A Problem Of Religious Integrity

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A report released by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court revealed that over one thousand children were identifiable victims of sexual abuse by over 300 predator priests in only 6 of the Catholic Church dioceses of Pennsylvania (40th Statewide Investigating.A similar sex abuse scandal rocked the Church in Boston in 2002 when over 130 people came forward with stories of abuse, all of which had been covered up and hushed for years and even decades by the Church (Davis). The details of the cases are vulgar, unacceptable, and were covered up and brushed aside by the Roman Catholic Church in order to protect the abusers and the good name of the Church. Incidents like these show that when it comes to what drives the Vaticans decisions, religious integrity and moral standards take second place when it comes to their image.

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The required vow of celibacy and the recurring theme of cover-up, denial, and blackmail have made the church a breeding ground for sexual abuse.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website provides their stance on morality, saying that [t]he Christian moral life is one that seeks to cultivate and practice virtue. . . Compassion, responsibility, a sense of duty, self-discipline and restraint, honesty, loyalty, friendship, courage, and persistence are examples of desirable virtues for sustaining a moral life (Morality). Why is there so much abuse in a church whose moral standards clearly indicate that abuse cases like those in Pittsburgh and Boston are completely unacceptable? Many critics feel that they are the result of the mandatory celibacy that priests must commit to when entering the church. Celibacy was defined by Rev. Thomas Doyle as forbidding not only marriage but also any kind of romantic or sexual relationship or sexual contact with any other person in any degree (Frawley-O’Dea 87). It is a vow that men who become ordained members of the clergy and women who become nuns must take (Frawley-O’Dea 88). However, mental health counselor Richard Sipe found from his research that that only half of the 2,776 active and resigned priests that he collected data from for over 40 years (1960-2002) were committed to celibacy (Frawley-O’Dea 91).

Twenty-eight percent of the priests were sexually active with women, 11 percent homosexually active, and 5 percent were involved with other types of sexual pursuits, such as cross-dressing and masturbation (Frawley-O’Dea 91). Sipe guessed that the remaining 6 percent [were] sexually active with minors, a percentage that was consistent with the results of the John Jay Study of abusive priests between 1950 and 2002 (Frawley-O’Dea 91). The problem seems to be that priests dont take their vows seriously and that many of them acknowledged that celibacy was neither relevant nor observed within their priesthoods (Frawley-O’Dea 92) This reflects the attitude that celibacy is optional.

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