Friday, 30 May 2014


Professor Gene Kennedy
Professor Gene Kennedy was born in 1928. He was ordained a priest with the American Maryknoll Fathers in 1955. He became a professor of psychology at The Loyola University in Chicago and is the author of many books. He left the priesthood and in 1977 he married the Maryknoll nun Sandra C Charles who was also a qualified psychiatrist.

In February of this year Prof Kennedy wrote an article for the National Catholic Reporter in which he said that the Catholic approach to hierarchy - as defended in the Church's Council of Trent - enables sex abuse by priests in the Catholic Church.

Professor Kennedy's thesis is as follows:

1. The hierarchial structures of the Catholic Church are the same structures that you see in a football stadium:

The owners (the bishops) sit in the top in the skyboxes. the priests and religious in reserved seats below them. And in the standing room below them, with an impaired vision of the game - the ordinary men and women - who in fact are the Church!

2. The sex abuse scandal is a function of hierarchy, that is, of a system that places all power in the hands of those at the very top of the steppe like structure.

3. The hierarchial model granted unusual privileges to those who lived on the top and to whom respect was to be paid at all times.

4. The hierarchial model made the abuse of children by priests possible because it cloaked its priests in special privilege on a level above lay people.

5. This culture conferred automatic deference to anybody who wore a clerical collar. 

6. The demand for celibacy in the ranks and courtiers and priests served the hierarchs as well because it made the lesser acolytes - the priests - sign on for a life of servitude to the system and to superiors on whom they were emotionally and financially dependent.

7. Control a persons sexuality and you control them completely and there is no need to worry about the suppression, confusion and stunted psychosexual growth problems that were the side effects of such hierarchial dominance - the hierarchs told them: "This is God's will for you".

8.  In this system clerical sex abusers were dealt with internally as they were priviled members of the clerical and hierarchial court.

9. For priests celibacy and chastity was the dynamite packed into their official endorsement as conditions for the privileges of accepting lot as God's will and serving, much like the butlers and maids of Downton Abbey, in the secondhand glory of the great hierarchial palace. As Philip 11 told the pope at the Council of Trent: "If the pope was to give ground on celibacy, there would go the whole hierarchial neighbourhood".

10. It is possible to speculate that the refusal to consider women priests and optional celibacy is rooted in the fear that yielding even an inch on these subjects would threaten the entire hierarchial structure. This reflexive assertion of the intrinsic superiority of forsaking sex for the Kingdom thus emerges as a political rather than a theological conviction.

11. Through several centuries, in order to maintain a hierarchial structure, church officials have insisted on celibacy for priests and exhalted virginity over marriage.

12. Thus the Church defends itself and its hierarchial structure rather than the children entrusted to its care.

I think that there is a great deal in Professor Kennedy's thesis. When faced with scandals bishop after bishop has put the "good name and reputation" of the Church before the interests of the abused.

They have a saying in Rome:

"Do what you want with women. Do what you want with men. Do what you want with children. But leave the POWER alone"

That is why the Roman Catholic Church reserves its greatest punishments not for paedophile priests and bishops - but for those who challenge its centuries old hierarchial power.

Dominus Flavit - Jesus wept!

+Pat Buckley


  1. Sexual offending against children and vulnerable adults is a very complex issue and not the sort of matter to be used to "score points" against a hierarchy, even one that has treated you, Pat, as a person with contempt and scorn. Certainly there are proven links between this sort of behaviour and the abuse of power; to be sure I would state that almost every man or woman who sexually offends against a child or a vulnerable adult has issues to do with feelings of inadequacy and low, or no, self esteem. Therefore they attempt to feel adequate and have esteem by exerting control and power over their victims. However these men and women are not monsters or aliens that have come from another universe, but broken human beings who are in need of help, probably pyschiatric treatment in most cases, containment, and close supervision. They are in fact our brothers and sisters and in need of our love and compassion; tough love, yes, but love never the less. The most distressing aspect of this whole situation is that almost every sexual offender against a child has him or herself been sexually offended against when they were youngsters. This cyclical pattern of abuse is one of the most horrifying aspects of the crime, and why sexual offenders need intervening upon, but it should also evoke compassion in the heats of those who have to deal with the aftermath both in victim and perpetrator. I am aware of your own work in this area and the price you had to pay for giving shelter to one such man some years ago. So I do acknowledge your courage and your being willing when most are not to "put your money where your mouth is". However to use this most complex and intricate condition (sexual offending against children and vulnerable adults) as a weapon to attack the hierarchy is not only wrong, it is also futile. Hierarchies as you know, wherever they may be, exist to perpetuate themselves and so attacking this particular one, the Roman one, is a waste of time. You are like King Canute, Pat, ordering the tide to turn back and reverse itself. Leave the dead to bury the dead. Put aside this endless and futile sniping at a power system that you will never change (in this sniping you are rather like a mosquito biting a rhinoceros in my opinion) and concentrate on doing the good you do, and serving and inspiring those who have long left or been cast aside by the hierarchs. I say this to you as a brother and as one who admires and respects you so much and who is also so sorry for all you have had to suffer for following the way of Jesus of Nazareth.You are better than they can ever be. Wipe the dust of the Roman hierarchs off your feet and travel forward proclaiming the Gospel whose servant you are.

  2. Dear Friend,

    Thank you for yiur comments and very good and wise advice.

    I summarising Prof Kennedy's views I was not really interested in taking a side swipe at hierarch but more in exploring the connection between power, hierarchy, sexual repression and abuse. I was genuinely trying to understand this point - and indeed seeking comments such as your own very positive one to help me understand more.

    As part of my own ministry I have indeed tried to minister to a number of people who had abused - not only the one you mention whom I think I know.

    In many ways I feel that these people are one of the "lepers" of today and they need our compassion, understanding and support.

    In fact when we support and help these people we are actually involved in "child protection" work - especially if our help leads them to not offending again.

    In fact if I had the resoucres I would do much more than I have already done for those in this position.

    I agree with you about wiping the dust off the feet and concentrating on doing good.

    I am very actively engaged with some others on this aspect of things just now.

    I really do appreciate all you said.


  3. The above comment is dangerous. There is no clinical data to prove that sexual abusers were once abused themselves. Many of them claim to have been abused to gain sympathy and there is no way of determining whether or not they were. The FACT is that the majority of victims of abuse NEVER turn out to be abusers! Sexual abuse is part of the 'mystery of iniquity', the fallen nature of humanity. No one is beyond God's healing and redemption but the above comment is disingenuous.

  4. I'm glad you make your point - which is valid and needs to be addressed / responded to.

    Have you any insights you can share with us on the origins of sexual abuse? There are a small number of people that say that the sexual attraction to minors is a sexual orientation! If so it makes it even more complicated issue.


    But is it something that medicine, psychology or psychiatry can help????