July 20, 2010

The Lost Catholic Church

After the American Century

Many have rightly derided the Catholic Church in recent days after it called the ordination of women as priests a grave sin - in a statement that was otherwise devoted to child abuse!  I am not going to waste time attacking the church, as many others have pointed out its moral obtuseness, obstructionism, and apparent inability to clean its own house. The clergy's scandalous treatment of many young children and its defense of the perpetrators speak all too well for themselves.

But think of the Catholic Church we do not have. The world desperately needs moral leadership on a host of issues, but the Pope is rapidly losing all credibility. In an age of militant fundamentalism, both in Islam and in Christianity, wouldn't it be wonderful to have an enlightened Catholic Church that had a powerful voice on such issues as global warming and environment, women's rights, or non-violent conflict resolution?

The tragedy of this Pope and of the Catholic Church is that they are rapidly becoming powerless to affect the great issues of our time. When the Church is in the news the story seems always to be about the abuse of children, opposition to equality for women, and conflicts with local authorities that the Church has obstructed in criminal investigations.

The Church is now most talked about for what it is against, not what it is for. Six decades ago, Pope  John XXIII convened Vatican II and moved the Church toward ecumenical understanding. His church was dynamic and people around the world, Catholic or not, listened to him. The current Pope will be remembered as a failure who defended indefensible acts and obstructed change.