The Crux of (Christian) Sin?

I hope you’ll forgive a newcomer regurgitating an old, but still ‘trendy’, topic. In his new book, In the Closet of the Vatican, Frederic Martel blames the cover up of paedophilia on the Vatican’s ‘culture of secrecy’ (p x111). No doubt that is one aspect of Christianity’s paedophilia crisis, but I venture that Christian doctrine itself might also be relevant.

Original sin
In St Augustine’s autobiographical Confessions, he wrote of “filth” and “the itch of lust” in infants. (The Confessions, Book IX, Chapter 1 Translation by Edward B Pusey) He saw evil in babies and in his Answer to the Pelagians, he wrote “Who is clean from filth? Not even an infant who has lived one day on earth.” (Answer to the Pelagians, Book 6, P622, Translation by Roland J. Teske SJ)

St Augustine’s ideas are baffling. Surely the charm of our babies is their purity, their palpable innocence; what perversion led St Augustine to declare that he saw filth and lust in infants? Because of his teaching we learn, as children, that our souls have already been stained with Original sin from the concupiscence (lust) of Adam and Eve, and that we have to be baptised to wash this sin away. (Cf. Council of Trent: DS 1512, DS 1514; CCC: 403, 406, 491.)

Priests have been known to adulterate sacred doctrine. After making a nine-year-old give him oral sex, one shamed priest rinsed out the boy’s mouth with holy water ‘to purify him’. (Pennsylvania 40th Statewide Investigating Grand Jury REPORT 1, Interim, Aug. 14th 2018, p10) Might St Augustine’s doctrine on infantile sin be an inadvertent marker for wilful clerics to sanction sexual abuse?

St Augustine’s 5th century vision
Since 412AD theologians have discussed and disputed St Augustine’s concept of Original sin.

Eastern Orthodox Christians believe that, while everyone bears the consequences of the first sin, the foremost of which is death, only Adam and Eve are guilty of that sin. Western Christianity on the other hand, teaches that everyone bears the guilt of that Original sin from birth. This freak anomaly is St Augustine’s legacy to us.

The Crux of Sin
The extent to which paedophilia occurs is not known with certainty, but the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse suggests the percentage of paedophiles in clerical ranks is 7%. (Australian Royal Commission into IRCSA, p 248 Final Report: Volume 1) That is almost double the proportion found in the male population at large in most studies and perhaps an indication of a malign influence at work. Could it be that St Augustine’s child imputing doctrine is a contributory factor?

The Holy Sacrament of Baptism
Before St Augustine, Baptism was received by adults as a rite of admission to Christianity and there is no mention in the Bible of Original sin.

Progressive theologians think St Augustine was mistaken to teach that all babies inherit Adam and Eve’s sin by having been conceived in lust. Rev. Cauley says: “There is no greater threat to Christianity than the doctrine of Original sin”. (The Confessions, Book IX, Chapter 1 Translation by Edward B Pusey)

Vulnerable Young
Branding infants sinful when they have done no wrong seems perverse. Negative labels can be spiritually and mentally damaging. Unjustified shame of sinfulness may be deepened by having children proclaim faux transgressions, as in Penitential prayer recitals. Are our youngsters made more susceptible to being abused by bearing the disgrace of unmerited sins?

Infants are “filthy” “sinners” born with the “itch of lust”???!!! That is some sick frikkin freaky disgusting BS idea that Augustine had. Having that as part of a religion’s oranges, I mean origins, doesn’t say much for the basic decency of that religion. But do you really think that the modern day pedophile priests are really thinking that babies are sinful? I would guess that the pedophile priests are so horny from not being allowed to get married or otherwise have sexual relations with adults, (or even masturbate?) that they wind up taking advantage of children that they are left alone with. Or they are just, themselves, born pedophiles to begin with. i.e., Maybe pedophiles don’t choose to be pedophiles maybe they are born that way. And the Catholic priesthood is just an occupation in which they have fertile hunting grounds for getting away with sexually abusing children.

I know very few people who don’t think babies are born sinners. It’s been drilled into their heads since they went to Sunday school.

The likelihood that this concept contributes to the evil actions of the clergy is pretty high in my opinion. A sex-deprived man surrounded by all those easily manipulated little sinners is a recipe for disaster.

