If there’s something positive to have emerged from these many months of pandemic, it’s the constructive thinking going on about what it might mean for the Catholic Church. There’s a kind of collective and individual self-examination underway, perhaps exemplified best by Czech theologian Tomáš Halík, who is a psychotherapist by training. As he put it in one of the most perceptive articles published recently on the topic: “Our time of civilizational change calls for a new theology of contemporary history and a new understanding of the church.”
On Monday, after vowing violent state action against protestors across the US, Donald Trump took time out for a photo opportunity. Did he talk to people of colour, heartbroken, enraged and exhausted by police brutality and the killing of George Floyd by officers of the state? Did he listen to the black mothers terrified that the next time they see their son leave the house will be the last time?
Police launched smoke grenades and shot rubber bullets at protestors to pave the way for Trump’s publicity stunt outside the St John’s Episcopal church.
Pedophilia has become a huge topic of discussion over recent weeks as not only have sexual abuse outings been taking place in Hollywood, but the exposure of pedophilia in Hollywood and amongst the elite is becoming more common.
The reality of child molestation by the Roman Catholic Church has surfaced time and time again, and yet, somehow, it continues to happen. If you watched the movie Spotlight, perhaps you have an idea of just how things are going down. But let’s break it down to date.
PHILADELPHIA — “Horseplay,” a term used to denote child rape, is, says Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, part of a sinister glossary of euphemisms by which the Catholic Church’s bureaucracy obfuscates in documents the church’s “pattern of abuse” and conspiracy of silence “that goes all the way to the Vatican.” “Benevolent bishops” are those who allow predatory priests, shuffled from other dioceses, to continue as priests.
The fuse for the national explosion of fury about sexual abuse by Catholic clergy was lit in Boston — the excellent 2015 movie “Spotlight” recounts The Boston Globe’s victory over the stonewalling Catholic hierarchy in 2001-2002. But the still-reverberating detonation occurred last August in a Pittsburgh grand jury’s report on the sexual abuse by approximately 300 priests of at least 1,000 victims in six Pennsylvania dioceses.
It’s hard out here for a pope. See, when it comes to religious history, the list of Catholic Church transgressions makes for pretty uncomfortable reading. Despite exalting virtue and kindness in its teaching, church leadership has spearheaded a long history of outright unforgivable Catholic actions.
You might remember some of these improprieties from school – the Inquisition, Joan of Arc, and the trial of Galileo should all ring a bell. But not everything here is medieval. Though Vatican violence goes way back, a number of disturbing episodes are from recent history. Some of this repugnant behavior comes from popes, some was church-endorsed, and some, most unsettlingly, was just straight-up regular church practice.
Dark church history contains scandal after scandal rife with every vice and taboo you can imagine. When the church was at the height of its power (at which point it was the most powerful organization in the Western world), it’s safe to say everything went to its head. Combine that with church leaders seeming to stubbornly resist adapting to changing morality and you’ve got a whole lot of unforgivable moments on your hands.