I received this letter from the delightful Irish author of Nelly's Garden.
In brief - This is far too little, far too late.
I'm too long away from the practice of Catholicism to be personally affected by this. It does have a very serious impact on my mother's generation and when we've discussed it I've reminded her that the Church she loves is not the hierarchy, the Vatican or the clergy but the people. I've also told her that the majority of the clergy are still good people. The thing is that the knowledge of child abuse, sexual, physical and psychological is old news in Ireland. These reports have been leaking out for more than three decades now. The pope says in his letter that nearly every Catholic family has given one of its number to the church. That may have been true sixty years ago but not today. What every Catholic family does have is a connection of some sort with an abusive priest. This is a very small country.
What is new is that the bishops have been taken to task although I do think that the present incumbents are taking all the blame for many previous generations of clerical abuse. I think the pope should shoulder a fair bit of that responsibility too for I am certain the Vatican always knew. The prerogative was always to draw a veil, to cover it up.
Maybe I'm naive, or maybe it is because I was brought up among devout Catholics but I still think that there are a lot of good men in the priesthood. Probably not too many of them are bishops or above.
The pope also writes in his letter about the secularisation of Ireland and that is a state of affairs that has been growing for several decades. The hypocricy of the Catholic hierarchy bears a lot of the responsibility for that.My personal take is that the rule of celibacy should be totally abolished. The Irish priest is an endangered species although that might be a good thing. I'm not certain.
On a lighter note I enjoyed your comments about the Irish bishops weigh-in. I'm a lightweight at heart.
Let's talk about separating organized religion (or government?) from the people who run it. What's left once you've strained out the bad stuff?
All I ask of a religion is to get together sometimes with some local folks to celebrate the mysteries of life. To share the fact that we love being alive and that we know so little about why we are here and what happens to us when we die, and maybe to retell the stories told by Jesus who was so wise and good. If there is music and home-cooked food, I'm happy.
I don't need gothic arches and stained glass and incantations. I like those things but I can get them from any Harry Potter movie.
I don't need rules about where to put my penis or a license to use it. I think the "consenting adults" blanket pretty much covers the proper social behavior to which we ought to bind ourselves.
I don't need to give money for the maintenance, growth and marketing of a club of rabid Mouseketeers who want everyone to join them and live by their rules. A club that harbors criminals, assuming itself to be above civil law.
Like Nelly, I think there are some good priests, but they don't make me feel the need to sit in their churches. (Why pay for the cow when you can get the milk for free? Besides, the RC Church has a bad case of Mad Cow Disease!)
I am curious about the difference between our willing subscription to government by evil elected officials and our abandonment of organized religion because of the crimes of its leaders. Could it be that we see the services of the former as essential and those of the latter as nonessential (frequent Bilerico commenter Mr Merrill notwithstanding)?
Now that we live in an era in which all bad deeds come to light, we have a choice: jump off the nearest cliff in despair, or buy the premise that human beings screw up frequently and seriously. Those who do not jump grow up, and we seem to be in a time that calls for growing up.
The Christian churches who condemn or shun us are no longer a place for grown-ups, if ever they were. Grown-ups may still believe in Jesus, but a religious leader like the current pope lives in the dream world of Peter Pan, giving nightmares to people who could be rid of him if they would just wake up.
So what's to become of a church not fit for grown-ups? Like the Pee Wee's Playhouse of Saturday morning TV, is the Roman Catholic Church becoming a bittersweet and nostalgic memory carried on stations far down on the dial?
Let me offer one insight that I have seen nowhere else in analysis of the Pope's letter to the Irish bishops. He suggests as remedy the establishment of chapels and churches of "Eucharistic Adoration". That type of prayer service used to be called "Benediction", in the course of which a consecrated host is brought forth from the unlocked tabernacle and placed in a "monstrance" which is a bejeweled confection with radiating deco-like bolts of gold shooting from a central crystal circlet that looks like it should hold a clockface rather than a wafer.
The interesting thing about this service is that you don't need a priest to conduct it. A deacon or a Eucharistic Minister can do it. Is this the Pope's way of saying "I'm suggesting a remedy of prayer for all you victims in which you won't be subjected to the offensive presence of a priest"? Interesting. Carried to its logical extreme, this Pope would not at all mind the elimination of many of the priests in his service today. Maybe it is his intent to clean out not just the pedophiles but the gay ones and any other rabble rousers/carousers. Maybe this pope thinks that he and a few loyal cardinals are the only priests needed by the church. Maybe he thinks that his hive cannot suffer more than one queen. He's right about that, but he is wrong if he thinks his remedies will make people turn to Rome for royal honey. Catholics are swarming. They take to the sky. Where will they land? Who will lead them?