With the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, many people are using this as an opportunity to voice their personal opinions on the Catholic church, MY church. Many news sources have claimed that the resignation of the Pope in in part to due to sex abuse scandals that have occurred for many years in the Church. Other have stated that the Church needs to modernize and listen to the people, giving them what they want, allowing gay marriage and contraception. This is my defense
1) I would like to establish that priests in the Church, and even the Pope for that matter, are not better people than any other lay person, such as me. They do not believe themselves to be. They simply serve a different duty in the Church, one that requires greater sacrifice to the community. They are charged with leading the Church, fostering our Faith and leading us all into a closer relationship to God. They also administer sacraments and seek to bring the Church to others. They live their lives for God and for the Church, but that does NOT mean they are not any less sinners than you or I. Ask any priest, and they will be the first to admit that they are sinners.
2) I would like to state that sexual abuse is not a a problem unique to the Catholic church. It occurs in protestant churches and predominantly in schools. Over 9% of students encounter some sort of sexual abuse by educators by the time they graduate. That is WAY higher than any statistics seen for Catholic sex abuse. We can also talk about how 1 in 4 college women have been victims of rape or attempted rape. So let’s acknowledge that all sorts of sexual abuse are a global, societal problem. It may seem that it is a bigger problem in the Church because it is the 2nd largest religion in the world and is united by a hierarchy, but that does not in any way mean that a Catholic priest is more likely to molest a child than other person. In fact, only 4% of priests between 1950 and 2002 were even accused of abuse.
3) Now comes the question of reporting these cases. In any situation, it is difficult to admit to the public that in your institution there exist cases of sexual abuse (Penn State anyone?). Furthermore, name one large institution who’s leaders are not in any way influenced by power, money or protecting their image. This happens everywhere. And this goes back to my first point, that priests are sinners too. I pray for good and holy priests to lead my church, but they live in the same world I to and are subject to the same temptations. Failing to report cases of abuse WRONG. The Church admits that it has been wrong, It has made efforts to prevent it from happening again. Additionally, most of this happened between 1950-1970, and it is only now coming to light that certain cardinals ‘hid’ these cases from the police. This is not the full story. In those times, it was the norm to refer sexual abusers to psychiatrists instead of the police. It was not until the 1974 Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act that there were requirements for reporting abuse. By societal standards, how the Church as handling it seemed ok (not to make it any less wrong, but it puts things into a better context). I am not saying that this is an excuse for the Church, but it is a reason. It is a very sensitive matter and, honestly, where have cases of sexual abuse ever been handled perfectly? We can only hope to do better in the future and seek forgiveness for the faults in our past.
Moving on from sexual abuse, I would like to address those that feel as if we need a Pope that ‘is with the times’, and why that will not happen
1) The Papacy, and the Church, is not a democracy. And while a lot of us (especially Americans) believe and feel that if we ask for something enough we will get it. That protesting and petitioning changes laws. And it is indeed so, for a democratic government. But the Catholic Church is not a democracy or a government. We cannot change it, because it was established by God, not by man.
2) In addition to the Church not being a democracy, it is also an unchanging religion. Many cite Vatican 2 as proof that the Church changes. But what really changed in Vatican 2? Not the teachings, or the religion, but the CONTEXT in which they were given to the people. For example, the teachings on sexuality remains the same, but now the Church was called to speak out about such issues as contraception and abortion, which were not relevant before. It did NOT change it’s teachings to agree with society. Additionally, the Catholic Church has surpassed all government institutions, very much so because it HAS NOT changed at its core. It is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. This means that we are ONE in faith and creed. We are HOLY because we are the Church of God. We are CATHOLIC because we are universal, preaching the whole Truth to all peoples . We are APOSTOLIC because we were founded by the apostles of Jesus and now lead by their successors (the clergy). And we will remain so.
3) Nobody is forced to be Catholic. God, in His mercy and love, has given us total free will. We are free to think for ourselves, although God does indeed tell us that He is “the way, the truth and the life”. While some may feel that their parents are forcing them to be Catholic, they (most likely, because I don’t know your parents) do so out of love for God. My Faith brings me such joy and peace, which is precisely the reason I want to share it, so that others my experience that. And as parents, it is only right for us to want our children to experience true love and joy. Additionally, history has shown us that many, many people have chosen to leave the Church, and thus was born Protestantism and all other forms of Christianity. Now the Church does not want you to leave, not because they lose something but because they know that, by leaving, you are missing out on the fullness of Truth and the beauty that God has given us. A priest gains nothing from having 500 people in mass versus 15, other than joy in seeing others love for Christ. Those 85 who did not attend however, have a lot to lose. And I understand that many people want to stay Catholic because they were raised this way, and it holds some meaning to them. But one cannot call themselves Catholic and fight the Church at the same time. In my opinion, thats like identifying as vegetarian but still eating chicken because you decided that wasn’t meat.
5) Being Catholic isn’t supposed to be easy. There’s really not much else to say here. It’s not supposed to be easy. Being told by others that you are ignorant and hateful isn’t easy. Being pressured to have pre-marital sex isn’t easy. Loving others as yourself isn’t easy. Asking for forgiveness isn’t easy. Giving your time and money to those in need isn’t easy. Having patience isn’t easy. Trusting God isn’t easy. Living your life for God isn’t easy. It is, however, the most fulfilling thing I know.
6) You are allowed to not understand the teachings of the Church and still be Catholic. What is not ok, however, is to decide that you know better than the Church. We may not fully understand her teachings, and many of them are difficult teachings, so it is understandable to not comprehend it all. But what it is important is to remember that the Catholic Church is the Church of God, and that it has the fullness of Truth. While we may not understand something, we must have faith and trust, both in God and in His Church, that it is right and good. Faith beyond doubt. That is what I always say.
7) There is an explanation for every teaching of the Church, please seek them. One WONDERFUL resource is your local priest. And while it may be awkward to go up to him and say “Can I ask you why women can’t be ordained?” almost always (if he has the time) he will sit down and explain to you. Another great resource is the Catechism of the Catholic Church. EVERYTHING is explained here. In what is hopefully an easy to understand format, and is you have questions, then there’s the priest. In addition, The Papists, right here on tumblr, have done a great job answering questions. Props to them :) You will never understand the reasoning behind Church teachings if you only rely on friends, society or the media, one must go to the source. That’s the simple truth. You don’t go to a match teacher to explain medieval history, right? If anything, you will come out understanding the teachings more, even if you still disagree.
I hope this has been useful, to at least some of you, in understanding the Catholic Church better, and understanding why I stand by it. I welcome all forms of polite conversions on this matter :)