Responding to written questions as he flew to Lisbon , Pope Benedict XVI made one of the most important concessions the Roman Catholic Church has ever made! He acknowledged that the trouble within the Church was of its own making and that the church has much to learn and accomplish. The report of this momentous pronouncement in the New York Times this Wednesday follows weeks and months of <i>NYT</i> journalistic leadership in pursuit of truth and honesty ... and Justice in the pederasty problem that seems to be endemic in the clergy of the Church. It is important to read this account because the account described in the next paragraphs is more than slightly different.
Before speculating on the difference, though, it important to understand that the Pope's statement is far more than most outsiders, like me, ever expected. Taking the positive assertions and declarations at face value we now see a Pontiff with a clear eye on the festering problem that has grown into a nightmare and threatens the very fundamental purpose of the Church and the creed upon which it relies and tries to promote.
Now, having said that, it is interesting, and perhaps closer to expectations that the Washington Post's report of the same Papal declaration includes the "aside" by the Pope that this criticism of the Church has been "the greatest persecution" ever endured by the Church. This remark is so at odds with the tenor and meaning of the contrition and administrative savvy meant to be expressed that is suggests a translation error. I certainly hope so, for if not, the Pope's use of a word that translates to "persecution" suggests, nay declares, that the criticism of the Church for aiding, abetting, and conspiring to cover up pederasty, child rape, and a host of other no less abhorrent crimes against Catholic children was mean spirited, vengeful, unChristian, and unwarranted. Sorry, Pope Benedict, you cannot have it both ways. You and your Church were guilty of crimes for which forgiveness is about the last thing that comes to mind.
Speaking with Catholics about this since this series of essays was begun, I have come to understand better the reverence Catholics have for the incredible burden administration of the Church is on the Vatican. The syncretism of the Church swallowed whole all manner of local customs and local scoundrels, some of which and whom have percolated to the top of the Church hierarchy. Benedict himself is a case of suspicious motivations. Nevertheless, giving them all Christian forgiveness over time, or, if you will, believing that some human beings can and do transcend early mistakes and become better people, the Church has within itself the ability to change and regenerate and it had to begin with Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI.
Let us hope that the word choice is not Papal politics designed to keep a few curmudgeonly Cardinals in their seats until they can be disciplined or ejected, but as I have suggested a translation error. If not, let us hope that the NYT catches up to this story and gives us reason to be skeptical all over again.