Letting Down the Flock. Again.

I wonder some times about the Vatican’s public relations skills. Don’t they have a PR wing? And wouldn’t someone in the PR department say, “Um, guys. I understand that you want to clarify what The Church considers ‘grave crimes’. But if you release this document about new guidelines regarding sex abuse, and you mention in the very same document that the ordination of women is now also a ‘grave crime’, people in the United States (and other Western nations) are going to hit the roof. Because it looks like you are equating the ordination of women with ruining the life of a child, and that’s going to go over like a lead balloon. Feel me?”

The Vatican’s response, that the sexual abuse of minors is a “moral” crime and the ordination of women is a “sacramental” crime, sounds to the laity like mere semantics. Gah! Who the hell is running the marketing department over there?

In all seriousness, I’m pretty much in agreement with the critics that say the new guidelines on sex abuse don’t go quite far enough. I mean, would it be so hard to say, “If you know of sexual abuse of minors, go to your superiors AND to the police. Not only is it a moral crime, but it is a civil and criminal crime [okay, that’s redundant]. It’s your duty to report it.

“And, oh yeah, as to you superiors, if you try to cover it up, and simply remove a priest from his position, you’re going to be in trouble with the law, too. Not just doctrinal law, either. And if you defrock him, and set him loose on an unsuspecting public, there’s going to be Hell to pay. Literally.

“Finally, we’re going to throw the lot of you out on your butts if these grave crimes continue.”

According to the article in the New York Times about the release of the guidelines, “In April, the Vatican for the first time published online guidelines that it said it advised bishops to follow in handling abuse, including reporting all sexual abuse cases to the Vatican and to civil authorities in countries that required mandatory reporting of crimes. [emphasis mine] But those guidelines do not hold the force of law…. The new document did not change that. ‘It’s not for canonical legislation to get itself involved with civil law,’ Monsignor Scicluna said.” Now that sounds suspiciously like, “We don’t have to tell the civil authorities about bad stuff our guys do if we don’t want to.” Which simply smacks of arrogance.

Hey, pride goeth before a fall. So we’ll see where that gets ’em.

(While not entirely in agreement with this dude, I do like the way he lays it out. And, also here.)

Despite the continued conservative bull-headedness of The Vatican, I will still continue to practice my Catholic faith. Not with the blind hope that they will change the law about ordaining women. I don’t go to church because I’m hoping women will be priests some day.

I’ll talk about this more in future posts, but here’s the thing. I am not exaggerating when I tell you:

My faith in God and in Jesus the Son of God, and the power of prayer, saved my life.

So the secular world (or as it keeps being labeled in the media, the “secular West”) and the Vatican can keep squabbling over doctrinal law. My faith isn’t in the Pope. My faith isn’t in the law of man, either, frankly.

I prayed, and God heard me, and answered my prayers. And I can’t turn away from that.

(At the same time, of course, I have to do more. So I’m going to read this book, and maybe get some ideas about how to help those bullheaded conservatives see the light. Thanks to @SecretAgentL for the recommendation.)

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13 thoughts on “Letting Down the Flock. Again.

    • I think every one struggles with faith even with the absence of faith. And I think that it’s important to think about one’s faith. I KNOW why I believe in God and I know why I’m Catholic. Like anything important, it is an active choice. And some days it is harder to make than on others!

      • Faith is not a question of the existence or non-existence of God. It is believing that love without reward is valuable.”
        — Emmanuel Levinas

        He’s Jewish, but it is still very true. And if you need a good book that makes you laugh and think at the same time, read The Year of Living Biblically, a book by AJ Jacobs about his year of trying to follow all the Hebrew testament regulations.

    • Well, I have to admit: I wasn’t angry about what the Vatican said. I mean, I think they made a very poor choice to juxtapose sexual abuse of minors with ANYTHING (there were seven or eight other ‘grave crimes’ defined in the document), but it was especially unfortunate that they decided to include the whole ‘ordination of women’ alongside new guidelines.

