Patriarchy’s Role in Shielding Pedophile Priests

Vatican Warned Bishops Not to Report Child Abuse. Vatican Shielded Dublin Priest Until He Raped Boy in Pub, Inquiry Says. Pope Lashes Out at Belgium After Raid on Church (investigating sexual abuse by clerics).

All are New York Times headlines revealing Vatican efforts to shield pedophile priests – and itself. I could go on.

Odd that the Church, which incessantly preaches morality to the masses, is so unconcerned with its own.

In stark contrast, a Catholic nun was immediately excommunicated for saving a woman’s life. Sister Margaret was senior administrator of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix when a 27-year-old mother of four arrived, suffering from pulmonary hypertension. Doctors determined the condition would likely kill her. So Sister Margaret okayed an abortion in the eleventh month of pregnancy to save her life.

Even when priests are defrocked for pedophilia they are not normally excommunicated, remaining able to take the sacrament.

The Vatican shielding pedophile priests while excommunicating life-saving nuns seems nonsensical. Confusing.

Yet one thing ties it all together: a rabid support of patriarchy. Really, patriarchy in its old sense: “rule of the fathers.” Or in this case, church fathers.

In patriarchy’s origins, old men ruled young men and women. Such is the case here. Old men are free to do as they will, while young boys must take what they get. Women are not allowed to control their bodies, or let their lives be saved. Old men control all.

Even Mel Gibson’s staunch rejection of birth control and Vatican II liberalization had seemed odd to me, given the many movies he appeared in promoting sex and violence. Not to mention real-life adultery and battering. Until I realized that the consistency in his life is patriarchy, as well. Men doing as they please, sleeping with whomever they wish (despite church prohibitions). But not allowing a wife to control he own womb (suddenly he cares that the church prohibits birth control). And feeling entitled to lash out and “discipline” women at will.

Vatican patriarchy has certainly not been good for women or children, inflicting suffering upon the “minions.”

Georgia Platts

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych, women's psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State University. And I have blogged for Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos.

Posted on January 21, 2011, in feminism, gender, rape and sexual assault, reproductive rights, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. When attempting to operate from a position of infallibility, acknowledging exceptions and nuances to general rules becomes too threatening to the ideology and the existing hierarchy (i.e., patriarchy). When we compare the intentions of someone who uses authority to exploit a child with someone who uses her authority to minimize harm, the latter instance is always preferable whether we judge rationally or emotionally. An organization that reverses this judgment must be either be inept, have its own agenda, or be guilty of some combination of the two.

    Having leanings towards cynicism, I am in full agreement that the reaction of the church to these two incidents betrays a desperate attempt to preserve a precarious, chauvinistic patriarchal hierarchy—a hierarchy that prohibits women from becoming clergy, splits women into virgins and whores and asserts its authority on issues surrounding female sexuality and reproduction. That being said, I do believe a priest would be comparably vilified for authorizing an abortion while carrying out his official duties. Admittedly, church officials were probably more angered by the presumptuousness of a woman breaking the chain of command than they would be if a man had committed the same act. However, publicly challenging the universal authority of the church would not receive a kind response from the Vatican, regardless of the sex of the offender.

    In the alternative scenarios of priests meddling with children, the church has more room to deny that the misconduct is in any way associated with the design of the church. When given deniability, the church is far less threatened (and thus less likely to punish). However, if we hypothetically consider a nun molesting a child, I suspect in that scenario the church would not make use of its leeway to avoid culpability. Female sexuality invites scrutiny, judgment and blame; bringing female sexuality to public consciousness, I believe, would threaten the existing standard of keeping this topic hidden, thus increasing the odds of retribution. In short, I fully agree that the incidents described in your blog indicate an unfair double standard and neurotic clinging to the status quo.

    • You make a lot of sense.

      re: “I do believe a priest would be comparably vilified for authorizing an abortion while carrying out his official duties.” I agree. But patriarchy is still in play, as women are to have no control of their bodies.

      Interesting reading! Thanks.

  2. Darlene Pizzitolo

    I think Yvonne Escalante’s image of Barbie’s arm on the spoon reminds of the 1960′s, when Barbie first came out. I believe they were trying to spoon feed a unrealistic image of women to young girls to make them aspire to become like the artificial image of Barbie, instead of aspiring to the real beauty of what women are really like, not the artificial image of Barbie. I feel that the society at that time and the present is trying to make us try to fit that unrealistic artificial image.

  3. Vita Castaneda-Morgan

    This whole scandal has opened the worlds eyes and made people realize that the church just may not be as respectable as it has claimed to be for centuries. The church is just like any other major power in the world, run by men, for men. Men who feel like because they have power, the can do whatever they want for their own pleasure/gain and no one else matters. The Catholic church is supposed to be the place people turn to for help and deliverance, but who wants to get deliverance from a child molester? If this has been allowed in the church, then why can’t abortion be? I think you made an excellent point when you said that women aren’t allowed to let their lives be saved. The church will go so far to keep their power that people will die, people that believe so deeply in this institution that they will follow it blindly until it finally leads them to their death. Truth is, women have no power in the church, no power over their bodies and no power in their lives… because it has all been taken by the men.

  4. Patriarchy in the church. When I was studying with Jehova wittnesses, I heard this story that in the olden days, the women were to wear a covering over their head. Well one day this group of women forgot to bring their head cover. So they wore a diaper over their heads. True story. I am afraid if you look into Monothesic religions, you will see that women are always to follow not to lead. A head covering was to show their summision to God and man. I am afraid to fight for equal rights for women is a fight against Monothesic religions. Why do you think free thinkers and witches were killed or punished by the church anyways. I’m going to be bold here and say if women do not weaken the power structure of Monothesic religions, and not work for equality they might as well wear diapers over there heads in church. Lack of birth control and diapers over there heads. Get it.

    • re “Lack of birth control and diapers over there heads. Get it?”

      Good one, Sarah.

      Some women are reforming their monotheistic religions toward equality (Reform Jews, e.g.), so it appears that this is possible.

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