Friday, July 02, 2010

Time for Church Credibility

Even my Roman Catholic friends have stopped. From our distances, there's no resolution to that church's self-created crises. Every chance archbishops all the way up have had to be wise, honest, and well, Christian, on big issues, they have failed.

Well, the Pope's not stupid is one stereotypical comment, as though position proves prudence. Alas, the big guy behaving stupidly repeatedly at length damns by deed.

As a non-Catholic, I had no intention of drawing any blood here...at least until the Belgium thingummy. The official Vatican reaction to raids there on RC offices as part of criminal probes rouses me though. It illustrates too clearly how troubled the thinking of the church hierarchy remains. They seem willing from Benedict down to destroy it all.

About sexual abuse by RC clerics, it has too long been obvious that nothing works until priests and nuns face any necessary criminal charges and penalties. The Vatican's attitude that some expanded form of the uniquely U.S. manifestation of separation of church and state protects their pedophiles is worse than stupid. In an era when the only growing areas for the church, as in Africa, demand such rights as marriage for clergy, there's much more at stake than keeping perverts out of jail or trying to minimize civil judgments.

A detailed history of the Vatican's role in this all appears in today's NYTimes. If you click that, be sure to also visit the interactive timeline on the current Pope's involvement.

Of prime importance in the article is that the authority and mechanisms from dealing with clerical abuses have been in place since 1922 — just not used. Moreover, bishops from various countries specified problems general and specific as well as spoke and wrote calls for action...before everything arrived where we are now.

So, there you have it, the Vatican down through at least archbishops stakes out a position that church law is all that is required. Unfortunately for this position, we aren't square in criminal and civil terms if a prelate counsels a transgressor or reassigns a child abuser. There should bes no wink, wink allowed.

With the figurative flapping of cassocks and search for smelling salts, RC officials decried Belgian judicial officials seizing national-archive records and even police searching two cardinals' tombs for hidden documents. In the end though, it may be particularly good that the Belgian authorities were so heavy handed. This could well highlight the limits of church authority over criminal conduct.

Here's a huge religious organization that has failed to police itself for centuries. When we hear their top administrators say, "Trust us. We have this under control," even my Catholic chum roll their eyes.


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