Church Scandal: You People Just Don't Get It
By Alicia Colon
April 25, 2002
Originally published in the New York Sun
All I am hearing from press and secular pundits is that somehow the Pope should be issuing an apology for the pedophile scandal that is currently plaguing the Catholic Church. For some strange reason they view John Paul II as the CEO of an Enron-like super religion whose stock is heading for bankruptcy court and they expect him to bend to the etiquette of secular justice. Well, they shouldn’t hold their breath. The Pope does not need to issue an apology for something he is not responsible for nor should he be expected to express anything but deep sympathy and sorrow for the victims. Why not? Because this scandal is about pedophile priests who’ve broken laws against the Church. It is not about the Pope.
These complainants who argue that the Pope is not acting fast enough to handle the crisis are merely opportunists targeting the Pontiff whom they regard as a reactionary fossil. They are also wrong. According to Warren H. Carroll, PhD. who answers the Q&A section of the Global Catholic network site, www. ewtn.com: “The Pope was the first to call attention to this scandal, when he ordered all cases of sexual abuse by priests to be reported personally to him in Rome, without waiting for the local bishop to act.”
Whether out of shame or a concern for the Pontiff’s health, the U.S. Bishops are the ones responsible for any delay in addressing the scandal and if any heat is to be brought, it should be laid at the feet of those bishops who have long criticized the Pope for being too conservative.
I am constantly amazed at how ignorant people are, including so-called Catholics, about the Catholic Church and the Papacy. They actually believe that the Pope is the head of the Church. They’re wrong. Jesus Christ is the head of the Church and the Pope is his Vicar.
“Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it; I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth is bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth is loosed in heaven,” (Matthew 16:16-18)
Note that Jesus said “My” not “your” Church and it is the mission of the Pope to lead His flock to God through His teachings not through political expediency.
I regret that I am not a particularly pious person because in my youth church rituals played a special part of my life. But while I try to go to Mass every Sunday and to follow the laws of the Church, there are times the world is too much with me. I struggle constantly with the temptation to sleep late on Sundays and to make excuses not to go to Mass. However, I do this of my own free will and the church does not compel me to attend in any way. I can leave my religion anytime I choose and I sincerely wish that those pedophile priests had elected to do just that before they brought shame and blasphemy to our church.
Faith is a gift and one should feel lucky to have it but while I regard Pope John Paul II as a worthy Vicar, my faith is in the Papacy, not the man, and that may be difficult for non-Catholics to understand. I also firmly believe that promise about the gates of hell not prevailing.
The Church has certainly weathered scandals before and it has even endured less than moral Popes, like those from the Medici and Borgia dynasties. Yet none of these Popes changed Church dogma and therein lies proof for me that there are safeguards in the Church against internal corruption. We, the faithful should also heed the words of St. Francis de Sales who wrote about the scandals of the clergy in his time:
"Those who commit scandals are guilty of the spiritual equivalent of murder by destroying other people's faith in God by their terrible example. But I'm here among you to prevent something far worse for you. While those who give scandal are guilty of the spiritual equivalent of murder, those who take scandal--who allow scandals to destroy their faith--are guilty of spiritual suicide!"
For all those who just don’t get it about the Pope and this scandal, I just want to explain one little thing. Pope John Paul II is a good and moral man but even if he weren’t, I would still listen to what he had to say about faith and morals because he can not change church doctrine and what a wonderful thing that is to have in these days of moral irrelevancy.
There is no way that a fundamentalist could hijack Catholicism the way the Taliban and bin Laden has hijacked Islam. We have an infallible authority in the Papacy that teaches the faithful that suicide is always wrong and so is killing innocent women and children, which incidentally is also taught in the Koran.
That, my friends, is a good thing.
Copyright 2002 by Alicia Colon. Not to be reproduced in any fashion, in whole or in part, without written consent from the author. All rights reserved.