Commonweal turns the page back eight years to five writers who presented their hopes and expectations of the papacy of Benedict XVI, just starting that Easter of 2005. What are their thoughts today, at the conclusion of this papacy? This piece from Richard Gaillardetz:
Benedict acknowledged the failings of priests and bishops regarding the sexual abuse scandal, but refused to discipline prelates who were most culpable. Few Catholics can make sense of the fact that Bishop William Morris of Tawoomba, Australia, was removed from office for calling for a prayerful reconsideration of church doctrine and discipline regarding candidates for the priesthood, while Bishop Robert Finn, convicted in a court of law for criminally neglecting to protect children by reporting a priest child abuser, remains in office without censure.
It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that what we have seen over this waning pontificate is a church more concerned with narrowly construed conceptions of orthodoxy and the avoidance of public scandal than a church humbly aware of its failings and its dependence on the redeeming grace of Christ.
Whatever his merits might be as a scholar of Scripture, Pope Benedict has tripped up in the realm of management. And that trip has an impact on the Gospel. Have no doubts about that.
The handling of the cases of Bishops Finn and Morris tell us: discussion and prayer on controversial issues is a pink slip offense. Conviction on a criminal charge that affects the safety of children in the Church’s care is not.
As a parent, I see this as a grave moral defect. It is, as some in the hierarchy often preach at the laity, a loss of a sense of sin. It certainly affects the places I look to for moral leadership in the Church. My wife, certainly. My peers who keep me honest in my day-to-day doings. The saints. The upper hierarchy and the pope? About as much as I look to the celebrity world of athletes, actors, and reality tv people.
For people who still do look to authority for guidance, I feel for you. We have a lot of other sources far more reliable. And if you’re looking for orthodoxy, I would cast serious doubts on the Roman bureaucracy. I certainly wouldn’t look higher than your local bishop, or in some cases, your parish pastor.
What hope do I have for the next pope? We need a pastor more than we need a theologian. We sure don’t need a curial bureaucrat, and maybe someone outside the College of Cardinals would be good. We need common sense applied to the moral and theological life of the Church–something to correct this serious listing to self-preservation and narcissism.