Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Scandal of Roman Catholicism is not about sex abuse; it is about governance

The Religion and Ethics Newsweekly on March 26, 2010 presents Rev. Tom Reese, S.J. on sex abuse. Video lasts 5:37. To watch click here.

The scandal in the Roman Catholic Church is not about sex abuse but rather about corruption of its administrative staff. This corruption is the result of centuries of patriarchal autocracy that values the organization over its mission of facilitating the spirituality of the people it professes to serve.

While Unitarian Universalism can be very self serving too its congregational polity is quite different and UUs belief in the democratic process is a distinctive quality which the Roman Catholic church does not share with Unitarian Universalism.

Can you trust an autocracy even one which professes to be benevolent?

No. All organizations are self serving and self preserving and will betray its mission and its members to save itself when it is in crisis.

The crisis in the Roman Catholic church is not about sexual abuse but rather about a failure of leadership. People will loose faith in the institution and rightfully so. No organization deserves loyalty and allegiance when it is abusive and operates in a corrupt manner.

The crisis in the Roman Catholic church which now has extended all the way to the Pope reminds me of the movie Wizard of Oz when Dorothy finally arrives in the Emerald City for an audience with the Wizard and pulls back the curtain and discovers it is just a wizened, mortal, human being.

Has the secular gaze penetrated the supposedly sacred pretense of the Vatican to the extent that believers have become disillusioned?

The answer is a resounding YES!. The fatal flaw of the Roman Catholic church in America and Europe has been exposed. Priests, Bishops, Cardinals, Popes, rather than represent Jesus of Nazareth on earth as they pretend are simply company men who invest themselves in the exercise of institutional power. I have always wondered to what extent they actually believe a lot of the nonsense which they disseminate.

There are probably a few clergy who have become enlightened and indeed deeply spiritual beings but my experience has taught me that they are the exception rather than the rule.

One of the things I like the most about Unitarian Universalists is our humility. For the most part, we don't put on airs claiming supernatural authority over others which is bogus. We, UUs, have our feet more firmly planted on the terra firma and call a spade a spade rather than spin superstitious and fanciful stories to manipulate the innocent and gullible.

People want to believe. It takes their existential pain away. Relgion offers a way of making sense of the world which brings security in thinking one's beliefs are right. UU offers no such false security. We know we don't know and we pledge to be there for each other in our ignorant search for truth.

Give me the anxiety that comes from not knowing any day over professed belief in illusionary confabulations.


  1. Sexual abuse, or more appropriately, raping of children, rape of nuns in Africa, denigration of women, and the myriad other crimes against humanity perpetrated by Roman Catholic clergy is very much at issue and you do a disservice to history by saying otherwise. The cover-up, protection and harboring of the guilty, reassignment of priests knowing they would continue to rape, and, now, the legal and semantic maneuvering to deflect accusations are all signs of a thoroughly corrupt, arrogantly anti-social organization headed by the mastermind of the cover-up. How any semi-conscious human today can continue to revere the Roman Catholic church with the hocus pocus they've invented over centuries to manipulate followers is beyond comprehension. One need only look to Africa and the millions there who suffered and died of AIDS because of the Vatican homicidal policies against condoms--the only protection against HIV--to know how morally corrupt the Catholic church is. Guilty of murder they are, and personally responsible for the millions of orphans and the poverty their policies caused.

  2. @ Jeremy - There is no comparison between the depravity illustrated by the sexual abuse of children by priests and the Vatican shuffle and coverup, on the one hand, and the Africa condom business, on the other. The former consists of priests' violation of Church doctrine, the law, their vows, and the bodies and sacred trust of those place under their care and authority. The latter consists of the Church and its agencies promoting a message and a policy in keeping with Church teachings on the nature and parameters of life - the message being wrong according to our lights but being consistent with the Church's doctrines and understanding of its role in the spiritual direction of its people; the policy not having the force of law and being executed with other competing players in the field.

