T-to-the-A

The Pope’s Albatross

In Essays, The Daily Drool on April 9, 2010 at 1:22 pm

Well, it’s all over the news, the Pope may/may not have had a hand in covering up sex abuse scandals – Everyone is up in arms (understandably) and there are plenty of photographs of his weary mug as he tried to make it through the holiday weekend in honor of its spiritual significance whilst all around him rumors swirled.

It’s hard not to have an opinion – an opinion based on the culling of information available to us, the masses.  For surely there is no way for us to know exactly what happened, we must instead make our judgements on heresay- the facts “uncovered” by investigators, and the testimonies given by the injured parties- becuase half-way across the world lies a city built on papal secrecy and structure, a world beyond this one, where Catholic law is Law.  Can we ever truly know what happened?  Will we ever be able to understand?  Is there any possibility of knowing Pope Benedict XVI’s true participation/lack thereof?

To all of this I say that it matters not nearly as much what he may/may not have done as what this all says about the Church itself.  (and here’s where some people may get irritated with me- bear in mind that I am not a churchgoer, that I instead adhere to an overarching spirituality not stemming from organized religion.  If that bothers you, then what I’m about to say probably will too)

Because organized religion is made of man, not God.  God/Buddha/The Great Spirit/What-Have-You, did not come down to us and say “Do things THIS WAY’ – if He/She/It had, then we’d have one religion and no holy wars to speak of.  Instead, what you have is a construct of man, formed of desires both altruistic and opportunistic.  Religion offers control, moral codes of conduct, community, and security of shared beliefs.  It attempts to tell you how to live a “spiritual” life, with a different set of rules wherever you worship, and to those that presume to tell you theirs is the O-N-L-Y path to God, I say they have turned a blind eye to the world and the very Light itself.  What they have found is their only path to God, it does not need be yours as well unless it speaks to you at your core.

But perhaps enough of my rant about generalized religion- it has done many good things in its name, and this I respect – what we are talking about today are recent events with the Pope, pedophile Priests, the potential cover-up, and what it says about the Catholic Church itself.

The Church has an amazing and terrible history born and blended of faith and controversy- and I’ll not pretend to be an expert.  Suffice to say, it’s an incredibly interesting and dramatic history (as are many religions) whether you’re reading the scripture, learning about all the masses of accumulated wealth they cultivated in the name of God whilst its parishioners starved (yes, I’m speaking about those lovely Dark Ages) or brushing up all the Wars fought in the name of “Christ” (and almost every other deity) – But in this day and age, the current “bad press” is an onslaught of pedophile priests, and if you think like People of Power think… People of Religious Power… People of Religious Power in an organization that has already suffered many challenges in the face of a 21st century congregation (Prime example: Divorce vs. Annulment (a super divisive point dating back to the 1500’s) What do you do in today’s society of mini-marriages with a 50% divorce rate… you call it an “annulment” and tell your flock that if it had been a “real” marriage, it would have worked, hence God’s forgiveness/church’s issue of an annulment/aka-the “That never really happened.” document)  It is only sensible that as the horrors of pedophilia  began to surface, the Church did its best to keep it quiet- elsewise what would it mean for the Church?  What would it say that these men, these priests, these avenues to God, were abusing their power over the youngest and most defenseless?  From a governing stand-point, admitting that this disgusting human affliction was a problem would open the Church up to all sorts of new questions… and questions beget questions… and a questioning, searching flock might just go find itself another master with better answers.

(Case in point, this article, in which “The future Pope Benedict XVI resisted pleas to defrock a California priest with a record of sexually molesting children, citing concerns including “the good of the universal church,” according to a 1985 letter bearing his signature.”)

Because even though the Catholic church may look on the Pope as a supreme channel to God, he is still an administrator.

And administrators do not belong to the people, but to the organization that bestowed the title on them in the first place.

Yes, you read that right, I just called the Pope a CEO (of sorts.)

He cannot serve both groups (the Flock, and the System) always and together… sometimes the good of one outweighs the responsibility to the other, and in this instance, it appears he chose the System.

The truly tragic thing about it all is that in doing so, he landed himself into the exact boil he was trying to avoid- and perhaps in a few degrees hotter pot.

Because although the Catholic Church is a highly structured organization, every power-that-be stands on the heads and shoulders of it’s congregation, and a congregation is made of Individuals who’s primary religious worry is the struggle of serving God over their own wayward humanness- it’s much easier for an Individual to get on the side of the Flock when the System develops a hiccup.