Sounds like a just-so theory to me. Most of the priests are clearly gay pedophiles and that’s probably all the motivation they need. Who knows what they really believe anyway.

Your last paragraph makes a lot of sense, however. Victims of this abuse often recall being “groomed with guilt” over things they couldn’t really understand.

@3point14rat we have to agree. The literature is littered with evidence of guilt in Catholic children, ingrained in their psyche into adulthood. Mr Dawkins himself pointed out the Jesuits’ maxim “Give me a boy of seven…”

Combine inculcating Augustinian guilt and shame in children, with clerics being indoctrinated with the Augustinian belief that babies are born already stained with carnal sin. My book highlights evidence that some Priests take doctrine absolutely literally.

Then consider that priestly abusers have a Canonical right to gain God’s forgiveness. And priests know their secret must be kept - that is enshrined in Catholic Canon. Could that be a recipe for sanctioning peadophilia?

Look at Dark Web traffic in child abuse images to see how regions of Christian influence take the lion’s share.

“Could that be a recipe for sanctioning peadophilia?”

There’s a world of difference between having a situation that is exploitable for nefarious purposes, and sanctioning those nefarious purposes.

Coaching, teaching and caring for children in any way leaves the door open for the abuse of those children. Yes, Christianity has created the ‘perfect storm’ for sexual and other abuse to occur, but that’s an unfortunate coincidence.

Their cover-up of the abuse is the closest they come to sanctioning it, but I see a separation (albeit, blurry and imperfect), between sanctioning and covering-up.

 

3point said “I know very few people who don’t think babies are born sinners…”

Well babies do poop themselves shamelessly (tho, in their defense, it is reflexive behavior) but Augustine’s thinking that they are “born with the itch of lust”? What’s that about?

3point: …“There’s a world of difference between having a situation that is exploitable for nefarious purposes, and sanctioning those nefarious purposes.”…

Agreed but, IMO, both should be shut down.

Some behaviors are SO socially repugnant and unacceptable that they must be absolutely shut down, without regard for how those behaviors developed. Pedophilia behaviors are a prime example.

However if there are religious beliefs that indirectly and covertly support (sanction) the development of pedophilia behaviors, they also must be shut down. Our US govt cannot take action against religious beliefs that may promote pedophilia, due to Constitutional proscription, but individuals can exert influence in various ways.

Look at Dark Web traffic in child abuse images to see how regions of Christian influence take the lion’s share.
I would wager a guess that’s because the Christian world is the developed world, more or less, and has the most internet access and least censorship.

For comparison, pederasty is openly practiced in the non-Christian Middle East and Central Asia.

 

Yeah, apparently the many of the Afghan warlords (not the Taliban who we are fighting against) are into bacha bazi, a tradition of powerful men having young boys as sex slaves. They would probably put Catholic priests to shame in a contest of who can be the worst pedophiles.

3point: …”There’s a world of difference…" Agree that “sanction” may be too strong a word, ‘ease’ perhaps? It is conceivable to me that a wayward cleric may unconsciously perceive children already soiled by the stain of carnal sin to be valid prey; given the evidence that priests have been known to adulterate sacred doctrine.

TimB “They would probably put Catholic priests to shame in a contest of who can be the worst pedophiles.”

The Guardian reports (Peter Stanford, 17th February 2019): “The number of paedophiles found in the male population at large is usually put at anywhere up to 4%. Yet the recent Australian Royal Commission on child sex abuse by Catholic priests suggests the figure in clerical ranks is as high as 7%. That’s almost double.”

What is clear here is the problem with any discussion of paedophilia is lack of reliable data.

Even use of the term “paedophile” to describe child sexual offenders is fraught with difficulty, especially when seen from a medical standpoint, as the majority of sex crimes against children are perpetrated by situational offenders rather than people sexually preferring prepubescent children (DiLorenzo1981). Nevertheless, some researchers, such as Barbaree and Seto (1997), have endorsed the use of ‘actions’ as the sole criterion for the diagnosis of paedophilia, as a means of taxonomic simplification, describing the American Psychiatric Association’s standards as “unsatisfactory.”

 

https://medium.com/ryot-news/hand-covers-bruise-the-destruction-of-afghanistan-s-boys-e4c6db2b7f7f

I have seen estimates of 40% or more of Pashtun men in Afghanistan being participants on some level of sexual abuse of boys.

