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3/27/10

Pope Benedict - Resignation or Revival?

Anne Rice, on her Facebook page, asked,
"Should Pope Benedict resign? I'm not the first to ask this question. I would love your thoughts on it. Excuses being made for Benedict regarding the clergy abuse scandal strike me as worse than the crime." (source)
I responded, adjusted here to provide context.

The problem is at the local level. The local parish priest, as well as deacons and other leadership. 

The seminaries need to change too. Who are they accepting? Who are the graduating? Priests, or men with degrees in theology? 

Schools like Loyola, DePaul, Notre Dame too are a joke when it comes to teaching Christ is the only truth. They are quickly joining the ranks of Harvard and Yale as universities that have become spiritually impotent. Intellectual rigor is only part of what's needed. A student can get that at he University of Illinois without the pretense that faith is part of the school's foundation.

At the Catholic high school I attended my freshman year, Marist High School of Chicago, true faith was a joke. Teachers privately contradicted the teachings of the church on sexuality, salvation, and personality morality. The Marist Brothers who taught many of the classes were "nudge-nudge, say no more" kinds of guys. No one respected them as spiritual leaders, but as either well liked or well feared. Good education? Did some nice things for the poor? Occasionally. Yes, but that's it. There are, no doubt, good Catholic schools out there, but don't look to Chicago's southside.

If this is merely a management problem, toss the managers, but it is a spiritual issue first and foremost. It is a greater tragedy that there is sin, not that there is crime. Sinlessness is not possible until Heaven, but we cannot see this as simply an organizational problem. It is a crime and needs the related attention, but the Church needs revival from the soul up, not from the top down.

Are Only Catholic Priests Failing? What About Protestants?
The myth that Protestant scandals aren't covered by mainstream news is misleading. Ted Haggard (pastor of a major church) for example, was trashed in the news for his insurrections with Mike Jones. (source) He quickly resigned. However, it is true that the individuals are hammered, while when a priest fails, the entire Catholic Church takes the heat. Haggard's individual church felt a huge impact, but the struggles are not nationwide.

The Catholic Church's challenges are a combination of truth, half truth, and exaggeration. In Chicago, we've seen a couple 'victims' recant after the priests were crucified. This does not justify the guilty (of which there are horribly many), and I content the issue is far, far bigger than the Pope. The guilty should be prosecuted, the victims need to be cared for, but the cause must be addressed. I believe it is a systemic spiritual breakdown in which for too many, their faith is not wrought of God, but of Man.

Average Leaders
That is, men like St. Francis, St. Patrick, and women like St. Claire are rare today. Protestants have their Jim Elliot (martyr) and Hudson Taylor (first significantly impacting missionary in China) and so many others in modern times, as well as thousands upon thousands of young people following their footsteps. The Catholic Church need a spiritual, soul crying revival. When this happens, the sociology will follow. If the individual Catholic is waiting for a pope or priest to lead the way, they are missing a deeper truth. Sure, the Pope seems to have erred gravely (facts are still coming in), but do we reject a life lived only for Jesus because he is sinful? What about our life? Godliness isn't just the clergy's domain, is it? Is the lack of their godliness an suitable excuse for our dismissing of it in our lives?
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