Some Catholics forget that theirs is a rational confession

“Be alert and sober of mind,” taught St Peter, but then the first Pope had no way of knowing that one day Australia would be inhabited by humans with a superhuman capacity for consuming Foster’s lager.

Taken to excess, that beverage has been known to produce a deleterious effect on individuals and also evidently on institutions.

This stands to reason: it’s hard to stay alert and retain a sober mind when the rest of you is throwing up on a friend’s car by way of a good night out.

The Australian Catholic church has set out to prove this, admittedly hypothetical, proposition by issuing what’s described as a ‘landmark report’ on priestly celibacy as a contributing factor of child abuse.

While stopping short of suggesting that the clergy must be allowed to marry, the report recommends that priests should undergo ‘psycho-sexual development training’ thereby learning to keep their grubby hands off tots.

Now what about bestiality? Shouldn’t there be another training course teaching naughty priests what Wellies are really for? One could also think of any number of other perversions that sensible tuition could discourage.

Then again, for old times’ sake, one could remind the Aussies that the Church ought to have within itself a sufficient body of moral teaching it could bring to bear on this problem – thereby obviating the need for New Age counselling.

I’d start from the Decalogue (Exodus 20) and proceed to the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) to establish the general moral framework. From there it would be a good idea to iron out the pertinent details by moving on to Leviticus (18:21-22 and 20:13), Romans (1:26-27) and 1 Corinthians (6-9:10).

Or else one could take the issue out of the scriptural context altogether, by explaining to the deviants in purely secular terms that this isn’t the right way to suffer little children to come unto you.

As to paedophilia resulting from celibacy, this is cloud-cuckoo land. Any young person, or anyone who remembers what it was like to be young, will understand how a priest may break the vow of celibacy by having a heterosexual fling.

For example, I never took such a vow, but in my testosterone-fuelled youth there were occasional periods (mercifully seldom very long) when I had to endure involuntary celibacy. This, and I know I’ll burn in hell for it, sometimes had the effect of lowering my normally rather fastidious standards of acceptability in a potential paramour.

But it would never have occurred to me to use children for that purpose. There was nothing heroic about it: I didn’t have to make a conscious effort to fight the temptation – the possibility simply never crossed my mind.

I hate to sound so hopelessly square and frightfully normal, but I’m sure that everyone I know – and billions of those I don’t know – will tell you not just a similar story but exactly the same one.

The problem with offending priests is not that they are celibates but that they are perverts. As such they ought to be locked up, with the key thrown away into the River Tiber foaming with their secretions.

Just as no court would accept as an extenuating circumstance that a paedophiliac act was caused by the defendant’s inability to score with grown women, so should the Church refrain from blaming deviance on celibacy. All else is madness.

And speaking of madness, the other day Pope Francis espied a little boy crying his eyes out in St Peter’s Square. His Holiness enquired about the cause of his grief and found out his beloved dog had just died.

Not to worry, said the Pope. “Paradise is open to all God’s creatures.”

Since no cathedra was present ex which His Holiness spoke, the presumption of infallibility doesn’t apply, and one may be permitted some ever so slight scepticism.

It was my impression, and I hope the academic theologians among you will correct me if I am wrong, that admittance through the pearly gates isn’t quite so catholic, as it were.

The price of a ticket includes certain attributes that traditionally have been regarded as the exclusive prerogative of human, rather than canine, beings.

One such attribute is the immortal soul, which dog’s don’t have and humans – even the Aussies – do. Another is God-given free will enabling people to make a choice between good and evil, virtue and sin, right and wrong. Yet another is baptism for the remission of sins.

As a corollary to that, people are capable of confessing and repenting their sins, thereby earning forgiveness and absolution – or not. Personally, I’ve never heard Fido bark out “Father, forgive me for I have sinned. Since my last confession I have relieved myself on the floor of the drawing room four times, chased three cats around the block and bit the postman on his gluteus maximus.”

I wonder how much prior thought had gone into the Pope’s pronouncement. Perhaps His Holiness was having an off day, or else he was too deeply shaken by the Australian ‘landmark report’.


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