Sunday, April 03, 2005


CB on the Pope's Death

Pope John Paul II died yesterday. As a non-Catholic, it should not have any major effect on me, and it doesn’t. As a practical matter, however, it has. For reasons more than that it has reminded me of my own mortality, it has also brought up the issues of the Catholic Church from which I may never recover. First and foremost, the sex abuse scandal has just been all over my mind since his illness started to overtake him the last couple of months. I have profound anger about the management of this scandal, both over the last couple of years, but also knowing that it was being handled so poorly over the last decades. I feel an almost parental disgust at allowing children to be exposed to men in power who have urges to assault them. It doesn’t hurt to remind people that this was not one man in one parish, but many men in many parishes over many years. It was again and again evaded and brushed under the rug. While many might say that this was not the Pope himself, he, as the leader of the Church, had a duty to set a standard and a tone of intolerance to this kind of abuse of children and the system, but yet failed to put that forward. It should have been made clear to people like me, outside the Church, that this was not only not tolerated, but would be stopped by the leaders of the Church at once. I, sadly, saw a Church that wanted nothing more than for people to no longer discuss it, for it to just go away. For its continued poor response to these people whose lives will never be as they should have been, I felt they deserved more. For onlookers, we deserved more too. We want nothing more than to be able to respect the Church, to revere its leaders as something more than politicians, as they often are. We want to see them as spiritual leaders who do actually hold some true relationship with God that the rest of us can only aspire to, but with this scandal, they looked like mere mortals, men, who were playing the media and their flocks as fools. It was a sad time, and this Pope did little to change my view of this.
I should also take this time to note other impressions as there will be little reason to reminisce about him in the future. When Reagan passed just a few months ago, the Pope’s part in the fall of communism was noted over and over. In fact, George Schultz noted just yesterday on Fox News that they consulted with the Pope on nearly all big decisions, a hint at the kind of diplomacy that I have assumed went on, secret diplomacy. I felt both relieved and nervous by it. When the reels of tape of Reagan’s Presidency were played, I weeped, but strangely weeped more forcefully at seeing the Pope. It showed him bounding down the steps of an airplane, white robes and tennis shoes. He was so full of life! It could have just been that I realized that this man went from being full of life to being near lifeless, by this time, all in my lifetime. It could also have been that I felt sorry that anyone like him, so full of life and so revered, should have to be seen as he was in his final days.
I was also recently reminded of his seeming distaste of change in the Church, be it his opposition to homosexuality, his opposition to birth control, his opposition to married priests, and other issues. Chris Matthews was on yesterday from Rome (on MSNBC). He was fabulous to remind us of those issues. He knew he would take a bit of a beating to discuss these things as Catholics mourned the Pope, but felt that they needed to be said. He said that American Catholics were still troubled by the handling of the abuse scandal. I was so excited by that, so pleased that I was not alone. I also wondered to myself why we did not hear more of that. It might have made me less angry at this Church, but I realized that he meant the congregation and not the leaders. Maybe with the election of a new Pope, we will see that mending anew with vigor, so as to move forward with an obvious lack of tolerance of abuse of our next generation of Catholics. The children of the Church deserve that, as do the onlookers that want to give the Church its respect.
Even Cranky Bastards pray. We go through our lives unsure of whether there is a God, but on occasion, disregard our doubt. 9/11, deaths in the family, deaths of political figures, and other hard times, cause us to clasp our hands, gently close our eyes, lower our chins, and hope that a great power can bring solace. Sometimes, we know that the solace comes from the mere act of closing our eyes and putting thought to the event, much in the way of writing out our feelings like this make us feel at peace. Solace comes in ways that we would not necessarily expect. At times like that, however, we secretly hope that there is a God that can get us through those times, because solace from mere calm doesn’t seem, in theory, to really suffice. Well, I am just being honest. There have been plenty of times that I have hoped that there was a God, probably equal to the number of times that I assumed there was not. I still don’t know, never will, and faith is not my strong suit. So, for those of you that pray, pray for the followers, and for the cardinals that will convene soon to elect the new Pope. Pray that they choose wisely, that they choose a person who can truly make amends for the Church’s poor handling of the abuse scandal, so that the rest of us can admire them too.


A very powerful post.

I'm sure whoever the next pope is will do everything possible (within the Catholic Church's doctrine) to stop any future instances of child abuse but as far as making amends -- what could they possibly do? The horses are out of the barn and the priests are out to pasture!
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