In Defence of The Pope

In recent days, wild allegations, and frankly mad chains of causation, have been constructed around Pope Benedict. I don't think that I have anything to prove on my attitude to the disgusting things that were done by men breaking their vows, who were often protected by Bishops who were also in a deranged relationship with their duty. However, I do intensely dislike the stupidity of some of the assault. England seems particularly gripped by antipapist feeling. This has been true in its past, when the country is under pressure, and has been a strand in its identity since 1533. It emerges at times of great pressure, like the 1850s or 1730s, often when the English people realise that someone is undermining and impoverishing them and fail to see that the culprits are their own elites.

However, it now seems clear that Josef Ratzinger, when a cardinal, was involved in a process that extended the time in which victims of sexual violence could bring claims beyond that offered in England. He also appears to have relied on Bishops who corrupted their office to carry out his instructions, without realising that they would not do so. Indeed, he seems to have had no wider power over the bishops leading one billion catholics. I'm not surprised; most Bishops don't listen to their own diocese, or indeed anyone other than those whose approval they seek. Bishops, not popes, are a major part of the problem that the modern Church faces.

The final allegation is that the then-Archbishop Ratzinger also seems to have approved, on a busy day, the request of an abuser to stay for therapy in a priest house in his diocese in the nineteen eighties (when such things were thought to work, without chemicals). Memomoranda purporting to show Josef Ratzinger's name in a 'cc' field have since been referred to, though no proof that he ever actually read them has been offered.

By way of comparison, Ms Harriet Harman, the present Deputy Leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the House of Commons, was at the time a legal officer for the national council on civil liberties, to which the paedophile information exchange was affiliated, according to this report. Patricia Hewitt, late of the Labour Cabinet, was the head of the National Council. Ms Harman, a fervent abortionist, attempted at one time to water down child pornography laws. Given her position at the heart of the British government--and emphatically not to dismiss the allegations against the pope, but to put them into perspective--why is the Times hounding him and not her?

The hysterical attacks on the Pope, and on Catholicism, rest on a thin material foundation of causation and a deep well of sad and horrible abuse. This poisonous well is the consequence of letting abusers serve within the church, and the church should take its lumps for it; but another, equally poisonous well feeds those waters too. The constant attacks on the church are being made by people who mention nothing of the United Nations or the Social Service industry's shameless record of child abuse and family destruction. They are being promoted by coalitions of people who have a hatred of one of the few things that can actually challenge this murderous, value free world that global corporatism has built. The full hypocrisy of the attacks is sickening; people who want the age of consent lowered to 14 and who aggressively promote their agenda want the sickening abuse of young men by older ones, which constitutes most of the cases, to be the cross on which the church is nailed.

I should repeat something for the avoidance of doubt. I think that the Church should have isolated and handed over to the authorities anyone involved in an abuse of position against a child; I also think that some of the orders and dioceses involved in this scandal, which is multifaceted and which does not just stem from sexual abuse but also from the arrogance of power and the physical maltreatment of the young, should have their assets liquidated and handed out to genuine victims. I think that a whole body of nineteenth and twentieth century thought, which held that the Church was a near perfect instrument and which ignored that it was run by fallen people must now be reviewed in a spirit of humility.

That does not mean, however, that I will promote a lynch mob mentality by vicious secularists against an eighty year old man and nor should any of my readers.

My one consolation is that the church always grows under tribulation.


Mary said…
The church will survive. However, I don't think it will grow stronger until it modernises. It alienates too many people, and allows priests and nuns too much power. Some of the rules of the church are ignored by almost everyone including some who go to Mass every Sunday.

Until fairly recently, when gay men had no place in society the priesthood was a giant closet. It gave legitimacy to their lives. Today, they live their lives with male partners. I'm not saying that all priests are gay men but undoubtedly many are, especially the older ones. The reality is that a lot of these men could not do celibacy. So we have these enormous problems being laid at the door of the church.

Really, it's simple. Let priests marry. Open up the priesthood. Drag the church into the modern day.

I know that the Catholic church prides itself on it's refusal to compromise or change the rules. Personally I think it's silly. I think there will be married priests, maybe even women priests in my lifetime. Then there'll be a lot less trouble.
Martin Meenagh said…
Oddly enough, I am beginning to agree!
Mary said…
Martin, I'm gobsmacked.
berenike said…
Re post - yup.

