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Posted by on Feb 11, 2013 in At TMV, Guest Contributor, Religion, Society | 23 comments

Pope Benedict XVI Resigns (UDATE 2 with ROUNDUP)

Sources including the Wall Street Journal report that the Pope is resigning, which has observers around the world all atwitter. The news is fascinating on multiple levels.

While I’m not looking forward to the inevitable avalanche of Catholic-bashing (which is in vogue today now more than ever in my life it seems), other interesting things to observe will be:

This is not be the first time a Pontiff has resigned although it’s been many centuries since that’s happened. It would appear that Benedict’s own statements that he didn’t really want to be Pope in the first place may have been more legitimate than cynics believed. It also opens up a new door to the world’s largest group of Christians: at this point, almost every Cardinal in a position to pick the new Pope will have been appointed by either John Paul II or his successor. No Cardinal over the age of 70 will be allowed to participate in the conclave, which means they’ll all be people who grew up in the wake of World War II and have been affected most of their lives by Vatican II. It should be interesting to see what new direction, if any, this heralds for the Church’s mission and focus. A clean break from scandals that rocked the Church over the last half of the 20th Century will also be possible.

Presumably Benedict will keep his title as Cardinal, although unless he rewrites the rules, he interestingly enough cannot vote in the conclave to replace him, although I’m sure he can make his thoughts or wishes known. This is because under current rules only Cardinals age 70 or under may vote in a conclave to elect a new Pope, and he’s significantly older than that.

As a Catholic I have nevertheless often been deeply uncomfortable with certain specific teachings on human sexuality and reproduction within the Church. While I don’t expect dramatic change (that’s just not something the Church is in the habit of doing–if it were it wouldn’t still be here) I’m hoping to see a few re-examinations in that area in my life time as well.

*Update*: CNN has a video report:

The Pope’s statement:

As transcribed by Vatican Radio
I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.

The Today Show:

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UPDATE 2: Here’s a cross section of news and blog reaction:
The Week gives this great roundup of first reactions.
NBC News:

Many Catholics were taken aback by the decision.

“This was a huge shock to the church, nobody saw it coming [although there] might have been a few hints,” said Christopher Lamb, Assistant Editor at Catholic weekly The Tablet. “But in many ways given that if you are getting old and finding it very difficult to run the church it is only the right thing to step down.”

Reuters quoted a Vatican spokesman as saying the pontiff did not fear schism in the Church following his resignation.

But while the day-to-day running of the church would go on, big decisions such as appointing new bishops and issuing papal documents, would come to a halt until a new pontiff was chosen, Lamb said.

“At the top level of the church there will be a freeze,” he said.

A complex sequence of events to elect the next pope has been set in course by the pope’s announcement on Monday, although rules governing the selection are the same as those after a papal death.

“Yet, on reflection, I am sure that many will recognize it to be a decision of great courage and characteristic clarity of mind and action,” he added.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, said that the pope’s announcement had “shocked and surprised everyone.”

The BBC on the shock:

The unexpected development – the first papal resignation in nearly 600 years – surprised governments, Vatican-watchers and even his closest aides.

The Vatican says it expects a new Pope to be elected before Easter.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became Pope in 2005 after John Paul II’s death.

The BBC’s David Willey in Rome says the move has come as a shock – but adds that in theory there has never been anything stopping Pope Benedict or any of his predecessors from stepping aside.

Under the Catholic Church’s governing code, Canon Law, the only conditions for the validity of such a resignation are that it be made freely and be properly published.

But resignation is extremely rare: the last Pope to step aside was Pope Gregory XII, who resigned in 1415 amid a schism within the Church.

A Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said that even Pope Benedict’s closest aides did not know what he was planning to do and were left “incredulous”. He added that the decision showed “great courage” and “determination”.

…………Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti is quoted as saying he was “greatly shaken by this unexpected news”.

The brother of the German-born Pope said the pontiff had been advised by his doctor not to take any more transatlantic trips and had been considering stepping down for months.

Talking from his home in Regensburg in Germany, Georg Ratzinger said his brother was having increasing difficulty walking and that his resignation was part of a “natural process”.

He added: “His age is weighing on him. At this age my brother wants more rest.”

The Pope is not expected to take part in the conclave that will choose his successor, and will then retire to the papal residence at Castel Gandolfo when he leaves office.

