The Catholic Church’s Struggles With Sex Abuse Scandals Down Through The Ages

An unusually historically informative short video, via Unreasonable Faith.

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On edit, back at Unreasonable Faith, PsiCop argues the video is factually challenged:

This video has some factual flaws, and even in addition to that, it’s anachronistic. The “pedophilia” referred to in early documents like the Didache and at the synod of Elvira very likely alluded to a practice of long standing in the Hellenistic world (less so among Romans, and even less among Near Eastern peoples)of older men taking up with adolescent boys. (This is not to say that pederasty was not controversial even within the Greek world … while Socrates had indulged in it, his protege Plato considered it socially harmful. Christian communities that condemned it were not innovative in this regard.)

Furthermore, these early Christian documents are hardly the only ones that complain about perceived unacceptable sexual practices among early Christians. Some of the Church Fathers, e.g. Tertullian, made numerous complaints along these lines. This shouldn’t be surprising, since celibacy was viewed as a spiritual ideal early in Christian history (see e.g. Mt 19:12). In pre-Christian times, it had been espoused by Hellenistic groups such as Pythagoreans … so here again we see another venue in which Christians are not innovators.

The Book of Gomorrah also cannot be taken seriously. It was pro-Cluniac propaganda meant to make the Church as an institution look bad … VERY bad … and in need of drastic changes. The extent to which its representation of what was actually going on, is questionable at best. This is not to say there were no corrupt or misbehaving clergy in the 11th century; I’m just saying we cannot take this particular book at face value.

The context of Christian history is that it has always had a very conflicted approach to sexuality … ALL sexuality, not just homosexuality and/or pedophilia. Is it good? Or bad? Or sometimes good, sometimes bad? This nebulous, ill-defined, often prudish approach to sexuality has been used by propagandists to support their views, at various times, and for their own reasons, often having nothing to do with sexuality itself. For example, Liutprand of Carmona … a monk who’d been involved in papal politics and diplomacy … left a scandalous account of the period now known (thanks largely to him) as “the Pornocracy.” While this was not the papacy’s shining moment, and definitely not a flattering period in its history, odds are things were not quite as terrible as he made them seem. And he had both personal and professional reasons for making the popes of this period look bad.

Put another way … using claims of inappropriate sexual activities for sensational purposes, as a weapon against some rival or foe, is not unique to modern times. It’s a very old tactic. To say that this scandalous material somehow “proves” all this activity actually happened — exactly as stated — is just foolish. Even now it’s a good idea to reserve judgement on modern journalistic reports of such things; reservations must be stronger with regard to older accounts.

At any rate, a lot of the material mentioned in this video must be carefully viewed, in its context and not anachronistically. Basic factual errors such as saying the Didache was written in 60 CE (parts of it mightbe that old, but the document we have shows signs of edition, and it’s very likely a mid 2nd to early 3rd century version) — as well as misrepresenting the scope of the synod of Elvira, and the veracity of the Book of Gomorrah — are not helpful at all.

PsiCop’s own blog is called Miscellanea Agnostica

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.