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How bad does it have to get?

Posted: Sun Sep 13, 2009 10:45 pm
by brettz9
Just how awful does it have to get before people start to question whether the widespread prevalence of sexual abuse in the clergy is an inherent problem of the system and not a mere "test"?

For crimes that are so heinous, that Baha'u'llah wrote "We shrink, for very shame, from treating of the subject..." (though note that by His covering the topic, it was clear He did not in the slightest oppose firmly confronting it (He did so clearly by these words), but rather that it was regrettable it was even necessary to do so), and even more painful to even read about in yet another dose in the news (e.g., ... s_backyard ), one really has to wonder whether the righteous and ever-loyal followers of Peter (or other denominations) might not finally, even as they retain belief in Christ and the primacy of Peter, come to question:

1) Whether the doctrine of celibacy for the priesthood was not a fallible, man-made invention outside of any intention of Christ?
2) Whether Christ's own celibacy was not due to His continued persecution and short ministry?
3) Whether God's love evident in bringing Christ would deny humanity renewal for so long and whether God could really be actually endorsing such a system which invites such abuse?

As I recall Baha'u'llah stating (sorry, can't find a quote now), a general would not be blamed for an action of one of his soldiers. A Faith having such problems in its community is not any automatic indicator of failure at the top. Indeed, shamefully some Baha'i communities have not been immune from the actions of some sick individuals. And one should be able to understand, while not condone, how mere human beings, even serving in positions of authority, might be tempted, in a deeply misguided attempt at love for their Faith, to attempt to remedy yet conceal such heinous actions to the outside world (though there is absolutely no ambiguity in the strong approach Baha'is in institutions and families are to take in response to abuse not only internally but also in reporting abuse to civil institutions: see ... c_violence (not sure if this is the latest version of the document though)). However, it is another matter entirely, I would say, to offer unquestioning loyalty to a system itself which, supposedly divine and authoritative, not only finds itself tested with such evil in its midst, but also endorses a practice (celibacy) which, in its firm suppression of the natural way of life for all healthy, sane, and socially-minded individuals, conduces to heightening rather than tempering impure desires...

As Baha'u'llah wrote:

Enter ye into wedlock, that after you someone may fill your place. We have forbidden you perfidious acts, and not that which will demonstrate fidelity.

(Baha'u'llah, cited in Promised Day Is Come, par. 256)

or for another translation of this passage in a different work:

Enter ye into wedlock, that after you another may arise in your stead. We, verily, have forbidden you lechery, and not that which is conducive to fidelity.

(Baha'u'llah, cited in Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 49)

For the record, Baha'is actually do believe in the Primacy of Peter--there is an undeniable sign of God in the uniting of the believers around a common focal point as Christ intended with appointing Peter. But there is nothing in the Bible to suggest that Christ was in any way granting infallibility to the institution He alluded to in referring to the "rock" (Peter) on which He would build His church, nor that He was unequivocally endorsing eternal perpetuity to the divine nature of the institution in this world. Will not good Catholics listen to the claim of Baha'u'llah to be the Second Coming? Will they not consider the clear rejection of the sins of many clergy and even popes as being a righteous call from God Himself? Will they not consider His loving invitation to the numerous good clergy to come out from their cloisters and monasteries to marry and benefit society?

Such crimes are in themselves so utterly sad. But participating in a system which only perpetuates them, encouraging idealistic individuals as many would-be priests are to become trapped in such a self-denying (and apparently often corrupt) system by promoting the idea that it is God's noble will for souls to join and perpetuate such a system, and perhaps most of all, for subjecting victims of such terrible abuse to the further confusion that God is somehow condoning the cover-up or worse still, the denial of such cruelty, and yet more so, a system that conduces to abuse, is the height of tragedy.

Some might be tempted to state such an argument as I am making here, notwithstanding the admission made above (and in Baha'i statements seeking to confront the issue) of issues affecting every religious community including our own, is religious opportunism. Yet can a person who believes in their religion and its ideals which are consonant with human nature, and who witnesses such sad events, stand by and fail to offer at the very least persuasive arguments made in their own Writings which on the one hand, embraces the beliefs to which such individuals rightly cling (e.g., a belief in God, Christ, and Peter as His Apostle) but which does reject the man-made dogmas and outworn institutions which continue to oppress, directly or indirectly, those same individuals (and to such a high degree no less) and avoid presenting them with a Divine and humane alternative?

best wishes,

Re: How bad does it have to get?

Posted: Thu Sep 17, 2009 1:11 am
by Dame
brettz9 wrote:1) Whether the doctrine of celibacy for the priesthood was not a fallible, man-made invention outside of any intention of Christ?
2) Whether Christ's own celibacy was not due to His continued persecution and short ministry?
3) Whether God's love evident in bringing Christ would deny humanity renewal for so long and whether God could really be actually endorsing such a system which invites such abuse?