Rick Moran at The American Thinker:

Vatican watchers — the Italian press, which usually has excellent inside info on the papacy – was blindsided by the announcement. Not even the pope’s closest aides were privy to his decision.

Benedict – the former Cardinal Ratzinger – was always seen as a caretaker pope. Elected in 2005 at the age of 78 following the death of his predecessor John Paul II, Ratzinger was considered a placeholder for other candidates who were in their 50’s at the time and considered too young to fill the office.

In the last years of John Paul’s pontificate, Ratzinger headed up the powerful and influential office of Prefect for the Doctrine of Faith. He was able to place key allies in positions of power so that when the conclave met following the death of John Paul. his election was relatively smooth. It took only three days for the College of Cardinals to decide.

His statement on his resignation sets a precedent that may overturn 1800 years of church tradition that kept the pope at his post until his death.

-Andrew Sullivan has (as usual) a must-read roundup.

The Daily Beast’s Michael Tomasky:

Pope Benedict’s announcement that he’s about to become the first Pope to resign since the 1500s gives the Catholic Church an opportunity–to deal with sex-abuse victims more honestly, and to wake up and listen to the parishioners who have been widely ignoring Church teaching for decades.

He says it’s for health reasons, and one look at him confirms the likelihood that that’s true. But we all know that it may not be the only reason. As Cardinal Ratzinger, he was in charge of handling the child abuse scandals for the four years before he became Pope. There’s the well-know case in Munich, where as archbishop he allegedly reassigned a molesting priest who molested again. And if you’ve been following the revolting recent stories out of Los Angeles, Ratzinger would have been overseeing the handling of some of those cases, too.

Ed Morrissey:

Benedict XVI is one of the Church’s greatest living theologians, and has been a highly-respected leader of faith in his pontificate. It’s impossible not to compare him to his predecessor Blessed John Paul, whose pontificate lasted for decades and who had a tremendous impact on the world and governed the Church through a renewal of faith, but that comparison will probably be a little unfair to Benedict XVI. The manner of his leaving, though, begs for that kind of comparison. Blessed John Paul took the traditional route of holding the office to his death despite suffering from Parkinson’s, a disease that ravaged his body but left his mind clear. Benedict XVI makes explicit mention of concerns over the state of his “mind and body” and a deterioration in one or both that has created an “incapacity,” which leaves the impression that one of the most brilliant minds in the Church may be dimming, and that Benedict XVI has decided to forego the difficulties this would cause the Church and allow another to take his place. That itself is a significant sacrifice, and perhaps an important act of humility.

Needless to say, Benedict XVI will be in our prayers. In my life, I’ve only really known two Popes, and I’ve only been physically close to this one: when I traveled to Rome for the beatification of Blessed John Paul two years ago. Benedict XVI conducted the long ceremony and exhibited strength, joy, and faith. While I didn’t get to see him up close — I was actually just outside the wall and watched on a TV screen, surrounded by an estimated 3 million pilgrims — it was literally a life-changing experience, in ways that are still unfolding for me.

Benedict XVI helped guide the Church after the death of his larger-than-life predecessor, finishing his work and beginning his own. That transition was jarring: how do you follow the pontificate of a saint? Benedict XVI managed to do so with joy, faith, and determination, and perhaps it’s fitting that after having provided such a smooth transition to the post-JPII era of the Church, he’s been tasked with providing a smoother transition to his successor. We will pray for Benedict XVI in retirement, and for his successor to face the challenges of the next era.

Professor Bainbridge:

I had to check to make sure today was not April 1 and that the hedline would not send me to The Onion……..

Pope Benedict is overthrowing a 600+ year old tradition that Popes die in office. And I think it may be the bravest thing he’s done in office.

The Catholic Church faces crises that require action: The Vatican Bank scandal, the ongoing fallout from the pedophile priest scandal, declining numbers of priests, and the secularization of Europe. The Church could not afford another lengthy period of inaction and indecision while waiting for a dying Pope to pass away. It needed a younger man. Now.

Pope Benedict thus had the vision and moral courage that John Paul II lacked. While I still regard JPII as the greatest Pope of my lifetime and possibly for much further back than that, he had flaws and clinging to office when he was obviously incapable of performing the tasks was one. His great example of emulating the Suffering Servant easily could have performed in retirement, while a younger man tackled the crises of the day instead of allowing them to fester through the last years of JPII’s reign.

