Letter: Archaic mindset plagues Catholic Church
September 24, 2014
Roger Marolt offered a "defense" of the Roman Catholic Church, on many matters ("Defending the Catholic Church," commentary, Sept. 19, The Aspen Times).
But the defense was weak or lacking on many an account.
He started with the current issue of child abuse and legitimately noted similar offenses by others, from Boy Scout leaders to law enforcement officers to teachers.
But he neglected to point out that only the church was actively engaged in broad collusion to hide these offenses and to protect the offenders, where other organizations did not behave that way.
Police officers were not simply reprimanded and sent to another precinct; they were fired and prosecuted, as were teachers and others. Not so with the priests, however few they might have been. The bishops simply moved them to another parish, where they continued their horrific behavior. And in Boston, where the scandal erupted, the presiding cardinal who oversaw such evasion was moved out of the country (to a cushy job in Rome, where he is protected from the prospect of being arrested or even questioned by civil authorities for his behavior in harboring such offenders.)
Marolt misses the essential point of the church holding itself, through its hierarchy, above the civil law — to say nothing of the astonishing hypocrisy of that same hierarchy then deeming to dictate moral standards to the rest of the world! He suggests that pedophilia is now being "vigorously addressed" within the church, but he doesn't seem to accept that this was hardly the result of some moral awakening ("Oh, pedophilia is a bad thing — who knew?") and rather the result of multimillion-dollar lawsuits impacting church coffers.
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Defense was offered, as well, on church positions on other social issues such as contraception and marriage. But he failed to more broadly note the continued relegation of women to the position of being lesser individuals within the church. There is no theological basis for prohibiting women from the priesthood (and also no theological basis for prohibiting priests to be married); these are simply "rules" concocted, mostly in the Middle Ages, for various political and economic reasons. Yet today, in some dioceses, women are not even allowed to be altar girls or to preach from the pulpit in any capacity. The church remains an exclusively male-dominated structure with the resultant male-dominated view of social issues impacting women's rights.
In sum, the church is running about 300 years behind the rest of Western culture. Pius IX opposed Garibaldi and the nationalist forces seeking to unify Italy. Louisiana bishops supported slavery in the run-up to the Civil War. Leo XIII, in the late 19th century, famously stated that "the church is a society of unequals, some to command and some to obey. The former are the clergy, and the latter the laity."
Marolt seems to still support that view.
If the church is to offer solace and comfort, and to offer moral guidance in a complex world, then it needs to join that world in order to be relevant.
Perhaps Pope Francis will advance that change, as it otherwise still looks like a medieval church structure, with medieval behavior, to the rest of us.