Which is all to say that those questions Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger so feared have now come back to haunt him, as Pope Benedict XVI, in the worst of ways… not only inciting questions about him and his methodology, but in his ascension to power, about the very church he sought so hard to protect.  In essence, he has ensured a heavy skepticism towards the Church whereas the initial fallout, had he acted swiftly in the good of the Flock, would have been assuredly less so.

Because now it’s not just questions about degenerate priests haunting the flock – If priests, who are supposed to be so close to God, are in fact very flawed human men, why must I seek absolution from them?  What does it mean that I must speak to God/seek His wisdom through someone prone to such horrifying weaknesses of the flesh?- but questions about the System as well- How could they stand by and let this happen?  I thought the Church cared about me?  What does it mean that while my local church/priest/community seems to care about my physical/spiritual wel-being but the Pope himself cares more about his reputation?  Who am I to the Church?  What is the Church’s real aim?

And that last one is the real doozy.

Once you find yourself asking that question, you begin to unravel the very thread that holds all organized religions together… because as soon as something gets big enough to involve “committees” and hierarchies of power, no matter how noble it’s inception, that thing begins to change… to bend to the faults and ego of people… and we all know how dangerous people can be.

Just ask the Pope.

Which is why, as this story continues to unfold, I count myself among the unsurprised… People are fallible.  Just because they study a book believed by many to be moral law, or a belief system held by many to be the path towards righteousness, does not mean they are immune to mistake or flaw.  The Pope is a man, highly educated and very powerful, yet a man nonetheless.  The Church is itself an organization of men (not women -yet another issue I take -but that’s another post- and no, nuns are not in the same playing field) plain and simple.

And all this leads to the crux of Ratzinger’s fatal worry/Benedicts Albatross – Can the Catholic Church survive if its congregation looks on its governors as guilty mortals, suffering like the rest of us, even through their own extreme (and conversely unreachable by the rest of us) proximity to the Holy Spirit?  Or is it too deeply steeped in the mystery that decorates an ascension of faith to allow for these kinds of thoughts?  Just how much damage will come to “the good of the universal church”?

What happens when people start to look closer at the System overseeing their beliefs?

I think we’re about to find out.

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  1. Just wanted to point out one thing: The Church has always understood it’s “governors” and (yes) even the Pope himself to be flawed and fallible mortals. The Pope’s “infallibility” as believed by Catholics is only as it pertains to formal teachings regarding articles of faith and morality. Priests are not believed to be any closer to God, they are merely ministers of the sacraments. That’s what we believe, so while very sad and unfortunate and disappointing it is when ANYONE sins, especially when they are those that we look up to or admire, it doesn’t shake you faith in the Church when you believe (like I do) that the Church is much more than the people that make it up, or even lead it. The Pope IS a CEO or administrator of sorts, and in THAT role is completely fallible, just as you or I would be. He may have made terrible mistakes, and he may even be a horrible man (…I’m not yet convinced…), but the Church will remain, because the Church is the Body of Christ and the Church is what we believe as Truth. The Church is not the leadership, or even the Pope. I know it’s very difficult for people outside the church to understand.

  2. I have no doubt that the Catholic Church will be around and around and around until aliens come down and destroy us 🙂 So, that wasn’t intended to be a point here.

    But as you aptly point out, I am not a member of the Church- which is why I see things differently. My nature as a writer is to observe and comment – my position from here my be different than yours, which might also be different from that of your neighbors. Ultimately (and strangely enough, on par with my post- I think) people as individuals see the world in many different ways- be it to follow this moral code or that, bow to a statue or to the sun, to hide a wrongdoer or oust him in front of his community- and it’s this very individual gift of choice, the acknowledgment of Self and the possibility that there are many, many ways to reach any goal (physical, spiritual, or otherwise) that is in direct contrast with many organized religions- Catholicism but one among a number of them.

    As an observer, I am able to look at this free of internal battles in regards to what I’ve been taught/told/and seen within the fold… I think it’s valuable if for no other reason that to stir further conversation about what we learn, vs. what we do, and why we believe the things we do in our own evolution of thought.

    Which is why, although we see things differently, I don’t know that I misunderstand, so much as I have an opinion born of different experiences than yours.

    It’s also why, as has happened before, this crisis will most assuredly result in both renewed and dissolved faith from different members of The Church- all see things in their own light, no matter how much we’d like it to be otherwise.

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