Monday, March 22, 2010

The Catholic Church and its clergy sex scandal

Rocks the very foundation of the Church

Repent, rehabilitate and move forward

It looks like the Catholic Church seems to be perpetually stuck with sex scandals involving its clergy. Child sex abuse appears to be so widespread and entrenched among the Church hierarchy that it finds difficult to get out of the scandal let alone redeem itself from the grievous sin.

First it was the sex scandal that rocked the Church in the US in 2007 where a huge sum of money, in the region of US$2 billion, was paid as compensation to the victims. Not only such a huge sum was wasted but the scandal itself dealt a serious blow to the credibility of the Catholic Church as a moral leader in the world. The secular international media left no stone unturned to inflict the greatest degree of insult on the Catholic Church.

Before the Church could recover from the effects of the clergy sex scandal in the US we are again hit by similar scandals in Ireland, Netherlands and now in Germany. It looks that such sex abuses among the clergy may be much more widespread than we imagined. It has placed the greatest challenge to the Church today.

Pope Benedict XVI has promised to fight hard to overcome the crisis by getting to the root cause of this problem. His recent strongly worded letter to the Irish bishops is commendable. His sincere and open apology to the victims of sex abuse is timely and greatly admirable. His willingness to openly discuss the humiliating scandal should be emulated by his brother clergymen. However the question is whether the Pope’s attempts to heal will succeed? Will he be able to redeem the Church to regain its past glory? People who looked up to the church are now condemning and ridiculing it as it has lost its authority to preach morality.

Throughout the ages the greatest weakness of man was sex and it is continues to be so till today. Many powerful kingdoms, empires, nations and families have been destroyed by passions driven by sex. It is not going to be the end but will continue to do so till the end of times. Will sex bring down the once powerful and influential Catholic Church? To our dismay the answer seems to in the affirmative at least in the US and Europe.

The sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church actually has been composed of two interlocking, but distinct, problems: the priests who abused, and the bishops who failed to clean it up when they should have known better.

Although sexual abuses may be among the commonest crimes these days but the attempted cover up at the highest level of the hierarchy is a much bigger offence than the crime itself. If such abuses can occur in a society that is so educated and liberal as in U.S. and Europe it is frightening to imagine what may be happening in poorer so called Catholic countries where the clergy is revered for their godly functions.

It is unthinkable that such crimes were committed by our own priests against innocent children from their own congregation. It is even more dreadful to imagine they have continued to carry out their sacred liturgical duties despite living in such sinful states which they condemn in their sermons every week.

It is sad that many of us seem to be oblivious to what is happening in our church within and without. While the secular media keep harping on it there is total blackout of the crisis in our churches, in the bulletins and publications such as the Herald. While it is it is natural for us to shun from discussing such sex abuse due to embarrassment but it has to be addressed. The people must be told the truth however bitter and painful it may be. Admitting the truth may bring us humiliation in front of men but forgiveness and praise in the eyes of God. Instead of sweeping it under the carpet, we should use it as a lesson to prevent similar activities in the future.

The sex scandal is just an extreme example of the atrocities going on in the church. It is a sign that all is not well in our Church which is now becoming increasingly more irrelevant in the lives of modern men. Are we diverging from the true teachings of Jesus on which the Church was founded? Have we become too arrogant as to believe that ours is the only true faith that leads to God and ridicule others who differ from us? Have we become more ritualistic being obsessed with form rather than substance? Are our teachings becoming obsolete and cannot stand up to the scrutiny of modern scientific research?

The sex scandal also calls for a review of the selection and training of our priests. We may be facing an acute shortage of priests but does that justify the selection anyone who comes by? We say it is a calling by God but how do we recognize His calling? Why are our young men shunning the priesthood as a vocation? Why aren’t the teachings of the Church attractive to the youth anymore? In short are we becoming irrelevant in the lives of modern man? These are the hard questions on which we must ponder and to which we must find honest answers.

This is not the time to find fault and criticize the priests who have got astray. Who has not sinned anyway to cast the first stone? It is timely to repent, rehabilitate and put the past to rest and move forward with our mission of building God’s Kingdom on earth.

This scandal must also be a lesson for us all who claim to be followers of Christ. We must ask Christ to give us not just the courage, strength and wisdom to fight all the worldly temptations of greed and lust but also the humility to accept our weaknesses and seek forgiveness from those whom we have hurt.

Let us pray for those innocent victims of the sex abuse. Let us pray and do whatever we can for a speedy recovery from the wounds of their assault. Let us also pray for our priests who were involved in the scandal. May they repent and find consolation and forgiveness in the mercy of Christ.

The Pope's apology to the victims of these sex scandals paves the way forwards for reconciliation and repentance. Let's pray that the Holy Spirit guide and strengthen out Holy Father to find a solution to the crisis that has plagued our beloved Church.

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