Babalu blog:

I am honestly shocked. From what I am hearing from Fr. Jonathan Morris on FOX News right now, the man went into the role of Pope in the Catholic Church’s Vatican with hesitation, and maybe even halfheartedly. Basically he had intended to be somewhat retired at his age, spending time with his brother. This has not happened in over 600 years in the Church…

The AP gives this timeline showing how rare a resignation is.

The Pope in pictures.


Pope Benedict said in a historic announcement he no longer had the mental and physical strength to run the Roman Catholic Church and would become the first pontiff in more than 700 years to resign, leaving his inner circle “incredulous”.

Church officials tried to relay a climate of calm confidence in the running of a 2,000-year-old institution but the decision could lead to one of the most uncertain and unstable periods in centuries for a Church besieged by scandal and defections.

The Church has been rocked during Benedict’s nearly eight-year papacy by child sexual abuse crises and Muslim anger after the pope compared Islam to violence. Jews were upset over rehabilitation of a Holocaust denier and there was scandal over the leaking of the pope’s private papers by his personal butler.

*Another Update*
Best comment of the day so far: “The Pope is really setting a high bar for giving something up for Lent.”

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  • ShannonLeee

    Yeah, I do a lot of Catholic Church bashing, but I try to leave Catholics out of it. I visited the Vatican over New Years. Quite the palace.

  • brcarthey

    I agree with you Dean. I am honestly shocked by this figuring that after all the pedophilia abuses he was externally complicit in, and refusing to accept any responsibility, he would have died before leaving the papacy of his own accord. I was definitely disappointed in his selection as the Pope, and I thought I’d be more happy to see him leave, but am rather relieved to ambivalent. IMO, he has really hurt the church and set it back by at least a decade, if not more. Quite an accomplishment in 7-8 years.

    When I look back on our church’s history, we see that reformists popes were usually followed by ones that were more conservative. So, I am hopeful that the next pope will be a reformer in the vein of PJP II, Pope John XXIII, or Pope Paul VI.

    I am also very disappointed in the vitriolic glee that so many non-Catholic liberals are taking in this announcement. I have stood with and supported many of them when our church tried to demonize the GLBT community, atheists, Muslims, and other communities. I would hope that we would be given the same courtesy during this uncertain time in the Catholic community as we wait to see will become the next leader of our faith and in which direction he will lead the Church.”

  • roro80

    I hope that the Pope can be at peace with his decision, and use his stepping down as a way to heal and rest from whatever it is that ails him.

    That said, I can’t say I’m sad to see him step down. I do hope that the Pope chosen to take his place will use his position of power to soften the anti-contraception stance and anti-gay stance of the current Catholic leadership position, and I certainly hope they get someone who will really take the safety of Catholic children seriously. I won’t hold my breath for someone with a softer view of abortion.

    brcarthey — I’m fairly certain the OP considers it anti-Catholic bashing to bring up pedophilia at all.

  • slamfu

    Of course there will be an inevitable deluge of comments. The church institutionalized child rape. You don’t seriously expect me to ignore that piece of information because they are having a change in leadership do you? What the priesthood has gotten away with, and continues to get away with, is just another case study in how if you have money and influence you can ignore the law. How the hundreds of priests directly involved and those who acted as shields for them are not in jail is another crime in and of itself.

  • justcowboyway

    Good comment Mr Slamfu.

  • The Church never institutionalized child rape. But such bigoted, aggressively ignorant assertions (which are no better than racism or antisemitism) are common, especially among those who have a political or philosophical or theological axe to grind against Catholics; no amount of apologies, investigations, efforts at transparency, reparations, fully open reports, mea culpas, and so on will ever suffice for them. I won’t even bother debunking it for people who think that bigoted, aggresssively ignorant, hatemongering tripe, even though anyone who looks knows that Catholic priests are no more likely to molest children than clergy of any other denomination and are even less likely to do so than public schoolteachers although no one ever goes after the public school system as a whole for that. Haters are gonna hate and that’s all there is to that.

  • Best comment of the day so far: “The Pope is really setting a high bar for giving something up for Lent.”

  • brcarthey

    Slamfu,roro80, and justcowboyway this isn’t to excuse the guilty priests and their enablers within the Catholic Church, but just to put some statistical context into Dean’s rebuttal post to Slamfu. We, as Catholics, have been running the whole course of being shocked, angry, sad, disheartened, betrayed. You name the negative feeling and most of us have felt them toward those that are guilty. How are they, who on the outside pointing an accusatory finger at the church as a whole, any different than those that point an accusatory finger at LGBT, contraception, and the teaching of evolution in public schools leading to the moral and social decay of our society?

