Time to grow up.

by Justin

Anyone hoping the recent tidal wave of bad press and flagrantly sinful abuse within the Catholic Church might dismount the Pope from his high horse is, unfortunately, wrong. Condemnation still rests comfortably on the tip of his holy tongue.

I’ve kept my distance writing about the revelation of scandal in Europe that runs deep enough to warrant the resignation of Bishops. Our man Benedict XVI, in his less holy days, has even been implicated for turning a blind eye and by negligence being complicit in several specific cases. Specifically in a German archdiocese with a younger Benedict as its Archbishop (read about that wonder here and here among other places). This is all obviously terrible. The abuse of a priest, of a trusted representative of congregation member’s god, is about as egregious as it gets. It’s a spectacular betrayal of trust. A violation of “God’s law” and plain ol’ secular law. Also, really disgusting. The caliber of this crime can’t be overstated, I don’t think. But it’s pretty well covered territory and I don’t have anything to contribute to the discourse.

Except that I hoped this was an opportunity for an extremely influential and archaic institution to grow up a little. And own the fact that something’s fundamentally wrong with the priesthood. Not every priest, I certainly don’t mean that. And certainly not even the majority. But the patterns are strong enough that the Vatican cannot responsibly so anything less than a massive restructuring. Look, human beings are hormonal beasts with an automatic sex drive. Evolution or Intelligent Design or whatever you want to believe built that into us. To take adolescent men, hormones raging for the first time, and sequester them into an education that denies discussion of said awakening seems like a recipe for disaster. Oh, and to then surround them with other equally oblivious men looking for a sexual outlet (or at least explanation) guarantees disaster. This is common sense. As we all know, religious mandates often deny basic logic – but one would hope that irrefutable evidence of grown men molesting boys in the hallowed confines of a church might demand a reconsideration. In my naive mind I imagined that now, in a 2010 where the scandal creeps into the Pope’s own history, the brat of Catholicism might grow up.

Before I really unleash my disgust for this archaic obstacle to progress, I want to throw a token bone to Benedict for his statements earlier this week:

“Today we see in a really terrifying way that the greatest persecution of the church does not come from the enemies outside, but is born from the sin in the church,” the pope said.

“The church has a profound need to relearn penance, to accept purification, to learn on the one hand forgiveness but also the necessity of justice,” he added.

The new emphasis on justice was a nice touch and leads one to believe that the closest man to God may recognize that handling pedophilia within house under code of secrecy doesn’t work. It’s downright unethical and irresponsible, really. I appreciate that. I’m glad he used the word terrifying, and I hope that he is genuinely terrified for the spiritual health and soul-guiding capability of his church. That was a nice bit of talk, but it remains to be seen whether legitimate restructuring will follow on its heels.

Now for the recent wave of infuriating revelations out of the Catholic Church. Part of Benedict’s mission is to inspire a resurgence of Catholicism, make it relevant to Europeans again and stave off its swelling irrelevance. His tactic to waylay the heathens then is to spend four days in a country with a pronounced 90% Catholic population about to make the dangerous stumble into sin. Portugal legalize abortion in 2008 and a bill will likely pass into law this week legalizing same-sex marriage. What a dangerous precedent this sets – if a relatively conservative state moves that way then who knows how far behind Germany, France, and Great Britain may be? I didn’t realize that Spain already slew the bit of ignorance, and that the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway and Sweden also opted for reason over nonsense. This from the Associated Press:

Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday called abortion and same-sex marriage some of the most “insidious and dangerous” threats facing the world today, asserting key church teachings as he tried to move beyond the clerical abuse scandal.

My god. Insidious and dangerous. You’ve got priests abusing the children of your church and you’ve got the gall to challenge anything else. Where in hell (intentional) do you find the moral ground to stand on?

Benedict told the gathering of lay Catholics that he appreciated their efforts fighting abortion and promoting the family based on the “indissoluble marriage between a man and woman” — the Vatican’s way of expressing its opposition to divorce and same-sex unions.

The Vatican’s position springs from its promotion of  the “building the civilization of love.” That civilization, incidentally, leaves plenty of room for judgment and condemnation. What gets me here is that there’s a glaring fundamental discord within the church. Let me be clear: The Vatican failed to create and enforce an organization that protects and elevates its people. So gross is that failure that it should rock the foundations of the Holy See. Said rocking should devastate any moral high-standing – obviously there are greater threats to the sanctity of your God’s people than the chance that a poor, abused woman might consider an abortion.

This is wasted time, honestly. The Pope answers to no man. If he feels that every resource in the Catholic Church shouldn’t be devoted to cleaning house and renewing its mission, then so be it. If gay marriage is as “insidious and dangerous” as pedophilia under the cloth, then this Portugal visit is justified. Maybe it’s because of the people I know personally whose ethical compass was ruined, in whom guilt reigns paramount, that I dislike Catholicism so much. But this certainly doesn’t help.