::::::::Most of the public has found the letter of apology offered by Pope Benedict XVI to a woefully inadequate response to the clergy sex scandal. However, another perspective offers hope for the future of the church. In its long and complex history, true reform in the church was the result of response to the painful and horrific corruption in the church. The great saints (who were usually persecuted, imprisoned, and/or executed) were reformers who decried the corruption of the clergy and hierarchy. One can imagine what St. Theresa of Avila, the outspoken Spanish nun, would have to say today to Pope Benedict XVI. Theresa was a supporter of women's rights in the Church and most likely would be highly critical of Benedict's stance on the ordination of women. She suffered great persecution by the Counter-Reformation clergy in Spain who accused her of having "diabolical illusions" and spreading "dangerous propaganda". Theresa was a staunch advocate of the rights and role of women in the Church.
Or, consider what the Pope's namesake, St. Benedict himself, might have to say to him. Benedict challenged the pope, the clergy and society's corruption, and withdrew into monastic seclusion in protest, rather than cover evil up and/or excuse it. One can only imagine the horror Benedict would express over the skillful and manipulative strategies the clergy used, and continues to use, to hide the criminal sexual behavior of fellow priests in order to maintain the facade of a crumbling church structure. And, the church structure is indeed crumbling. The recent popes cynically undermined the hope and vision of Pope John XXlll and the Second Vatican Council over 40 years ago. Now, the hierarchy's authority has been not just shaken but demolished. Now the church has an opportunity to reform, and to abandon the historical collusion it has had with regressive social, economic and political powers, return to the gospel of Jesus, and to truly be part of the Mystical Body of Christ, rather than a festering sore of deceit and corruption on it. Certainly if Michaelangelo could return to repaint Popes in hell on his Sistine Chapel ceiling, I suspect he might add some new and familiar faces to the group.