Quotes of the day

From The New York Times, Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to the USA:

“Any tendency to treat religion as a private matter must be resisted,” he said.

Then, on the issue of child abuse within the Church (emphasis mine):

For the second day on his first official visit to America, the pope acknowledged the “deep shame” caused by the sexual abuse scandal that has divided and weakened the American church. He agreed that the scandal as it unfolded was “sometimes very badly handled.” He said the church must “address the sin of abuse within the wider context of sexual mores. “What does it mean to speak of child protection,” the pope asked, “when pornography and violence can be viewed in so many homes through media widely available today?”

Basically, it’s all secular society’s fault. Get it?

Edit: To clarify why I chose these quotes, here is what I wrote in the comments section:

The sad thing is that I do value spirituality and that I do believe religious institutions can play an important role in providing moral guidance. Yet, if those very same institutions are themselves unwilling to live up to the very same moral authority they accord themselves then they are as subversive as the dreaded “secular society”. Even more so, because you can rightly expect them to be better.

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About Guy La Roche

Dutch translator and subtitler living in Brittany with his three cats. Has also lived in the Flemish part of Belgium. Speaks English rather fluently and in a former life used to have a decent command of Spanish. Knows swear words in German and Russian. Not quite francophone yet, but slowly getting there. Vaguely centrist observer of the world around him, extremely naive and, sometimes, rather proud of it. Writes Venale Pecus.

11 thoughts on “Quotes of the day

  1. Yes, they are definitely selective. Yet, I do believe they demonstrate two important aspects of Vatican policy.

    The first one (religion is not a private matter) is about strengthening the Church’s authority in society at large.

    The second one demonstrates, at least to me, the Church’s tendency to subtly shift the blame towards society.

    See for instance this article:

    Six years after the Boston revelations broke open the scandal nationwide, the U.S. bishops – who, aside from the perpetrators themselves, are most responsible for the catastrophe – have never been held to account for their actions. Though two-thirds of bishops sitting in 2002, when the scandal broke, had shuffled around pederast priests, the U.S. bishops responded by placing a heavy yoke on parish priests and lay Catholic volunteers – but effectively let themselves off the hook. So did the Vatican. (…) Mr. Lawler, a conservative Catholic and Benedict supporter, told us yesterday that he’s comforted by the pope’s admission of shame over abusive priests but that it isn’t enough. Said Mr. Lawler: “It would be truly liberating to hear him acknowledge that he is also ashamed of the bishops whose negligence – and even complicity – allowed the scandal to fester and undermined public confidence in the church.”

    I remember years ago when there were similar scandals in Belgium. A senior church official almost immediately blamed child abuse within the Church on homosexuality and society’s mores.

    For an institution that deals by definition with morality and higher authority this approach is at least as selective as my quotes.

    The sad thing is that I do value spirituality and that I do believe religious institutions can play an important role in providing moral guidance. Yet, if those very same institutions are themselves unwilling to live up to the very same moral authority they accord themselves then they are as subversive as the dreaded “secular society”. Even more so, because you can rightly expect them to be better.

  2. For more context about the child abuse quote see this article:

    Benedict told a gathering of bishops on Wednesday they had “sometimes very badly handled” the decades-old problem of pedophile priests. But he urged efforts “to address the sin of abuse within the wider context of sexual mores.”

    “What does it mean to speak of child protection when pornography and violence can be viewed in so many homes through media widely available today?” the pontiff said on the first full day of his US visit.

    Instead, he suggested as a remedy an urgent reassessment of “the values underpinning society.”

    Describing clerics who sexually abuse children as “gravely immoral,” the octogenarian pope warned that the scourge of pedophilia “is found not only in your dioceses but in every sector of society.”

    “It calls for a determined, collective response,” he said, but did not outline any firm action that the Vatican intended to take to purge the church of pedophile priests.

    Instead, he had measured praised for the efforts made so far by the US church to heal the wounds left by the scandal.

    “Your efforts to heal and protect are bearing great fruit,” he told the bishops.

    “If they are to achieve their full purpose, however, the programs you have adopted need to be placed in a wider context,” the pope said, urging church leaders to join with parents, teachers, and the media to protect children.

