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Conscience Magazine

Power to the People

By Conscience September 15, 2019

Thomas Doyle is right. Neither celibacy nor homosexuality is the source of abuse in the church. It is the power positions of bishops and the priests. It is proven that in any institution that lacks checks and balances, a culture of abuse will arise—consider, for example, the military or the world of sports. I am pessimistic that this will ever change. The Catholic system is built on power. We call this power “clericalism,” and it is exceptionally toxic, because its self-made rules are never up for real discussion. The church is fundamentally undemocratic. Lay people have only a marginal voice in the church. But the MeToo movement signals that such difficulties in the area of power and sexuality extend far beyond the church. What I have learned is that sexual predators are everywhere. Ideally, the Catholic church should be an example of powerless leadership. But as long as Catholics continue to confer power on the bishops nothing will change. We have to rid ourselves of this clerical system. Doyle correctly focuses on the toxic power of the clergy, with the hope that strict regulations and a zero-tolerance policy will provide a remedy. However, I fear that, given the orthodox tendencies I see in the church, as well as in the young, mostly (very) conservative priests, the opportunity for such a course correction is quickly fading̶̶̶—regardless of the efforts of this pope.

Rev. Henk Baars
Marienburg Association, Netherlands


Offers in-depth, cutting-edge coverage of vital contemporary issues, including reproductive rights, sexuality and gender, feminism, the religious right, church and state and US politics. Our readership includes national and international opinion leaders and policymakers, members of the press and leaders in the fields of theology, ethics and women's studies.