Its been almost 15 years ago since the Catholic Church has gotten this much attention, and then, like now, its mostly negative as they once again try to make themselves above the law. I’ve never had a good relationship with the church, having grown up protestant in a mostly Catholic town, Saugus MA. I learned early that Catholics are taught that anyone who doesn’t embrace the Church is doomed to go to Hell. As a Methodist, and of a particularly liberal church, this made no sense to me. My father had been raised Catholic and became a Methodist when he married my mother, while his mother remained a devoted Catholic. However, when she died, she was denied many funeral rights because she had not paid the tithe.
I do remember the night when I was sitting in my living room watching the news with my parents, when the name Father Geoghan was mentioned, and this caught my mother’s interst. “Well, well well,” she said, “they finally arrested him.”
She grew up in Saugus, and its biggest Church, Blessed Sacrament, had been one of the many churches where Geoghan had served. Even then, it was known that he was “funny” and that children should not be left with him. This of course started an avalanche of accusations against not only individual priests but the Church as an institution for protecting known criminals and putting more victims at risk. After a few years this quieted down and, aside from a blip when a new pope was elected, the Church has kept a fairly low profile.
Now of course, its once again trying to be a political entity in its fight against a birth control mandate, something that is popular even among most Catholics, but is being pushed by Republicans to promote an idea that President Obama is against religious freedom. Most sane, rational people find this ridiculous and have left us wondering what the Church is thinking. One might call it arrogance, which is certainly been a part of the Church’s dealing with civil authorities before. But perhaps there is more to this than meets the public eye, because although this story dominated the news cycle for a couple of weeks, there’s other things going on that we’re not hearing about from any of the main news sources.
Although the media storm died down years ago, there are still cases appearing in the courts not only prosecuting individual priests for sexual abuse, but also Church Authorities for failure to report abuse to the authorities. But many of these abuses occurred many years ago, and so states are trying to extend or even eliminate the statute of limitations, something which the Church has been fighting. Viciously. They argue that it will unleash a fresh wave of lawsuits that are decades old. Of course I have little sympathy for this argument since it proves where the Church’s priorities are, and its not with its flock. If they had done the right thing in the beginning, protected its children, then it wouldn’t be in this position now. Instead it chose to preserve the image of the Church as an infallible institution and even today, still pressures victims group. Furthermore, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York and one of the leaders in a lawsuit against the Obama Administration over the Birth Control has now been revealed to have been giving payments to alleged pedophile priests while he was head of the Milwaukee Arch Diocese
But its not just sex abuse scandals that are plaguing the Church, because it seems there is dissension in the ranks. Specifically American Nuns for being “not Catholic Enough” because they don’t spend enough time condemning gays and lesbians and women who have abortions or use birth control. They spend far too much time caring for the poor apparently. and have vowed to not stop because of a bunch of old men in Rome. What’s most interesting about this story is a familiar name that has come up in the Church’s fight against the Little Sisters of Mercy. Cardinal Law, former Arch Bishop of Boston, who featured prominently in the early days of the sex abuse scandal has apparently been a strong voice behind the fight against the Nuns. Many believed he had been shunted to some out of the way place where he could stay out of the eyes of the media after essentially being at the center of the biggest ball drop the Church has experienced in centuries, but it seems he’s still in a position of authority.
And if you think the Church’s problems are centered only in the United States, think again, because it seems things are not going well in the very heart of the Holy See. The Vatileaks scandal that arose earlier in May is one of many stories that have been coming out of Italy for the last few months in which it seems that the Pope has engaged in cronyism, but is in the process being surrounded and cut off by other powerful forces within the Church. Lest you think that this is the beginning of reform in the church, don’t, the groups are essentially one group of old men against another group of old men.
All of these and more stories have been in the background, mostly in local or foreign news agencies, and not at the forefront of the American Media machine. Why? If the Media really was a tool of the left wing political machine, wouldn’t they be pushing these stories 24/7 since they reveal the church to be a corrupt, perhaps even criminal organization that is trying to insert itself into American politics? Its not like the American Public has a particularly high opinion of the Church anyways and reminding the public of why could easily push the populace away from the bizarre alliance between the Republican Party (a party of mostly conservative protestants who don’t particularly like Catholics most of the time) and the Church in its attempts to make the President look like an anti religious bigot.
Its either not sensational enough, or the media is holding off to not make the Church look too bad as it fights against the evil tyranny of health care reform and being dragged into the modern world. Obviously their attempts to make themselves victims hasn’t paid off since the birth control scandal has gone into the background and the Republicans seem to have dropped it for now, but how much longer can the Church be allowed to carry on like this? At what point will the rank and file Catholics, many of whom find themselves at odds with these ultra conservative policies, declare they’ve had enough and leave for more liberal parishes? Already the Church’s political pull has waned, in another ten years will they be completely irrelevant? The Church has survived a millennial of wars, political upheavals, and schisms, could it be that the ones to destroy it as an institution will be itself?