    Thus, in the former case, we see the priests acting in violation of Church law and doctrine with the Church protecting itself rather than the victims while, in the latter case, we see the Church and agencies of the Church promoting its doctrines as one actor among many. The Church bears immense guilt in the former case as hypocritical, protectors of criminals against the law, and violators of the sacred trust to care for its people. The rest of the world (i.e., us) bears the guilt in the latter. People who have suffered and died of AIDS in Africa have not done so because of Catholic policies but because the rest of us did not sufficiently act to counter that policy and promote life (in combination with the individual choices made by persons living within a certain cultural reality).

  3. Paul,

    you wrote: "People who have suffered and died of AIDS in Africa have not done so because of Catholic policies"

    IMO, and in the opinion of many others, you could not be more wrong and that kind of thinking is a large part of the problem. I suspect you are, or have been indoctrinated by RC thinking. Blaming others is part of the RC tactic, you about A
    IDS in Africa, Ratzi and his defenders about raping children. The latest is that 12, 13 yr old boys are not children so it's not pedophilia and they are old enough to consent! Argue as you will, you'll never convince me it is morally defensible or just 'doctrine.'

  4. Dear Jeremy:

    I don't disagree with you. You seem to imply that I do.

    My point is that the institutional cover-up is the primary problem not the crimes of individual priests although they are culpable and should be held accountable as well. Had the church held them accountable instead of shuffling them around the extent of the problem would be much decreased and the faith of the people could have been maintained. It is the administrative malfeasance and the conspiratorial behavior to protect the institution at the expense of the victims and potential victims which is the most horrendous problem of all.

    As far as the church's objection to the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV, it is reprehensible, and reminds me of the attack on Galileo. When are these guys going to get with the times and become aware that the public health of millions is at stake.

    All the best and thanks for your comments,

    David Markham

  5. @ Jeremy - You wrote: "I suspect you are, or have been indoctrinated by RC thinking."

    No. Never been a Catholic. Never went to Catholic school. Never had an RC family member or neighbor subtly or unsubtly attempting to influence me toward Church positions. Never was subjected to RC indoctrination.

    I did not say I supported RC doctrines about sex and sexuality. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I'm saying that those and AIDS in Africa are unrelated to the protection of pedophiles by the church hierarchy. And I'm saying that the Catholic Church was only one player of many in relation to the condom issue in Africa. They preached their position and their agencies upheld it. But certainly no non-Catholic was required to toe the Catholic line. So the rest of the world could have done more or better. George W Bush et al. shaped US policy in ways that did damage in Africa too. The Catholic approach had a negative impact but was one element. Sins of commission and omission were spread all over the place and not owned just by Catholics.

    You wrote: "Blaming others is part of the RC tactic, you about AIDS in Africa, Ratzi and his defenders about raping children."

    I'm not sure what the "you" in there is all about. I say the RC is responsible and must be held accountable for its illegal and immoral coverup of illegal acts by pedophile priests. I never said otherwise. I never believed or said that I thought the RC position on condoms is the right one, but it is a teaching of the Church that those of us who believe in freedom of religion and freedom of speech have to accept, even as we use our own freedoms against such a message. Meanwhile, the rest of the world was free to do what it insufficiently did to work against policies based in those RC teachings.

    RCC protection of pedophiles is different in kind from its AIDS policies. It doesn't help anyone to pretend they are the same.

  6. Pope Benedict, accused by victims' lawyers of being ultimately responsible for a cover-up of sexual abuse of children by priests, cannot be called to testify at any trial because he has immunity as a head of state, a top Vatican legal official said on Thursday. Nor can any priest or church official be forced to testify against him, according to papal lawyers.

    There are American priests, indicted in the USA, who are being harbored on Vatican grounds to shield them from extradition.

    Is there any scenario which could better depict moral depravity? Is there any semi-intelligent human who could continue to look to the Roman Catholic Church for moral guidance?

    Doctrine is a fancy word for made up stuff meant to justify delusional mysticism and profiteering for personal gain. Ratzinger had better cancel any plans he ever had to travel outside the confines of Vatican city. He could and should be arrested, tried, convicted and incarcerated for the rest of his life. And then, his accomplices, bishops, priests and defenders tried for crimes committed under the guise of 'doctrine.' Enough with the apologists.