1) Catholic Church history indicates celebacy of the priesthood was implimented during the middle ages for an extensive list of reasons.
2) Christ's marital status is more presumed than verified. (see: Holy Blood Holy Grail) And I am not convinces that Christ's celebacy is a key feature of Christ's message, it has never struk me as such.
3) Mariage is a sacred instution in the Catholic Church. As you have stated yourself individual aberent behavior is possible within any institution, organization etc. I have not seen documented demographic information supporting a propotionately higher incidence of sexually aberent behavior amongst priests than amongst other demographic segments of society. ie) old data from the 1970's (time and location specific) indicates that the incidence of domestic violence (definitional changes have occurred sence that time) in N. America was highest amongst police officers.

Re: How bad does it have to get?

Posted: Thu Sep 17, 2009 12:22 pm
by brettz9
Hello Dame,

And welcome to the Baha'i Library Forum... Feel free to let us know how the site/forum came to your attention, if you wish...

1) As far as celibacy being implemented, it seems to have been decreed around 300 A.D. by the Council of Elvira (see ), by an early Pope Siricius in 385 (see ) as well as promoted earlier by the Apostle Paul:

It is good for a man not to marry. But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.
I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.

Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

1 Cor. 7:1-2, 7:7-9


“An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs — how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world — how he can please his wife— and his interests are divided”

(1 Corinthians 7:32-34)

A central reason given early on was for the prevention of nepotism, but this was clearly not the only reason. St. Augustine also spoke of celibacy's supposed superiority to marriage. So, this was all well before the Middle Ages.

2. As far as it not being a central part of Christ's teachings, I'm not sure that it was at all (that's kind of what I was saying--that it was expanded upon by the Apostles).

However, there are these verses in Matthew we do have to address which might be taken to be saying that Christ does assert the superiority of celibacy:

They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”

His disciples said to Him, “If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But He said to them, “All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given: “For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it.”

(Matthew 19:7-12)

Although the context seems to suggest otherwise, one might assert that the verse "All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given" and "He who is able to accept it, let him accept it." is not necessarily saying that "it" is an encouragement for them to be celibate if they can--perhaps He--if this verse has even been accurately transmitted (Baha'is do not believe all of the Bible was preserved accurately, even though we believe in its Divine inspiration and preservation of essentials)--was deliberately leaving it obscure to say that "it" here could be the whole series of statements about eunuchs.

Why would it have been said this way?
1) To test humanity. Baha'is believe that features such as Christ's immaculate conception, Moses' murder of another were deliberately meant to test humanity.
2) Another central teaching of the Baha'i Faith is that religious truth is progressive not absolute. Some passages deliberately seem to lead in one direction, yet are later interpreted to mean another. Perhaps there was some deliberate indirectness here, intended to broach the subject that it was ok not to marry due to the lack of desire from birth of some or experience, or for those who feel they can better serve unmarried (not unlike the sister of 'Abdu'l-Baha, Bahiyyih Khanum who chose this course, and was accepted). (I saw one homosexual claim this defended their being so inclined by birth, and while I don't think we can deny that possibility, it still does not justify the practice of homosexuality, as Christ Himself, even if the meaning of eunuch is interpreted broadly here, as it is also implying abstinence.)

I admit that this whole latter interpretation of "it" referring to the series of statements seems less likely than the first one (or perhaps secondary to it), but it is possible.

And even if this is what Christ said, it is true He also is not recommending it for everyone; He starts talking of marriage and after the disciplines bring up celibacy, He ends by emphasizing (if we accept the first interpretation) that not all can accept not marrying. The greater focus is indeed on marriage. Whatever the interpretation, I think it in no way justifies a whole institution mandating its members practice celibacy.

2. As far as Christ's marital status, the Baha'i Writings seem to affirm that Christ was not married (though admittedly some statements are meant to conform to the understandings of the people of the time):

"He that wedded not (Jesus) found no place wherein to dwell or lay His head, by reason of that which the hands of the treacherous had wrought. His sanctity consisteth not in that which ye believe or fancy, but rather in the things We possess."

(Proclamation of Baha'u'llah, p. 96)

And for what it's worth, citations at Wikipedia at least don't seem too kind to the historicity of the book you cite: ... #Criticism

3. Yes, I'm aware marriage is still considered a sacred institution by the Catholic Church. But it seems pretty undeniable that it is not only slightly encouraged, but accepted as the idealistic path to go, no? It is not only recommended, but a whole institution is based in it and commands it for those who would join it... While some may be content to accept the supposedly lesser path and accept marriage in that scenario as a sacred but less than ideal situation, the idealist who accepts this philosophy is trapped by his conscience to accept celibacy, perhaps turning his mind into darkness with such great frustrations, even while it is such individuals who should be using their mental endurance toward advancing society rather than fighting themselves in isolation ('Abdu'l-Baha makes a great statement I cannot find now that it is easy to practice detachment away from society, but the real challenge comes from living in this world and practicing it).

