By Alejandro Grattan-Dominguez
The Church at the Crossroads
For more than three decades, the Catholic Church has been battered by scandals, many having to do with child-molestation offences—but not all. The full extent of some of the other problems was outlined in a book called In God’s Name, which was written by David A. Yallop, a one-time investigative reporter for The New York Times.
In that searing, 1984 international best-seller, (five million copies sold) Yallop made the case that John Paul I was murdered by high-ranking officials in the Vatican itself. John Paul I had come into office only after many, many votes had been taken by the assembled “Princes of the Catholic Church,” i.e., the Cardinals. The new Pope, relatively young, and in excellent heath, had died some 31 days later. There was no autopsy, nor even an official medical report. Simply a statement that he had died of “natural causes.”
Yallop’s book made a compelling case that the Pope had been dispatched for four reasons: he was convinced that the Church’s attitude toward divorce was both cruel and illogical. The Church excommunicates those who divorce their spouses but not those who murder their spouses; the Pope regarded the policy on birth control outmoded and economically disastrous; he also felt that the image and heritage of Jesus Christ had been lost in all the pomp and power of the Church; and most damming of all, he had discovered that the Vatican Bank was deeply involved with the Mafia.
Unfortunately, Pope John Paul I made known all of the above to several very important officials, including the head of the Vatican Bank and the Vatican Secretary of State. Thirty one days later the Pope was dead.
Since then, the Church has weathered a blizzard of child-molestation lawsuits that have cost the Vatican hundreds of millions of dollars. Now the scandal has reached all the way up to the current Pope, Joseph Ratzinger, who allegedly often refused to defrock priests who sexually abused children. It would seem that when conducting its affairs, the Church regards the despoiling of innocent children as nothing more than “collateral damage,” that heartless euphemism once employed to describe the killing of innocent women and children by the US during the Vietnam War.
The current bunker mentality and belligerent paranoia of the Church must change if it is to weather this latest avalanche of problems.
- Change the divorce laws. Pope John Paul I was right. The laws make no sense and needlessly toss aside what otherwise might be devout Catholics.
- Change the laws governing birth control. Even in Mexico, Catholics are not obeying them, instead following what might be called “Catholicism —Cafeteria Style.”
- Change the sign, “Priests Wanted: Only Males Need Apply.” With the number of priests at a critically low level, this seems nothing more than common sense. Further, how can the Church revere Mary, the Mother of Christ, even while discriminating against those of her gender?
- Eliminate the ban against marriage for priests. First initiated so as to keep “outsiders” from inheriting anything from priests, it now seems callous and greedy.
- Eliminate the demand for celibacy. Freud could have given the Vatican an earful about the many harmful effects that come when the sexual drive is totally throttled, especially in younger men.
- Establish iron-clad regulations by which all those accused of sexual molestation of children are immediately reported to the police.
By the way, should anyone wonder about my own religious affiliation, I am a Roman Catholic. As the son of a Mexican mother and an Irish father, my religious options were, to put it mildly, extremely limited.