There is a massive gap between the theological positions the Vatican propounds and the real-world stances it takes.
If clinching proof was ever needed that the Vatican is not just profoundly out of touch, but also an amoral vacuum and black hole of hypocrisy at the centre of Rome, Easter weekend has provided it.
It is becoming crystal clear that the theological agonizing over the complexities of doctrinal morality that seems to so preoccupy the elite of the Church has little bearing on what would seem to the rest of us to unambiguously be issues of moral substance. This is clearly an institution so wrapped up in its own Byzantine and abstracted debates that it is simply unaware of the very nature of the outrage beyond the walls of the Holy See. You can also tell that, despite all the obvious machinations and spin, they fail to see a unique political opportunity, even when it protests right beneath the Basilica itself.
The Pope declared, as he presided over Easter Sunday mass, that humanity was suffering from a “profound crisis,” which requires “spiritual and moral conversion.”
First, let me just say that his phrasing is reminiscent of his [letter to the Irish Catholic Church](http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/letters/2010/documents/hf_ben-xvi_let_20100319_church-ireland_en.html) last month: couched in spin-doctored, bland, neutral language; an anemic attempt to diffuse the stain on the Church’s reputation by using sanitizing euphemism to veil the lurid detail. This is religion reduced to PR; faith to an impersonal corporate culture; the Pope to a bad image consultant. The Holy Father claims infallibility; so why does he stop short of a full admission of systemic institutional failure?
But this doesn’t bother me unduly. They can take their cues from Tiger Woods and revel in half-apologies and equivocations until the Second Coming for all I care. What has got me incandescent, however, was their active attempt to lay the blame beyond the Church.
For the Pope to state that “humanity” is suffering a “profound crisis” is utterly outrageous. And it arguably says far more about the nature of this institution than the fact that they have been turning a blind eye to the sickening behaviour of a relatively high percentage of their number for decades (perhaps even centuries).
No, it is not humanity’s problem. It is the problem of the institution of the Catholic Church. It’s an absolute outrage that they would attempt to dilute their culpability by sharing the blame around. They own this.
And the amazing thing is the irony. Here they had an opportunity – to use an Americanism – for a “teachable moment,” a chance to exercise in public the tenets they espouse in churches across the world: humility, repentance, honesty, integrity, morality, and selflessness; and to do it at a time when the Vatican has unprecedented publicity. Given the perfect opportunity to demonstrate – to embody – all the virtues that they believe they can tell the rest of us to embrace, they instead choose to obfuscate, to pass the buck, to deny, equivocate, and even retaliate.
It is the intrinsic irreconcilability of the theological positions they propound and the real-world stances they take that so infuriates me. I would not usually assume that I know enough to criticize religion. I simply have never taken enough interest in it to feel I have an Archimedean point from which to cast judgment. But in this case, they have set up their own fall. I don’t even need to push. I just need to observe. In their hypocrisy, they have been hoisted by their own petard.
And so the papacy is revealed to have no clothes. For men of the cloth this is surely an indecent revelation to say the least. But indecent is perhaps the best word to describe this monumental anachronism hunkered at the centre of Rome, this medieval theocratic state that is proving itself to be pathologically self-serving, incorrigibly degenerate, and fundamentally amoral.
And it is truly amoral. We cannot be blinded by its contrived claims to speak of and for morality: they have no monopoly over this very human concern, and it is demonstrably untrue if they say otherwise. Like the Chinese Communist Party, this is an outdated institution with the sole purpose of maintaining those who have a material (rather than emotional or symbolic) stake in it – in other words the global coterie of the Church’s elite. God may be the motif of choice, but what lies underneath is unalloyed and implacable self-interest.
In this, the Catholic Church is of course not alone. They share this characteristic with almost every other large organization, institution, or corporation. However, in the case of the Church, this is a real concern that we should protest, as unlike almost all other large regimes, it truly inflects much of human life across the planet, both Catholic and non-catholic alike.
Its global impact is multi-layered and profound, arguably more so than that of the U.S. government. As such, there is a genuine need for it to be called to account. This current scandal will likely prove to be the Church’s crucible, not so much because of the original accusations themselves, but because of the brazen hypocrisy that has infused every element of the Vatican’s response.