A Reflection / Response to the article “Why I love the Corrupt and Crime Ridden Catholic Church.”
I took my clue for our opening topic from an email that Ken had forwarded to me in which he provided a link to an article written by Fr. Dwight Longenecker with the captivating title, “Why I Love the Corrupt and Crime Ridden Catholic Church;” along with more than 80 comments. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/
For me, Fr.’s article is good as far as it goes but it falls short of clarifying what is unique about the problems confronting the Catholic Church today, that is, in the 21st century. To accomplish that we need to identify where the root of the problems confronting our church today lie. With that in mind, I shared with the group what I have garnered from my studies are those roots which stretch back for centuries, are very complex, and deeply challenging. Given the historical realities of these roots all I hoped to do in the context of our scripture group is bring them forward and offer an example or two of the problems they have generated. There are four root causes as I have come to understand them.
- First there was the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century with its own roots going back to perhaps the 14th century. These events shattered the unity of the Western, Roman Christian Churches and are now lived out in an enormously complex set of relationships within Western Christianity. As Catholics, it wasn’t until the Second Vatican Council that we were, not just permitted, but encouraged to relate in a meaningful way with Christians from other traditions. In some ways the ecumenical movement has stalled but the cry for unity is profound.
- Much more significant and far reaching was the Scientific Revolution beginning at least symbolically with Galileo. The very notion of science, nature, our world, the universe changed in dramatic ways. In my brief life time, I left school only to learn about plate tectonics, galaxies, an expanding universe, DNA, evolution, etc. etc. I choose to give as one example, among many, a problem made evident because of the scientific revolution and the vast technologies that have emerged out of that scientific revolution. I selected the position on birth control enunciated by Pope Paul VI, shortly after Vatican II in his encyclical, Humanae Vitae. I would argue that at the core of the encyclical’s failure is an inadequate and incomplete understanding of the procreative process made ever more evident by contemporary science. We will end up spending more time on this issue in our next session; but it should be obvious that my personal opinion is in conflict with the official teaching of the Catholic Church. From all the surveys that I have come across, most Catholic women don’t practically agree either.
- A third modern transformation was political. The French Revolution changed the very nature of how we as nation states organize ourselves politically and there are serious ramifications from that transformation that our church struggles with to this day. As citizens of a Western democratic nation we are imbued with a vision of political life that includes the very notion of equality. Again I have experienced in my own life time the extraordinary social and political changes brought about by the civil rights movement, the continuing struggle to bring about equality for women across a whole range of economic and social settings, and more and more we are confronted with the demand for equality on gender issues.
- The last transformational factor lying at the root of the challenges confronting us is the development of historical consciousness in Germany in the 19th century. I personally think that the changes brought about by this revolution are the deepest and most unsettling for us. For it has introduced into our very sources and history searching questions about their very nature. We are confronted with understanding a new the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, the achievements of the Fathers of the Church in the Greek Councils, the grand scope of the scholastic scholars.
Now it goes without saying that books, if not libraries, have been written on these four and many other factors that have produced the “modern” world and the Catholic Church’s presence in it. It must also be acknowledged that the four transformational factors I have alluded to occurred in a context that certainly had ante Roman Catholic bias in them. Over these years, however, we have not been especially astute in responding to the biases and the developments that make our world pretty much what it is. And this has occurred at a time when each of these massive transformations are not without their own need of critique and correction; actions that I think the Roman Catholic Church could perform in a uniquely qualified way given its foundational intellectual tradition and its present global reach.
In summary, I felt that the heart of Fr. Longenecker article, as I understood it, focused on the almost universally agreed fact that we are all sinners. And it is this fact that both accounts for why the Roman Catholic Church is corrupt and crime ridden and why we love her. His observations are true for the church in all of human history but failed to point out what is unique to the shortcomings and challenges for our church in the 21st century. And it was to address these shortcomings that I offered my thoughts on his article.
I will offer a second post on the scripture passage that we moved on to study.
Your comments, observations, questions are welcomed. See “comment” link below.