Sunday, February 24, 2013

Why the Catholic Church looks so bad to the world

Is demonstrated in this story.  The story, carried by Reuters, showcases Catholics who are outraged that Cardinal Mahony, who in some ways has come to exemplify everything bad about the abuse scandal in the Church, will be part of the conclave to elect the next Pope.  I know, it's easy to be critical, judgmental, self-righteous.  We don't need to wish him ill, pain, suffering, or the fires of hell.  And yet, there is such a thing as justice.  There is such a thing as the wrong shall fail, the right prevail.  One of the basic reasons as Christians we rejoice is because God is a just God as well as a merciful God.  Sin must be accounted for, it must be dealt with.  There is a book of life, which suggests strongly a book that is not the book of life, or being absent from the book of life means something.  And yet God is also a merciful God, and sends His Son to die on our behalf, so that those who believe on Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.

Take away the justice, the idea that wrong needs reckoned with, that there is punishment or basic accounting for wrong deeds, and the idea we are saved takes a hit.  Ask anyone in a mainline Protestant denomination that has long abandoned such archaic notions as hell or punishment for sins.  Like it or not, when that happens the Faith itself lacks punch.  After all, God so loved the world He gave His only Son for what?  To save us from what?  So that we might have what apparently we would have anyway?

And if there are eternal results of our sins, there are also temporal consequences as well.  I don't know the details about Cardinal Mahony.  Almost everything that's been published suggests he was part of the grand cover up and obstruction of justice that has been the major hit to the Catholic Church.  As I've said before, no fair minded person would slam the Church because priests raped or abused young people.  That happens when you deal with humans, some do horrible things.  But it's the systemic cover up, the wide and sweeping use and abuse of Church positions of authority that have given the Church the major black eye.  That cover up, that wide ranging attempt to sweep things under the carpet, feeds into the stereotype that the Church is, and always has been, a lumbering bureaucracy of corruption and decadence, where warped individuals abuse and use the power of the ecclesiastical hierarchy to crush the masses while being drunk on the wine of influence and domination.

It also plays into the notion that the Catholic Church is a modern Pharisaical movement that believes man was made for the Canon Law, not Canon Law for man.  It suggests that while kids having the hell raped out of them by priests while bishops and other officials use the power of their office to crush all inquirers is a bad thing, the really important thing is Canon Law 12391298.HSEIF12038940123 that says technically we still should keep the guilty on because otherwise, etc.,etc.,etc.

IMHO, it would be best if Mahony stepped out.  For sheer public relations and to make a point that the Scandal was more than a big mess of an inconvenience to business as usual.  If he doesn't, it would be a feather in the cap of the Church to lovingly set him aside, explain that there is no malice in the decision, and it prays for all involved, or something.  But the idea that he could be within the decision making process of the next Pope poll-vaults beyond the reality that all Cardinals are sinners.  It pushes the idea that all sin is an affront to God the wrong direction.   We don't say that to get people off the hook.  We say that to be humble ourselves, and realize that who are we to judge?  But we don't say it to take away our ability to call evil or even wrong what it is.  Nor do we use it to say a person who may well have been responsible for one of the most scandalous affronts to the Christian faith in generations is no worse off than the person who stole a towel from a hotel.  Keeping things in perspective, standing on justice as well as mercy, and acting as if there are things worth being saved from, will go a long way toward repairing the reputation of the Church in the minds of fair minded people, as well as reminding us all that there are in fact consequences of our actions, hence the praise we give to God for saving us through Christ Jesus.

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