Sunday, November 13, 2011
Recently I was shown a ranting mad letter from a Bishop to one of his priests, which basically said, "I cannot be bothered to read what you have written or to listen to what you have to say or to investigate what you are accused of but whatever it was it was wrong and hate filled", it actually wasn't, it was a gentle argument trying to explain the faith.
I rather welcome the recent judgement that the relationship of priests to their bishops is like that of employer to employee, simply because it might bring some justice into a situation which is often quiet unjust and sometimes, as an American friend suggested, more akin to master and helot.
Those with power in the Church are often a law unto themselves, especially when they turn their back on the Church's Canon Law and basic Christian principles. In Germany a scandal broke revealing the Bishops own a publishing house which sold pornography, lay people had been questioning it for years and getting no satisfaction.
In Ireland physical and sexual abuse of minors and the vulnerable were bad enough but the Church being seen as bullying, lying and self serving has really damaged its credibility in society and amongst its members. The same vices were seen in the fiasco over the Cardinal Vaughan school in which again the Church was seen as bullying, cruel and not exactly truthful: it took the intervention of Secretary of State for Education to end the farce in favour of the Vaughan parents.
Fr Tim comments on a another school situation, in which the Church, in this case under the guise of the Head Teacher and Governors seem to be again using bullying tactics against a group of parents who are criticising the Religious Education of their children. The parents seem to be taking seriously their role as the "first and best of teachers" of their children in the ways of faith. The parents handed out leaflets some distance from the school, the Head Teacher had the police harass them, someone at the school apparently making an allegation of assault, which the police later decided not to pursue. The parents put up a website, the Head Teacher wrote to parents saying logging on to it would infect their computers.
As Fr Tim says, it isn't just this school, "I have heard many similar stories from other Catholic schools and colleges though usually those who complain do not wish to be in the public eye". I would suggest it is broader than educational establishments. It touches religious houses, pastoral organisations, dioceses. A careful reading of the Carlile Report on the Ealing Abbey scandals would seem to suggest that the Abbey placed itself beyond scrutiny and criticism living in its own self created bubble.
Fr Tim quotes some one commenting or pro-euthanasia and pornography shown to children by the Bonus Pastor school, who says, "I am a Catholic and teacher in a secular school within a 5 mile radius of Bonus Pastor. We would not countenance showing this material in school - no school with Muslim pupils would allow it, without at least warning the parents and allowing them to opt out. Ironic, isn't it?" Injustices or simply bad behaviour tolerated in the Church and its institutions are not tolerated in wider society, the closed shop mentality, the obfuscation, the lack of scrutiny of the Church can tend to damage it seriously, placing the institutions members above the sacred message, to the point where institution appears to exist disjointed from Christ and his Gospel.
It is very easy for the Church to exist solely to cling to power, to become yet another corporation or institution, perhaps particularly in age of relativism and particularly now when we are forced to employ so many "professionals" there is an even greater danger.
Posted by Fr Ray Blake