MY FAITH IN THE TIME OF SCANDAL
the author's pseudonym does not have any religious connotation
a friend asked me what I think of the pedophilia scandal in the
Catholic Church. This prompted me to think about what my opinion
actually is, since I have always treated this issue as one of
those that I brush under the carpet for the simple reason that
I do not need to be concerned. Before you label this as intellectual
cowardice or Catholic blindness, I need to say that it's been
many years since I made the conscious decision to spend my energy
and time only on things that have a direct impact on my life and/or
that my life can have an impact on.
rate, I believe the issue of the scandal impact on the Catholic
universe cannot be addressed properly unless one draws a clear
as a faith
2. The Catholic Church as an organization
3. The misdoings of some members of the Church.
saying this because I find these three contexts happily mixed
together in anything I read or heard said on this topic, and I
think confusing them does not help an objective assessment of
the situation. So, here are my 3-Cs.
1. Context #1 must clearly not be affected by context #3. Anybody
who would say "I am no longer a Catholic because some priests
are pedophiles," or even "because the Church has tolerated
and for a long time refused to acknowledge the problem,"
is in my opinion in the same league of people who would say that
they are no longer loyal to their country because the politicians
there are corrupt or tolerate corruption. In fact this is a weak
analogy: I rank faith much higher in a system of beliefs than
I for one go to Church because it is a weekly hour that anchors
me to my belief that there is a Superior Dimension, and that anybody
can reach it in this life by following Jesus’ teachings:
this would warrant the discussion on what Jesus’ teaching
is actually about, and while I am only an amateur in this field
I venture to say that there's way more to it than what meets the
eye of the average Gospel reader. If one cares to find out more,
there are plenty of books on the Gnostic Christian tradition.
I recommend Maurice Nicoll's The New Man and The Mark amongst
rate, my point is that the “allegedly 2% of priests are
pedophiles” ought to have no bearing whatsoever to the context
2. The Catholic Church is a big organization that has been in
existence for 2000 years. It has gone through a lot of bad stuff,
and yet it is still a huge religious, economic and even political
world power. I am not attaching any value to this, just stating
a fact. I don't share the view that because of this recent hurdle
the Church might never completely recover or even survive in its
present form. During the 70 years of the Avignon period (1309-1377),
the Papacy was completely dominated by the French king, and for
forty years after that until 1417 the Church was in total chaos,
with, at one point, four rival Popes competing for power and recognition,
each with their share of Kings and Emperors behind them. Nonetheless,
at some point all the powers agreed that there had to be only
one Pope, which finally came to happen again in 1417.
following century the Church situation continued to deteriorate,
and by 1517 it was so bad that Martin Luther's public denunciations
of Church misdoings (as well as some of its dubious theological
positions) gained such a widespread support that it triggered
the Protestant diaspora. It took 40 years for the Church to react
and re-gather, but by the end of the Council of Trent it had gained
back its power base and from there it went on without the Protestant
half of Europe, if anything made stronger by the shock.
I need to make it clear that I am not passing a value judgment,
I am looking at this from the perspective of the dynamics of history,
or the perspective of the effectiveness of the immunological responses
of an organization to its diseases.
if you go to a Sunday Mass or just talk to any churchgoer, you
will find that:
There are more people going to church now than there were as
recently as two years ago, and a noticeable number of them are
under 30. I attribute this to the Pope Francis effect and the
general push for renewal in the Church. I have no hard statistics
here, but in my recent attendances to Mass in different churches
in different countries, I observed that the Church was almost
packed every time, and the sermons generally capture the congregation's
attention much more so than they used to, to the credit of Pope
Francis's exhortation to the priests not to be boring.
There is no Mass without a collective (not just the priest's)
prayer for the victims of abuse and for forgiveness. In true
Christian love spirit there should be also a prayer for the
perpetrators, but that I guess would be asking too much of the
ordinary Catholic folks and besides, what would the media make
Priests are fully aware that they are under a lot of scrutiny
now, and they go out of their way to show impeccable behaviour
and honesty of intentions (again, this is my observation).
I think that the scandal has certainly fuelled the spite of
non-Catholics and alienated a lot of lukewarm Catholics, but
the true believers are considering themselves part of the congregation
not less than before, and are responding to the wave of anti-Catholicism
by closing the ranks and pushing for a clean up.
truly think that pedophilia, especially in a context of trust,
is a hideous crime that should be denounced and severely punished.
Like any normal person I am deeply sorry for the victims and selfishly
thank my God that none of the people I love has ever been touched
by that. And I also think that the alleged 2% of pedophile priests,
if true, would make an awfully big number. But when I look at
the Mass celebrant, I choose to see one of the other 98%. It's
not blindness, it's a deliberate choice to see what the man represents
rather than what the man might be. A choice inevitably if not
entirely rationally supported by the circumstantial evidence that
in my two decades as a Catholic (including ages 3 to 15) and in
five years of school run by priests, I have never had any inkling
of inappropriate behaviour towards me or the kids around me. I
know this is not an objective probatory argument, and I am aware
of the high statistical probability that without my knowledge
some bad stuff might have been going on, but subjectively it has
inevitably become part of my cultural makeup.
last point: the scandal has also spurred a fierce attack on celibacy
as an ‘explanation’ for pedophilia, which is odd because
it sounds like a way to excuse those pedophile priests by taking
away their responsibility in their acts to put it in the hands
of the Catholic Church. I say, if you choose to be a Catholic
priest, you choose celibacy, period. The Church does not force
you. Don't blame it for people's perversion, weakness or lack
of integrity. Blame its hierarchy for condoning it, but not the
institution of celibacy for causing it. To say that pedophilia
is the consequence of celibacy is like saying that rape is the
consequence of miniskirts.
The difficulty I had with this is that it wasn't mad and angry
enough at all the terrible things that the Church didn't want
to see. Empathy is having feeling for others even though it
didn't happen to you. Not enough in all these positive things
you talk about.
A refreshing voice from the wilderness! Tthank you for this,
& Opinion, a bi-monthly, is archived in the
Library and Archives Canada.