Sins of the Fathers: The Original Sins of the Roman Catholic Hierarchy

If you are reading this column only because you want to see what those crazy religious people are talking about now, stick with me.  I intend to address why what happens in Rome doesn’t stay in Rome and why Vatican policies and activities affect both Catholics and non-Catholics around the world.  And I warn you this blog is longer than usual.

When I was in junior high school my mother took me along to the wedding of one of her students at a Roman Catholic Church.  It was the most beautiful ceremony I had ever experienced and I felt drawn to the mass.  When I was old enough to drive sometimes I would sneak to Christmas Eve mass and allow my parents to assume I was going to a Protestant Church so as to avoid stirring their bigotry.  It was early middle age when I converted to Catholicism after many years of being one of those people who said they were “spiritual but not religious,” or “unaffiliated.”  After five sincere and dedicated years of not missing mass one week and putting money in the basket, I began taking mass with the Episcopalians, where I still participate.  (The details of all this are not pertinent to the column but you can e-mail me at goodreligionjb1@gmail.com  if you have any questions.)

Since I started this blog I have written very little about the Roman Catholic Church for several good reasons – but what matters more is why I am writing now.  I read online news every day.  I seek out mainstream media, as well as sources that feature religion.  I want to know what is being said, as much as what isn’t being said.  In the last month, it has been impossible to avoid news about Catholics, and it’s not good.  (I posted a select few of these on my Web site at http://allthingsreligiousonline.com/ .)

Though I hope it is evident in most of my blogs, I do not believe Christianity is the only path to truth, heaven, or anything else.  I embrace pluralism and work to be an equal-opportunity critic of religion.  There are two reasons I’ve gone a little easy on the Roman Catholic Church.  One reason is that there is so much deservedly bad press, it doesn’t require my comment.  The other reason I have been reluctant to comment is that I understand how very large the Catholic Church is and how many different Catholics there are.  The most important distinction for non-Catholics to grasp is the vast difference between the practicing Catholic laity and their supposed leadership.  In my view, the Catholics in the parishes are really the Church and the Rome-based leadership is as corrupt as any other large organization with wealth and power.

I was taught ‘once a Catholic always a Catholic,’ though there was always a difference between ‘Cradle Catholics’ and converts.  Many Catholics feel this way, so when their Church rejects them it is devastating and not as simple as just choosing a different church.  Like all other Christian denominations, the pews are emptier than they used to be and there’s less money.  Catholic schools are a source of revenue and retention for parishes, but with shrinking enrollment many are being closed, along with also shrinking parishes.  Most organizations would consider this a wake-up call.  Not the Roman Catholic Hierarchy.  It ruthlessly enforces authoritarian rule as the ultimate Good Ol’ Boys Club, clawing to survive in a world that has passed them by and now sneers at them.

Here’s what should matter to everyone else: do not forget that the Roman Catholic leadership, based in, well – Rome, is a political organization, and that is a literal definition.  People forget that the Vatican is its own country and functions accordingly.  Not only that, as the wealthiest organization in the world it claims influence on millions of Catholics around the globe.  All these things make the Boys in Rome very appealing to global politicians, and Rome wants to assert that influence in ways that shouldn’t be overlooked by any of us.

Please allow me a sidebar story as an example of our government’s willingness to pay attention to enemies of the Roman Catholic Hierarchy.  Meet late author Penny Lernoux, to whom I was introduced in Matthew Fox’s book The Pope’s War: Why Ratzinger’s secret crusade has imperiled the Church and how it can be saved.  He cites much of her work and met with her prior to her 1989 death from cancer.  In her obituary, the New York Times said, “Ms. Lernoux, who had lived in Latin America since 1962, was a knowledgeable interpreter of religious and political changes in the Catholic Church. Her freelance work appeared in the National Catholic Reporter, The Nation, Harper’s, Newsweek, The Washington Post and other publications.”  She was an established and respected reporter and author.  When Fox met with her in California she showed him the CIA agents that were following her.  Your tax dollars at work, people.  She was of interest to the U.S. government  because she was an investigative reporter who wrote about the unholy alliance between the U.S. government, the Roman Catholic hierarchy, and Latin American dictators.  (The stories she reported are very ugly and too complex for this blog.)

Rent the movie “Breach.”  This fact-based movie was about a CIA principal who was one of the most infamous traitors in recent history.  He was a member of “Opus Dei,” a secret cult within the Roman Catholic Church and whose membership includes priests and bishops, chosen and placed by the Vatican.  As Fox said, “Opus Dei has been called the ‘holy mafia,’” (p.115.).  It’s more than Dan Brown’s imagination from the Da Vinci Code.  This is the branch of the Church Hierarchy that gets its hands dirty for the Vatican.

The Original Sin of the Roman Catholic Hierarchy has been the intentional melding of governance and religion, using situation ethics and distorted theology.  The Roman Catholic Church Hierarchy needs to get out of governance, local and global politics, and tend to their own business, which should be spiritual.  Now I do not for one minute expect this to happen any more than I expect them to give up their wealth and influence, but while they cling to the things of this world, no one should take them seriously regarding things of the spiritual world.

The second sin is a result of the first.  Patriarchy.  The institutional misogyny and systematic exclusion of women from church leadership has been a negative and destructive force within the Church.  Make no mistake there is no solid theological basis for this.  I strongly believe that if women were an integral part of leadership, not just nuns treated like slaves and servants, the global pedophile scandal would not have existed.  There would have still been some sick bastards abusing their power (that exists in every organization – religious and secular), but it is less likely they would have been so protected or that it could have been so wide-spread.

To the real, everyday Catholics, I encourage you to stop letting go of your money to such a corrupt hierarchy.  To others I encourage you to distinguish between the hierarchy and the human beings.  For every story of gluttony, I can offer you a story of sacrifice.  There have been many priests, nuns and laypersons who have died trying to help protect the Amazon rainforest and its indigenous people, for example.  And that has been to help them survive as human beings, not to proselytize.   As Father Riegler told me, “The Catholic Church has a rich and colorful history.”  I’m looking forward to history and karma catching up with the Hierarchy.

Catholics and Episcopalians say the “prayer of contrition.”  Here is an excerpt I would offer to Rome as a reminder: “Father forgive us.  For what we have done and what we have left undone.  We have not loved you with our whole heart.  We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.  We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.”

– J.B.

Advertisements
Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Comments

  • ligh4043  On June 12, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    Wow, some great historical depth here. Although I don’t in actuality believe in religions, I do have appreciation for their history and profoundness. Although sadly at times that history is not always good.

Trackbacks

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: