“Pedophilia is a symptom of an inward-focused, masculine clerical culture, in which sexuality is always seen as a sin”, a feminist French Church reform campaigner has denounced.
Driving the news
Christine Pedotti, editor of French Catholic weekly Témoignage Chrétien, spoke to RFI January 17 about the landmark trial of pedophile former priest Bernard Preynat, who has admitted, in court, to abusing “four or five” children a week over the course of two decades.
Lyon cardinal Philippe Barbarin was convicted of covering-up Preynat’s abuse and handed a six-month suspended jail sentence, which he has appealed.
For Pedotti, however, the problem of pedophilia in the Church goes much further than just Preynat and Barbarin.
The real issue, explained the journalist and activist – who helped bring about the independent investigation into abuse in the French Church – is the abuse of power on the part of an exclusively-male clergy.
“What’s terrible is that deep down, some clergy consider that sexual acts with children are less serious than sexual acts with women. This shows there is a very negative view of women”, the Témoignage Chrétien editor explained.
It’s a view Pedotti attributes above all to Pope John Paul II, who “focus[ed] the Church on the priest, male, celibate, as sacred… [a]nd plac[ed] women as mothers, wives, reserved and quiet like the Virgin Mary”.
“The Catholic Church doesn’t know how to talk about sexuality, because it’s incapable of seeing women as desirable. That’s where this [abuse crisis] meets feminism”, Pedotti deplored.
The anti-abuse campaigner said she agreed with Pope Francis that the main issue behind the pedophilia crisis is the setting-up of priests as a special, quasi-divine class of men over and above the faithful.
“The issue is clericalism and the isolation of the priest, as sacred, and separate.
“How do we fight against this feeling of exceptionalism that priests have?”, Pedotti asked.
“This is not just a French issue, it’s an issue for the Catholic Church as a whole.
“Who are these men – because they are exclusively men, and celibate – who have a special rapport with the divine?
“It’s very strange, and rather archaic. It puts the Catholic Church in a rather uncomfortable position”, Pedotti explained.
Why it matters
The journalist and activist said that, despite the abuse and clericalism crises, she is determined to stay with the Church.
“I grew up Catholic, and am imbibed by Catholic history and culture. It interests me a lot. So I stay with it, and try to change it. I created an association whose mission is: ‘neither leave, nor stay quiet’. And I talk, and I bother the Bishops.
“A French newspaper called me a ‘pain in the ass for church people’. I think it’s rather a compliment!”, Pedotti celebrated.
For the record
The editor of Témoignage Chrétien even breathed a sigh of relief and admitted that the Catholic-feminist positions she professes are starting to take hold – bit by bit – in the Church.
“Today I’m invited to conferences more than before”, Pedotti said.
“People are starting to see that that what I’ve been saying for a long time is true.
“It’s almost an oxymoron to say you’re Catholic and feminist. It seems impossible. Today, some people are saying: Maybe she’s right – not just me, but a certain number of Catholics who take very disruptive positions”.