    Just a few studies I happen to read and know about: The Washington Post conducted a survey a few years ago that covered the last four decades and found that less than 1.5 percent of the estimated 60,000 or more men who have served in the Catholic clergy have been accused of child sexual abuse. A simliar survey by the New York Times conducted around the same time found 1.8 percent of all priests ordained from 1950 to 2001 have been accused of child sexual abuse. Thomas Kane, author of Priests are People Too, estimates that between 1 and 1.5 percent of priests have had charges made against them of contemporary priests. Lastly, the Associated Press found that approximately two-thirds of 1 percent of priests have charges pending against them.

    As Dean said, sexual abuse is not exclusively a Catholic church problem. It’s just happens to be the biggest “boy” on the block that everyone wants to take a swing at. By all means please google, Mormon sex abuse any of the following: Baptist sex abuse, Jehovah’s Witness sex abuse, Jewish sex abuse, Lutheran sex abuse, Episcopal sex abuse, etc. You’re going to find it everywhere. Approximately, 75% of charges brought against ministers and priests get convicted or serve prison time. The rest are typically settled out of court.

    Now, since this was specifically brought up let’s look at the US public school system sexual abuse does seem to be a far worse problem. A study in 2000 commissioned by the American Association of University Women, surveyors asked students between eighth and 11th grades whether they had ever experienced inappropriate sexual conduct at school. Approximately one in 10 students said they had been the victim of one or more acts of lewd comments, exposure to pornography, peeping in the locker room, and sexual touching or grabbing from a teacher or other school employee. Two-thirds of those reported the incident involved physical contact. If these numbers are representative of the student population nationwide, 4.5 million students currently in grades K-12 have suffered some form of sexual abuse by an educator, and more than 3 million have experienced sexual touching or assault. This number would include both inappropriate romantic relationships between teachers and upperclassmen, and outright pedophilia.

    Here’s a link to a Department of Education study published in 2004 that aggregates all of the studies of sexual abuse within the public school system.

    Studies like these are few and far between because most rely on government funding, which could cause wide-spread embarrassment to elected officials at all levels. However, my comparing those numbers to the Catholic church isn’t to indict the public school system as a whole. It’s merely to point out that child predators come in all shapes, sizes, and genders. I don’t know if you’ve paid attention to sexual abuse stories over the last couple of years, but most seem to involve women having sex with high school boys. In contrast, though both the media coverage and public response have been collective “yawns.”

    I just recommend that anyone who indicts an organization make sure they have all the facts and contextual relevance at their disposal. Again, one abuse case is too many, but don’t be hypocritical and be outraged by the abuse perpetrated by one set of individuals while ignoring it (willfully or otherwise) being committed by others.

  • ShannonLeee

    What are the stats on schools protecting serial child molesters and move them from playground to playground ?

    Yeah, thought so.

  • Enkindle

    Poor old guy is tired, let him rest. I don’t think that because the Pope is retiring this in anyway means a liberalization of Catholic Doctrine by any stretch of the imagination. It could mean that priests will be allowed to marry because that’s up to the Pope apparently, and, a new Pope may change that tradition. However according to Catholic official statements, if you are Catholic you must follow doctrine or you are not in communion with the church and must reconcile with the church your iniquity. I’m pretty certain none of that will change just because the Pope is resigning.

  • roro80

    no amount of apologies, investigations, efforts at transparency, reparations, fully open reports, mea culpas, and so on will ever suffice for them.

    “No amount”? Meaning you think that the church has gone above and beyond on all these things? Really? For someone who is purportedly extremeley concerned about the rape of young boys, it’s almost shocking that you think that the instutionalized moving about and covering up for abusive priests is somehow ok or atoned for at this point. It would be shocking, I suppose, from almost anyone else, I guess.

    From Shannon: “What are the stats on schools protecting serial child molesters and move them from playground to playground ?”

    Bingo — it’s not that priests are more likely to rape than others who interact with children. It’s that one of the world’s most powerful heirarchies is actively involved in allowing it to continue happening in order to protect its own power. A heirarchy that is directly responsible for the spiritual development of a large portion of the world’s population. I know saying so is some sort of badge of bigoted hate in the eyes of this OP. Of course, so is support of VAWA and a narrowing of the gender pay gap, so it’s not all that surprising. I don’t hate Catholics. I hate the system that misuses its very real power by bringing real harm to children.

