Fear and Trembling

Could this be the beginning of the end of the Catholic Church? I don’t think so, nor do I really care if it stands or falls. My guess is they will be around for another few centuries or millennia or whatever, but what is really interesting is that public opinion just might not be on their side for very long.

Many people are seeing just how out of touch with reality the Church really is. Making warped claims like that of Father Cantalamessa – on Good Friday before the pope nonetheless – and then claiming, after much uproar, that Cantalamessa’s was not an “official” Vatican statement is testing the patience of all but the most unwavering nucleus of the faithful.

It’s an easy  trick: get the message out there, start the meme running, then disavow yourself of any responsibility for what the consequences of it might be. By that time you’ve already made the front pages of every newspaper on earth and half the world’s population will believe what they hear because, hey, some higher up in the Vatican likened outrage at child rape to anti-Semitism. It must be true. I heard it on tv.

2 thoughts on “Fear and Trembling

  1. I think the most important issue related to the current wave of scandal in the church is what structural and philosophical changes can be made in their wake. Unfortunately, that’s getting short-shrift as most of the critics are focusing only on accountability, or taking care of the necessary but distracting business of negating Donohue and Cantalamessa’s transparent identity-politics ploys. Accountability is, of course, very important, but the phenomena of Priests molesting children clearly has its roots in Catholicism’s fallacies about human behavior. Namely, they need to allow women to be priests, allow priests to marry, and most importantly, quit preaching that homosexuality is a sin. Without change to these parts of the institution, I think all that increased accountability (if we even get that) can bring about is a slight diminishing in the rate of pederasty, which isn’t acceptable.

    1. A few months ago I posted an interview I did with David Ranan, author of the book Double Cross: The Code of the Catholic Church. I asked him a similar question and the answer he gave me is close to that which I would give you.

      You propose dismantling the Catholic Church from top to bottom. This appears to be a drastic measure. Is there any hope that the Church will reform herself without outside interference? Is this wishful thinking?

      In Double Cross I have established the inability of the Church to truly reform. My straight answer to your question is that there is no hope for true reform. Anything less should not really be wishful thinking. When I say ‘true reform’ I am talking about democratising the structure, introducing transparency and changing the basis of faith from devotion to texts, narratives and icons to commitment to values. The question is whether it would then still be the Catholic Church. It would not. And I believe that the Church’s leadership understands that. And don’t forget, the Catholic Church is the longest surviving power structure in the world. What pope would dare to bring about such change that might cause a total breakup?

      So the question of accountability, in my mind, is first and foremost. It is reasonable, to say the least. Whether the Catholic Church could itself survive the broad reforms needed is another problem entirely. It would entail a complete revision of their most basic tenets and principles. And this from the most obstinate, bureaucratic – and ancient -institution in the world. No matter where you turn, you run up against Authority: God, Jesus, Augustine, Aquinas. The men of today are just pawns in the great celestial chess game. They are just “following orders.” The greater problem is one of authoritarianism versus liberalism. The philosopher Stephen Law dealt with this in his excellent The War fro Children’s Minds.

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