I’m not a Catholic, far from it, but I want to like this Pope. That, however, is becoming increasingly difficult.
Here’s what he might have said upon his arrival in Ireland this week, but did not:
“We are here to serve our flock. It is not the other way around. Nothing could be further from what we stand for than the abuse of bodies and souls of children for one’s own gratification. There is no place for it in this Church and we will not tolerate it.
Some have said that we should have mercy for priests who have broken their vows. Mercy is indeed the hallmark of the Church. But if we are forced, as we now are, to choose between mercy for abusers and mercy for the abused, we will stand with the abused. This would be true under any circumstance, but is especially so because these abusers come from our ranks and we did not stop them.
Therefore, from this point forward, this is the policy of the Church:
- If you are accused of these awful things, or if you are accused of knowing about them and hiding them, we will turn you over to civil authorities for investigation and prosecution.
- If you confess your sins to us, we will allow you to stay in the Church, to go to Confession, to take Holy Communion and to receive the Annointing of the Sick and the Last Rites. These afford you at least the opportunity to receive heavenly forgiveness and be with God upon your death.
- If you do not confess and we find you out, which we will, we will excommunicate you, thus depriving you of these rites and sacraments. If you believe what we believe, then you know that this is close as the Church can come to condemning you to eternal damnation. If you do not believe this and fear it, you have no place in this Church, let alone as a priest, and should leave immediately of your own accord.
Further: The policy of priestly celibacy is an anachronism from the Middle Ages. It has no Biblical foundation and was established more than 1,000 years after the founding of the Church for reasons that were largely secular. It may have made sense then, but it does not make sense now. Indeed, it has turned our priesthood into a beacon and place of refuge for men who seek repress or hide sexual desires of which they are ashamed. The Church has endless sympathy for these men and wishes to help them, but this is not a proper reason to become a priest.
It is in my sole power to change this policy and I am doing so now. From this day forward, priests may marry and need not be celibate. Married men may become priests. That is enough for today. At some point in the not-too-distant future, we will sort out whether this policy will apply only to heterosexual men. I am inclined to think that it will not.
The requirement that only men may become priests is a matter of Church dogma, which puts it beyond my sole power to change. I will, however, begin a process of reassessment of its theological foundations with a view toward ending it if possible.
This I do for the children.”
Pope Francis could have said this at any time during his now 5-year papacy and he has not. Now, it has been reported that in 2013, he was told specifically of allegations of sexual abuse committed by a cardinal and did nothing. I hate to say it because I really want to like this pope, but it makes one wonder why not.