Catholic guilt; Catholic shame

Guilt and shame. Staples of a Catholic education in the 50’s and early 60’s. The very foundation of Catholic moral instruction in this era, especially in the area of human sexuality.

So how is it that the priests themselves did not seem to feel the guilt and shame they preached?

Young boys were tormented with threats of hell if they masturbated, but chasing altar boys was the topic of dinner time jokes in seminaries and rectories. For teenage boys touching yourself was a shameful and guilt ridden exercise in self damnation; but for priests, touching young boys was an exercise in power and control.

What about when they were found out? The boy victims were beaten by their fathers or by another “Father.” “How could you say such lies? You are going to hell for such sins.” And the priests were told by their bishops “We will pray for you, my son, that you can overcome this temptation from the devil. Remember he strikes hardest at the holiest among us.”

Oh, so if priests are tempted that is a sign of holiness; If young boys “give in” and “allow” themselves to be touched, that is a sign that they are agents of the devil. The shame and guilt is theirs. The priests deserve our support, our pity, our prayers; the victims deserve our condemnation.

So, the problem lies in the lack of shame and guilt on the part of the priests, and their bishops. And their complete lack of compassion for young children molested, raped, and sodomized by members of the clergy.

We won’t get anywhere in the search for justice unless the Church begins to teach its priests about shame and guilt.

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7 thoughts on “Catholic guilt; Catholic shame

  1. In 1962, canonical law: “…required, under pain of excommunication, that the victim report the violation to church authorities within 30 days of the event” if a priest used the confessional to solicit sex. But I’m sure this document in no way demonstrates an entrenched institutional commitment to vilify victims.

    Quote from: pittsburghcatholic.org

    • But read that again: the victim is put under pain of excommunication, not the abusive priest? Knowing what we all know now about the effects of sexual abuse this would have been absolutely impossible for a victim to do, leading to more fear, guilt and shame…for the victim!

  2. I was brought up Catholic. My memories of church and Sunday school and talk of religion at home is of guilt, shame and fear. I was to feel guilty for normal age-appropriate behaviors. I was shamed. I feared the wrath of God. It was not a peaceful, hopeful or joyful experience for me. When recently taking a course in identifying abuse, I learned that these are the same tactics (fear, guilt and shame) that sexual predators also use to seduce and silence their victims. No wonder the predators were attracted to the Catholic Church.

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