Friday, March 8, 2013

March 8 Towery Fri. column, Bwd Bulletin & SA Standard-Times Child abuse more than a religious problem (648 words) The world is getting a new pope. Pope Benedict XVI has resigned. He is the first pope to resign since Gregory XII in 1415, seventy-seven years before Columbus “discovered” some Caribbean islands. The word Pope is from the Latin: papa, a child’s word for father. The Roman Catholic doctrine of Apostolic Succession claims the doctrine has its roots in the New Testament’s Simon Peter, the first pope. Actually there have been many popes who were disposed, coerced into resignation or abdicated (words apparently not applicable to Benedict XVI’s resignation last month). As reported, Joseph Ratzinger is now Pope emeritus, or just one of us pilgrims. The Vatican said his resignation was due to “Physical infirmity and advanced age.” There is much that could have influenced the pope to leave the power before his time. The Vatican ignored, as far back as 1975, reports sent to them on child abuse going on in some schools and parishes. Benedict knew of these complaints more than most. It had been his responsibly to handle those reports before he even became pope. But did nothing as far as we know. I personally understand why Benedict would yearn for an exit. He could have been the greatest of all the popes had he chosen the difficult and dangerous route of not just admitting and exposing, but rectifying the secrets hidden so many decades. I’ve created a musical idiom: Face the music by turning a mournful funeral drudge into a glorious new rhapsody. It was not until the 1990s that the tragic stories of abuse in American Roman Catholic churches became widely known. The bishops and various higher officials shielded priests accused of child abuse, then acted like Dick Nixon, franticly trying to cover it up. The cover-ups that followed were as bad, if not worse, than the sins committed on innocent children. And we need to note that abuse is not gender specific. Domestic abuse is far more common than in religions and/or churches. The institution of celibacy, is not as old at the Catholic Church. The custom began eleven hundred years after Jesus Christ was on earth. It is a pledge that requires the impossible of those who attempt it. “[Celibacy is] foolishness, even recklessness: of the way it warps the culture of the priesthood; of the unreasonable standard it sets.” (Frank Bruni, NYT, Feb. 25, 2013.) Unfortunately Catholics are not alone in the seedy sin of sexually abusing innocent children. It is more rampant in Protestant church organizations than I ever imagined. Back in 2007, Bob Allen wrote an article on “The Associated Press reported that three insurances companies receive upward of 260 reports each year of young people under 18 being sexually abused by Protestant clergy.” Allen goes on to write that Protestant abuse has a higher annual average of “credible accusations” brought against Catholic clerics, as reported by the Catholic Church. These sex offenders are addicts. They are sick individuals and their crimes have nothing to do with religion. The beginning of the papacy has been shrouded in legend and a philosophy that depends on hearsay. The stories about a Galilean Jew named Simon Peter, a probably illiterate peasant fisherman, being the first pope is a tremendous reach. The legend came from wishful thinking and has never been documented. Claiming Peter died in Rome and the Vatican has his bones is amazing. (Additional questions for those interested: The infallibility of popes -- they are preserved from even the possibility of error. This was defined dogmatically 1,870 years after Simon Peter was fishing. The Immaculate Conception -- Jesus’ mother Mary was declared free of original sin by Pope Pius IX in 1854, making her a perpetual virgin. The New Testament does mention Jesus had brothers, not cousins.) For unique insight into this child abuse problem, see Alex Gibney’s HBO documentary, “Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God.” --30--

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