Mary - :eyeroll:
(nothing personal)
Martin Meenagh said…
Mary--there is no real theological objection to married priests, and indeed, Armenian, coptic and now Anglican rite followers are also generally not people who have taken a vow of celibacy. Nor was the church always celibate, though the situation is complicated by how much its early members anticipated imminent Judgment. I think celibacy is a very high calling and that some cannot achieve it, but that is a reason to allow it as an 'extra' if you wish. The question of church property can be resolved by trust and property law, as far as I can tell.
That Catholic abusers may be unmarried is a given; that the plurality of abuse is committed by married men in the world as a whole is a given too. I think that there is no necessary causal connection, except that some who have issues with their sexuality may seek to hide in the church more than in a marriage. The point needs to be proven.

There is also something worthwhile in being, counterculturally, protected from the sex culture we now have. Sex has way too much importance in the modern world, as do our neuroses and the limiting identities people build on it (I think peadophiles are different because they are defined by their abuse of power as much as the nature of their lusts).

Women priests are a little more complicated. There is no theological justification for the idea whatsoever, and the priestly role is sacerdotal, not simply institutional. Apocryphal gospels and circumstantial assertions about Rabbis in the first century won't cut it.

That said, I went out with a woman who went on to become a rabbi once, briefly. She was more than capable.

On the point of a democratic church--the church is a guardian of tradition and a deposit of faith to which more and more has been revealed through logic over time. It would be difficult to make that presbyterian without the reliance on scripture that presbyterians have as a control tool, which again, catholics could not do since there is a genuine sense in which the church's teaching and interpretation is as important as the bible and more important than the form of various translations. I'd like a little more subsidiarity though.

More later--I am working today, but thought that I would do you the courtesy of a reply.
Martin Meenagh said…
Oh, and just because 99% of people are in error and know it (including myself) doesn't mean that social structures should accomodate them. Truth is truth.
berenike said…
Mary - there are married Catholic priests. And with all respect to the excellent GC married priests I know, it's a fact that the celibacy requirement keeps out a lot of careerites and comfy-job-seekers. If you've ever tried celibacy for the kingdom of heaven, you may have an idea of how it distills your life of faith. by permitting the ordinary ordination of married men in the Latin rite, you wouldn't lose the people who enter seminary for the wrong reasons now, but you'd gain more entering for other wrong reasons.

Moreover I'd argue that any argument for women priests that has any theological or philsophical-anthropological dimension (and is not purely, say, pragmatic), and aren't based on some watered-down marxist idea about "power", can only work by "dissing" womanhood, and the universal Christian vocation. I may be wrong, but I don't recall seeing any exceptions. Most tick all of those boxes.
berenike said…
(I'm really sorry if that was aggressive, I didn't mean it to be.)
Mary said…
Berenike, I don't know if it's divine intervention or not but I replied to your comment and then promptly lost it. Maybe it will turn up. Martin, have you got it? I may rewrite it later.

Don't apologise for being aggressive. You're not. I've just returned from the supermarket where I apologised profusely to a man who wasn't looking where he was going and rammed straight into me. I wish I could stop doing that but it's such a reflex action.

See you later.
Martin Meenagh said…
That's a very English thing Mary-hope that you are ok by the way. Everyone I know gets really annoyed by bovine supermarket accidents, but only english and japanese people apologise. I tell you what annoys me on several levels- those unnecessary little wheeled suitcases people carry around with them, even on or at the foot of, stairs. They turn most of their users into plonkers.
Anyway, I am still lazing about, and have not ventured out. Didn't get your message but shall check.
Mary said…
Hi Martin, it must have been deleted. No great loss. Interesting though that Berenike's response was what I would have expected from you as a very committed Catholic. I do think that with all the bad press at the moment it is possible to get somewhat worn down and dispirited.

Really I do understand the reluctance for change within the church. As you say Martin, truth is truth and nothing should change just to make life easier for the stragglers like me. It's obvious though that the congregation has radically changed and that good Catholics do pick and choose which bits of doctrine they observe. I don't know too many Catholics with ten children.

I'm not a theologian nor am I a particularly deep thinker but something is not working here. In Australia we have a leader of the opposition who is an ex seminarian. He left the seminary because there was a culture of/tolerance for homosexual behaviour. Maybe he got propositioned a few times. I can't believe that this is a uniquely Australian phenomenon.

As for women priests, I don't come at it from a theological, philosophical or anthropological perspective. I'm just a simple soul. Honestly, I don't know what you mean when you talk about 'dissing womanhood', but I do know that the Catholic church keeps women firmly in their place.

