Monday, September 23

Sex scandals call for change


The Church's abuse of children and power require criticism and reform from within the institution

It is now Holy Week. In four days, hymns will harmonize, priests will pray, and congregations will congregate to commemorate the most glorious Sunday among the same old, same old: the yearly resurrection of their god. But Catholic churches from Los Angeles to the Vatican have more important things to worry about than Mass turnout or incense supplies. In light of a resurgence in sex scandals among the clergy, the Church must face the repercussions of her ignoble failure of accountability.

Regardless, parishioners across the globe continue to abide. As one Milwaukee Catholic told Wisconsin ABC News, the scandal “hasn’t shaken my faith in the whole institution.” But the institution, dear reader, is exactly the problem.

The Church’s habit of concealing molestation cases and reassigning guilty priests to other parishes ““ a trend implicating countless priests, bishops and even the Pope ““ reveals a profound flaw in the system itself. This goes beyond the actions of individual priests and the reckless bishops who enable them. The root of this evil is the Church’s insistence on private self-policing, an asinine opacity that completely disregards the law, the victims and the safety of their communities.

It will take more than resolve on the part of the Church to be more cautious, or even more punitive. It has thus far only proved itself untrustworthy. So long as they reap the benefits of a federal income tax exemption (an entire other issue altogether), it is irrational for churches to evade the external scrutiny to which other, transparent organizations are subject. Separation of church and state does not mean the former is above the latter.

Even governments have watchdogs and outside agencies monitoring Church actions, not to mention the tides of angry citizens to which they are accountable. The Catholic Church, however, governs its members on its own terms. To whom are they accountable? Only to God, and to themselves, and as evinced by the shameful number of molestation cases worldwide, something in this system isn’t working quite right.

This is an issue that won’t be solved by outside cynics and skeptics spouting garrulous diatribes from a residence hall lounge ““ critics not unlike myself. If ever the Church is to reverse its preposterous policy of shirking responsibility, it will take pressure from within.

Yes ““ this is a direct plea to those involved with the Catholic Church to take an active stance against the injustices perpetrated and perpetuated by that dubious establishment.

For too long has the flock allowed wolves to hide in sheep’s wool. No matter your unwavering beliefs in the doctrines and dogmas of the Church, you cannot forget that humans are humans and prone to corruption. A frock and skullcap do not excuse anyone from being accountable for their crimes.

This is a campus that has called for transparency from everything ““ from UC Regents to USAC meetings. If we have such gall as to harangue those in charge of our tuition, what then of those with whom we trust our children? What of those with whom we trust our immortal souls?

If I sound like your over-concerned mother, I don’t care. As a survivor of 12 years of a Catholic upbringing, I know firsthand the kind of mentality that fosters this complacency. It is a mentality of naivete, of blind faith and trust in intangible solutions to tangible problems.

One angry atheist won’t shake the pillars of a bimillenial (former) monopoly on salvation. But when the youth, the future of the Church, the very people served by the Church, the very people wronged by the Church begin showing signs of dissent, those in charge will take notice.

So, university Catholics, perhaps my heresy has upset you in the past; but let’s not let prior squabbles get in the way of progress.

Let your church leaders know you won’t take part in what has been a most atrocious handling of the most vile of crimes. Write to your cardinals, write to your bishops, tell your priests, your deacons, your youth group leaders that you won’t stand for archaic, obsolete and outrageous self-policing. If you care about your Church, its reputation and its longevity, her current standards of dealing with sexual criminals cannot escape your scrutiny.

Senior clergy in the Church are putting pressure on Pope Benedict XVI to summon a synod of bishops to deal with this mounting sexual scandal. If convened, this synod will be just one potential step in rectifying a series of wrongs for an institution with an already questionable history.

And in Austria, an independent, clergy-free commission funded by the Church has been recently created to investigate claims of abuse. Kudos to Cardinal Christoph Schönborn ““ this is the type of transparency necessary, but not sufficient throughout the Church worldwide.

Do not let this opportunity slip by with your voice unheard. Religious establishments have never taken kindly to internal dissent ““ one unhappy Nazarene was nailed to a tree for that ““ but desperate times call for desperate measures, and the Church is looking more and more pathetic with each new controversy. It will take action to affect change, real action; action will do more than prayer ever could.

Until then, I’m continuing my boycott of an institution that has time after time dodged responsibility under the guise of sacred confidentiality.

Every time I ““ apostate that I am ““ get dragged into Mass by my ever-faithful family, those unctuous ushers with outstretched offering bins shan’t get a single cent from me. Let the criminals and enablers pay for their sins from their own wallets.

As an unrepenting, unbelieving blasphemer my word might not mean much, but let’s put it this way: Jesus came (allegedly) to save human beings, not institutions, and between the interests of the clergy and the interests of the children, his choice was always clear.

If you’re wary of wolves in sheep’s clothing, e-mail Manalastas at [email protected] Send general comments to [email protected]

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