Does Mo Dowd think Celibacy = Pedophilia?

Zoran Karapancev / Courtesy of

I hadn’t read Mo Dowd’s latest screed because I’ve been really busy and because, well, her Yosemite Sam act has really begun to bore me over the years — as Joanne (envisioning Dowd as another Looney Toon fave) writes here:

I wonder sometimes why she doesn’t simply self-destruct in her Tasmanian Devil hissing and spinning…

Anyway, because I read Joanne’s piece, I read Dowd’s — and if you’re going to read either you should read both. The story of Sister Margaret Farley being corrected by the CDF is very interesting and one that (predictably) has its share of Yay-ers and Nay-ers. The sister’s own rather elegantly crafted statement is here.

I don’t have the head to write about the Farley story, today — I have maintained for a while, now that Catholic teaching on sexuality is the teaching of an ideal, and a worthy one, because the pursuit of the ideal ultimately puts our focus not on ourselves but on God and our union with him; I’ve said (at least once) that I think the Catechism is thoughtful, wise and actually pretty broadminded on the issue of masturbation, but I know that gets drowned out by the tyrannical sentimentalist’s cry of “mean church, cruel church” which Dowd supplies in abundance, but a truth drowned out is still a truth.

What bothered me about Dowd’s piece was this bit of utter stupidity:

. . .celibacy is enshrined, even as a global pedophilia scandal rages.

So, in Maureen Dowd’s world, a celibate person is a de-facto pederast? Is she making the ignorant argument that if only priests were not vowed to celibacy, child molestation would never happen? Does she really think this? Does she think only celibate priests molest children or is she pretty sure that celibate sisters like Sister Farley are, because of their celibacy, inclined toward predatory instincts against children? Does she think that elitist-approved Buddhist and Taoists, who understand the discipline of celibacy to be a positive thing, are budding pederasts?

A “pedophile scandal rages…” well, yes, they do rage, where they are reported on and paid attention to; pedophiles are all around us, and most of them are not celibate people; they are in our public schools, although Dowd seems not to notice. They are in our families — all of those non-celibate, married mothers and fathers who sexually abuse their own children.

The thoughtless and causal assertion, by those who hate the church — and Dowd is surely in their number — that celibacy is to blame for the terrible pederasty scandals we have been addressing for ten years forces me to ask a rude question: at some point in your life, Ms Dowd, you were a celibate person. For all I know, you are celibate today. Have your periods of celibacy awakened within you urges to molest youngsters?

I am sure the answer to that question is “no.” I am sure it is “no” not just for Dowd, but for everyone, because pederasty does not arise from celibacy; it arises from a sick need of a damaged person to assert power over someone else, and to prey on vulnerability.

“. . .celibacy is enshrined, even as a global pedophilia scandal rages.” Is a line that can only be written by someone who has substituted cheap emoting and sloganeering for thinking, and who understands that her audience wants nothing more than that.

It’s boring; it’s predictable, so lets call it that; let’s also call it what it really is at its core: rank stupidity, encouraged by a hate that feels like love.

Related: Max with The Paranoid Style of Church Politics

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Joe Duffus

    My problem in trying to read Maureen Dowd’s prose is that I can actually hear chewing gum snapping! She writes like a catty high school girl trying to “mock out” people and can’t seem to sustain a logical argument much past the first available put-down or cheap shot.

  • Joanne K McPortland

    Darn. Right after I drew you offside with that MoDowd bait I took a little naptime in the library and found what I think is a terrific article on hearing the widest spectrum of voices from our moral tradition. It’s John Garvey’s piece called “Is Desire Enough? Sex & the Christian Tradition” in the June 15 issue of Commonweal. I itched to link to it and to this post of yours in answer to Mo’s question “Is pleasure a sin?”, but sadly the Commonweal piece is subscriber-only. I would urge folks interested in pursuing dialog, not cheap shots, on this topic to push past whatever biases they might have toward the publication and try to dig up a paper copy. He makes the case for dialog and learning from one another much more eloquently than I could.

    I also think it’s interesting that you chose the Dalai Lama to illustrate this piece. US readers who hold His Holiness up as the avatar of universal anything-goes tolerance aren’t aware that his statements adhering to traditional Buddhist sexual ethics—which are much stricter than Catholic tradition in considering sex for purposes other than procreation to be against nature—are, as Ross Douthat points out, edited out of American editions because they would have a chilling impact on sales.

  • Peter in Mpls.

    Thanks for referring to the abuse scandal in terms of pederasty. From what I understand, that’s much more correct than referring to it in terms of pedophelia.

  • Victor

    (((What bothered me about Dowd’s piece was this bit of utter stupidity:)))

    Anchoress! I have not read any of this stuff yet but there’s so much stupidity on the net nowadays that “IT” would just drive ya crazy if you tried to deal with “IT” all.

    I hear ya! From having read some of your comments Victor,
    I agree with ya! :(

    What do you mean by that Anchoress? :)


  • David J. White

    Is a line that can only be written by someone who has substituted thinking for cheap emoting

    I think you mean that the other way round: she has sustituted cheap emoting for thinking.

    [Thanks, I was writing fast. -admin]

  • Alejandro

    My goodness. I’ve come to the conclusion that people love to hate the catholic church just because it’s a wide global community that has millions and millions of followers, and because it opposes same-sex marriage. There is only one thing I think it’s completley and totally legit to criticize the church and that is it’s opposition to contraception in a time of AIDS. Abortion, I agree for the most part except in ectopic pregnancies, and of course pedo priests, but that’s like saying we should hate the state because it has sex offending politicians in there too.

  • Thomas R

    Some do go so far as to equate celibacy to pedophilia, or that it causes pedophilia, but out of fairness some of them have an equation more like “Celibacy disproportionately attracts pedophiles because it’s not marriage or having legally allowed sex.” A good deal of people do seem to believe

    Men can not be celibate without an illness or abnormality.
    So a celibacy requirement is mostly or solely appealing to psychosexually unhealthy men.

    Women are not seen to suffer from this as much, even among feminists I’ve seen. Some may see celibacy as meaning a women is aloof or foolish, or that it’ll make her neurotic at worst, but in my experience there’s not the same level of thinking that a woman would only consider celibacy because she’s kind of wacko to start out. Or that it will make her wacko, rather than just nervous or cranky.

  • Matthew

    I am troubled by your reference to the Church’s sexual morality as an “ideal”. Somewhere in Mere Christianity, Lewis argues against this notion of ‘idealism’. ( I think in the chapter headed “The Three Parts of Morality”) It is nice to have high ideals but they can be easily and airly dismissed as idealistic. The Church’s moral teaching is not an ideal but merely a description of what it looks like to live as a real, live, authentic human being.
    To cite Yoda: “Do or do not, there is not try.” Idealism opens up the possibility that failure is an option – after all the ideals are very high, who can live them?

    [But that's the whole point. Following God's law IS the ideal way to live. These ARE ideals. That so few of us can reach them is precisely why we may be grateful for Mercy and also for the sacraments that help impart grace and help us to pursue God's laws and ways -- which are ideal for us. Yoda is all well and good, but Christ understood that the Way is difficult and we will fail. Chesterton "Christianity has been found difficult and left untried." There is no point in not acknowledging that Christianity is difficult. But I think sometimes it helps -- at least speaking for myself, it absolutely helps me -- to think of what I am pursuing in terms of the ideal. Why would I not want to pursue the best way? And when I am feeling unforgiving of myself for failing, why not at least reassure myself that yes, ideals are difficult but worth going for? -admin]