      I don’t agree with the law that states to be a priest you need a penis. (It really is pretty much that basic.) I know the Vatican has its reasons for the law. I think The Church needs to decide if those reasons are still valid. And here’s the kicker: the church The Church can decide to change that law that says you have to, biologically, be a man to be a priest. Some day I hope it will. They can’t ever ever ever change the fact that the sexual abuse of minors is a grave crime that can never change in nature. It will never be okay.

  1. Thanks for this post. As a fellow Catholic woman I really can relate. I struggle between church vs faith all the time. But I love your pov on all of this.

  2. Two things: Could you please please please stop calling the Catholic church “the Church”. Whereas God is God, your “Chuch” is only one option The Vatican does not own God.

    And it’s not that the Vatican believes that the Penis is the magic staff of enablement that is required for priesthood. The uterus is the all bets are off part, anatomically speaking. That’s why other chuches don’t treat Mary like a servant idol.

    The Catholic faith puts church first, before the Bible, before God, before human laws, before human rights. Because of the Catholic myth of infallibility, they will never change. Democracy has only been in style for 235 some odd years. Patriarchal hegemony is way more entrenched. It will not waver unless we see a Vatican III (V3.0!), which probably won’t happen until all of the standing Holy See-rs are long gone. The US is more likely to secede to Canada.

    • Ouch.

      I refer to the Catholic church as The Church for simplicity’s sake. Don’t mean to act like Catholics “own” God I certainly don’t think that. Sorry it comes across that way. I agree that the Catholic church, as a religion, is an option. But it’s the option I choose. So, take ‘er easy.

      The center of the Catholic faith is God and the resurrection of Jesus. That’s what makes Christians Christians Catholics as well as other Christian denominations. Ahem.

      Any human institution is fallible. The Vatican may put itself first and that’s exactly what makes it flawed. Instead of accepting that, or running away from that, what would be wrong with working within that no matter if it takes another 2000 years to change it?

  3. I’m sorry. It’s not my experience that the center of Catholicism is God or Jesus. To me it seems the center of Catholicism is Catholicism. (at least compared to the non Catholic churches I’ve been to.)

    • I agree with Red Pen Mama on that. I don’t always agree with what the Vatican might say, but the religion as a whole puts God first. If a priest told you anything different, I’m sorry.

      • I have been Episcopalian for many years, which I have jokingly referred to as “Catholic Lite: one third less guilt.” All religions are a fallible human organization trying to understand a fundamentally infallible God, and therefore not about to be perfect. Episcopalians have a ‘three legged stool’ approach to faith: scripture, tradition and reason. I think most Christians use this to varying degrees. For Christians, it seems reason is the one that always gets us; it seems obvious based on more modern scholarship of the early New Testament that there were leaders of the early church who were women and would have been called a priest or deacon in this day and age. The Catholic church has even in modern times occasionally ordained married men for a variety of reasons. Having a family is tough on a priest, and having a priest as a spouse is tough, but none of that indicates that marriage is an insurmountable difficulty in being the priest or deacon or bishop, or pope, for that matter. Women are perfectly capable of doing pretty much anything a man can but produce sperm and lift really heavy objects. But my reason is based partially on my experience, and what seems reasonable to me seems completely misguided to others. Listening is much harder than just putting your hands over your ears and hoping the people you disagree with go away (not a saint here, it’s a struggle to be open in a state where Democrats would be Republican in any other state, and Republicans are insane).

        We have this tiny little church in Weiser, and we can’t afford to call a priest of our own. This is a big benefit of the Catholic church, who have both a larger budget and don’t have to pay a living wage for a family. Instead, we get by on retired priests who come occasionally and lay readers. But it has given me the opportunity to lead services, which has been a huge blessing to me, and hopefully to my friends. In most churches this is not a big deal, but the sacramental churches elevate the vocation of ministry above all others. But is it? Isn’t it just as important to raise children who know how to love others? To heal bodies and hearts? To keep the garbage picked up so we don’t all get typhus and die? There are varieties of ministry, and nothing in Paul elevates one above the others. So why should we be so freaked about women priests, but not women gardeners or altar guild members?

        When in doubt, I go back to Jesus, who said very little about people’s sexuality and who had no problem transgressing doctrine in the name of justice: “The first and greatest commandment is this, to love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind and your neighbor as yourself. All else is commentary.”

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