This morning, a friend pointed me to this article about a Catholic priest from Belgium who was being considered for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, when it came out that he had sexually abused a boy some 40 years ago.
Reading about that can lead one’s thoughts in various directions. Good people do bad things. Bad people do good things. Is this (this case in particular, and the whole Catholic-priests-raping-children issue in general) an example of the one or of the other? Or is it just that people aren’t black and white, and there’s good and bad in everyone?
What role does religion play in this? Maybe the teachings of the priest’s church had a role in moving him toward the good work he’d done, the stuff that put him on the short list for the Nobel prize. Then again, maybe he was inclined to do that sort of thing from the start, and that led him to the priesthood, with thoughts of service.
How do we judge causes and effects in situations like this?
And, ultimately, why does the Catholic church as an organization continue to try to hide these reports and downplay their importance, and why does it refuse to just open the whole thing up, admit and apologize for it, and seriously clean house? It’s clear that the scandal has harmed the church’s reputation and driven people away from it, and that attempts to cover it up aren’t working and are only exacerbating the ill effects.
Besides: trying to hide it is simply wrong, morally and ethically. I don’t need God to tell me that; I’ve talked before about people who wave their belief in God as a moral flag, yet do bad things every day, and we have a book about how people find morality outside of religion. If the Catholic church aims to give moral guidance to a billion people, it needs to be morally secure itself.
Of course, it’s all about power: those in power want to stay there, and being fully open about the sexual abuse would result in the downfall of many at and near the top of the hierarchy, likely including the odious Benedict XVI. The work has to come from below; those at the lower levels of the church hierarchy who do have the moral stability for it, and who are as outraged as I am about what has gone on and what continues to go on, have to be the ones to get the cleanup moving.