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Jul 29 2010

One step forward, two steps back

Sadly, there is very little Paula Abdul in this post.

The Vatican issued a revised set of church guidelines Thursday to respond to the clerical sex abuse scandal, targeting priests who molest the mentally disabled as well as children, and defining child pornography as a canonical crime, but making few substantive changes to existing practice. (Full story here)

The Church is, let’s say, 1500 years old. Charitably, we could forget about the first 1000 years. We’ll chalk that stuff up to youthful exuberance. For past 500 years, the church has existed in its more-or-less present form – intimately involved in political power, having to deal with an increasingly-secular world. It took them 500 years to recognize that child pornography and the abuse of children and the mentally disabled are crimes. This only after condemnation from pretty much the entire world. Here’s a hint: when the world has to come together and bully you into passing rules against the abuse of children and the mentally disabled, you’re probably on the bad side of good.

But hey, they did it eventually, right? So bravo, we can finally all get off their back.

The Vatican’s sex crimes prosecutor… defended the lack of any mention of the need to report abuse to police, saying all Christians were required to obey civil laws that would already demand sex crimes be reported.

This is exactly like the non-apology from a few weeks ago. If you pass rules that don’t do anything to solve the problem, you’ve done exactly nothing to help. You might as well have not passed the laws. If the Church was interested in even appearing to make amends, it would pass rules with some teeth, and bring about rigorous enforcement. Instead, they have elected to continue to hold themselves above secular authority, as though they have some legitimate Earthly power (which, incidentally, is the only type of power there is).

So they’ve passed a law, but the law is useless. So we’re no further ahead, but no big deal, right?

The new Vatican document also listed the attempted ordination of a woman as a “grave crime” to be handled by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, just as sex abuse is.

There cannot be any more proof in my mind that the Catholic Church does not understand why the world is upset. It doesn’t get that its claims to supernatural authority are meaningless, and increasingly rejected by the world at large. They can’t comprehend the fact that it’s not the simple matter of abuse that is making the world so angry – it’s the repeated attempts to cover it up and defy secular authority. They don’t get it, and it looks like they never will.

New elements in the text include treating priests who sexually abuse the mentally disabled — or an adult who “habitually lacks the use of reason” (emphasis mine) — with the same set of sanctions as those who abuse minors.

Surely that describes anyone who believes a thing these people say.

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