Our defamed priests could go there and become part of the Pashtun society and have a heydey.

 

But anybody who f#cks young boys or girls is a pedophile. In America they are pedophiles. In the British Empire they are paedophiles and I guess they shag the kids instead of f#cking them.

I think it doesn’t matter whether pedophiles have some (possibly?) understandable reason for what they do, near as much that they not be allowed to do it. And my 1st thought is that some rapid and extreme form of punishment be administered if they do (up to possible castration, life in prison, or worse.)

TimB: “I think it doesn’t matter whether pedophiles have some (possibly?) understandable reason for what they do, near as much that they not be allowed to do it. And my 1st thought is that some rapid and extreme form of punishment be administered if they do (up to possible castration, life in prison, or worse.)”

I agree. Although people with uncontrollable urges are, by definition, unable to control their urges, the rest of us need to be protected from them.

Sick people are just that, sick. Punishing them can’t make them better (all it does is satisfy the ignorant masses’ need for revenge).

 

Yes, deterrence by punishment is part of protecting young people. Another approach might be to try to understand the circumstances that give rise to temptation so parents can protect young people to avoid exposing them to unsafe situations.

You would think that most parents are aware and would monitor their kids in Church, but my research suggests that the Catholic community is enervated by the paedophilia scandal in their midst. Led by the Vatican, Catholics consider themselves to have been unfairly maligned by the media (the devil) and have become cynical of the evidence and defensive of their religion. That seems unfair on youngsters ill equipped to protect themselves.

It’s hard to convince people that the institution they trust the most is possibly preying on their kids.

You could never convince me that my friends and family were possibly abusing my children. Convincing religious folks that their church is doing it will be equally difficult. I can empathize with their mental state.

  • Here's the situation as I see it. Religion creates a situation where child abuse is more likely to occur through:
    • teaching that children are sinners
    • allowing sexually repressed men look after those children
    • allowing 'sin' (the abuse) to be washed away
    • hiding the crime
    • indoctrinating people into thinking their religion and it's leaders are above reproach
    • convincing followers that:
      • no crime is happening
      • it is happening but the church has it under control,
      • it may be happening, but not in their church
      • children may be fabricating stories
I still don't consider any of that 'condoning' abuse. The church would rather it didn't happen, so they could carry on making money and polluting minds with no one poking around in their business.

It is, however, a sick and disgusting manipulation of people’s ability to think and protect themselves and their children from abuse.

A good analysis thanks 3point14rat. It is clear how impressionable some sensitive kids are. Molly Russell’s father insists, plausibly I think, that his daughter was influenced to commit suicide by material she saw online. (https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p06z00z8/focus-instagram-helped-kill-my-daughter)

On the other side, there is evidence that some wilful clerics take doctrine literally. After making a nine-year-old give him oral sex, one shamed priest rinsed out the boy’s mouth with holy water ‘to purify him’. (Pennsylvania 40th Statewide Investigating Grand Jury REPORT 1, Interim, Aug. 14th 2018, p10)

Add to the recipe that abusers are bestowed with a Canonical right to gain God’s forgiveness privately and confidentially for all time.

These doctrines are too poisonous to ignore. Yet the state subsidises Faith schools to perpetuate the damage - outrageous.

Thanks very much for your helpful input I’m currently researching these topics and trying to focus my thoughts.

 

A bit out of emotion, I suggested extreme punishment for pedophiles. I also rationally believe that it is warranted, not as vengeance or retribution, but in order to stop the behavior.

However, I also know that punishment, is most often, a temporary way to stop an individual from continuing a behavior. And punishment is less effective when not administered immediately after a behavior. And punishment is often fraught with unwanted side effects. So I think that punishment is unlikely to be meted out in our society in an effective and functional way.

Therefore, I think you are right to focus on the antecedents. That is the occasions and settings for the occurrence of pedophilia, as well as on the pre-cursor behaviors of potential perpetrators. Iow, the focus for decreasing pedophilia is probably best a focus on altering the occasions (physical and mental) in which it typically occurs (including the mindset of potential perpetrators) AND a focus on ending or changing the behaviors by potential predators that tend to lead to an act of pedophilia.

A benefit of focus on changing the antecedents is that it has the chance to prevent the unwanted behavior from occurring in the first place.