Thursday, February 06, 2014

Whose Authority?

A United Nations review of the Roman Catholic church's response to the abuse of children by priests and other clerics has been scathing. It essentially says that the church has failed miserably in its moral and ethical duty to protect children, and who could argue. The Vatican agrees that it has a dark past in this regard, although it also makes the case that both policy and practice have changed significantly in recent years. I was not impressed to hear this morning that the Vatican kept no record or registry of child abuses until 2001. This has to be considered blatant ignorance of an evident cancer in the body of Christ. It remains to be seen how the RC hierarchy responds under the leadership of Pope Francis.

We should also pay attention to the fact that the UN team veered off topic in this report and called on the Roman Catholic church to change its doctrine on abortion and homosexuality and other issues. I happen to agree with their outlook, but we should ask why the United Nations feels that it has carte blanche to call on religious communities to change doctrine. Sexual abuse has never been doctrinally supported by the church, and it is recognized as an evil despite the woeful history of tacitly condoning it. But there are theological rationales for the other issues named, even if denominations such as ours may not support them.

I get a little uneasy when secular bodies make blanket statements about the doctrine and practices of religious bodies. Where does that end? What does freedom of religion mean? Those secular organizations are made up of human beings themselves. Why does their supposed wisdom trump the wisdom of the religious group? "Who died and made you pope?" as the sarcastic expression goes.

 It's odd, because Protestants balk at what we perceive as the authoritarian and hierarchical approach of the papacy. But do we simply turn to some other body as the authority without knowing what orients its moral compass?

Is this a little heavy for a Thursday morning? What do you think? C'mon, weigh in!

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