Danger: If you are clinging to the current form of Roman Catholicism….you might not want to read today’s post. Change is a comin…..and the invitation is to step aside, let the carnage fall where it may, then watch as the phoenix of new life arises from the ashes. In order to do this, we need to let go of our attachment to what we know and have known the Catholic Church to be and to be open to something new and unexpected.
The Sex Abuse Scandal is NOT Over
Last night I was at a friend’s house reading the latest issue of Rolling Stone Magazine which features an exhaustive investigation into the Catholic Church and the sex abuse scandal, specifically, the secret sex crimes files. (here’s a link to the article: http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/the-catholic-churchs-secret-sex-crime-files-20110906 ) In the article, New York Archbishop, Timothy Dolan (formerly of our own Archdiocese of Milwaukee), was quoted as waving off the priest sex abuse scandal and saying, “That’s over with.” Are you flippin’ kidding me? OVER With ????? I realize that the Catholic hierarchy burying their heads in the sand is not new information….but really? The priest sex abuse scandal is over? NOT HARDLY!!!!! In fact, is has only just begun. What Dolan’s response illuminates to me, however, is the very reason that the Catholic Church (as we currently know it) will and MUST fall. As long as the hierarchy clings to denial, self-protection and defense, the issues that created a culture in which priests have been allowed to sexually abuse children will never be dealt with. Change and reform will NOT be coming anytime soon from the old-boys club and for those of us in the pew, we’d better just get used to this idea. Instead of authentic reform, we will be pummeled with distractions – liturgical reform, investigations of women religious, new translations of the Roman missal, new guidelines on music, the restoration of vestments, vessels, etc. that set the priest apart as “more special” than the rest of us, hard-line insistence on upholding “the one true faith,” coming down on issues of morality, setting the Catholic Church apart as “better than the rest.” Vatican II has been set aside in favor of a Church that wants us to pray, pay and obey (which is ironic considering the current state of the hierarchy) and keep our mouths shut!
You Don’t Have to Be a Prophet
You don’t have to be a prophet to figure out where this is all leading. The Institution cannot keep up the facade of giving a damn about the sex abuse scandal forever. We are not that stupid. As secret files emerge and more charges against priests are made, it becomes painfully obvious that nothing is being done and nothing will be done to heal the wounds or work toward authentic reform. The Institution has nothing to gain and everything to lose by owning their own sins, holding themselves accountable and working toward change. In the meantime, all the work of creating distractions does nothing but create disillusionment and frustration in the hearts of those who want to see a happy and healthy Catholic Church (I count myself among those people). In the end, what the Church will be left with is a flock of blindly obedient members content to look the other way as priests continue to abuse while those who want a healthy church will simply walk away….either retreating to private devotion or finding refuge in another denomination, while secretly pining for what they had to leave behind in the sacraments and rituals with which they had previously found comfort.
There is Good News
I know that I can tend to be uber-cynical and perhaps a little jaded when it comes to issues on Roman Catholicism, and I own that. I found that working in the Institution does one of three things: creates bureaucratic puppets, frustrated reformers or jaded cynics. I guess I fall somewhere between the latter two. That being said, I boldy and passionately LOVE many things about my Catholic faith. And….I am a 100% Vatican II baby and believe in the authenticity and vision of that council. I want to see the reforms of Vatican II fully manifested in the Church and I look forward to seeing what the Holy Spirit has in mind for Vatican III. I believe in the redemptive action of the Holy Spirit and I believe that even in the midst of what seems like the imminent death of the Institution (as we have known it) that something new and magnificent will rise from the ashes. And while there is grief in witnessing the death of what I have known, it is in the on-going redemptive and life-generating action of the Divine that I place my trust, knowing that something new and wonderful is coming to pass.
Authentic Freedom Ministries