Just one last thing. Over the years I have attended Mass with my three sons. On more than one occasion I have nearly been mown down by the priest wanting to say 'hello' to the boys before we left the church. My daughter might just as well have been invisible.
berenike said…
Some priests are chauvinists, some are assholes, some are avaricious, some are mendacious, some are weird psychopaths with a power mania, some are nerds, some are lads, some are philosophers, some are aesthetes, some take women seriously, some don't, some are killer cooks, some are mountain climbers, some are good guys with horrible tempers ... what's a fish to a bicycle? :)

Have you ever heard what Joan of Arc said at her trial, (I can't remember what the question was exactly)? She said

"About Christ and the Church, I just know they're one thing, and we shouldn't complicate the matter."

Martin Meenagh said…
I looked at what is going on, and thought of G.K.Chesterton, The Ballad of the White Horse, Vision of The King;

Even as she spoke she was not,
Nor any word said he,
He only heard, still as he stood
Under the old night’s nodding hood,
The sea-folk breaking down the wood
Like a high tide from sea.

He only heard the heathen men,
Whose eyes are blue and bleak,
Singing about some cruel thing
Done by a great and smiling king
In daylight on a deck.

He only heard the heathen men,
Whose eyes are blue and blind,
Singing what shameful things are done
Between the sunlit sea and the sun
When the land is left behind.

We shouldn't despair though. I agree with you both; the Church will survive even if hell should come against it. My problem is that something very dark launched itself into it some time ago. The Church has a cancer in it, associated with those people who infiltrated the seminaries, or rather (because they were probably always there, though in the past they were reaching out for the love it is our duty to give) who adopted a self-righteous view of themselves from some poisonous secular source, and from the experience of how civil rights campaigners stood up to bigotry.

The world wars destroyed Europe. The culture was torn up, the things people might have died for discredited, the institutions harmed in ways that only became apparent half a century afterwards. Modernity is now eating at everything, and organisations that depended on people trusting each other or coming together for some good purpose, tough after lifetimes in which they had to fight for what they had, are unravelling.

I understand what you mean, Mary. On the occasions when I have been to first holy communions or marriages in recent years, people don't know the prayers or responses, they talk through the services, and the priests rarely understand the group. Some do. They can't make references that connect, though, because the culture has been hollowed out and debased.

The western political class and our professional groups are representative--both degraded and destructive. They won't think, except of themselves. The media lie and lie and lie. Decent people have no compass left and end up doing whatever is easy for some big business or political bureaucracy or other. Wars and oppressions leak all over the place, debt draws on people, and more and more laws are written to criminalise more and more people.

There has to be a limit to this somewhere. Someone has to stop and say, 'the world can be stopped turning here, we can rediscover ourselves here, we are lifted out of the rat cage here'. I think the fact that the truths the Church contains can do that, and that the people who run the world are terrified of it.

Whats the alternative? Nietzsche will have been proved right--we will have made God dead to us and we will be trapped in the hell of eternal recurrence.

By the way, Berenike--where are all the Thomists and Catholic intellectuals and voices here? You can find a few on the front porch republic link on the blog, but they seem older.

Oh, I don't know. Mary, you know I'm not the best of Catholics, by any means, but I do try, a little. I just wonder what on earth the world is heading into. Without a grip on something, people are led around by anything, because the thing about all vices except envy is that they are highly enjoyable. That's one of the key drivers of the present economic crisis, I think.
berenike said…
By the way, Berenike--where are all the Thomists and Catholic intellectuals and voices here? You can find a few on the front porch republic link on the blog, but they seem older.

Martin Meenagh said…
lol, I can see how that must have read. What I meant was, where are the catholic intellectuals that one might have found before, and whom one can find usually in the states, who will come out and defend the church? Something is very wrong in Europe. You know loads about these sorts of things, I wondered if you had a sense of what was happening--is it that journalists who are real catholics don't get columns outside the religious box, or that we have no cathollic universities comparable to the American ones, or that Europeans don't buy books and think about things like Americans do any more?
Martin Meenagh said…
By 'defend' I also meant critique. The social institution can be separated from the perfection of God's message, which is something Maritain and others elided I think. Institutions can evolve though, and we clearly need to evolve something to protect the church, and those in its care, from what happened happening again. That process, I know, is underway piecemeal, but no one has actually integrated all the measures and said what the reform programme is or should be.
berenike said…
I don't know how it read, I simply had no idea what you were talking about! Don't arsk me, I don't know nuffink about anything :/ (though I'm sure my recently re-appeared co-blogger will have much to say if you want to ask him :)
Martin Meenagh said…
:) lol you know lots. Anyway, sorry for the delay in putting up your comment, I have been busy.

Popular Posts