  • roro80

    How are they, who on the outside pointing an accusatory finger at the church as a whole, any different than those that point an accusatory finger at LGBT, contraception, and the teaching of evolution in public schools leading to the moral and social decay of our society?

    How are they in any way the same? And it’s the leadership of the church that we are pointing to, not Catholics in general. Pointing at the powerful and telling them they must act when children are in danger is very different than fighting against those who would take away personal rights to things like contraception and loving the (adult!) partner of one’s choice. Nothing in common. From your comment above, it seems that you’re pretty unhappy with the abuse and lack of response to it as well. I did not get the feeling that you agree with Dean that the public — Catholic and not — are somehow going overboard demonizing something that has been thoroughly and duly investigated and atoned for. Dean writes a lot about the rape of boys and men, and how men are shamed for working against abuse where men and boys are victims, but bring up the Catholic heirarchy and its institutionalized cover-up and protection of abusers, and suddenly you’re an “aggressively ignorant bigot”.

  • Enkindle

    I think a lot of people use the clergy pedophile scandals to bash the Catholic church because the Catholic church, and, Christianity as a whole, does not accept their secular social choices. Liberal people have long claimed the moral high ground when it comes to bigotry in general. It’s unfortunate that some of them do not also extend their claimed morality to religion.

  • ShannonLeee

    Enkindle, you do realize that we are talking about decades, if not centuries, of serial child molestation and institutional cover up that probably goes all the way to the Pope?

    Even death row prisoners know better.

    Catholics can bury their heads on this, but the general public will not. Hide behind the bigotry card all you wish.

  • brcarthey

    @roro80, what I meant was that conservatives blame so-called “moral decay” liberals and/or atheists for not wanting religion to be omnipresent in society. While liberals say that conservatives hide behind religion to perpetuate bigotry and hate (and sometimes violence, re: Ghana). I’m not trying to create a false equivalency between the two sides. I happen to agree with most of the left’s POV. Where I differ is that the Church has done good things in society. It has brought about some positive changes. It could do better, but give us time. The church is not the hierarchy/leadership, it’s the people, the congregants. However, at ~1 billion members, we’re obviously not a monolithic group. So, yeah, I get a little defensive when we get lumped together. I know this Church, as most denominations and other religions, has lots of bad history behind it, centuries of it. It also has some good history too. Both should be put on full display and discussed so that we can learn and, hopefully, somehow heal in order to make sure any abuse of power is not tolerated.

    When it seems that outsiders make blanket statements that casts all priests in a guilty light. It hurts because I have friends (and former teachers from my catholic high school) who are priests and they’re all just as angry as most of us Catholics are (contrary to the assertion that we are burying our heads about this and it’s only these snarky, sanctimonious non-Catholics, who , self-righteously say they will bring these abuses to light). I know it’s easy for the media to target an organization like this because it has a defined hierarchy that can be easily traced (paper trails and what-not) unlike other institutions such as schools or day care centers, or any other place where children are left in charge. It’s hard to not be defensive on the one hand, yet also convey that I’m just as effing pissed off, hurt, angry, disturbed and sad that this happened. No amount of apologies from me or any other Catholic lay person or priest can remove those memories. I hope and pray that they healed and were able to find some peace with it. If the victims want to forgive these cowards that’s good. If not, I can understand that too. I do worry about all the lawsuits that have affected this church monetarily. Before you jump on me about the “money worries,” let me explain that it’s because so much of that money goes to social and medical needs for the poor. Yes, this church is very rich, but it doesn’t have bottomless coffers. Contrary to a public myth, not all Catholic priests have to take a vow of poverty. In fact, most don’t. So, knowing that, I worry that should the bank accounts get too small, the poor communities that receive aid will be the first affected. I hope I am proven wrong with this pessimistic view.

    Contrary to Catholic doctrine, I do not believe the Pope is infallible something that is frowned upon by many life-long and/or conservative Catholics. He is still a human being like the rest of who followed a particular calling to lead a church. While church (or any church or religious entity, for that matter) doctrine may be inspired (or said to be from God) it was still written by human hands which can be prone to fallibities. If I choose to question something the church teaches, by Joseph I will do it. My mama didn’t raise a lemming!

