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Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Pope's visit to the US

I'm not a Catholic (NO!) nor do I play on on TV. In fact, I'm fairly ignorant about the Catholic Church, especially for one that has lived most of my adult life in an extremely Catholic state. I'm of the opinion that Catholicism really has no affect on my life, other than the totally awesome Festas held every summer in the North End. But, as some of you might know, I live in the city that has the very dubious honor of the first Catholic church to unveil the priest sexual abuse scandal. Yes, it all started right here in our fair city. The Church no longer exists, as it was torn down a while back, and frankly, good riddance to that edifice.

Although the Church is no longer standing, the victims of the outrageous sexual abuse scandals that came forth are very much alive, and they are angry. I don't blame them. The church has treated them abysmally and the Pope has begun to acknowledge how badly the scandal was handled by not only the Boston archdiocese, but by the American Catholic Church as a whole.

Cardinal Bernard Law, the former Cardinal of the Boston church, did everything within his power to cover up the scandal. He had no love for the victims, and instead he made sure that the offending priests were protected and moved from parish to parish, with each move covering up the abuse that followed these particular priests.

Because of the enormous size of the scandal within the Boston area, the Archdiocese had to reign in it's costs, which meant selling large tracts of land including the Cardinal's home, and many churches within the greater Boston area. The Archdiocese forced churches to close, to combine congregations, and to close Catholic schools just to cover the cost of reparations. The church closings, school closings, and the scandal itself didn't help to fill the pews in the churches within MA. Additionally, priests that were outspoken were asked to leave their long time parishes and moved to places where they were obviously being punished. That happened to a very beloved priest right in our small city, and the outcry was fast and furious.

Living in a community so seriously scarred by this scandal is often difficult. An innocuous question such as "What church do you attend?" can set off a rant that leaves me breathless with anxiety. I see how angry people are. Some of the closed churches have never been able to be sold because the parishioners are still holding 24-hour vigils more than 3 years after the churches were to be sold off. One in the next town, a church that used to house the twice-yearly Mother of Twins sale, has a vigil ongoing for years and years.

While I think this particular Pope is at least discussing the problem, his refusal to talk to the victims of abuse is a major mistake. This church needs healing, healing that is not going to be manifested by a few chosen words by the Pope on his airplane or at the White House party for his birthday. He needs to hear first hand what suffering these victims have gone through, and how their lives have been irreparably damaged.

Additionally, the Pope needs to address some of the issues of the Catholic church that remain unspoken. The large population of gay priests should be acknowledged and dealt with. I don't think there is anything wrong with gay priests, but when they are required to be celibate, then abuse of young men is going to happen, just as it happened in the past.

Protecting the priests that were involved in the sexual abuse of young men and boys is absolutely wrong and the church must create a policy that ensures that nothing like this will happen again.

The issue of celibacy is going to remain a problem in the recruitment and retention of priests. In this day and age, it isn't really plausible to expect young men to take a vow of celibacy and remain so throughout their lives. Ditto for nuns. Both of these populations have a poor retention rate because they are human and do fall in love and want to be sexually active. It just isn't working for the church anymore, and changes must be addressed.

Lastly, closing parishes and selling the parishioners down the river to pay for the scandals is, in fact, punishing the victims. The church is a fabulously wealthy entity, and the Vatican needs to open up it's coffers and pay for the reparations to the victims. Consolidation is one thing, but punishing the loyal parishioners by removing their beloved priests and selling off their church buildings just plain stinks. It needs to stop. I would like the Pope to talk about these issues and be willing to make changes within the church that benefit the churchgoers rather than the corporation the church has become.

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4 Comments:

Blogger Dave2 said...

Oh Margalit. It pains me to say it, but I'm a little disappointed in you here. :-)

Because there are scandals everywhere, and I think it's getting a little tired that people feel the Catholic Church has a monopoly on such things. Everybody and their dog feels justified in telling the Catholics how they should go about solving their problems, even though they've undoubtedly got problems in their own house that they could be focusing on.

In Seattle there was a big sex scandal years ago involving a rabbi abusing his position, yet he is still working to this day. I'm sure if you were to Google search, you'd find that things like this can happen with ANY religion. This is because rabbis, priests, pastors (and whatever) are all human, and you're always going to find messed-up stuff where humans are involved. You can blame the rules and traditions and cry for change, but the truth is that this is not going to ensure future scandals will disappear. Allowing priests to have sex is suddenly going to eliminate sexual abuse? Please. Never mind that there are other religions which have celibacy as part of their doctrine (Buddhist monks, to take my faith as an example)... it's only the Catholics that should have to change?

