Friends another week is coming to a close. Plus, another month is ending, and a 3-Day weekend is on the horizon, that’s cause to celebrate. It’s also #CurrentEventFriday and the topic dominating the news is not about who celebrates it’s who is celibate. Yeah, I’m wading into the Catholic Church scandal.
First, let me preface all this to say that I do not bear any ill will towards Catholics or Catholicism. My heart genuinely breaks because of what is coming to light. I know many good Catholic parishioners can imagine what this whole ordeal means to them.
Having said all of that, the scandal that has rocked the church is largely due to the nature of the Catholic Church. While I may differ with them theologically, that’s more or less like dialects and accents of a language. So, I can appreciate those differences, but the polity is what has caused the problem. For what it’s worth, UMC polity is what has made my own denomination face troubles.
At the heart of the problems for the Church of Rome is the degree to which officials not only knew of claims, but actual instances of abuse. Even more disheartening is that some of those officials were guilty parties as well. The worst offender seems to be Bishop Theodore McCarrick, formerly of the Washington, D.C. Archdiocese. Allegations about McCarrick had been known since 2000, and civil settlements had been paid by the Newark Archdiocese to victims for McCarrick’s behavior during his episcopacy in that Archdiocese. Pope Benedict XVI was aware of these allegations and formally sanctioned McCarrick by restricting his movement and ministry. Strangely, Pope Francis is alleged to have lifted the restrictions. Earlier in July as mounting allegations and secular trials were mounting against McCarrick, he resigned from the college of Cardinals. Upon his resignation, Pope Francis suggested McCarrick devote himself to prayer, penance, and seclusion.
Much of the accusations against McCarrick and others are made by the Vatican’s delegate to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano. Archbishop Vigano released a document last weekend that detailed instances of conspiracy by church officials in regard to abusers. In the document, Vigano calls on Pope Francis to resign as Francis is alleged to have known much of the abuse occurred.
Here’s why all of this is a problem. The Catholic Church has grown to an international bureaucratic organization. We as Americans often bemoan our own governmental system, but the Catholic Church is worldwide than the U.S. Government. Also, with out government system there are provisions to correct problems, the most obvious being elections. Popes and Bishops aren’t elected by parishioners, and there are no term limits on them. I don’t think that democratic elections are the answer though.
I’ll admit, I’m not a Catholic scholar but if it is proven that Pope Francis was aware of the allegations and allowed the Bishops and priests to remain in ministry without discipline, he should resign. It’s not the Reformation, where news of the church’s corruption is unquestioned and slow to be discovered. Pope Francis needs to address this. His response towards reporters about the Vigano report sounded much like Pres. Trump when he told them to do their jobs and stop asking him questions. Also not helping Pope Francis’s cause is a tweet from earlier yesterday that has now been deleted. In the papal tweet, Francis stated, “We Christians are not selling a product. We are communicating a lifestyle.” When you start sounding like morally ambiguous Don Draper from Mad Men, that’s when you know you’ve jumped the shark as a leader of a troubled church.
Also some worthwhile points if Francis resigns, and a new Pope must be chosen:
Sorry, I had to inject some humor into this.
On a more serious note, I think what needs to happen is a second Reformation of the church. If at all possible, Popes should serve for no more than 10 years. As well, Bishops should serve for no more than eight years in any Archdiocese. Finally, the requirement for only single men as clergy is a misunderstanding of scripture and problematic for the situation the church finds itself in. These single men who are to refrain from sex are often subject to distractions and unhealthy sexual habits. Resolving the requirement to be celibate and single may help the clergy live more fulfilled lives. It also seems ridiculous considering the first recognized pope St. Peter was married. Scripture tells us Jesus healed St. Peter’s mother-in-law. That’s kind of a package deal, you don’t get a mother-in-law without a wife. I know the classic comedic bit here would be to say if only it was the other way around, you get a wife but no mother-in-law. I also think worth adding in clergy requirements for the Catholic church is allowing women to be priests. I know that is huge stretch, but even if the Catholic Church was like Southern Baptists only with more decorative clothing and the Virgin Mary would be an improvement.
I’m also aware that there is just as much sexual misbehavior in Protestant circles, but the bureaucratic entanglements allow much of those cases to come to light and be resolved easier and don’t paint the whole church as corrupt.
In sum, be gracious to your Catholic friends, family, and neighbors. If you’re Catholic, know that the head of the Church is Jesus and his heart breaks with you and He will multiply grace unto you. For both, remember this Labor Day weekend, that Christ has already done the work of saving the Church in spite of mere mortals debating how to help it function better. Happy Labor Day weekend to all!