    (A little aside: I converted to Catholicism in 2004 before I got married after being raised Episcopalian all my life. Not a huge change, but there are some differences to be sure. Episcopalians like to jokingly call themselves, “lazy Catholic ” or “Catholic-lite,” to which I added, “Yeah, all the religion, half the guilt!” Both offered me all kinds of rewards and frustration when it came to each’s doctrine. It was easy to convert because I stopped going to church regularly and my wife, a fellow lefty, was an observant Catholic.)

    When this scandal broke combined with the church’s stance on gay issues, I was ready to leave church again. However, as my wife reminded me, we can only change things from the inside not by abandoning it and looking at it from the outside; much like any relationship or building. So, I stayed and I will continue to fight. I will fight (and compromise) for the changes I believe the Church needs to make, I will not sit by and simply “bury my head” as another poster generalized about Catholics when atrocities are committed in the name of this Church. I will argue with those Catholics who defend, ignore, or otherwise blame victims (re: Bill Donohue) of this or any other abuse. Just please be mindful this is a huge 2000-year-old organization that’s gone through many, many changes, good and bad, slow and fast. I believe it has changed most rapidly in the last 50 years since Vatican II, which has not pleased many within the church (both lay people and clergy). However, more times than not when I look at the history of this church it has usually (not always!) ended up on the right side of history (even when it started out wrong, re: Copernicus and Galileo) when it comes to social changes. It just doesn’t always happen in the blink of a celestial eye. We’ve got a lot to fix (and we know it), just please don’t dismiss that we aren’t actively trying to do anything.

  • JerryK

    In your article you state that only Cardinals under the age of 70 will be allowed to participate. This is not accurate. The actual age is 80, as is stated in the Universi Dominici Gregis.

  • roro80

    brcarthey — I greatly appreciate your in-depth comment. I agree whole-heartedly with nearly everything you said. While not a Catholic myself (nor a member of any church), I too have a friend who is a ordained, as well as many Catholic friends, although none who could be considered to fully share traditional Catholic social views. So I do understand that there is huge anger and agetation for change within the church, and I appreciate your eloquent exposition on that point of view.

    As you anticipated, I have a hard time feeling bad for the church for the monetary woes caused by their own heirarchy’s terrible and dangerous decisions. The leadership made a decision to move abusers around to abuse again instead of ousting them and having them prosecuted. Of course this was going to mean that more children were abused, meaning more money to pay out in restitution. It was an abysmal set of decisions, made over and over again, and it’s tough for me to feel pity for anyone but the victims of those decisions. I think you would probably agree that the best way to avoid this in the future is to truly clean house — zero tolerance, full admission of past sins. Develop a system in which this sort of behavior will not be tolerated, and the organization will get a reputation for being intolerant of abuse. I work with a lot of different organizations (none so big as the church, obviously!), and cleaning house is a painful and difficult process, but is ultimately the only way to go.

    In any case, while I still think there’s a false equivalency from your earlier post, I do respect your point of view. I’d just like to point out that if you think that the OP shares your views, I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed.

  • slamfu

    Dean, it is institutionalized. 1.5 percent of 60,000 is 900 hundred suspects. That’s a LOT. And most of those men didn’t just do it once, meaning there are thousands of victims. The evidence is in, and the Church was aware in a great many cases of what was going on. Instead of turning them over to authorities for criminal prosecution, they covered it up. That is a BIG DEAL. This isn’t about having an axe to grind unless you think expecting criminal acts to be dealt with under criminal law is having an axe to grind.

    And what has the church done about it? What they should have done is allowed full co-operations with criminal investigations and opened up about it. Instead they have closed ranks, somehow convinced authorities to let them handle it as an internal issue, and proceeded to buy off victims as if this was a civil matter. I find that unacceptable. So that is my issue. I would have this issue if it was any other organization as well. The fact there is a massively hypocritical aspect in a religious organization that promotes morality is merely the cherry on top of my outrage sundae.

  • brcarthey

    @roro80, thank you for your last reply. As I tried to opine, I wasn’t trying to morally or falsely equivocate the two, I just couldn’t think of a better example of the two sides lambasting the opposite (kind of like the current back and forth about the things said about Bush vs. said about Obama. I think you know which side of the argument I fall on).

    And I understand your stance on the financial fall out due to the Church’s decision move priests around. I can’t blame the general public for feeling that way. As I already said, for someone within this community I just worry about both the social and community services the Church offers to the general public. I hope the Church can fulfill all its obligations during all this turmoil: turning in priests, defrocking them, letting victims have their day in court, agreeing to whatever a victim needs from the Church (whatever that may be), but definitely still providing to the poor.

