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I was OK with this until the 4th issue...

Debate: 4 Things the Pope Needs to Do
Frank K. Flinn

Special to AOL News (April 20) -- My entry for the topic "pedophilia" in the 2007 Encyclopedia of Catholicism states: "Nothing has damaged the Catholic Church at the turn of the millennium more than the pedophile scandal. Many observers remain perplexed by the Vatican's continuing obtuseness toward the seriousness of the scandal."

Unabated, the damage continues and the perplexity remains. And instead of addressing the problem, its leaders in the Vatican's inner sanctum offer lame explanations and excuses.



There is no organization in the world that has admitted its mistakes, issued more apologies, written more compensatory checks and met with more victims than the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, says Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

Is there nothing the Vatican can do? Yes, there is.

The pope and his spokesmen can stop offering excuses, and then the pope -- and not some spokesperson -- can admit that the Vatican itself has made grave mistakes and take some immediate and forceful steps to get back on track.

The major problem is that the canonical procedures to adjudicate pedophile priests were geared to shield the official church's reputation from scrutiny. As if that weren't bad enough, these same procedures worked to the advantage of the perpetrators, not the victims of these heinous crimes.

These mechanisms thwarted any attempts by local bishops and religious authorities to notify civil authorities of criminal offenses in their jurisdictions. Even when local bishops wanted perpetrators defrocked expeditiously, the Vatican dragged its feet, sometimes for decades, claiming it was trying to ensure justice. But justice for victims was elusive.

Pope Benedict XVI did not create these arcane canonical maneuvers, some of which date back to the Middle Ages, such as the church's right to try a cleric before turning him over to the civil authorities. But he can fix them.

First, he can admit that the canonical procedures in the past, intentionally or not, shielded the perpetrators and gave short shrift to justice for victims.

Second, he can issue new canonical procedures to guarantee that victims get their day in ecclesiastical court with fair representation, perhaps even by lay canon lawyers.

Third, he can make clear, as have the U.S. Catholic bishops since 2002, that criminal offenses will be taken to civil authorities in a timely manner, even if confidential ecclesiastical proceedings are held simultaneously. Saying that this rule applies only in countries that have laws requiring the bishops to do this is insufficient. The church must come out unequivocally against sheltering pedophiles in any circumstance.

The solution to the deeper problem will take more daring. The church also needs an ecumenical council, with male, female, lay and clerical members of the church, to address the very nature of the priesthood, specifically who can serve as a priest.

At root of the pedophile issue is that in the last five decades vocations to the Catholic priesthood have fallen dramatically. Because of its celibacy and maleness requirements, the church has been forced to accept and hold on to less qualified and, in the case of men with pedophilic tendencies, wholly unqualified candidates.

At the same time, ever since the Council of Trent, the Catholic Church has elevated the status of the priesthood so high that it puts ordained priests far above lay people in the pecking order, deeming them more "Catholic" and thus automatically "more holy" and "more dignified" than ordinary, baptized individuals.

Viewing the Catholic priest not as the servant of the servants of God but as someone superior to the ordinary believer leads to the kind of exceptionality that has allowed spiritually deformed priests to commit the acts that have imperiled the credibility of the very institution they say they serve. In his theological self-delusion, the Rev. Lawrence Murphy -- who was accused of sexually violated as many as 200 boys in a home for the deaf -- even told a psychiatric interviewer that he was providing "sexual education" to his victims. He stated, "I thought I was taking their sins on myself."

It is imperative that the pope act soon and forcefully. The credibility of the priesthood, the papacy and the Catholic Church itself is on the line. By credibility I mean the faith and trust of Catholics in the church as the authoritative continuation of the work of Christ on earth.

The pope's meeting with a small number of victims in Malta this past weekend is a step in the right direction. The victims more than anybody deserve the ear of the Vatican. These gestures will mean little, however, if the old canonical procedures remain in place.

The pope now seems aware that they have to be radically changed. Maybe Vatican obtuseness is beginning to dissipate.

Frank K. Flinn is adjunct professor of religious studies at Washington University in St. Louis. He is author of Encyclopedia of Catholicism (2007).
*softly humming pop ballad....and the beat goes on....*

I think these scandalizers are mostly talking to themselves.  Of course the Church is under attack but  if we look at the weapon of the attacker instead of at his eyes, he'll knock us down every time.

We need to keep our eyes on the prize  and let the Holy Spirit parry the blows.

This isn't Neo-Catholic; it's Liberal and Modernist.  No Neo-Catholic (think EWTN) would write something like this.

Please fix the title.