vendredi, mars 26, 2010

The Shoes of the Fisherman

Yesterday I went into the city to see an old friend. After some talk about family and careers, we spoke about the current state of affairs in the Catholic Church.

Our children attended the same parochial school. l talked about what it felt like to be a non-Catholic in that sometimes insular environment. He told me that even sometimes being from another parish made them feel like an outsider. And yet, I said, there were some marvelous teachers -- truly dedicated to helping my daughter in her oft baffling voyage through middle school. Overall, our parochial school experience was very good.

A short step then to the current tide of abuse cases bubbling like a witches cauldron in Europe, a tide that appears to go right to the door of the current Pope Benedict, former Cardinal Ratzinger.

My friend is a faithful Catholic in a local parish, one in which the priest is known for being conservative. So the harshness of his verdict surprised me.

It came down to: sow the wind, reap the whirlwind. According to him, those in the hierarchy perpetrated a pattern of secrecy. In covering up abuse, they deserved what they got.

In such an environment, of couse, the innocent clergy can also be victimized by the awful actions of the guilty.

My friend works for an anti-child abuse agency. So perhaps I shouldn't have been intrigued by the way he reacted.

But when I asked him why he stayed, he said what so many of us say about our corrupt and sinful churches -- we focus on the local church, not the global one. And we recognize that our clergy are also broken and sinful people -- like you, like me, even like the Holy Father.

I can't help but wonder what kind of institution will emerge out of this crisis. Will it be, as John Allen asked on NPR today, one that is willing to investigate and reform itself? Will believers look at the Pope the same way?

And what about future Popes? Will the faithful take a more Protestant position on the notion of obedience?

There is in this no reason to slam the Catholic church. You'd do better to look at your own denomination. Or your parish. Or yourself. We aren't any different on the inside. Any institution has its shadow sides.

And yet even to say that indicates how much the basics of the conversation have changed.

St. Peter's home hasn't imploded-- but the ground underneath it is shifting. Time will tell what it looks like when the smoke clears.

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