1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13/Luke 7:31-35, Wednesday of Week 24 in Ordinary Time
Last week, I thought a lot about the sexual abuse scandals in Pennsylvania, more than 1000 children victims, 300 priests. I wanted to see what the priests looked like so, I Googled. All of them are over 70 years old by now, several already dead; lots of Irish names, all white men. Pedophilia comes under the umbrella of paraphilia disorders. Paraphilia is a condition where one is sexually aroused by atypical objects, situations, persons—in this case, children. Psychological sickness can be cured through therapy and medication. A personality disorder, however, is permanent; not cured, only managed. So, like narcissism, obsessive-compulsive behavior, histrionic personality—pedophilia cannot be cured.
From the faces and ages of the priests, I realized they all belonged to that generation where you didn’t talk about sexuality in the seminaries; not in any way, shape, or form. You were to talk about God all the time and the rules, about prayer and theology, oh, and especially about purity and holiness. But anything that had to do with sexuality or intimacy, no matter how remotely—was straightaway considered “sex,” so it was avoided. In today’s terms, it was repressed, denied, and worst of all, considered sinful and damnable. So, imagine a man entering the seminary precisely to conceal problems with sexuality plus, he happened to have a paraphilia disorder – that was like trying to secretly extinguish fire…with kerosene! Because of all that repression, denial, and derogation of sexuality in seminaries, it’s not surprising that, today, many of those priests imploded. At the time, they probably convinced themselves that what they were doing to these children was “love.”
Salamat sa Diyos, many congregations today already incorporate human sexuality formation in the seminary program. They have sexuality seminars, sharing, counselling, communal spiritual direction. So if you want to be “theological” about it, maybe we can say something like this: appreciating the goodness of human sexuality, whether in religious life or lay life, is also a process of appreciating the deeper dimensions of God as love, God as the truest love, God as the most selfless love. Let me say that again: appreciating the goodness of sexuality—meaning, sexuality as gift—is really also a way of discovering and appreciating the many dimensions of God as loving.
1 Corinthians 13 is as fantastically popular as it is fantastically difficult. Paul sets much too high a standard for loving, a perfect standard only few can reach, if at all. But I was thinking, what if 1 Corinthians 13 were read today not so much as a standard for perfect loving, but rather as descriptions of who God is? Because if we recognize God in terms of what true love is like—then maybe it will make us judge ourselves less because of our sexuality. If we awaken to God’s personality in terms of an enumeration of what true love is like—then maybe it’ll make us kinder to ourselves, yes, in spite and because of our sexuality.
“If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have God, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and knowledge, and have all faith to move mountains, but do not have God, I’m nothing. If I give away all I own, and hand my body over to be burned, but do not have God, I gain nothing.” Then it gets even better: “God is patient, God is kind. God is not jealous, God does not boast, God is not proud. God is not rude. He does not seek his own interests. God is not quick-tempered, he doesn’t brood over our injury or rejoice over our wrongdoing. God rejoices with the truth. God bears all of us, believes all of us, hopes in all of us, endures all of us. God never fails…. And the greatest of these is God.”
To know what is healthy and sick in us is the beginning of healing, but only the beginning. To eventually love who we are because God loves us—now that is the guarantee that the healing will endure.
*image from the Internet