Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Once more, with feeling

Yeah, pretty much the same topic as the previous post

Polls are all that really matter:

Catholics’ confidence in Pope Francis has plummeted. According to a Pew study released on Tuesday, just three in 10 American Catholics say they approve of Francis’s handling of the Catholic clerical sex abuse crisis, following a summer of abuse revelations that have rocked the Catholic Church.

In 2015, 54 percent of Catholics reported having a generally favorable view of Francis’s handling of clerical sex abuse, telling Pew they thought he was doing either an “excellent” or “good” job on the issue. In January of this year, shortly after Francis came under fire for dismissing accusations of a clerical cover-up of child sex abuse in Chile as mere “calumny,” that number dropped to 45 percent.

The only possible conclusion that can be drawn is:

But for many Catholics, it may be too late for Francis to restore trust in the church.

Of course, it isn't within Francis' power to do that.  The rogue priest who made outlandish accusations against Francis, and then disappeared fearing, allegedly, his own safety (the church is actually a vicious cabal, donchaknow?), should be proof of that.  If Francis had absolute control over the church, he would have silenced that priest before the latter could speak, and he would punish all the guilty in the Church, clean house, and restore everybody's trust.  That Francis didn't punish that errant ambassador alone may display the Pope's approach to power; or it may just as reasonably display the limits of that power.  Francis has what any pastor has:  responsibility, but not that much authority.

Francis cannot, in the end, restore trust in the church of Rome; only the Church of Rome can do that. And as the story of the ambassador cum abscondee presents, the Church is rather fiercely divided on that point, preferring someone else take responsibility for the horrors that have been revealed.  For some of the church, Francis is a good candidate for scapegoat, especially since he is doing more than the prior two Popes combined to reveal, atone for, and correct these injustices and abuses so faith in the Church can be restored.  But those who must take responsibility (as Francis has done, on behalf of the Church) would rather not be held responsible, and so the fight goes on.

Is Francis in some kind of trouble because his approval is on the decline?  Only if the Church truly exercises a political will and fights to have him removed from office, but then watch trust in the church plummet.  Can Francis alone restore faith in the Church?  Not even St. Francis could do that; nor, I think, and would say from some weary experience myself, Jesus himself.

But honestly, we've got to quit thinking that everything is about approval ratings, and that polls are the appropriate measure of all things, and the one person we can identify as being in charge is capable of whatever change we think is needed.  This is getting to be ridiculous.


  1. at last? how could anyone go into a catholic church when they KNOW that child rapists are protected by the church? how? how is that possible? do they say to themselves, well at least it wasn't my kid. couldn't happen here. bullshit. outrage and shunning of the church is only one possible reaction. another is the arrest of child rapists. and arrests for anyone that protected them for obstruction of justice

  2. How can anyone frequent schools, sporting events, social groups, or any of the other institutions which have protected child sex abusers? How can anyone look at a Tumblr blog, look at Hollywood movies, go to arts events, which have all been venues of both child abuse and which have protected child abusers?

    It's only when it's the Catholic Church that anyone asks that question and that is because they don't really care about child abuse, they care about attacking the Catholic Church. While the Catholic Church deserves as much blame as they've earned, NO OTHER INSTITUTION IN LIFE SEEMS TO GET MUCH IF ANY OF THE BLAME THEY HAVE. And, obviously, that's AOK with most people. I don't think the majority of people are sincere in their expressions of outrage or they'd express some of it for things like American football, other sports which are venues of child abuse and rape. When football players are the ones who do it, the victims are far more likely to get blamed if the crimes come to light.

  3. I can't take credit for the following observation; I saw it in an internet discussion and found it funny and insightful. The commenter simply said that these stories of Francis' poll ratings reminded him of those Calvin and Hobbes strips where Calvin solemnly walks up to his dad with a notepad in his hand and says something like, "Your polls are really down among 5 to eight year old males this week--an increased allowance and less yard work might really boost your numbers."

    As a society the Church has to have a politics--more's the pity. But to see the Christian faith solely in terms of ecclesiastical politics is to largely miss the point. Internet arguments seem rarely about how I am to love my neighbor as myself--they're more often about how awful the faction I am not part of is. In short, they mimic our secular politics, which is not a good thing.

    When I hear about yet another round of investigations into the Catholic Church, I have mixed feelings. We should have learned by now that the impulse to quash scandal at any price typically leads to a greater scandal, and greater harm. This spotlight on the Church has been painful, but necessary and ultimately beneficial.

    But at the same time these new announcements of new investigations have a kind of misguidedness like the emphasis of our current administration on crimes by those who have illegally entered the country. They are real, and some are horrible, but focusing on them is more an exercise in stigmitizing--in fact, the crime rate among these poor people is lower than than among citizens. But they are made to look dangerous and threatening for political purposes.

    The analogy is not perfect, of course. The Catholic Church, in the United States at least, remains an influential institution, and Catholics enjoy political clout and constitutional privileges absent in many others coverages. My point is not that Catholics are oppressed like illegal aliens. We are certainly not. But that the scourge of child abuse is no more centered in the Catholic Church than this country's horrifying murder rate is centered on undocumented aliens.

    One of the things that seems to be going on now in ecclesiastical politics is an attempt by the traditionalist faction to tie the child abuse scandal to the prevalence of homosexual priests. I have no doubt that cliques based on sexual preference and widespread flouting of the requirement of celibacy are bad for the Church. But these evils are hardly confined to gay clerics, and I fear that there is more scapegoating going on here than reform.

    Re Francis himself, I think there is much to be learned from his pastoral approach, his emphasis on mercy, and his much-hated attempt to look at disconnects between Church teaching and marital reality. I learned a lot from his predecessor, a theologian of some power and depth. The point, for me, seems to look for what I can learn from the very different people holding the position, rather than seeing it as a matter of supporting the man from my faction and opposing the one who's not.

    But we have to realize that the old men of the Vatican--and I say that with some affection, being an old man myself--cannot effectively micromanage an organization of a billion people. The pope as Vicar of Christ is not God Incarnate Incarnate--he's one man with as many hours of the day as I have. So the solutions to corruption and clericalism, even if led in principle from Rome, have to be local--whatever the latest polling says about the pope.