Dr. John Mohan Razu
It is undoubtedly unbelievable swift turn of events that happened in the history of the church—Roman Catholic Church, considered to be the largest Church in the world with more than 1.3 billion adherents; controlling huge properties and wealth all over the world. More than any other visits, pope Francis’s recent visit to Ireland has ripped open the clandestine activities of the bishops and priests and other hidden secrecies and numerous devious acts. Once considered as the most powerful institutions fused with the state, the Roman Catholic Church even after separation wielded power and authority and thus controlled primarily its adherents—all in the name of ‘religion’, ‘faith’ and ‘God’. The magic wand that the church always use: ‘God’, ‘faith’, ‘sin’, ‘salvation’, ‘obedience’ and some more like these. The head of the Roman Catholic Church with all the grandeur, pomp and glory has fallen out of grace from its adherents in particular.
Roman Catholics around the world are literally shocked and shaken when scores of terrible revelations about sex scandals and other crimes related to their church have started to surface. The revelations that have been narrated and testified by those who did undergo such horrifying experience, the Pontiff had nothing to offer or to say because the abuses reveals such horrendous acts by those who call themselves as priests and bishops. Realizing the magnitude and gravity of the issues, Pope Francis had no other option except this: “begged for God’s forgiveness”. Series of massive and sex scandals gravely heinous in nature across the world that the Roman Catholic Church is solely part of all those came to the lime light openly in recent times could perhaps be considered as the most shocking one particularly for the Roman Catholic Church next to reformation.
The recent episodes have lowered the Roman Catholic Church and thus inflicted heavy toll on the top leadership of the Roman Catholic Church who is totally shattered, cannot digest and respond as well. The attacks keep emerging from the ardent followers and the public are so blistered and pointed that the Vatican is long longer deviate with its canny pseudo-religious chanting. Issues that keep surfacing have been massive and so horrendous and so this time Pope Francis is being cornered in such ways that he cannot any more apologize and something more than that. The narratives and gestures of the faithful candidly show that enough is enough this time we are not to be fooled tell us or give us the assurance that go beyond words—act swiftly and firmly.
The episodes that have surfaced be it Roman Catholic Church or Protestant Churches are linked to power wherein the priestly class assuming and thus wielding unlimited power and authority wherein ‘faith’ should have remained in the private and personal domains but in due course of time has been institutionalized consolidating in the forms vivifies vis-à-vis institutionalized Catholicism and institutionalized Protestantism. Institutionalized faith then becomes part of institutionalized religion and once it’s done then hierarchy and powers automatically caves in. This is how the so-called bishops and priests have usurped unlimited powers by hoodwinking faith to their advantage. The priestly class—the bishops and the clerics vested with unlimited powers that propelled them to do whatever they want that resulted in all sorts of awful sexual behaviors that the bishops and clerics eventually becoming like predators. The victims kept quiet for some time all in the name of ‘piety’, ‘faith’ and ‘church’. And now everything is surfacing in the open and as a consequence the church is cracking. Now the scenario is so bad for the Roman Catholic Church and also the Orthodox as well as Protestant churches too.
These are the uncertain and bad times for the churches, may be the worst for Roman Catholic Church, since Reformation, but in due course of time the protestant churches would follow suit. Culturally, Catholicism has been part of Irish national identity. Catholicism also played a significant part in the identity formation in the Philippines and countries in South America where the populations is predominantly Roman Catholic. Even now, Roman Catholic Church plays the crucial role in the identity consciousness of these countries, but remains to be seen whether it would sustain or deviate in the wake of these controversies and revolts against the church. It’s shocking when we read that scores of abuses of the priest and nuns involved in all sorts of thing such as murders, sexual exploits, money laundering and other forms of worst cruelties. So when the ‘faith’ becomes closed, ritualistic, centralized and hierarchical then exploitation of all sorts is bound to happen. This is what happened in Roman Catholic Church wherein cruelty and vulgar sexuality practiced by the ruling class. When faith becomes institutionalized then controlling mechanisms come in and then the adherents are regulated, monitored and used as objects. The following write up sheds more light to the impending crisis:
Church, let it be it Roman Catholic Church or the Protestant Churches or Orthodox or whatever, has by and large not kept pace with the social change. When the church is stuck with archaic creedal confessions, traditions and conventions that diametrically opposed to changing nature of society, then it rebounds at one point or the other. Pope Francis visit to Ireland after few decades by his predecessor does show lots of changes in terms of Irish societal progression. Many progressive things have happened which the Roman Catholic Church would not come to terms with those. Ireland moved on in tune to the social changes and transformation; wherein the Roman Catholic Church and many denominational churches continue to tow the old and outmoded customary and traditional practices that blunt the human progress and upward mobility. For instance, in Africa, the Roman Catholic Church refused to accept contraception and its understanding of sexuality quite naive and so there has been stupendous increase in HIV/AIDS. There have been many such things that can be pointed to that contrasted with the societal changes.
Reports keep emerging from all corners of the world that clearly indites those bishops and clerics who acted as predators. There are a few who once were the top officers holding important portfolios in the Vatican came out with letters that Pope Francis knew about these in 2013 and has deliberately covered up these matters and therefore should resign, but Pope Francis refused or rather declined to get into this and left it to the public to draw their own conclusions. What is more strongly surfacing is that the Vatican is known for preparing documents and safeguarding them carefully almost like that of Pentagon—classified and non-classified files. What the public is asking or more particularly that those engaged in knowing the truth want that the Vatican should part with the documents, so that the secular law enforcing institutions would take over the matters. This is what those who believe helping the victims that justice ought to be dispensed that the church talks vociferously. Now the Church should act on these.
Let not the Protestant and Orthodox churches think that they are better and holier than the Roman Catholic Churches. Similar things have surfaced and more such things will surface. There are bishops and priests known for such things but being protected by the leadership. But the adherents and those engaged in cleansing the church keep raising the issues and fighting out the nefarious designs of the church. Now what the congregations and the adherents want is the church ought to be cleansed from the top to the middle and so church in the name of God and tradition cannot issue pietistic and ‘holy’ litanies and homilies that do not solve the problem that the adherents are facing. What the adherents and the faithful want is to announce and pronounce what they want to say and do about the loot and scoot and other sexual predatory actions that the bishops and the priests committed.