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Tin Ears & Overprivilege April 4, 2010

Posted by Mary W. Matthews in Religion & Theology.
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It’s sad, how the Vatican and Roman Catholic hierarchy are reacting to the ongoing revelations of decades of cover-ups of priestly pedophilia, child abuse, and rape — reassigning felons to new parishes, ignoring pleas from bishops that felons not be allowed near children, etc.; cover-ups that go back to at least the 1960s. So far Magisterial reactions include:

  • “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” And let he who is WITH clerical sin, or who has been concealing clerical sin, spend his life sentence working in a quarry.
  • Attacks on the media, especially the New York Times, for daring to report Magisterial felonies. Blame the messenger much?
  • Most appalling of all, the incredibly self-pity of comparing the media’s reporting of clerical crime to the Nazi’s persecution of Jews during World War II. Hello? In my opinion, any Roman Catholic who subscribes to this putrid claim deserves cattle cars, concentration camps, and gas ovens. NOW.

For at least the last 50 years, whenever the choice has been to protect a child from rape and protect its own power and privilege, the Magisterium has invariably chosen itself.

Author and former Roman Catholic priest James Carroll believes the problem is not Roman Catholicism but R.C. fundamentalism: the idea that the pope is the “vicar,” or stand-in, for Christ, and that the higher one rises in the Roman Catholic power structure, the holier you are. Bishops are holier than priests, cardinals are holier than bishops, and when the pope takes a poop, it smells of frankincense and myrrh.

Says Carroll, “The Church needs to change. It needs to be more democratic. It needs to be more respectful of lay people. Above all, it needs to be more respectful of women. . . . [These changes] frankly are already underway . . . It’s the bishops who are lagging behind.” They’re lagging so far behind that in the recent health care debate, it was far more important to them that they, the Roman Catholic bishops, control the health-care decisions of all American women, whether or not they are even Christians, much less Roman Catholic. These bishops preferred that 47 million Americans remain uninsured, that 45,000 Americans die every year for lack of health care, than allow women to control their own bodies.

Recently a woman is Brazil was faced with an agonizing choice. Her nine-year-old daughter was raped and became pregnant. After much anguished prayer, the woman arranged for her baby to have an abortion. The Roman Catholic Church was quick to excommunicate the woman for committing one of “the five unpardonable sins.”

Carroll is right; the Church does need to change. Most important is that it abandon its authoritarianism — and alas, that is just as likely as it abandoning its dogmatism. The pope is not an emperor, although he sure acts as though he thinks he’s one.

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