The Catholic Church’s institutional rotten core

Let me reiterate that I’m not opposed to the Catholic faith as such.  I was born and raised in that faith, I became a priest, and I worked hard to be faithful to its teachings.  However, the clergy sex abuse scandal, and in particular the way bishops expected their priests to deliberately mislead and lie to the faithful over what was happening, drove me away.  I’ve written about the reasons for that on numerous occasions.  There has been no improvement whatsoever in that situation, apart from a few faithful bishops who are setting a personal, individual example.  The institution itself is still ducking and covering, trying to protect itself and its “institution men” rather than truly deal with the issue.

If you doubt that, please consider the following recent headlines.

Those are only a small selection of many that I could have posted.  I think they make the point clear.  The Catholic Church has failed, and is still failing, to put in place any genuinely effective measures to combat clergy child sex abuse.  This is true on a local, national and international level.  No country is exempt from that condemnation, and no prelate who has failed to provide true, effective leadership according to Biblical and orthodox principles of the faith can be exempted from blame.  Through its inaction, refusal to address the issue, and attempts to dodge the blame that is rightfully its due, the church has literally destroyed the faith of millions of its own adherents, and damaged the faith of millions more.  It’s a self-inflicted injury, and can’t be blamed on the world, the flesh or the devil, as many Catholics still try to do.

Pentecostal evangelist Bob Mumford once defined secular humanism as “what happens when the world evangelizes the church”.  This is a brilliant analogy of what’s happened to the Catholic Church.  In its attempts to be “all things to all men”, to accommodate conflicting views and be seen as open to everybody, it long ago ceased to preach gospel moral values and became more worldly.  The results are plainly to be seen.  When last, in a “normal” Catholic parish, did you hear sermons condemning abortion or sex outside marriage, or defending marriage and family life?  Instead, bishops seeking to increase the overall number of Catholics in the church actively promote unrestricted immigration, legal or otherwise, as a way to achieve that, and have pastoral letters to that effect read in their churches.  (They’ll never admit that’s the real reason, of course.  Instead, they’ll spout pious platitudes about human rights and the like.  Believe me, having listened to some conversations as an insider, I know better.)

Even when a Bishop does, in fact, preach traditional morality, as in Rhode Island last week, some of his own priests will try to undermine his message, and secular and media reaction and condemnation may force him to apologize and make excuses.  Bishop Tobin’s original tweet was nothing more or less than the truth as Catholic morality sees it.  No apology should have been necessary.

As for the sanctity of the confessional being violated by secular law, again, the Catholic Church has only itself to blame.  It’s brought this crisis upon itself.  Its tepid, timid, ineffectual reforms have utterly failed to address the root of the problem.  They were, and are, no more than pious window-dressing.  The thorough, top-to-bottom house-cleaning that was desperately needed has not happened, and is not going to happen, because there are too many bishops and clergy who see their job as being to protect the institution of the Church, rather than its members.  They’re too busy trying to bar the doors against secular invaders to consider that their own actions (and/or the lack thereof) are what has caused the invasion in the first place.

I wrote last year:

I can identify very strongly with Mary Magdalene.

Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.  Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.”

The Bishops, and Archbishops, and Cardinals, in their collective hierarchy, have taken away my Church . . . and I do not know where they have laid her.  That is absolutely heart-breaking.

I have, as yet, seen nothing to make me reconsider that perspective.  I wonder whether I ever will?



  1. "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men…"
    John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton
    On a personal note, Peter, I am so very sorry for your loss.

  2. Is it appropriate, under current canon law, for a confessor to assign as part of penance, when a sin is also a crime, that the penitent also confess to the police?

    Should it be appropriate to do so?

  3. As EB-Misfit has on her blog:

    I've got nothing against God. It's his fan club I can't stand.

  4. Interesting that we hear nothing about Cardinal Vigano lately. It's almost like the Media is trying to bury the whole story.

    That's quite an amazing turnaround from the days of Cardinal Law and Father Shanley.

  5. @D.J.: No, under current canon law, that's not acceptable. You see, if the confessor required the penitent to go to the police and admit to a crime, he'd also be requiring the penitent to breach the sanctity of the confessional – something that's binding on both confessor and penitent. Therefore, such an instruction would be canonically illegal.

    I'm not sure how to handle such a situation in terms of amendments to canon law. Any change would open a whole new can of worms. (I almost said Diet of Worms, but . . .)

  6. @Peter: And even if the canon law were changed, if it is an option but not mandatory, confessors may not require it. And if it were mandatory, they still might not require it. And people who wanted to confess but not suffer the secular consequences of sin would be deterred from it.

  7. @LCB: No, I don't think so. That may have happened in very rare cases, but intensive research has failed to uncover any such link as a rule.

  8. Bishop Tobin is no friend to those who have been abused by the church, I'm afraid. He has been a leader in shuffling priests and pressuring parishoners.

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