Pope Benedict XVI arrives at St. Peter's Basilica on Ash Wednesday. (Alessandro Bianchi / Associated…)
Re "What went wrong in the Catholic Church?," Opinion, Feb. 10
For centuries the Roman Catholic Church was the most important entity in the Western world. As wealth and power can corrupt people, so it was with the church. Throughout the ages, supposed celibate clerics fathered children and molested boys. Neither the mothers nor the children had any recourse.
As Michael D'Antonio states, with today's educated middle class, governments and effective courts, the abused have been able to fight back. And as with many other issues, the church assumed that time would take care of its problems.
Quite simply, it thought itself too powerful to fail.
Recently, it's been different: Priests have gone to jail and hundreds of millions of dollars had to be paid out in settlements. Still, there is much to be done. Church leaders who protected abusing priests need to be prosecuted and defrocked. And the list of responsible prelates extends all the way to the Vatican.
The essence of a Catholic priest is configuration to Christ; that is, to bring Christ to souls and souls to Christ. It is salvation, not power, that is the priest's business. As for sex, yes, the church considers it wholly sacred. It is for this reason that it condemns unholy expressions of it. And celibacy is the voluntary sacrifice, following Christ, of what is good for the sake of the kingdom.
D'Antonio is correct that pedophilia is a great scandal. He fails to note, however, that, according to a study by Penn State University historian Philip Jenkins, there's no evidence that sex abuse occurs at higher rates in the Catholic Church than it does in Protestant denominations.
G. Rafael Climaco
D'Antonio focuses on the church's attitudes toward sex and the power of a priest's elevated status in relationship to God.
There are two other important factors. First, celibacy means that even senior priests making decisions on these matters have no personal experience of caring for newborn children and nurturing and protecting their own growing children.
Second, the dogmas of confession and forgiveness of sin have made senior clergy all too ready to accept acts of contrition from priests who are sexual abusers.
Indeed, sex and power are huge obstacles for any church. Being a person in ministry myself for many years, as well as a teacher and mentor of young men preparing for ministry, I know the issue is deeper.
The Scriptures specify who should be in pastoral leadership. Being in ministry is a character profession. Churches or clergy will succeed or fail depending on how seriously they take and apply what the Scriptures so clearly teach regarding the qualifications of church leadership. Such standards, specified in 1 Timothy and Titus 3, are an antidote to clergy sex and power.
Any church will go only as far as the character of its ministers.
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