Sunday, July 25, 2010

It is clear the Catholic hierarchy has let down the church

It is clear the Catholic hierarchy has let down the church
Friday, 23 July 2010 23:46

When he took over the papacy, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger took the name Benedict — probably after the great World War I peace pope, Benedict XV, and also St. Benedict of Nursia, the famed monk who help Christianize much of Western Europe through his monastic traditions of praying and working. Ratzinger, like his predecessor John Paul II, has a fixation about Europe becoming de-Christianized ("secularized" is the word they insist on), and looking at the declines of Church attendance, Church vocations, and even Catholic impact on public policy, they are probably right. The future of the Catholic Church is clearly in the Third World, despite the influence of the older European hierarchy.

But now Ratzinger, who was ironically one of the most vocal critics of priestly pedophilia during the John Paul II years, is caught up in a very nasty and seemingly endless scandal that is sweeping the Church. It is a source of great embarrassment to the faithful and to the vast majority of priests. It is clear that the hierarchy has let down the Church and most importantly, very many young boys and children by shuffling around degenerates from one parish assignment to another. And it is unfortunate that Ratzinger, once so strong on this terrible issue — when he was Archbishop and later in early dealings with the matter at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — was deficient in the lack of haste and commitment he made in dealing with cases before him. It is clearly a breakdown in Vatican management that rivals the breakdown at the diocesan levels. This is most unfortunate for it was Ratzinger who dealt clearly with the Legionnaires scandal, a group whose "saintly" leader had the ear of the Holy See and John Paul II, and who was involved in God knows what string of unpriestly behavior with his mistresses and children. It was Ratzinger, not John Paul, who publicly denounced the "filth" of pedophilia behavior, and when he was criticized for his public remarks, bluntly observed, "But we are priests." He at least knew the expectations.

But now it is clear that the pope and the men who make a good living toadying to him cannot deal with the growing scandal. It is consuming the work of the Church, and the attitude of the Vatican that this is some God-given cross for the old man to bear is just wrong. The Church needs not martyrs, but missionaries, at this time, and it can only spread the good news if the day-to-day news is not so bad.

The Church does not need a Benedict as much as it needs another Gregory. The Catholic Church, and indeed Western Civilization, has been blessed by two fine popes named Gregory — Gregory I (or Gregory the Great) and Gregory VII (Hildebrand). Both men were truly extraordinary figures who helped save Rome and the Church by their intense reforms which alienated many of the bishops at the time.

They cleaned out the stables, and put in place a new bureaucracy that overcame what seemed at the time an endless stream of scandals. Newsweek magazine has suggested that the Church needs a new dose of leadership, and that it can only come from women. Perhaps the magazine is correct, but where were the nuns when the children were being abused? Surely, some of them knew what was happening, and except in the play Doubt did any nuns report that to the bishops? It appears that a lot of us were deficient in protecting our children from predators, priests or otherwise.

Michael P. Riccards is Executive Director of the Hall Institute of Public Policy - New Jersey.

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