I remember being on a plane to somewhere during the early 2000s and reading “The Changing Face of the Priesthood” by Father Donald Cozzens.
I had heard it was an unusually provocative book — raising the forbidden issue of the large numbers of gay priests.
But it was also a beautifully written and passionate book about the priesthood. A major statement. Not subversive, but committed.
On Monday (May 5) at 7:30 p.m., Cozzens will speak at St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Briarcliff Manor. It’s free and open to the public and bound to be interesting (I hope I can get a babysitter…).
Cozzens has become a significant figure in the Catholic world, known for making statements that make people uncomfortable. His most recent book, “Freeing Celibacy,” argues that celibacy must be optional for priests since it is a gift from the Holy Spirit (and not all priests have the gift).
Flipping through “The Changing Face of the Priesthood” today, I came across the section about clerical sexual abuse. The book was written in 2000, two years before, well, you know…
What happens to the immature priest who is drawn to the priesthood for the very reasons that put people at risk for compensatory acting out with individuals who are not of their age — fear of intimacy and resistance to healthy risk taking? We need to ask if the clerical system itself may be setting the table for misconduct with minors. In other words, do we have a system that spiritually and emotionally immature individuals find inviting? The answer may be a resounding no, but our unwillingness to look beyond and beneath the behaviors involved in clergy abuse appears indefensible.