02.11.13 11:48 AM ET
An Opportunity for the Catholic Church
Pope Benedict's announcement that he's about to become the first Pope to resign since the 1500s gives the Catholic Church an opportunity--to deal with sex-abuse victims more honestly, and to wake up and listen to the parishioners who have been widely ignoring Church teaching for decades.
He says it's for health reasons, and one look at him confirms the likelihood that that's true. But we all know that it may not be the only reason. As Cardinal Ratzinger, he was in charge of handling the child abuse scandals for the four years before he became Pope. There's the well-know case in Munich, where as archbishop he allegedly reassigned a molesting priest who molested again. And if you've been following the revolting recent stories out of Los Angeles, Ratzinger would have been overseeing the handling of some of those cases, too.
Not being Catholic, I don't feel it's really for me to bring the hammer down here with great thunder. Not only am I not Catholic, but my mother left the Church as a young woman (before marriage--dad was basically an atheist and wanted no part of the Catholic Church at all) and was glad of it. The only photo of a living human that adorned the walls of our house when I was a kid? Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. So you know where I'm coming from.
It sure has been sickening to watch, thinking about all those young men, and women, damaged or destroyed by the very people they are instructed to respect the most. Sexual abuse of a child being pretty much the single worst thing a human being can do, it's kind of difficult to imagine many things in life more offensive and disgraceful than that. Covering it up is a pretty close second. Then there are all the non-scandal questions on which the Church is so behind our times. Forget gays. That'll take a while. Just letting priests marry, for God's sake. No brainer. And making social justice and compassion at least as important as abortion. How long is the Church going to resist the flow of history and keep choosing conservatives or reactionaries? This is a chance for the Church to join the modern world as it did in the early 1960s under John XXIII. But I would imagine it's an opportunity the Church won't take.