Sat | Oct 16, 2021

Roman Catholic Church out of tune with the times

Published:Friday | March 8, 2019 | 12:05 AM


Your editorial last week about church ‘sins’ was so right in locating their spread across many denominations. Not that the same offences are not found in secular organisations – recall the terrible recent case at the BBC – but that they are so out of keeping with the objectives and guidance position of the church.The abuse of boys is perhaps the gravest delinquency, made worse by the criminal bureaucratic expedience of merely moving culprits, inflicting them thus on other innocents.

Your editorial does not, however, dig deep enough in identifying the wrongs. What is behind so much of them is the patriarchy that rules not only in society generally, but also among those wielding authority in most branches of the church. Even those branches that emerged from the Protestant Reformation, with the congregation ranking and rule alongside its pastor, are not exempt.

Across the board, women are treated very badly.’


The cover-up behaviour of the Roman Catholic (RC) Church has been easily the worst and most scandalous, because patriarchy is compounded with hierarchy.The global gathering week before last in the Vatican raised hopes that perhaps, at last, some remedy will emerge. The most probable outcome, I suspect, will be legislation to ensure prompt removal and punishment of offenders. This will respond to the vigorous demands of some North American former victims of clerical abuse.

This will not reach, however, to the heart of the Roman Catholic problem, which lies in its monarchic form of government. I am not even referring to the Pope’s rule of the Vatican state, which is one of absolutist monarchy, but to the domain of church doctrine and regulations.

The RC Church is hopelessly out of tune with the times in its mode of government. What understanding can it then have of governance in the world of today?

It is most improbable that Pope Francis, with his ‘pastoral’ approach, will tackle a problem so deeply rooted in the history and doctrine of the church. In the first three centuries of its existence, decisions taken by the Christian church had the input not only of bishops and priests, but also of communities, the ‘laity’ (in church language).

Gradually, however, bishops alone comprised Ecumenical Councils, until the point was reached of the Council of Constance (1415) having to depose all three competing Popes and laying down the supreme authority of Councils.

The Second Vatican Council, 1962-65, ‘opened the windows’ of the church to the spirit of the times. Regrettably, it did not, however, cast the changes in institutional forms. As a result, the bureaucracy of the Vatican has since been able to ignore most of those changes.

Jesus is reported to have said, “Where two or three meet together in my name, I am there among them.” (Mathew 18, 20)

Again he said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding these things from the learned and wise and revealing them to the simple.” (Mathew 11, 26-27)

And again, “Among the Gentiles the recognised rulers lord it over their subjects, and the great make their authority felt. It shall not be so among you; among you, whoever wants to be great must be your servant ... For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve.” (Mark 10, 42-45)

The Roman Catholic Church needs to return to that teaching and its own early practice, and cast them in appropriate but contemporary forms of governance.