The Bark of Peter, it seems, is drifting somewhere these days with neither map nor compass.
The Lord has not abandoned the People of God; but our institutional leaders have lost their bearings.
A quick summary of what’s been happening……
(1) Sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy and religious and the episcopal cover-up of that rape and sodomy are now a systemic deformity in the global church. Put a pin in your globe for every country where Roman Catholic sexual abuse has been acknowledged and you have a sieve not a globe. Austria, the USA, Canada, Ireland, Germany, Belgium, Chile, Brazil, India, Italy – you can add a new country every day with your morning coffee and newspaper.
(2) And then we have the still-to-be-revealed other forms of sexual abuse. Certainly the Vatican knows about the practice in some parts of Africa where women religious are expected to help priests relieve their sexual tensions with special attentiveness: young “brides of Christ” turned into present day temple prostitutes, with a covert snicker from church authorities.
(3) And certainly the Vatican knows about those prominent bishops, archbishops and cardinals – often publicly homophobic – who have an inordinate fondness for androgynous young seminarians.
(4) Roman Catholic hierarchical credibility is at an all-time low. If one is a “successor of the Apostles,” the expectation is that the fellow (officially we have only fellows who are successors of the Apostles in the Church of Rome) carries on and lives the faith, ministry, and witness of the Apostles. Far too many members of our hierarchy today have the imposition of hands but their actions and attitudes seem terribly distant from those of the Carpenter from Nazareth and his band of faithful followers. The moral authority of the Roman Catholic Church’s leadership has never been weaker. The men dressed in purple and red have sold their souls to self-protective power, control, and arrogant privilege and prestige.
(5) The Dean of the College of Cardinals (and former Secretary of State under Pope John Paul II) Angelo Sodano complained on Easter Sunday that news reports about sexual abuse in the Church were petty gossip. That same old gentleman was long-time friend and supporter of Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, Founder of the Legionaires of Christ and a favorite of John Paul the Great.
Some fellow that Father Degollado: when he had abdominal cramps, invited seminarians to his room to masturbate him. At other times of physical and psychological malaise, Degollado penetrated and masturbated seminarians. Good at sexual multi-tasking, Father Marcial also fathered at least one child and (according to his son’s testimony) sexually abused his own son. But perhaps Cardinal Sodano would say this is just more petty gossip.
(6) According to Cardinal Darió Castrillón Hoyos, former prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, sexual abuse is just a fact of life; and lawyers and the media have unfairly focused on it. In 2001 he praised a French bishop for breaking the law and refusing to hand-over to civil authorities a priest engaged in the sexual abuse of minors.
(7) Increasingly our bishops and cardinals parade around and process down the central aisles of churches and cathedrals like princes in some medieval royal court. Twenty-feet-long red trains are now in vogue as episcopal haute couture. And Jesus only complained about tassels and phylacteries!
The signs of the times call for creative action and deep and serious planning for the future.
As an institution we seem to have all our engines running full-speed in reverse.
The Roman Catholic institutional regression began with the election of Pope John Paul II. And now under Cardinal Ratziner-become Pope Benedict XVI and his “reform of the reform” we are moving back to a nineteenth century Roman Catholic ethos that stresses power and control and demands unquestioning obedience to Rome.
Pope John XXIII opened the church’s windows to the contemporary world; and the council he inaugurated stressed collegiality and shared decision-making at all levels in the Church. Pope Benedict XVI is nailing those windows tightly shut. All roads now go in one direction back to Rome.
Joseph Ratzinger’s institutional church is a centralized power structure which controls everything in the Catholic Church through a network of Vatican congregations controlled by a group of old men who demand strict compliance to what they deem orthodox. Censure and punishment await the disobedient. Control and command have replaced conversation and persuasion.
Most recently Pope Benedict has announced the creation of a new department at the Vatican: the Pontifical Council for New Evangelization. The Pope hopes his new office will clear up the problems created by secularism out there in Western Europe and the United States.
I think the Pope should focus first of all on the problems at home: in the very heart of his institutional superstructure.
Some readers have accussed me of being both anti-Catholic and anti-hierarchy.
I just want the Church to be what it should be:
TRULY CHRISTIAN AND TRULY CONTEMPORARY
The Lord has not abandoned the People of God; but our institutional leaders have lost their bearings. The Bark of Peter, it seems, is drifting somewhere these days with neither map nor compass.