  3. That’s that kind of quotes which make me proud of my country’s secularity.
    And this why my country is secular, because during centuries we were ruled by religious people. And the religious people is like any people, not better, not worst. But that’s a bit of a problem when they pretend to detain the only truth about mankind.

  4. Few (including most Catholics) would argue against the separation of Church and State, and no one would argue against the Church being held to a high moral standard and responsible for misdeeds by the clergy.

    It seems though that the Pope and the Catholic Church are constantly subjected to cheap shots. The history of the Church (which in many ways is the history of the western world) cannot be reduced to the sexual abuse of children or its stand against gay marriage. If the Church has survived this long (and still thrives in many places) it is because it still has a message which resonates.

    And its not a bad thing to criticize secular society.

  5. “It seems though that the Pope and the Catholic Church are constantly subjected to cheap shots.”

    Blaming society for a crime as serious as child abuse, within the ranks of the clergy, is also a cheap shot. Especially since this has been going on for decades and that the Church’s response was simply to send offenders to another parish. Not just in the US, also in Europe.

    The Church should have responded fiercely to these crimes from the beginning, within its own ranks. There seems to be a moral deficit here that threatens the very credibility of the Church’s message. That is why I used the word “subversive”.

    “If the Church has survived this long (and still thrives in many places) it is because it still has a message which resonates.”

    Of course. And this goes for other religions too. But this also highlights the Catholic Church’s responsibility in these matters.

    “And its not a bad thing to criticize secular society.”

    Of course not. That is why I said I accept the moral guidance the Catholic Church, among others, can and should offer. Therefore it is not a bad thing to criticize the Church, or other religions, either when it seems necessary.

    For what it’s worth, I was raised a Catholic. I went to a Catholic school and was even singled out for priesthood (an invitation which I declined) precisely because I was, and still am, sincere when addressing these issues.

    It is not a matter of slinging cheap shots at an easy target. This issue saddens me profoundly.

  6. The west is running out of third sons to take the cloth because they have nothing to inherit. Under these circumstances recruiting will disproportionally attract people to whom the limitations of the priesthood are not the main problem.

  7. The Church should definitely have reacted more fiercely to these crimes and it should have held the higher clergy (e.g. Cardinal Bernard Law) responsible for covering up pedophile priests. There is certainly a “moral deficit” which has weakened the Church’s credibility because of this and other issues.

    However, I am not convinced by your quotes that the Pope is blaming society.

  8. “However, I am not convinced by your quotes that the Pope is blaming society.”

    He does not in direct terms, no. But he does direct attention away to society:

    He deplored the “crude manipulation of sexuality so prevalent today,” saying that not only the church, but also families, teachers and the news media and entertainment industries have to take responsibility for “moral renewal.”

    Let’s share the blame? No. Set an example first, by bringing people like Law to justice, and then spread the message further.

    A “moral” authority like the Catholic Church cannot afford to have a moral deficit. Not to this extent (there will always be bad apples, but this is a structural thing).

    I know the consequences of cleaning up the Catholic House will be dire (accepting human fallacy in matters of faith, for instance) but they will be worth it. To put it bluntly: When Christ had himself nailed to a cross for his convictions, why should not the Pope show equal courage?

  9. There’s an old and dirty Yorkshire joke which is relevant to “selective” quoting. Some old timer is in a bad mood, and a passer-by asks him why (probably a bad idea in itself). “Well, you see all those drystone walls? I built them. You see the old pit winding gear? When building walls didn’t pay I went down the pit, until they shut it down. You see those cable company manholes? After the pit shut down, I started laying coax cables for the ISPs.

    But do they call me Mick the Builder? Mick the Miner? Bollocks they do. But I fuck one sheep…”

  10. I can understand why people brought up Catholic would be protective of the Pope. Why should the rest of us be sentimental about him or make excuses for the outfit he heads? The secrecy and monarchical structure of the church guarantees that the abuses that have marked its long history will continue. If it isn’t child abuse or financial irregularity, there will always be something else to blame on the surrounding secular society. The Catholic laity is so much better than the hierarchy, you have to wish they could take over the operation.

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