The Catholic Church is finding itself on the wrong side of history and society with every passing day. Since its inception over 2,000 years ago, the church has resisted change that has diminished its membership, especially in developed countries around the world. And now, it is in the midst of scandal that possibly is the reason for Pope Benedict’s abdication.
Interestingly, the church has eschewed all pleas for more tolerance relating to issues that are directly and indirectly affiliated with sexuality. Is it possible the church’s intransigent attitude toward sexuality is one of the primary reasons for its problems and declining reputation? I think yes. Here are six issues that are impacting the status of the church in the world today.
For years, decades, and maybe centuries, the church as swept sexual misconduct of its priests under the table. The irresponsible actions of priests have reached a crescendo in recent years, a function of aggressive reporting by the media. Many people now believe that pedophilia and homosexuality are rampant within the walls of churches and rectories globally (note: I am in no way suggesting any link between pedophilia and homosexuality. There is none. Nor, am I espousing a view that homosexuality is aberrant behavior or in any way anti-social). Pedophilia is illegal and unacceptable in society, while the church forbids homosexual and heterosexual activity by priests.
The situation has reached epic proportions as more and more charges are being logged against priests, bishops, cardinals, and more. The most disgraceful aspect of this sordid side of the church is the cover-up. Cover-ups come in three forms. One, the church protects priests who act improperly, two, the church pays victims to be silent, three, pedophiles are transferred (after being “redeemed”) to other diocese where they destroy more lives. The longstanding policy of the church not to encourage adjudication of criminal activity by priests must end.
Frank Bruni, op-ed writer for the New York Times, wrote a story about celibacy recently, suggesting that it may be too much to ask a man to abstain his entire life, and so the rules requiring celibacy among priests should be reconsidered. By mandating celibacy, the church may be, in effect, encouraging aberrant behavior such as pedophilia and physical contact of priests with men and women.
The celibacy issue hurts the church in other ways. Considering that priests are asked to opine on every day matters that impact their flocks, isn’t it strange that priests are not permitted to marry and have children? These are among the most important and problematic aspects of life, and thousands of unmarried men without children are dispensing advise on these matters.
3. Birth control
Catholics are not permitted to use birth control under any circumstances. This is one of the most backward and harmful restrictions in religious canon. Why wouldn’t the church allow safe and effective methods to control the size of families (and population)? Even worse, why would the church object to birth control in the prevention of disease including AIDS and STDs.
The church considers homosexual relationships between men and women to be anti-social and sinful. This perspective is totally unacceptable in the civilized world. As developed nations increase the tolerance for alternative lifestyles, the church remains adamantly against same sex marriages.
5. Female priests
There is no conceivable reason why the church has resisted the ordination of female priests. Most other religions have already begun to accept women. It is shameful that women are not treated equally.
The Catholic Church has traditionally frowned upon sexual relations between unmarried men and women. The threat of eternal damnation for an act so natural and so beautiful is destructive. Those who wish to wait for marriage to partake in sexual relations are to be commended. Those who wish to enjoy sexual relations with loved ones before marriage should not be condemned. This restriction may be the most glaring example of how far behind the times the church really is.
The church is and probably always will be overly focused on sexual relations and the roles of men and women in society. This attitude is probably one of the major reasons the church is fraught with scandal and its rolls are declining, especially in the developed world.
On the eve of a new papal enclave, the cardinals should focus on the church’s outdated dogma and select a more progressive man (or a women someday) to lead the church out of the dark ages. No more will the threat of a vengeful God be an effective tool for priests. Religious edits should be based upon good judgment, tolerance, and the well-being of mankind.