Sunday, July 17, 2011

Amanda Marcotte on Catholic Sexual Abuse Crisis: The Link Between Sex and Dominance in Patriarchal Cultures

Sisters of Charity Gathering, 2008

Another significant passage from The Revealer's series on the John Jay study: Amanda Marcotte writing about ""Keeping the Patriarchy: Sex as Dominance in the Roman Catholic Church":

In a world that’s shifting more every day towards the assumption that women are full human beings who deserve the same rights to liberty and self-determination that we allow men, the Catholic Church still relegates women to a second class status with a “separate spheres” ideology that positions women as servants in their homes and ineligible for roles as priests in the church.  Under Catholic dogma, women aren’t even allowed the dignity of controlling their own fertility, but instructed to avoid contraception and have as many babies as God and their husbands would inflict on them, regardless of their health or financial concerns.

Misogyny and sexual abuse are intertwined, even in the cases where the victims of abuse are male.  Patriarchal societies construct sex as an act of dominance, where one person in an encounter is the conqueror and the other the conquered.  Catholic dogma that purports that sex should only occur within marriage only reinforces this paradigm.  The Catholic view of marriage is one where women are subservient to their husbands, and sex therefore becomes representative of the husband’s power over his wife.  When sex is a demonstration of power, turning sex into a weapon of abuse is just the next logical step.  Without feminism on hand to fight back, potential victims are uniquely vulnerable.

"Misogyny and sexual abuse are intertwined": Amanda Marcotte is right on target with that observation.  And in the Catholic power structure, they're intertwined with clerical power and privilege.  Clerical power and privilege is absolute and unchecked, in the Catholic governing system.

This serpentine intertwining of misogyny, unchecked power and privilege, appeals to divine authority and warrant, and abuse: this is the nexus from which the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic church stems.  And the crisis will never adequately be addressed until that nexus is deconstructed and power allocated more equitably in church structures.  And until the experience of the laity--including and above all the experience of women--has a real hearing in the Catholic church.

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