Monday, March 22, 2010

Anthea Butler on Gutting of Catholic Theologians as Ground-Laying for Clerical Abuse Crisis

I highly recommend Anthea Butler's "Training God's Rottweiler: Catholic Church Sex Abuse Must End" at Religion Dispatches today.  Butler teaches religion at University of Pennsylvania.

She notes the incalculable damage inflicted on the Catholic church by the "gutting" of theologians at a point in history when it most needs astute theologians capable of placing the best of the tradition in dialogue with postmodern culture.  As she notes, the movement to silence theologians in the final decades of the 20th century emanated directly from Cardinal Ratzinger, the current pope.

Butler writes,

The scandal unfolding in Europe is not surprising, because the Church’s inability to dialogue with its own theologians who dissent has taken away the intellectual and moral core needed to bring together a Vatican III, where the church could finally deal with the issue of sexuality. The entrenchment of a theology of the body that honors a fetus but ignores the child who is raped and molested by spiritual authorities is reprehensible. It is not theology, it is a perverted practice, designed to paralyze people. It claims homosexuals are disordered and those who engage in premarital sex are sinners. Nothing, nothing is said about those in spiritual authority who rape and abuse children going to hell. The silence is deafening.
I am not going to pretend that I can be impartial about this story. This Pope, who relished gutting the church of prominent theologians like Sobrino, Haight, and Boff, is not the kind of person who is going to admit that the organizational structure he presides over is rotten from the top on down. The only thing that is going to bring this Pope to repentance and change are relentless reporters who will uncover his secrets. It is time to start thinking about the Catholic church as not just a church, but as an organization that has been allowed to institutionalize rape and sexual abuse on a global scale, while attempting to hold its members hostage to its distorted views of sexuality and celibacy.
I will continue to write about this. In good conscience, I cannot do anything less. Besides, when the third reformation begins with a giant march in St. Peter’s square, demanding justice for the victims of sexual abuse, I want to be there. Someone needs to nail new theses about spirituality and sexuality to that Holy Door.

And so, precisely when the church most needs trained theological voices capable of dialoguing with culture to put the shards back together as it deals with the abuse crisis and to engage postmodern culture, those voices have been stifled.  There is only one voice that counts in the current regime, that of the pope himself.

Who cannot credibly address a crisis in which he himself is embroiled.  And who cannot therefore assist in retrieving the atrociously damaged moral reputation of the organization he has led right into the midst of this crisis.