Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Benedict on Clergy Abuse Situation: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

I begin to wonder if Pope Benedict is capable of taking a step forward in any area at all, without taking two simultaneous steps backwards.  On the one hand, his fresh admission that the Catholic church has a quite serious problem on its hands with the situation of clerical sexual abuse of children (and the systematic cover-up of that situation for years on end) is welcome and should be applauded.

But on the other hand, his predictable, and increasingly tired, attempt to pin the problem on modernity at the same time is a backwards step that removes the critical focus from the church itself.  Where the critical focus firmly needs to be.

As Tom Doyle says, whoever gave Benedict the astonishing idea that sometime around the 1970s, significant numbers of people began to view child sexual abuse as tolerable or morally neutral ought to be fired.  A sizable number of the cases that have come to light in recent years pre-date the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, and involve priests trained in the old regime of the pre-Vatican II church.  

Modernity is not the problem.  Clericalism, and the self-serving excuses of church leaders to keep the system of unmerited power and privilege for Catholic clerics alive, is the problem.

And the abuse crisis will never be effectively resolved until church leaders begin to focus on the latter.  It would also help enormously if they would simply leave behind the increasingly silly and self-serving attack on modernity that has been a keynote of Benedict's thought since he began rising to power in the hierarchy.

P.S. Just now seeing Barbara Blaine's incisive (and right on target) response to Benedict's latest at the SNAP website.  As she says, Catholics should be embarrassed at Benedict's attempt to keep changing the subject from church leaders' responsibility for the sex abuse situation to one bogus culprit after another.

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