Does a grand exterior make up for a degenerate organization?
If you’re a Catholic, I’m telling you right now you are not going to like this article. I apologize. But if you are a Catholic, I have to ask: Why?
The middle of last year, the Irish government’scommissioninvestigating charges of abuse in Catholic institutions – keeping in mind that, for most of the last century, “Catholic institutions” meant not just the church on the corner, but most of the school system – concluded that there was“a substantial level of sexual abuse of boys in care that extended over a range from improper touching and fondling to rape with violence. Perpetrators of abuse were able to operate undetected for long periods at the core of institutions. Cases of sexual abuse were managed with a view to minimising the risk of public disclosure and consequent damage to the institution and the Congregation. This policy resulted in the protection of the perpetrator. When lay people were discovered to have sexually abused, they were generally reported to the Gardai [the police]. When a member of a Congregation was found to be abusing, it was dealt with internally and was not reported to the Gardaí.
“The desire to protect the reputation of the Congregation and institution was paramount. The documents revealed that sexual abusers were often long-term offenders who repeatedly abused children wherever they were working. Contrary to the Congregations’ claims that the recidivist nature of sexual offending was not understood, it is clear from the documented cases that they were aware of the propensity for abusers to re-abuse. The risk, however, was seen by the Congregations in terms of the potential for scandal and bad publicity should the abuse be disclosed. The danger to children was not taken into account. When confronted with evidence of sexual abuse, the response of the religious authorities was to transfer the offender to another location where, in many instances, he was free to abuse again.”
In the wake of that report, four Irish archbishops have resigned. Last month it came out that the current cardinal of Ireland, Sean Brady, serving in 1975 as secretary to Bishop Francis McKiernan, was present at meetings where children signed confidentiality agreements concerning their abuse at the hands of a priest. So far, the Cardinal has resisted calls for his resignation.
Last week the Associated Press reported that there have been over 15,000 complaints of abuse in Ireland alone. Opening those floodgates has resulted in abuse charges beginning to come in from other European countries as well. There have been hundreds of complaints in the Netherlands. Germany, home of the current pope, is getting complaints as well, including some from the Regensburg Boys choir, long directed by the pope’s brother.
According to Fergus O'Donoghue, editor of the Irish Jesuit journal Studies, "The pope was no different to any other bishop at the time. The church policy was to keep it all quiet — to help people, but to avoid scandal. Avoiding scandal was a huge issue for the church.”
What he’s referring to is the pope’s previous job: For more than 20 years before he became the pope, Cardinal Ratzinger led the Vatican office that had responsibility, among other issues, for response to child abuse cases. An archbishop wrote letters to that office in 1996, calling for disciplinary proceedings against priest Lawrence Murphy. This has been confirmed by Church and Vatican documents. Murphy is believed to have molested some 200 boys at St John's School for the Deaf in St Francis, Wisconsin, between 1950 and 1974. While a canonical trial was initiated by Cardinal Ratzinger’s secretary, it was ended by the future pope himself after his receipt of a letter from Murphy in which Murphy said he was ill and wanted to live out the remainder of his time in the "dignity of my priesthood".
One of the deaf victims, Arthur Budzinski, said through an interpreter: "Ratzinger can have all of the colonels and lieutenants they want fall on the sword for him, but eventually he has to 'fess up.”
Meanwhile, The New York Times has recently reported that in 1980, when the pope was archbishop of Munich one of the priests under him, Peter Hullermann, was accused of child abuse. The priest spent a couple days in counseling, then was returned to a pastoral position. He was convicted of molesting boys in 1986.
If this all sounds a bit familiar, it’s because it is. It’s the same story that played out in the U.S. in 2002, which resulted in the resignation of Boston Archbishop Bernard Law.
Since this is all so familiar, I come back to my original question for Catholics… why are you still one?
When a business does something despicable, such as banks accepting bail-out money then turning around and giving multi-million dollar bonuses to their executives, we get irritated. (In fact, a grass roots movement has started recently to encourage all of us to ‘vote with our wallets,’ and take our business to other banks.) Can’t you do the same thing with your religion? Yes you can, but few do.
Why not? People seem to equate “being Catholic” with being, I don’t know, blonde, or Guatemalan or diabetic… as though it’s something you’re born with that can’t be changed. But religion is not genetics. It’s pretty easy to change, just write a letter to your former church and tell them to take you off their rolls, like you would do with the PTA if you disagreed with them. Why don’t more people do that?
Mainly, fear. The PTA doesn’t threaten you with eternal damnation if you leave. (At least, I don’t think they do… I’ve never actually been a member of the PTA.)
The Church has been using scare tactics for centuries. The catholic – meaning universal – church is so named for a reason. It came into being in the fourth century when emperor Constantine was looking for a way to solidify his kingdom. For reasons that have become murky with time, he decided that Christianity was going to become the common denominator of his realm. But not the Christianity of the Bible. God forbid! After all, true Christians of that time had already proven they would rather be eaten by lions than burn a pinch of incense as an act of worship to the emperor. Instead, he invented a conglomerate religion to which everyone could bring their own beliefs, as long as they also brought their allegiance.
Your church believes that priests should wear funny hats? No problem, we’ll have our Christian priests start wearing funny hats. Your church has a holiday on December 25th? Cool, we can do that. Your church believes in eternal torment in a burning hellfire? Great! We can use that to keep people in line.
I’m not making this up; Google ‘origin of hellfire’ sometime. The hellfire doctrine was adopted from ancient Babylonian, Egyptian, and Assyrian religions. It is not a biblical concept.
But since lay people were forbidden from reading their Bibles, they had no way to know this. The Catholic Council of Toulouse in 1229 decreed: “We forbid the laity to have in their possession any copy of the books of the Old and New Testaments.” That decree was reaffirmed by Pope Pius IV in 1564, and by Pope Leo XIII in 1897. Even up to the 1960s Catholics were being discouraged from reading the Bible.
And understandably so. If Catholics were to read the Bible, they’d see Jesus referring to a dead man as “sleeping.” (John 11:11) They might read Solomon’s description of all of the dead as “unconscious” (Ecclesiastes 9:5) and begin to question how an unconscious, sleeping person could be tormented in hellfire. Worse, they might read Jesus’ command not to call anyone “Father” (Matthew 23: 9) and stop respecting those filthy pedophiles, I mean priests. Worse still, they might even read the prophecy in 1 Timothy 4:3 in which it was foretold that in the last days an apostate church would forbid certain people to marry, and start to wonder why their own church forbid priests to marry.
If the church is condoning actions of which God disapproves, should that matter to you? Absolutely. There is such a thing as “community responsibility.” We’ve all seen the corny bumper stickers that read, “Don’t blame me, I voted for…” There is a certain underlying truth to that. If you voted for Nixon, for example, you share some responsibility for the pain inflicted on the country by Watergate. If you support the Catholic Church – with your funds, your attendance, or even by simply having your name on their rolls – you will ultimately bear some responsibility for the Church’s actions. That’s why you and I are told, in Revelation 18:4, "Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.”
Come out, come out wherever you are…
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