Friday, April 02, 2010

A matter of faith

I'm the first to admit it: I don't have a dog in this hunt.

I'm not religious, so I don't have a direct interest in what has been going with the "scandals" surrounding the Catholic Church lately. It would be easy to say, "It's not my problem," and walk away.

But I do wonder what people who do have something at stake are thinking here.

Short version: Priests have been involved in a variety of sexual abuse cases for many years. There were said to be 10,000 such cases in the U.S. between 1950 and 2002. The most famous ones on this side of the ocean came through an investigation in 2002 by the Boston Globe, but other stories have come out as well. One documentary, "Deliver Us From Evil," was particularly powerful. It's rather sickening to hear that priests who commit terrible acts were shuffled off to an out-of-town location without comment, and repeated their crimes again and again.

Now some new allegations have come up in Germany, touching church leaders below the current Pope dating back to his days as a Cardinal, and creating something of a firestorm. And stories from other countries such as Ireland have come out as well.

Let's spell out the obvious: there are many, many more good people in the church than bad ones. There's been plenty of good work done for centuries.

Still, we're talking about powerful authority figures here. When disputes about behavior did come up, how many times were the authority figure's words taken at true without argument, leaving some not to even bother trying to complain? How much of that, even today, is still happening?

And, with patterns of deceit present, how difficult is it to listen to church leadership on any other issue, including the really big ones (God, heaven, etc.), without wondering about their validity of their point of view? Religion often tries to answer the unanswerable, and faith is part of the process. What happens when faith in church leadership is rattled?

It probably is good if cathartic to get this sort of issue out in the open again, and we can hope that the reform process will continue. But, believers sure do have to be asking themselves some tough questions these days. It's easy to wonder about the long-term effects of all of it.

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