God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Catholic Church: mysticism and reality in the times of the abuse scandal

abuseA lot is written about the meeting of bishops in Rome on the topic of child abuse – and the reactions were as diverse as people seeing the problem with different eyes:
for some the conference was a milestone as for the first time the Catholic Church took on the monster of child abuse head on admitting the cancer spreading since a long time within its ranks. For others it was more of a talk shop and they would have expected clear-cut rules and regulations how to deal with the past, the presence and the future. Obviously the topic was and is also used by those wanting either to preserve or yearning for change in the church: for the latter, child abuse is only a consequence of clericalism and a hierarchy which seems to have a meaning in itself while for those wanting to preserve the might and power of the Catholic Church homosexuality within the clergy is the core element of triggering abuse.

For me there is no question that the exaggeration of heavenly powers for those up the hierarchy, the wish of protection of the good name of the church, the failing to acknowledge that mysticism of faith has to be based in the realities of the people, the choosing of bishops and cardinals who would just go blindly along with everything said and done from the top without hesitation, the neglect of the synodality of the church in favor of a medieval rigid papal and curial system as promoted by John-Paul II has fostered a climate where child abuse was condoned, covered up and for some even encouraged as the most what could happen was to be moved to another place with ample opportunities to continue the horrible deeds. Child abuse is the consequence of a church system which gave rise to clericalism in all forms and shapes.

It seems that not all got the message – looking at statements from Cardinal Burke and Brandmueller and judging by other statements of right-wing and so-called conservative people within the church child abuse is taken as the scenario to fight modern ideas. And obviously the all-present fight against homosexuality which seems to be the pinnacle of all woes the church is in according to this fraction of the church. Being in an almost all-out war for the direction of the Catholic Church for the years to come, the abuse of the abuse is a convenient tool to fight for the return of the “Holy Mother” to the good old times where hierarchy was clear and the laity obeyed without doubts. And that would leave us with some misguided priests – rotten apples – to be forced to leave so that  church business can continue as it has been since ages.

As much as I can understand the yearning for an environment clearly defined in a world which is so confusing; as much as I can understand the insecurity of so many brothers and sisters in this mad world of so many choices and fast developments – we as church have to be at the cross-road of mysticism and reality.

The reality is that life is developing as is our understanding of the world and of the meaning of life – church can only be relevant if it keeps up with this development by at the same time preserve the mystical and inner core of its message:
This world has a meaning, we are part of a divine plan which is so much bigger than we can think of. It means to keep the fire burning in our hearts and minds towards a future we only can believe in without knowing all the facts – love, hope and faith are the components of this mystical inner yearning which promises to make at the end sense of our journey on earth.

At all times the church has tried to spell out this hope, which for us Christians become human and manifest in Jesus, with the tools and the knowledge available at that time. Looking back in history the church was often at the forefront of academia and developments but it is human nature that success can make one getting more slow and luscious and often also unwilling to accept new insights which would contradict its chosen path. So we have to catch up on reality and insight – living and preaching within the realities of life today without losing this mystical component of our human inner being –  in our days often is seen in the spirituality of people lived outside of official churches.

Keeping the divine fire burning in every human being while traveling in the modern world with all the new knowledge and the constant changes in possibilities is an art  – but the only art possible to survive as a church. And it means to acknowledge, expose and correct the wrongs of the past and to work openly and transparent on the new way forward.

For the question of child abuse it means to look honestly and without any reservation at the crimes committed or allowed to be committed, to hold those having failed responsible without regard to position or standing in the church and to make sure that this never happens again. There is, besides the deeds of single people a systematic failure we also have to acknowledge which means that we have to re-work aspects of the “system”church without betraying the core message of unconditional love of God which allows for life to flourish and develop. The questions of how we deal with sexuality in all forms and equality of man and woman are only some of the questions we have to tackle here and now to make sure the evil of child abuse has been brought to an end.

 

Filed under: Catholic Church, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Synod on Family: Signs of deep divide or healthy discussion?

It was amazing to see the discussion before, during and after the first part of the Synod on Family: those discussions, interviews, reporting back, misunderstandings when being interviewed and it seems a somehow brutal gloves off discussion is going on for the time being. Reading conservative blogs or so-called Catholic news websites like the German “kath.net” every bit of news is bend up to a point of ideology and bits of events are highlighted and others completely overlooked just to make a point.
The removal of Cardinal Burke from a high-ranking position has fired up the discussion as has the remarks of Cardinal Kasper that one cannot discuss certain topics with African bishops. All this shows that the unity of bishops and the church has been enforced by a structure or hierarchy based on fear and choosing only candidates who would normally never speak up but defend even the not possible to defend as part of the deal. Those times are hopefully gone and the God’s good spirit seems to get more and more room to conquer the hearts and minds of those leading the church. And giving the spirit more room is certainly healthy for a church claiming to be guided by exactly this spirit.
I personally think it is good to see the diversity of thoughts within our church and if it is done right and with respect, a robust and healthy debate can only further our cause as it has done during the Second Vatican Council. The only difference is that in our times, the debates are public and can be followed by millions with each and everybody able to voice his or her own opinion while at the time of the council, it was fought out behind close doors and only the results were published.What is scary is the bitterness of certain so-called conservative circles even talking about a “false” pope or yesterday I even read about a schismatic pope. Here, ideology has taken over religion and a debate is not even possible any more.

Working in the field of HIV and AIDS, seeing the crisis of family and the changes happening in form and perceptions, there has to be a debate if we want to remain relevant in our days. Nobody I see wants to abolish the institution of family, but as always in life, there are many shades of grey in the realities of family life and we have to see the good and beautiful as God is exactly doing the same: Where there is love, commitment, dedication there he is present. And there are many shades of grey in the reality of sexuality and  again let’s see the good and the beautiful as God is exactly doing the same: Where there is love, commitment and dedication, there he is present. Life is getting so complicated, let’s point out all what contributes to life and the diversity of life – God’s plan is certainly not uniformity but a colorful mosaic where every different piece counts to make the whole picture beautiful.

Filed under: Catholic Church, Networking, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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