The Catholic Church must confess
By Chris Matthews (Swaziland 1968-70)
(Remarks delivered on the air Wednesday evening.)
Let me finish tonight with the thoughts of a layman on the problem under which the Roman Catholic Church is now suffering.
The tragedy begins with the molestation of children. It does not end there. Young boys who were sent to Catholic school, who will become altar boys, serve under the authority of the church. They are subject to taking orders. Every minute, they are in a school or in a sacristy.
This is more than a secular discipline. It is empowered by the authority of God. Priests stand before these young boys as representatives of God, with all the august authority that comes with it. In this case, to a young child being brought up with the fullest belief in God, and what he come to firmly believe is his church.
This is not a place for three strikes and you’re out. It is not a place where Christian sympathy should go to the adult abuser of this trust between child and churchman. It’s the place where the first, indeed overwhelming claimant to our sympathy and to justice must be the child, the vulnerable young boy who finds himself under the power of a priest of Jesus Christ, an heir to the disciples, a servant in the tradition of the Apostles.
If there was ever an easy moral question, it should have been what to do with priests who molest children. You fight for the victim. Then you remove the perpetrator. You end the occasion of sin, so the priest, in this case the moral felon, never has the opportunity to act again.
If this has been done, we would not have the problem we have today in the Catholic Church. It’s up to the Church to explain it all, in all moral humility, why this was not done. That is the question Catholics and others who respect the Church want answered — why it was not done, why we didn’t get the truth. Not whether the Pope could be sued or whether bishops are his employers or not — or his employees or not.
(Chris Matthews is the host of MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews)
Pride before the fall of Rome
By Maureen Orth (Colombia 1954-66)
special correspondent, Vanity Fair
In reporting for Vanity Fair in 2002 about one of the U.S.’s most vile child molesting priests, Paul Shanley, now in jail, I interviewed nine of his victims. Listening to their heartbreaking stories, I came to understand what true Evil is as never before as well as the sin of pride –the pride of the Church for thinking that its reputation was more important than saving children’s lives. The experience for me illustrated that sins of omission can be worse than the sins themselves because they cause the wrongdoing to continue.
For the past 30 years, the Church has appointed its most conservative doctrinal guardians to its most important positions of authority. Helping to lead the charge of course has been Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVl; Today’s Church is very much one that he has helped fashion, notwithstanding the overdue meetings with molestation victims and tardy edicts about the guilty being punished. Now he is being asked to resign. But why? His resignation will do nothing about celibacy, women priests or the paucity of thought in how to attract back the droves now leaving the Church.
This weekend millions of Catholics will confess their sins in the sacrament of Reconciliation in order to be in a state of grace to receive Holy Communion on Easter Sunday. We Catholics, however, are taught that for our sins to be forgiven, we must realize we were seriously wrong, fully confess and not commit them again. Does that sound like the Vatican today? The Church isn’t there yet and that is why the resignation of the Pope will not propel this Church into the 21st century.
Maureen Orth is a Special Correspondent for Vanity Fair Magazine and the founder of the Marina Orth Foundation.