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Roman Catholic Church on the defensive amid pedophilia revelations

By in Opinions
The famous spiral staircase of the Vatican Museums
As you’ve probably heard, the Roman Catholic Church is mired in a moral crisis. Though the Church would like the world to follow its guiding moral example, it has lost much credibility in the last few weeks.

All across Europe, victims of molestation and abuse are coming forward, angered over the fact that pedophilic priests had simply been shuffled from one parish to another to protect the Church’s reputation and minimize public exposure. The issue is further complicated as the current Pope should have known about these sex crimes, having served as head of the Vatican’s body responsible for abusive priests from 1981 to 2005.

I’m sure most Roman Catholics feel every bit as disgusted by this news as I do. Concerned with social justice, Catholics try to live by Christ’s example and help others. There is no reason to paint all Catholics, or all Catholic priests, with the same brush because of the Vatican’s poor response.

Despite being agnostic and pro-choice, I can still get behind some of what the Roman Catholic Church stands for in terms of charity and development. And I don’t believe that the Vatican’s response to this crisis reflects the wishes of the majority of Catholics. I presume that most Catholics, like the majority of people everywhere, want pedophiles criminally prosecuted and corruption exposed.

Unfortunately, the institutional Church has been acting like a cornered animal. Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa compared attacks on the Church by the media to the violence perpetrated against the Jews — a fantastically ignorant and ill-chosen comment to say the least. We’re talking about the difference between an outraged media seeking an end to secrecy and the intense anti-Semitism which lead to the Holocaust.

Cantalamessa is the preacher for the papal household, so the Pope was in attendance during the delivery of his sermon. Cantalamessa spoke about the humiliation of priests at the hands of the media, but spent little time speaking about the humiliation and pain experienced by the victims of molestation. This is exactly the sort of rhetoric that the Catholic Church needs to end. It is embarrassing and aggravating.

The problem, it would seem, is that the Roman Catholic Church feels that it has been attacked by the press, and has gone into self defence-mode. For instance, the New York Times ran an article condemning Cantalamessa’s ridiculous comparison between the Vatican and Jewish victims of “collective violence,” while the Prairie Messenger ran a similar story on Cantalamessa’s sermon that was suspiciously devoid of criticism. But if criticism is left to the mainstream press, and Catholics — who have the most sway with the institutional Church — do not take an active role in criticizing the Vatican’s response, how can we be assured that the problem of internal policing will ever end? Will there be more cover-ups?

Thankfully, some branches of the Catholic Church are taking matters seriously and have begun to deal with this issue in a real way. Swiss Bishops have told victims that they should report crimes to the police. This, above all else, must be applauded. Pedophilic priests are of course part of another, larger institution separate from the Church: society.

Yes, forgiveness was one of Christ’s central messages — and it is something both secular and religious people can support — but forgiveness is not meant to be wielded as a tool for brushing aside allegations of sexual abuse. Forgiveness should be reserved for the victims of these crimes, if and when they are ever able to.

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photo: Hadleygrass is Asparagus

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