Reality has not yet set in: the convulsions in Roman Catholicism

One of the key problems facing the Roman Catholic church right now is that many of its senior prelates do not seem to have understood the position they are in and how that is viewed by the wider population, including the catholic faithful. This was illustrated powerfully by Fr Raniero Cantalamessa, the Pope’s personal preacher, who during a Holy Week sermon compared criticism of the Pope and the church over the handling of sex abuse cases with anti-semitism (though claiming that this comparison was offered to him by a Jewish friend). This came a few weeks after an Irish bishop complained about the media focus on the Roman Catholic church when discussing child abuse.

Fr Cantalamessa’s statement shows an extraordinary detachment from reality, and an apparent inability to see that evidence of child abuse would inevitably, and rightly,  prompt some very close and critical analysis of what the church (including the Pope) was doing. To equate such critical analysis, where it relates to the known abuse cases within the church, with anti-semitism (which as we know led to the Holocaust) is breath-taking, both because it suggests an absence of any real understanding of what has happened, and because it is an amazing insult to those who have suffered or died as a result of anti-semitism.

Once again, the statements recently by the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, have provided some reassurance that not everyone is so detached from reality or has such an inadequate understanding of the moral issues involved. It is to be hoped that others in the church develop a much better sense of what has happened and do so quickly; time is not on their side. The first thing to do is to grasp that statements that appear to suggest that the church is a victim in this saga will prolong the agony and make recovery less likely. I for one would genuinely regret that.

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One Comment on “Reality has not yet set in: the convulsions in Roman Catholicism”

  1. kevin denny Says:

    Many people are familiar with the now famous scene from “Downfall” in which Hitler, in his bunker, made to realize the hopelessness of the situation, loses it spectacularly. It has been parodied [on Youtube], sometimes skillfully, but probably too often at this stage. But one more parody might be in order because it seems to mirror the failure to grasp reality by the Vatican & its acolytes that you point out, indeed that everyone else realizes.
    When you are the big cheese (infallible ex-cathedra remember), surrounded by yes-men [and they are all men] and the trappings of power, well its not that surprising that the penny doesn’t drop. Anyone who speaks up will be quickly marginalized [think of Fr Gerard McGinnity in the Maynooth case]. Indeed its pretty remarkable that actually there are people like Diarmuid Martin who show both suitable intelligence and compassion.
    We have seen the problems that group-think leads to in other arenas, notably our own banking sector, so its sadly predictable.
    But maybe, amidst all the hurt, there is an upside. If this leads to a greater detachment between the civil and the religious – I am thinking of education in particular- that at least some good will have come from all of this.


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