E. J. Dionne: The Roman Catholic Church’s worldly weakness

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The church needs to show it understands the flaws of its own internal culture by examining its own conscience, its own practices, its own reflexes when faced with challenge. As the church rightly teaches, acknowledging the true nature of our sin is the one and only path to redemption and forgiveness.

Of course, this will not be easy. Enemies of the church will use this scandal to discredit the institution no matter what the Vatican does. Many in the hierarchy thought they were doing the right thing, however wrong their decisions were. And the church is not alone in facing problems of this sort.

But defensiveness and institutional self-protection are not Gospel values. "For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it."

The church needs to cast aside the lawyers, the PR specialists, and its own worst instincts, which are human instincts. Benedict could go down as one of the greatest popes in history if he were willing to risk all in the name of institutional self-examination, painful but liberating public honesty, and true contrition.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchChildrenScience & Technology* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Benedict XVI* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

7 Comments
Posted March 30, 2010 at 9:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Fr. Dale wrote:

E.J. Dionne is not someone I usually agree with. This article is an honest and merciful diagnosis and prescription for the Roman Church. He is hopeful not negative and posits that the Pope has an opportunity to address the problems. It is so different in tone than what comes from other writers on this.

March 30, 11:10 am | [comment link]
2. Henry Greville wrote:

I, too, am totally with E.J. on this. My own words, that I dare to offer in addition, are that indefectibility of the Church means neither institutional sinlessness nor institutional perfection. The Church may well show its greatest strength as the Body of the Risen Christ in this world of space and time by openly admitting the weaknesses of its fully human nature.

March 30, 1:20 pm | [comment link]
3. Chris wrote:

why on earth would any organization attempt to deny its employees of their natural urges and expect there would be no repercussions?  As a general rule, I would no sooner leave my child alone with a Roman Catholic priest than I would a criminal.  And the priests themselves are not primarily to blame of course, it’s the RC leadership that implemented and sustains this policy that is at fault….

March 30, 2:32 pm | [comment link]
4. Ross wrote:

#3, without touching that “natural urges” comment—because I’m sure others will say all that needs to be said on that—I will point out that the current “best practice” for churches and children is that NO adult is EVER alone with a child.  That rule protects both children and adults, and it’s the core of every religious education child safety policy I’ve seen in recent years.

March 30, 2:43 pm | [comment link]
5. Fr. Dale wrote:

#3. Chris,
I do not believe the RC Church is denying any of its employees their natural urges. As to your comparing a Roman Catholic Priest to a criminal, that seems like a rather inaccurate and unfair comment. I guess Ross has allowed me to be trail sweep on this.

March 30, 3:57 pm | [comment link]
6. jkc1945 wrote:

“The Church’ does, indeed, need to confess, repent, and get it together.  But it needs to begin to happen on an individual basis, as priests, bishops, and whoever else in the church heirarchy is or has been involved in either the sin or the cover-up, must step up and accept responsibility and seek the forgiveness of the God they supposedly serve.
Until I see that, I am going to be skeptical.

March 30, 5:48 pm | [comment link]
7. Chris Molter wrote:

#3, statistically, your child is more likely to be molested by your friends, family members, or school employees than any clergy.  But don’t let facts get in the way of knee-jerk bigotry and illogical assumptions about “natural urges” and what the Church does or doesn’t do.

March 31, 8:10 am | [comment link]
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