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Abuse Scandal Revelations: Affecting Church’s Moral Authority?

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March 27, 2010 News & Oddities, Vatican 3 Comments

The world’s eyes are on Rome – the Vatican, to be precise – as the moral authority of the catholic church appears to crumble under the weight of shocking allegations of child abuse, and the cover-ups that appear to have ensued for decades. The sense that the catholic church deems itself above the common law, halting investigations into priests’ misconducts, has sent tremors through catholic communities around the world. Overwhelmingly, the outcries from media outlets ask that priests be held accountable. And for critics, the scandals are a welcome opportunity for attack.

Slowly, the scandal is spinning beyond the control of the Vatican, with the New York Times reporting that “the future Pope Benedict XVI was kept more closely apprised of a sexual abuse case in Germany than previous church statements have suggested,” and one of Europe’s leading theological thinkers – and a long-standing critic of the Vatican – even going as far as accusing the Pope of complicity: Hans Küng, who taught at the University of Tübingen as a theology professor alongside Ratzinger in the 1960’s, said that the Pope’s involvement in hiding clerical molestation of children dated back at least to his 24 years as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome. “This Vatican authority has for a long time centralised [information about] all abuse cases so that they can be concealed, classified as top secret,” the 82-year old Swiss theologian said.

l vatican square plane rome Abuse Scandal Revelations: Affecting Churchs Moral Authority?

View of St Peter's Square

These are shocking allegations, and we are left to wonder how this scandal will affect the standing of the catholic church, and whether it will – in hindsight – constitute one of its monumental turning points: Madeleine Bunting, in The Guardian’s “Comment is free” Blog, states that “after decades – perhaps we should rather be referring to centuries – of obfuscation, the Catholic church has to be called to account for what has happened”. She also explains why this is the first time that the Vatican openly addresses the issue – a step in the right direction, but a step far too small according to many critics, and details the conditions she sees as crucial in leading to the mess that we seem to be facing:

What is increasingly clear is that the church’s determination to preserve its institutional power and authority repeatedly involved suppressing the truth – even when that put children at further risk.

… What the crisis starkly exposes is that one of the defining characteristics of Roman Catholicism has been the central role of the priest, and that it is fundamentally flawed for two reasons.

Both are rooted in the medieval theology that when a man becomes a priest, his nature is fundamentally changed – he becomes a different sort of human being. As such, he firstly no longer has the normal human sexual needs; and secondly, he has a particular authority which deserves (and expects) unquestioning respect. Both assumptions are still widely evident in the Catholic church today. Many priests have an extraordinarily inflated view of their position – there are exceptions, but they are rare.

Is this scandal a start of a painful, but more open and mundane discussion about the catholic church? Can the church withstand such discussion, or has its moral authority been undermined beyond the point of no return? Let us know in the comments.

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Currently there are "3 comments" on this Article:

  1. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    [...] the face of the church’s possibly weakened moral authority? (Read our article on the topic, Abuse Scandal Revelations: Affecting Church’s Moral Authority.) We are curious, and will wait and see. linkscolor = "000000"; highlightscolor = "888888"; [...]

  2. Eli says:

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    This pope will never give in to more openness. Nor will anybody else who holds power in the catholic church! Still clinging onto old methods, pretending to be important and going around scaring other people. Bloody hypocrites.

  3. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    [...] the abuse scandal already had wider implications? Will it shape the future of the church, or is it merely a storm [...]

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