With the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI one can hope, perhaps vainly, that his successor will begin addressing the problems besetting the Catholic Church and try and bring the institution into the 21st century.
Maintaining archaic policies regarding abstinence for the priesthood and its discriminating attitudes regarding women serves the Church and its adherents badly, keeping it trapped in the distant past and undoubtedly maintaining several factors in the rampant sexual abuse that has beset the Church for countless centuries.
One just has to look at prison life to find a correlation between the lack of access to the opposite sex and, therefore, a normal and healthy sex life, to see that rape and sexual abuse is often the result. The Bureau of Justice Statistics suggests that 1 in every 10 prisoners is raped or sexually assaulted by other prisoners and sometimes staff.
The Church with its self-imposed restrictions on a natural sex life is having its own sexual abuse epidemic, as we all now know in spite of years of collusion and cover-ups. It shows the human need for normal sexual relationships between people. That is something that priests, bishops, cardinals and even nuns, for that matter, are denied.
The misogynistic attitude of the Church against women is another factor. Any group or system that treats women as second-class human beings always has rape and abuse problems. Look at rigid and fundamentalist Islamic sects and even the U.S. military with its similar male dominated culture and, I doubt coincidentally, culture of raping female service members and downplaying the crisis.
Likewise, Fundamentalist Christians see women as little more than servants to men, meant to stay home "barefoot and pregnant." They are not seen as complete people with dreams of becoming this or that, desires, or even fully having their own rights. Not being considered equal they are not allowed to be priests, bishops, cardinals, or even have a chance at becoming pontiff.
Some will say that abstinence in the priesthood or misogynistic attitudes has nothing to do with sexual abuse because sexual molestation takes place throughout society. Those people obstinately prefer not to face the need for centuries old traditions to change. True, abuse takes place everywhere, but just like same-sex rape in the prison system, there is an epidemic of sexual molestation in the Church.
Some police officers and elementary school teachers, as examples, may be child molesters, but the world’s police departments and schools are not suffering from a child rape epidemic and conspiracy of silence and collusion, spanning the globe, to move officers and teachers to other departments and schools to keep it covered up. Hence, the operations and opinions of the Church -- preoccupation with (and predilections) against sex and low views of womanhood -- have to be taken into account.
If the Church finds itself unable to make fundamental changes in its 1st century attitudes toward sex and women as we start the 21st century, perhaps its adherents should look elsewhere to find a loving, compassionate and understanding God.