The reality is that the Catholic Church is going to make bad decisions in handling problems just as Jewish authorities will do the same. Again... they're human. In any event, it's the community these religious overseers serve that is ultimately going to have to decide for themselves if that's who they want speaking for their faith. It's the Catholics who are going to have to decide if priests should be allowed to marry or be celibate, because they're the ones who have to live with it.

The difference being that if a Catholic who knows nothing about the Jewish faith were to openly criticize the handling of a Jewish scandal and start telling Jews how they should change their doctrine, beliefs, and traditions... they run the risk of being branded anti-Semitic.

Catholics, on the other hand, are just expected to sit back and take it.

So feel free to tell the Catholics how they should run their church, because it's just so fashionable to do so... but the next time somebody tells you how to raise your kids or spend your money or worship your God, I hope you'll understand that it's just because they're looking out for you... not because they're being in any way judgmental or feeling morally superior. That seems to be fashionable now-a-days too.

17/4/08 4:56 AM  
Blogger margalit said...

Dave, I'm well aware that other religions have sex scandals. But you're talking about individual cases here and there versus extremely widespread abuse. The church closed their eyes to this scandal for many many years, and perhaps it's because I live in the heart of a very Catholic state where the scandal was most pronounced that I feel so strongly about it. My beef isn't even with the priests anymore, it's with the corporation known as the Vatican Council, that is screwing average Joes in my city and all around me by shutting down churches, getting rid of any priest who has said anything even slightly in favor of victim retribution, and making light out of changing people's lives by enforcing these changes.

What I do know is that the corporation is extremely wealthy and could have easily afforded to take a different route when making reparations, but instead chose to have the parishioners suffer and that sucks. People take their home church very seriously, and to see the parish church where your grandparents, parents, and you were married, christened, and buried just close down because the money dried up in our archdiocese due to reparation payments is like a double punishment. I think it's wrong.

As for the sexual activities of priests, yes I do think that by changing celibacy rules, the incidences of abuse would drop. Not one other religion, including both Judaism and Buddhism have had the widespread sexual abuse of young boys that the Catholic church has endured. Again, it happens within all religions, but these are individual cases, not entire churches filled with pedophiles. We're talking REALLY pervasive abuse here in MA.

And as for your comment that it is the community that oversees the propensity of abusive priests, they're SCREAMING for someone to listen to them. Voice of the Faithful has been loud and proud in their alternative services, and begging for the Pope to come and talk to the victims. That's what I initially said. But the church isn't listening to them. They're not only being ignored, they are being punished with their churches being closed and their beloved priests being taken away. Because unlike other religions, Catholicism is now and has always been a large corporation that decided for itself in Rome how to best reward the church at the expense of the people. You've been to Rome. You've seen the precious relics the church owns. You know how much money they have. And they're closing churches left and right here? Ummmm, suspicious at best.

My point has always been that I AGREE with the Catholics around here. Maybe it's different in Cashmere, but here, where just in our small city we have MANY Catholic churches, and more that have been closed and lost to the people, the parisioners are furious. FURIOUS. The anger that has fomented against the Church is palpable, and there is NOTHING I've said that Catholics around here haven't said time and again.

17/4/08 3:21 PM  
Blogger Poppy Buxom said...

I am Christian. I'm not Catholic. And therefore, I don't feel that it's my job to tell the Catholic church what to do.

Trust me. The Catholics have heard all your arguments before. Priests should be able to marry; they need to ordain women, blah blah blah.

The thing is, you have to share their beliefs to understand why you're never going to win this argument. The theology of their Eucharist is unique. The mass is central and it can only occur when a member of the ordained priesthood officiates. In their Mass, the priest puts on the person of Jesus Christ, thus becoming another Christ: Sacerdos, alter Christus.

That's why priests have to be celibate males; they're supposed to be like Christ and his chosen apostles.

Trust me; plenty of Catholics who are saying the exact same thing. You might as well save your breath. (Or fingertips.)

17/4/08 10:24 PM  
Blogger Poppy Buxom said...

http://snurl.com/24uc8 [news_yahoo_com]

17/4/08 10:29 PM  

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