It can’t be easy to be a Roman Catholic these days. The Vatican is badly mishandling this scandal about their child-bothering priests, and there seems to be awful lot of them, by referring to the thing as “petty gossip”. Today Pope Benedict XVI says the Church needs to do penance for its deeds when what is truly called for is a criminal investigation.
It really underscores how much of a divide there is between the world in which the religious leadership lives and that real world in which their faithful dwell. As bizarre and conservative as the Pope seems to be, most Roman Catholics I know tend to be quite liberal. I suppose this is true of any organization where there is often a disconnect between the front lines and the leadership.
On Sunday, I joined a small group of people attending a membership session at the Unitarian church. Among the group were two former Catholics. As we spoke about our reasons for joining, they both began to cry over their struggle with the concept of Original Sin – this idea that we are all inherently bad, even as infants. This was partly why the ultimately rejected the authority of Rome but still craved fellowship. As a former Protestant, I never fully grasped this idea of Original Sin, other than being told that we are all sinners by our actions, not our existence. If it was part of my church’s dogma, it was never emphasized. But clearly, it’s something that affects many people deeply.
I’d like to think that there is much good in the world that’s inspired by faith. And I certainly don’t wish to insult an entire religion but I can’t help but wonder if, after years of being told how awful they are, many Catholics are beginning to see many of their leaders as greedy, perverse fools and leave the Church once and for all.