way overdue changes…

Posted on Monday 29 March 2010

Pope dismisses ‘petty gossip’ of sexual abuse allegations
In Palm Sunday address pope says faith in God leads ‘towards the courage of not allowing oneself to be intimidated’
by Tom Kington
28 March 2010

Pope Benedict, facing the worst crisis of his papacy as a sexual abuse scandal sweeps the Catholic church, declared today he would not be "intimidated" by "petty gossip", angering activists who say he has done too little to stamp out paedophilia. Addressing crowds in St Peter’s square during a Palm Sunday service, the pope did not directly mention the scandal spreading though Europe and engulfing the Vatican, but alluded to it during his sermon. Faith in God, he said, led "towards the courage of not allowing oneself to be intimidated by the petty gossip of dominant opinion".

As Benedict spoke, the president of Switzerland, Doris Leuthard, called for a central register of paedophile priests to keep them away from children. In Austria, the archbishop of Vienna announced the creation of a commission funded by the church, but without church representatives, to look into Austrian abuse claims.

Benedict came under attack after it was revealed that he had been involved in dealing with two cases of abuse. In the first a German priest in therapy for paedophilia returned to work with children while the pope was archbishop of Munich. In the second, in the late 1990s when Benedict was a senior Vatican figure, his deputy stopped a church trial against a Wisconsin priest accused of abusing deaf boys.

Church officials say Benedict was unaware the German priest had returned to work and the Wisconsin case was reported to the Vatican 20 years after the fact. The Vatican daily, L’Osservatore Romano, has accused the media of a "clear and ignoble intent of trying to strike Benedict and his closest collaborators"…
Admittedly, there’s nothing right for the Pope or Catholic Church to do at this point [holy week?]. But I’m surprised at these comments – "the petty gossip of dominant opinion" "clear and ignoble intent of trying to strike Benedict and his closest collaborators" are some fairly indefensible counter-accusations. I was recently reminded of the legal term res ipsa loquitur, the thing speaks for itself. The cases of clergy pedophilia are well documented, widespread, and were clearly covered up by the Church, even allowed to continue. Where’s the "petty gossip" in that? And the Media’s reporting hardly seems a "clear and ignoble intent of trying to strike Benedict" – it’s a reporting of the facts. The Vatican sounds like Nixon after Watergate or Bush and Cheney after Joe Wilson.

It’s hard to accept that the Pope and his fellow Clergy are just doing what regular people do when they’re accused – fighting back, blaming others, making excuses. It’s our own expectations that are the problem right now. We’d like to see them "turn the other cheek," to "judge not that [they] be not judged," to "let him who is without sin cast the first stone" instead of get all defensive and spit back. Even non-believers expect them to be above the reflexive  self justification that characterizes the rest of humanity. After all, their celibacy has lead them to a higher spiritual plane [such sarcasm is just too tempting to avoid sometimes – sorry].

Somewhere, there is responsibility for the Church ignoring the epidemic of pedophilia in its ranks and for the policies that perpetuated it. But it’s certainly not historical for the Catholic Church to accept criticism easily [Protestant Reformation]:
The Protestant Reformation began as an attempt to doctrinally reform the Catholic Church, effected by Western European Catholics who opposed what they perceived as false doctrines and ecclesiastic malpractice — especially the teaching and the sale of indulgences, and simony, the selling and buying of clerical offices — that the reformers saw as evidence of the systemic corruption of the church’s hierarchy, which included the Pope.

Martin Luther’s spiritual predecessors included John Wycliffe and Johannes Hus, who likewise had attempted to reform the Catholic Church. The Protestant Reformation began on 31 October 1517, in Wittenberg, Saxony, where Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences to the door of the All Saints’ Church [a university notice board], the theses debated and criticised the Church and the Pope, but concentrated upon the selling of indulgences and doctrinal policies about purgatory, particular judgement, Mariology [devotion to Mary, Jesus’s Mother], the intercession of and devotion to the saints, most of the sacraments, the mandatory clerical celibacy, including monasticism, and the authority of the Pope. In the event, other religious reformers, such as Ulrich Zwingli, soon followed Martin Luther’s example.

Moreover, the reformers soon disagreed among themselves and divided their movement according to doctrinal differences — first between Luther and Zwingli, later between Luther and John Calvin — consequently resulting in the establishment of different and rival Protestant Churches (denominations), such as the Lutheran, the Reformed, the Calvinist, and the Presbyterian. Elsewhere, the religious reformation causes, processes, and effects were different; Anglicanism arose in England with the English Reformation, and most Protestant denominations derive from the Germanic denominations…

The Catholic Church did not rethink celibacy in the 16th century, even under a concerted assault that split Christianity for all times. The Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation resulted in wars that went on forever, resulting in the deaths of untold numbers. Even something as big as the Protestant Reformation didn’t much change things. Instead, people changed churches.

In 1964, the Church did change – with Vatican II – the time when Masses were changed to modern languages and there was much greater lay involvement. I don’t know a lot of the why of the change. My fantasy is that the Church was becoming irrelevant, people were drifting away, and they needed to catch up. It seems to me that this recent crisis is similar. The notion of celibacy for the Clergy is a big problem for them right now, particularly because it has selected for pedophiles, but for other reasons – not the least being attracting priests and nuns. Their stand on birth control is counter to good sense and most national policies. The world is "full." Their view of human sexuality is locked into the Middle Ages when the Church was the dominant force for social order and morality. That’s less the case today, even in the third world. They’re not controlling sexual morality anymore, they’re overpopulating that part of the world that least needs it. Their position on Divorce and Homosexuality likewise seems very misdirected and anachronistic.

I guess the reason I’m so disappointed in this poor showing in responding to child abuse crisis is that it would be a perfect time to rise above this defensive posture, to become a positive force in the modern world. It almost feels like the Church and its history have replaced the religion it proposes to represent. And I don’t think the media has a "clear and ignoble intent of trying to strike Benedict and his closest collaborators," I think the outcry is a desperate plea for the Vatican to get over itself and make some way overdue changes.
    March 29, 2010 | 1:04 PM

    My friend Richard, who is himself Roman Catholic and also an independent, progressive thinker, posted this comment on my blog of yesterday “Crisis at the Vatican.”

    “I wonder if the Catholic Church finds itself in an untenable position because it is looking at this as a legal problem. If the Pope steps down, that could be interpreted as an admission of guilt, and you would see lawsuits fly. If the Pope maintains his position, the lawsuits might be contained at the local levels. If the Church looked at this as what it is, a horrendous moral outrage, the only recourse would be for the Pope to say mea culpa, and step down. That would be an incredible example to give for the Church. The Pope, like Christ, could ‘accept’ the sins of all the people and sacrifice himself for the good of all. Let himself be crucified. That is the only way I see to salvage this.

    “But because the Church is a corporation, too, corporate policy will trump issues of faith.”

    March 30, 2010 | 8:50 AM

    Having gone to Catholic school for 8 years and religious education for 4 more, the one thing that we were taught never to question was the pope was infallible. I just looked in the dictionary and it says the definition R.C.Ch. incapable of error in setting forth doctrine on faith and morals: esp. of the pope in his official capacity Now we’re reading what he did wrong was when he was a cardinal but what he’s saying now as pope is infallible. This is al so twisted. By the magic of the cardinals voting for a new pope the new pope becames infallible.

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