Society needs to stop thinking there are branches of those who are at the top and who are professionally and ideally religious, while there are those of lesser stations who do the work of raising children, working hard, and enjoying the great bounties of God, yet are seen as less holy. Just because justifications are given for emphasizing the so-called unity of these communities and praising the sanctity of marriage, etc., does not actually mean that it can prevent people from the belief that laypeople can outsource their spirituality to the sanctified clergy who are perceived to be of a different caliber. Even if the Church itself discourages this, I think, and from what I see, this seems inevitable.

The Baha'i Faith has gratefully abolished the priesthood, so there are no such hindrances for us--I just wish others could enjoy it as well, particularly the more idealistic souls who, despite being misguided in coming to such a conclusion, nevertheless evince a degree of pure idealism to be able to contemplate such a sacrifice. And I really feel sorry for those trapped in such circumstances.

As far as statistics, I do concede that a statistical analysis would be more helpful than armchair commentating, which is what I admit to doing here (though cherry-picking statistics in one's favor is fairly easy too). But keep in mind that there are likely to be factors for high under-reporting as well, with one needing to take into account the high pressure of not reporting such crimes (due to sadly misplaced perceptions by children of the status of such people, etc.), as well as the at least previous presumed respect held for priests by the "faithful" around them and society in general.

I see some Catholic apologists on the web claim that it is homosexuality which is far more associated with pedophilia, and that the incidences in the Church are seen as due to this rather than the frustration of not marrying. In any case, the environment may well be inviting to such predatory individuals by the presence of such a strict requirement.

And despite my concessions, I still believe--knowing the great mental strain that celibacy can cause on an individual for an extended period of time--that it is an extremely harmful thing to be trapping such individuals into thinking that going away from society is an ideal path, especially when Baha'u'llah, the return of Christ in the glory of the Father has called priests to cease ringing the bells and come out of their churches and for monks to come forth and marry: ... ll.html#95 .

Anyhow, I welcome a further chance at dialogue, and a chance to learn more from and with you, as with our other friends here.

best wishes,

Note to BritishBahai (our good moderator volunteer), please add a small note if you ever need to edit someone's post, as I'm afraid others might possibly take offense at this, thinking that they have been censored or such. If someone makes a grammatical mistake, just let it be--they can edit it themselves...I think the only time we need to edit a post is for those being abusive in some way.

Re: How bad does it have to get?

Posted: Thu Sep 17, 2009 1:37 pm
by BritishBahai
brettz9 wrote:Note to BritishBahai (our good moderator volunteer), please add a small note if you ever need to edit someone's post, as I'm afraid others might possibly take offense at this, thinking that they have been censored or such. If someone makes a grammatical mistake, just let it be--they can edit it themselves...I think the only time we need to edit a post is for those being abusive in some way.
I edited Dame's post by adding the quote box. When I added the note and pressed "Submit" my note appeared in what looked like another quote box (which looked kinda messy) so I deleted it altogether.

Anyway, I wont let this issue clutter the thread. Point taken on board

Re: How bad does it have to get?

Posted: Tue Sep 29, 2009 7:32 am
by BruceDLimber

brettz9 wrote:Baha'is believe that features such as Christ's immaculate conception . . .

So sorry, but this seems to be a common mistake made by Baha'is:

The "immaculate conception" is a Roman Catholic doctrine that refers to Mary, not Christ!

And in any case, in the Baha'i view EVERYONE is born immaculate, regardless of how "conceived."



Re: How bad does it have to get?

Posted: Wed Sep 30, 2009 5:10 pm
by brettz9
I'm sorry for making the mistake in confusing the terms. Thank you for clearing that up, Bruce (though it looks like it is not only Baha'is who make that mistake if the special clarification at Wikipedia is any indication).

I think though that saying that everyone is born 'immaculate', while in a sense true, as per the following, is not saying that we do not have sin potentially within us from the beginning as well (as also per the following):

In creation there is no evil; all is good. Certain qualities and natures innate in some men and apparently blameworthy are not so in reality. For example, from the beginning of his life you can see in a nursing child the signs of greed, of anger and of temper. Then, it may be said, good and evil are innate in the reality of man, and this is contrary to the pure goodness of nature and creation. The answer to this is that greed, which is to ask for something more, is a praiseworthy quality provided that it is used suitably. So if a man is greedy to acquire science and knowledge, or to become compassionate, generous and just, it is most praiseworthy. If he exercises his anger and wrath against the bloodthirsty tyrants who are like ferocious beasts, it is very praiseworthy; but if he does not use these qualities in a right way, they are blameworthy.
Then it is evident that in creation and nature evil does not exist at all; but when the natural qualities of man are used in an unlawful way, they are blameworthy.

(Some Answered Questions, p. 215)

Of course the emphasis above is on everything being created for good, but it also implies the potential for misuse (and other Writings confirm that it is only the Manifestations of God (and 'Abdu'l-Baha)--including the Ones before Christ--who are perfect in character).

As far as the method of conception being unimportant, that is true too, as 'Abdu'l-Baha argued at in speaking of the real miracle and proof of Christ being His perfections. On the other hand, it is a recognized physical miracle associated with Christ which we do uphold.

best wishes,