel asks us to help people rise and walk; they need to rise in every way, socially, politically, economically," says Mr. Cesbron. "We tried to help people stand up… see that they are not limited by their income or education.”
In Cesbron’s view, the current model of the priest “dates to Vatican 1, to the counter-reformation, it is a model from the 16th century, and the model needs to finally adapt. That is bound to happen, it will be reformed, there is no logical choice for us.”
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