A cure for Roman fever?

At the risk of seeming un-ecumenical, don’t the ongoing revelations of child abuse in the Catholic Church and the alleged complicity of Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict seem like kind of a big deal? First and foremost, of course, it’s a big deal for the victims of abuse and their families. But doesn’t it also highlight the lack of transparency and accountability that are intrinsic to the way the hierarchy functions? This is, after all, a model of the church that is often held up as one for wayward Protestants to follow (not least by some “postliberal” Protestants). And yet the idea of an authoritative magisterium standing as a bulwark against decadent liberal secularism isn’t looking so appealing right now. I haven’t seen much discussion of this in the theo-blogosphere–at least the corners of it that I frequent–but it would be interesting to learn what others think.

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7 thoughts on “A cure for Roman fever?

  1. I’ll say that – from strictly an outside perspective – it’s difficult to believe that the Pope, when we operated as an investigator to this type of thing, failed so completely in stopping it. But it isn’t that hard to believe that he’d want desperately to protect the church.

    Would he protect the church at the expense of a few dozen kids being molested? I think he would have to weight the good that the church does for people, and his belief that it saves souls, over the cost of the pain and suffering of the children who are being raped by Priests.

    In the end, I find it hard to believe that a man of his faith would not choose to protect the church, because he believes the church saves immortal souls and brings food to the hungry, and provides shelter for those in need. His miscalculation is that he did not anticipate that this could not be swept under the rug forever. He thought he could hide it and have it both ways. He was wrong.

    This is how it looks to me. He tried to do good by allowing evil to exist. That hardly ever works.

  2. Honestly, it doesn’t really change my opinion of the Roman Catholic Church much at all. This may be expected coming from a Lutheran, but let me say that I am a Lutheran who has recently realized that he is also a “cafeteria Catholic” as they say (the need to be a member of the RCC being among the doctrine I choose not to accept), or perhaps a crypto-Catholic if you prefer.

    The one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church is and always has been a clay jar holding the treasure of the Gospel (2 Co. 4:7), and the Roman Catholic Church is a sometimes useful approximation of the catholic Church. Like a beautiful cathedral in a poverty stricken neighborhood, it can be both a sign of hope and a worldly embarrassment.

    The hierarchy screwed up and screwed up badly. I’m not sure this isn’t worse than the kind of nonsense they were engaged in with regard to political power during the Reformation. Now, as then, a failure of leadership undermines the institution but doesn’t necessarily render it obsolete — just in need of serious reform.

    • Andy, I don’t think we disagree. But I think it’s important to emphasize that structuring institutions in particular ways will tend to allow leadership lapses to happen and to go unchecked for longer. So, it’s not just a failure of leadership; that would be like saying Abu Ghraib was just the fault of a few “bad apples.” There needs to be structural reform. Or so it seems to me.

      • Yeah, maybe. I like the idea of a pope in a pastoral sense, so I’d at least hope that perhaps a merely ideological change could fix things. I read something recently where Luther was saying that Christ needed a vicar on earth who would serve not one that had authority. He described it in terms of confusing Christ on earth with Christ in heaven. A servant pope (which is some days what we have) could do a lot of good. A pope with authority can do a lot of evil. But ultimately, I must admit that history suggests throwing out the hierarchy altogether may be the way to go.

  3. As a Catholic, I have seen a lot about it in the blogosphere ….. at DotCommonweal, America magazine’s blog, at Andrew Sullivan’s blog, at the Times, and I’ve written about it too. It is a big deal, I think, and I hope it will make some changes possible, like getting rid of mandatory celibacy in the priesthood, but I’m not holding my breath.

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