Monday, 5 April 2010

Can't read; Won't read

The letter below appeared in the Times today. My comments are inserted.
Sir, I write as someone who has no hostility to the modern Catholic Church and respects the faith it represents and its progress since Vatican II [Rabbi Romain is, as evidenced by his chairmanship of ACCORD and other interests, of a not illiberal tendency in Judaism - which is why he may not appreciate that the modern Catholic Church is also the ancient Catholic Church] . However, there is no doubt that Archbishop Williams was correct in his comments (“Church in Ireland has ‘lost all its credibility’,” Report, Apr 3) about its colossal trauma. The number and global spread of paedophile cases means that it is no longer possible to blame a few rogue priests, but the whole institution is under scrutiny.

Moreover, it is not yet possible to talk about “a new future”, as some Catholic bishops do, while past misdemeanours and cover-ups are still coming to light. [This doesn't readily square with the assertion of the writer that he "has no hostility to the modern Catholic Church"]

A papal missive is not enough to restore the Church’s moral credibility. What is needed is a large and highly public act of contrition, with a week of sorrow being declared, culminating in a day of fasting by all Catholics. [Oh dear, the poor Rabbi has not read the papal missive to which he refers! In that letter, Pope Benedict asks Catholics in Ireland - and many Catholics in countries other than Ireland will no doubt join with that initiative to make it an international one - to offer their Friday penances for a whole year, a whole year, do you get that, a whole year, that's 52 days, one Friday for every week of the year, that's 7 and a half weeks of Fridays, and not just one week ... for precisely the purpose that Rabbi Romain suggests.]

It would both demonstrate the Church’s deep regret and be a powerful act of self-cleansing.

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain
In a similar vein, see the reports of Rocco Buttiglione's interview on Radio 4 this morning. He is one of my heros, as an outstanding model of how one brings Catholic faith into encounter with the political and cultural milieu of the 20th and 21st centuries, so I am rather disappointed I missed his interview. The BBC website is currently carrying a recording of the interview, though I am not sure how long it will remain on the Today programme site. If you are able to listen to the recording, you will find that Rocco Buttiglione is suitably robust, as exemplified by his concluding words:
There is a criticism that continues, because the anti-Catholic prejudice is the only prejudice that is fashionable in the world of today.


Unknown said...

Nice post, Joe. I agree that a lot of people are just grasping the opportunity to grind some axes.

In all fairness to the Rabbi, though, when he make a distinction between the ancient and modern Catholic Church, I suppose he means you've moved on from burning heretics.

I can remember a time when there were jokes and nudges and winks about 'vicars and choir boys'. This suggest to me that at some level there was an awareness in society of what went on (and not just in the Catholic church) but the prevailing attitude was that it wasn't that serious/harmful.

Now everybody is condemming the Church. Well, rightly so in so far as it was hypocrisy on the part of priests. But didn't much the same go on in boys' boarding schools? And in prisons? And army barracks?

What these institutions have in common is large numbers of males enclosed together for long periods of time with little outlet for their sexual urges.

Joe said...


I don't really know enough about the situations in boarding schools, prisons and army barracks to know about the scale of problems there. The general point that problems occurred in areas other than the Catholic Church, and that these are not being the subject of the severe criticism currently directed at the Church, is valid.

Your use of the word "hypocrisy" prompts the following thought. It is one thing for a religious believer, be they priest or lay person, to do something that their faith teaches is morally wrong - and then recognise that they have done something wrong, that they have failed to live up to the beliefs they profess. This is part and parcel of the human, sinful nature of people in the Church. I would limit the use of the word "hypocrisy" to a different situation, though - the one where the priest or lay person does something that is wrong according to the teaching of their religion, and quite deliberately then fails to recognise its wrongness. This latter really is saying one thing and doing the other.

Of course, Pope Benedict has written in Deus Caritas Est of the "purification" of eros so that it becomes agape, self-giving love. This integral human development in the area of love provides the basis for celibate living.

Anonymous said...

Zero says
Some have failed to recognize "its wrongness". Fr Hill who was sent to Gatwick airport being one. At the unit in Stroud (I believe it is there) staff who were counselling or "treating" him were shocked that he said the young men involved had enjoyed whatever it was he had done to them .
Also, could it be that the people invoved only recognize their wrongness once they are found out?

Unknown said...

I meant hypocrisy in the sense that they were preaching against sins of the flesh, taking confession of sins of the flesh and giving penance and absolution whilst preaching against it.

Of course, I understand that one can believe something is a sin yet fall into temptation. You can start to make things better by admitting it!! I think this is more serious than that, though.