It has become clear in the past few weeks that the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) is in a severe crisis
Stories about priests abusing children have been about for years (e.g. in Ireland, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/21/world/europe/21ireland.html?_r=1 ), but seem to be turning into an ever-growing cascade where similar cases pop up in countries all over the world.
Clearly, the individual priests are to be held accountable for their deeds. But that is only step one and it is the easiest one.
It turns out that their superiors - and the RCC is a highly hierarchical institute - often knew of what happened. And as such become accomplishes to these crimes by not reporting them. Supposedly, this went all the way up to the office of the current Pope Benedictus XVI, then Cardinal Ratzinger. When reporting these issues, it took years for the highest ranks of the RCC to take action, if at all (http://documents.nytimes.com/reverend-lawrence-c-murphy-abuse-case#document ).
All these cases and the lack of follow-up put the RCC in legal problems, if not a legal crisis. But this is not even the worst crisis that they are in.
The responses of the highest ranks of the Roman Catholic Church in the past few weeks have been weak, admitting what had happened without taking any action to do something about the situation (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/31/world/europe/31pope.html ), ridiculous, comparing criticism of the Church to anti-Semitism (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/03/world/europe/03church.html ) and desperate, trying to link paedophile tendencies of priests to homosexuality (http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/2010/04/13/2010-04-13_cardinal_tarcisio_bertone_vaticans_no_2_man_in_charge_defends_celibacy_attacks_h.html ).
All these reactions simply point to the real crisis that the RCC is in: a moral one.
The Roman Catholic Church is the supposed leader of morality, preaching the gospel of how to be a good human being and make the world a good place to live for all of mankind. Not only does it turn out that many leading people of the RCC have acted with total disregard of the moral rules they preach, but when found out, their superiors merely try to cover it up and when confronted with the fallout of their behaviour years later, the leaders of the RCC do anything but behave in a morally justified way.
The only moral way out for the Catholic Church is to do the following right things:
- Admit to what happened, apologise sincerely and state that everything that is needed to help the victims will be done;
- Stop making nonsense statements trying to defend the Church against the accusations as they undermine all credibility the Church has left;
- Bring the perpetrators to worldly justice and remove their responsibilities in the Church;
- Remove the people higher up in the hierarchy that were responsible for covering up the events and replace them with morally sounder people;
- Get into real contact with the victims and see how they can best be compensated for what was done to them;
- Change the organisation of the RCC by making it far more transparent to the outside world, so that events like these cannot be covered up for so long anymore;
The Roman Catholic Church is in a moral crisis that they knew
existed and now finally comes out. They are losing members by the
thousands every week. If they want to be taken seriously in the
future and remain an institute that has moral credibility, they need
to take action as outlined above and do so quickly. The longer they
wait, the deeper the impact and the longer it will take to heal. The
wounds of the victims will be hard enough to heal in any case.