Outrage over the Catholic sex abuse scandals has heated up in the past few weeks, as reports detailing a Wisconsin priest's abuse of deaf students in his care, and the resulting coverup, which reached the Vatican, and Pope Benedict personally, have been widely disseminated. Today, Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, delivering the Good Friday homily in St. Peters, insisted that the recent criticisms leveled at the Vatican in general and the Pope in particular, were akin to "the collective violence" of antisemitism. While the Reverend may have had a point to make concerning individual guilt versus collective guilt, the audacious hyperbole of conflating international criticism to the Holocaust is unbelievably self-pitying arrogance.
My jaw drops as I contemplate the meaning of the reverend's words. He believes himself, the pontiff and the church, to be the victims here, not the children harmed by the abuse that gave rise to the scandals in the first place. Unbelievable! How can Catholics abide it? Why they don't rip St. Peter's down stone by stone is beyond me. The sheer magnitude of the scandal also troubles me. It makes me wonder if Satan really does exist, and this is an infernal plot to seed the church with possessed priests bent on destroying it from within.
There's much about the Catholic church I can't abide, and I count myself fortunate not to have been raised one. Several of my cousins were, however, and they've all turned out to be quite good people. It's the hierarchy I can't stand. Really, the Catholic Church is the Roman empire redux. The levels and strata of power, from the autocrats to the aristocrats to the bureaucrats to the laity, is top-down, with the Pope occupying the place of Caesar.
However, that model is central to an organizational structure which permits unity of purpose and philosophy. It's had its ups and downs, but throughout the 300 centuries of Western Civilization (Joseph Campell says Western Civ began with the cave paintings 30,000 years ago), the top down structure has served us well at times. There's been rebellion, such as the Reformation, which severely compromised the church's temporal authority and led ultimately to the renaissance and the enlightenment, and gave birth to the Western Democracy we all enjoy. The Catholic church tried its best to adapt to Western Democracy, eschewing its innate feudalism for greater transparancy and discussion, and even allowing dissent. (Vatican II).
I find myself in the unbelievable (i'm using that word a lot today) position of actually fearing for the welfare of the Catholic Church, what has always been considered an eternal juggernaut. These scandals might bring it completely down. It's already paid $billions in restitution, and money=power. This hemhorraging of funds can't help its authority. But I worry what would happen to Western Civilization if the Catholic Church dissolves. One of the problems of radical Islam, is this idea that practically any Imam can make any fatwa against practically anyone. It's extremely chaotic and leads to misunderstanding and continuous violence. I do not want to see that happen to Christianity.
So, while I don't wish the Catholic hierarchy well, neither do I wish them ill. I hope they will abandon their self-pitying victimhood and clean house. Major repentance and reconciliation is called for.
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