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The Abuse Scandal: Plunging Catholics Into Ambiguity?

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May 12, 2010 News & Oddities, Vatican No Comments

To be honest, the whole catholic church abuse scandal has had me sitting in front of my laptop in lethargy for days. The doubts cast on the church’s willingness to admit to the crimes commited among their ranks, and to do whatever is necessary to compensate the victims for their trauma – as much as that is possible – have highlighted the depressing reality of universal ambiguity: Where to feel secure? Now, ambiguity and uncertainty have been uncovered within the very institution that sought to dogmatically establish for hundreds of years that there is nor ambiguity or uncertainty in faith. And for all its failings, the catholic church has given millions of people around the world a means of feeling more comfortable in an ambiguous world, even when their mind is not ready to accept ambiguity in its entirety.

While the pope has been criticised over the last few weeks for not responding vigorously to allegations about his failure to act on abuse charges in the past, he has finally addressed the scandal in more detail yesterday.

“Today we see in a really terrifying way that the greatest persecution of the church does not come from the enemies outside, but is born from the sin in the church,” the pope said.

“The church has a profound need to relearn penance, to accept purification, to learn on the one hand forgiveness but also the necessity of justice,” he added.

According to the New York Times, “the church is undergoing nothing less than an epochal shift: It pits those who hold fast to a more traditional idea of protecting bishops and priests above all against those who call for more openness and accountability. The battle lines are drawn between the church and society at large, which clearly clamors for accountability, and also inside the church itself.”

To be seen as an epochal shift in the long term, the abuse crisis must be more than merely a scandal – it must lead to structural change within the church. But as long as the church continues to sell unambiguity to the people, the “epochal shift” may not be needed: The people may offer their long-term memory in exchange.

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