For beneath the vestments he is human with frailties and learnings like all of us, though his, if true, are rather more public. The story of his purported peccadilloes comes as the papal kingdom is rocked by a flurry of rumours about corruption and criminal, sexual practice among cardinals, let alone local priests, and clearly Pope Benedict felt another scandal must be silenced by the early retirement of Keith O'Brien, even before he was able to defend himself or give an explanation.
We do not know the details of the accusations from his fellow priests, but it is inferred they concern the Cardinal's relationship or attempted relationship with them many years ago, and the timing of the allegations is no coincidence, designed perhaps to prevent his participation in the selection of the next Pontiff - if so, they were successful. The affair is demeaning to everyone concerned, but highlights once again the central but unacknowledged subject in the Catholic Church of mandatory celibacy of the priesthood, a tradition which is core to the dysfunction of the Church but which no-one within the Church is prepared to change.
Sexual feeling or interest is a natural state for most people, and while some people choose to be celibate in all walks of life, for others like some Catholic priests its requirement is hard to maintain and major problems can result, as we have seen, with terrible consequences when sexuality becomes abusive. It can happen for women too.
Jesus did not require celibacy for priests, indeed, he was married, loved life, loved the sublimity of sexual union. He was the perfect example of how life on earth is the fusion of human experience and spirituality. Why should priests be any different? Some of us are straight, some gay, some in relationships, some not, some solitary, some gregarious, some err, some some err more than others because they are learning more. However, whatever we are, what is important is to be honest about it and not to try to hide it or pretend otherwise.
Priests play a false part more than most of us because it is what is required of them, but it is not their truth - and that is what lies behind the sacking of a cardinal, Keith O'Brien, on the day of the full moon in February, the completion of a cycle for him, and perhaps the Catholic Church.]]>