The Roman Catholic Church is in trouble over the abuse scandal. It is behaving like an institution which cannot be touched. Times have changed. People are speaking out. The Vatican has much to answer for besides. It has always hedged its bets, taking the attitude that the institution itself is more important than anything, including the truth. There were times in the past hundred years or so, particularly in the Soviet Union, when this attitude can be said to be justified. The truth is that priests are not in any way divine people. They believe things that are not true. They believe they are special. They believe that they are specially chosen as God’s representatives on earth. At least I think that is what they believe. They believe that they are told by God that they have a vocation.
Marie Collins had to stand, yes stand, in front of bishops at the Vatican & tell them what had happened to her. This happened earlier on this week. In 1960, age 13, she was repeatedly raped by a hospital chaplain, a priest. Celibacy is the problem. A priest is a man for all that & at the same time he is supposed to perfect or at least almost perfect. Some priests are wonderful people but some are all too human. I wouldn’t like to say what proportion of them are & what proportion are the other & how many of them, like Sinclair Lewis’ fictional character Elmer Gantry, lost their faith but carried on anyway.
It has not been reported, at least, that priests in other demonstrations, most notably the Anglican Church, have committed indecent acts. Maybe they aren’t reported but I suspect that in fact they don’t in fact happen, at least not often. The RC church has not always demanded celibacy. In the early days of the church priests were married. Naughty priests are the stuff of satire. But it isn’t a joke. On the whole, one feels that they do get away with it & that child abuse of one kind or another is far more widespread than is ever reported.
The Church, indeed all religions, are faced with the fact that most people, at least in the Western World, don’t believe the doctrines they peddle. The Church is no longer seen as the great keeper of the truth. On the whole, science holds this position.
The sight of cardinals & archbishops robed in their bright red & gold outfits is really strange, rather grotesque in fact. Most of them are overweight. Most of them do look infirm. They look like figures from a fancy dress party. The Popes & priests & others in the church hierarchy lay down rules about family, personal morals & so on when in fact they have no notion of what it is like to be inside a dysfunctional family. Or at least if they have they seem to have forgotten. There was an interesting film recently called We have a Pope. It was fictional story about a man, who elected Pope, felt himself not up to the job & not able to do the job. The message was that the method of choosing a Pope is arcane & not reliable. The present Pope was at one time a member of the Hitler Youth.
So why did Marie Collins have to stand before the archbishops & cardinals – at least this was how it was reported on the BBC World Service – rather than sit. It was to stress that the senior officers of the church are on a different level to us. We are meant to that to believe that they are different, that they are God’s representative on earth. We are supposed to tremble in their presence as we would if God himself came down & visited us personally.
The time is coming when the whole edifice of the RC church will collapse. More & more people will be thinking for themselves. People will be free. It may not lead to a better World though. The problem with religion is faith. That is that people do believe things that they are told to believe but without evidence. It is like a table with lots of legs. You start kicking away at those legs until eventually the table doesn’t have enough legs to support it & it collapses. If the Church doesn’t sort out this problem of abuse, the baby will be thrown out with the bathwater. The Roman Catholic Church will have to stop pretending that abuse has not been widespread in the past; presumably it continues today. It will be a shame because religions in general & particularly the RC Church has spawned much art & music. There is drama in church services. Priests are at the centre of this drama. They are indeed sort of god figures in church ceremonies. The purpose of these ceremonies is presumably to appease the gods or in this case God. The problem with this is that few people any longer believe in God because every natural phenomenon does seem to have a rational explanation.
Religion does have a place in the World. But societies all over the World are changing. Some periods in history have seen little change. Feudal society went on for hundreds of years & change only came about because of the Black Death, which ushered in the period of agricultural workers being able to negotiate wages. We are now living in a period of great change. Christian Churches are struggling with this change. If they were to stop claiming omniscience over the affairs of men & women & submit themselves more willingly to secular justice it would be a start.