    That being said, I do agree that a “hell-fire and brimstone-type come to Jesus meeting” needs to take place with the Church’s clergy, but very sadly, I don’t see a major purge coming. The average age of a priest is in his late 50s, early 60s. On top of that, they aren’t replenishing their numbers like they once were. Hence, older priests are being being physically and emotionally stretched further and further. I know this goes back to protecting the church, which can be blinding for many, including lay people. However, until we know that all have been rooted out it will be tough for many to listen to my church make certain moral arguments, which I don’t doubt that caused quite a few to leave. In light of all this catastrophe, I’ll give you a quick background and debate raging within the Church. The Church’s clergy was not always celibate. For the first 1000 years in the church, celibacy was not a strict rule. There’s debate as to when it became a rule, with many agreeing it was common practice by the 11th century. However, before that there is ample historical evidence that priests were allowed to be married. In any case, that might be a solution to combating deviant priests, but certainly not the only. We shall see.

    In closing, I wasn’t initially clear when I said I was agreeing with Dean. My agreement stemmed from his comment of the “eventual Catholic-bashing” that was to follow (and it has to some extent on other sites). However, I try not to speak for others on any subject as my views make it tough for me to be pigeon-holed on either side of a debate. While most of my views fall on the left side of the social and political spectrum I know I have a few right-leaning ones too. Would I like for people to agree with me? Sure, my ego would love it even more so if they initially disagreed with me. More importantly, whenever I have a debate or discussion, I just hope that we can walk away from it with a better understanding of the opposing view and respect for it when we don’t agree. Therefore, all I can do is lay out my thoughts, reasons, and feelings on a subject on screen or paper; and from there let the good times roll!

  • roro80

    Thanks for another well-thought-out comment. One quick thought/question:

    The average age of a priest is in his late 50s, early 60s. On top of that, they aren’t replenishing their numbers like they once were.

    I can’t help but think that perhaps the “call”, if you will, is not going out to a large number of young people (er, men) because of many of the social and ethical issues we are talking about. Not only the pedophilia scandals come to mind, but the rejection of LGBT people, anti-contraception stances (even as a preventative measure against AIDS in high-HIV areas), women in the priesthood, and as you mentioned, the celibacy issue. I recently had a friend get married in the Catholic church, and the whole no-sex-before-marriage thing, in addition to the contraception taboo, are evidently this big lie that every couple tells their priest so their families can say their kids got married in the church. I imagine it would be tough for a lot of young people thinking about entering into a life of God to swallow that sort of silliness in the place of their highest seriousness and devotion.

  • slamfu

    Oh and to clarify, I was equally outraged at Michael Jackson for almost the exact same reasons. It has nothing to do with this specifically being the Catholic Church. I’d be railing against Oprah’s Book Club right now if that’s who we were talking about, but we aren’t.

  • Enkindle


    I think your facts are discombobulated. Pedophilia can be attributed to any group and the percentages of Catholic clergy pedophilia are merely among the averages of any other group.

  • brcarthey

    slamfu: Be careful what you say about Oprah. If she can take out a bunch of cattlemen in a Texas courtroom on their home turf, I’m sure she could make a “slamfu” rug and lay it on the floor in front of one of her many, many fireplaces and no one would question it. 😉

    @roro80, I can’t believe you just outed one of the worst kept secrets of the Church…pre-marital sex and contraception. Ah! but confession is such a wonderful thing. 😉

    I get what you’re saying with regards to some reasons for the declination, but the number of new priests has been steadily declining over the past few decades. I don’t know if anyone has ever conducted a study to find out the reasons, but I’m sure some of it could have to do with the church’s stance on some of the social issues. However, and I say this with full knowledge, married couples aren’t the only ones who engaged in extracurricular activities before exchanging vows. Priests and nuns are just as guilty, which is why I believe the celibacy issue is antithetical to human nature. Yes, yes, “higher calling beyond one’s flesh” blah blah blah. It seems that priests, clerics, and other religious leaders don’t have a problem with the higher calling and having a marriage. In fact, the “prodigal brother” of the Catholic church (the Eastern Orthodox church does just fine with this. If the Church isn’t going to ordain women any time soon (and I’m not convinced they ever will), then I don’t see too many other alternatives. For now, I’ll leave all other church-related topics for another time and place since I don’t want to get too far off topic in this thread.

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