21 July, 2010
The Roman Catholic Church just can't seem to keep itself out of the news these days. For a minute there, things were sort of quiet, after Pope Benny made his statement that the child abuse cases were a result of sin within the church, not without, and that "forgiveness is not a substitute for justice". It was a step, albeit a small one, in the right direction, though miles remain to go. Even so, the critics quieted down for a little while, and seemed to be waiting. And watching.
What were they waiting and watching for? This, apparently.
I've had a couple of discussions regarding this now. What shocks me is how normally reliable media have treated this case. Both the New York Times and Time magazine ran articles online making the claim that the Vatican considers the ordination of women just as morally despicable as child molestation. Naturally, a lot of people are bent out of shape over this one.
One commentator made the observation that the Vatican seems to never miss an opportunity to shoot itself in both feet. While I'd hesitate to disagree, this one just doesn't seem to be their fault.
The Vatican never said the two offenses were equal. Where the confusion comes from is the fact that both are mentioned in the same document. That was enough, it seems, for the fine folks at the NYT and Time to presume the worst and announce it to the world with full conviction. They seemed oblivious to the fact that the two offenses against Canon Law were put in completely different categories, and were in no way equated morally. Kind of like bank fraud and rape - both are illegal, both will land you in jail, but there's no question that one is more reprehensible than the other from a moral point of view.
Of course, even if I'm right about this, the world still has plenty to be angry at the Vatican for. It's beyond dispute now that they deliberately concealed child molesters and shielded them from investigation. Of course, that has given some the idea that the Roman Catholic Church is a welcoming pervert club, and that they protect pedophiles because they like to. In reality, "protecting" pedophiles was an unforgivable by-product of their primary goal: protecting the Church from scandal. I doubt they were thrilled at the necessity of their actions (though I realize that necessity was only perceived, not real - they could have done right from the beginning).
I make no excuses for their past sins. It seems even the Pope himself has a lot to answer for, and I quite sincerely hope that he does. In the meantime, Benedict XVI has done more than any pope before him to tackle the child abuse issue head-on. He hasn't gone far enough yet, but the pieces seem to be moving on the board. Whatever else I may vehemently disagree with him on, he may yet do some good in the course of his term. Hopefully, more good than harm, though it remains to be seen.
Some would wonder why I would defend the Catholic Church, given that I'm not actually Catholic. My reasoning is something like this: they're what the world looks to when it thinks of the Christian faith. I'm associated with the Vatican whether I like it or not. And if they can get their house in order, they stand to do a great deal of good. I'm all for them getting their house in order, and I won't stand by and watch them get kicked while they're down, which is what this latest news story amounted to. Let them deal with their issues. Let them make their changes. Put pressure on them where it is needed, but don't needlessly throw rocks at them when they're trying to put the past to rights.
"Speak truth to power", goes the old Quaker saying, and Paul often reminds me of it. And amen to that. We've had enough of lies from all sides.