Wednesday, April 07, 2010

I'm Not Sure What to Do With This...

So the scandals continue to mount for the Catholic Church - at least the Catholic Church outside the US. And I fired off an e-mail to one of the guys at work who's "in the biz"- i.e. a religious. He said he'd call me and he did. We talked for about 45 minutes. When he gets questions about why he's "still a Catholic after all this stuff," he says his response is this: My faith is in God, not in the man-made rules of the Church. What I believe comes from God, and not from some hierarchy. I thought that was pretty radical, and I know I need to chew on it a bit. My problem is that it's the CHURCH that has disappointed me. The specific set of Catholic rules is one thing I've always had problems with. (Birth control, anyone???) And I find some statistics to say that I'm not alone. Why are Italy's and Poland's birthrates so low? They're REALLY Catholic countries, but someone, somewhere, isn't buying the Papal Encyclical on birth control. Which is fine. I don't buy it either. I need to chew on his theory of why he still believes. I know it's a good one; I just have to get past my anger at what I see is the Church's unwillingness to (a) change; and (b) acknowledge that there IS a significant problem. Benedict's letter to Ireland seemed to indicate that he was demanding answers. But it also seems to me he should have demanded the answers years ago and he now needs to streamline the process and make it transparent to those of us warming the pews. My friend also said that he reads a wide variety of media and gave me some info on things I might want to look at. And he reminded me that there ARE good religious out there. And I do get the whole "if it bleeds, it leads" thing. It certainly sells more papers!! The US Conference of Catholic Bishops met in 2002 or so and had at that time instituted a "zero-tolerance" rule. And it has helped in the US. There have been only 6 cases of abuse recently. And yes, six is STILL TOO MANY, but it's proof that the zero tolerance rule is working. I was under the mistaken belief that what the USCCB said was meant for ALL the bishops everywhere, and my friend told me that wasn't so. And he told me that the US bishops have been giving the other bishops a lot of grief, and telling them, "You HAVE to follow our protocol - because it's working." And I hope other countries take that protocol and go further with it. The only way we're going to come together as a Church and a Body is to make sure that everyone plays by the same rules. I mentioned that I had a hard time with some of the clerical chess games. My friend said that he knew of two cases. In one case, the guy has died, so he didn't know what happened to him. In the other, the priest was sent to a high-intensity treatment facility, and upon his completion of the treatment, an extensive report was issued to his superiors. The report stated categorically that the man should never be put into contact with children ever again. The man is now answering phones in an office in the Order, totally out of the sphere in which he can ever be around kids. And I applaud that. I really do. Because I think some bishops "pish-toshed" the advice of doctors and figured, "Ok, I'll put Fr. A in a GIRL'S school since he's got problems with BOYS." No, Bishop.... NO CONTACT WITH KIDS means NO CONTACT WITH KIDS. With that thinking, we had more instances of Fr. A doing what he did but now only with girls. Also, the priest and bishop who spoke out on the altar at Easter services at the Vatican??? Bad, bad, BAD.... During Holy Week, we mourn and we celebrate. We mourn the death of Jesus and we celebrate His resurrection. The altar during that week is not the place for diatribes against the press and hollering about how "mean" everyone is - and Benedict tacitly endorsed this because he could have - and should have - shushed those men. But now? Now is Benedict's time to speak. Quickly, and truthfully. Too bad if he feels it's past history. Only by discussing the history and openly acknowledging what went wrong will we ever hope to fix it. And I also think that there should be stories about the treatment programs: warts and all. Show the priests who have successfully come through, and show that the superiors followed instructions. Show what happens if they don't succeed, and show what's done next. The Church MUST do this - the story is in the news anyway, so it's not like we're invading privacy. The matter has been sensationalized (which is the new normal for journalism), and if it hasn't been, then at least it's public record. Also show the good guys - the guys who do the hard work of having a vocation and do it with their hearts in the right place and who have done nothing deviant - they don't deserve to be lumped in with those who haven't been able to keep their vows. They certainly deserve our prayers and our praise. But not our sweeping generalizations. My other radical thought: It is so far past time to ordain women. Now is the time. This is the season. I'm whistling in the wind because Benedict is a throw-back. But he'll find himself heading a church that is incredibly smaller if he keeps on this path. He may like that. I don't think that's what Jesus wanted, though.

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