Is the Roman Catholic Church in crisis?
I will likely catch Hell from victims and victims rights advocates, but I am going to say it anyway. Most of the headlines we are seeing out of Europe are calling recent revelations on child sexual abuse a crisis. Is it really?
I have a modest suggestion. Let us quit referring to the current revelations as a crisis. A crisis would refer to revelations of abuse that are happening currently. As far as we all know, that really is not what is going on. No one has been caught abusing a seminarian or an altar boy or student in the past month.
What has happened is an investigation of how such abuse was handled or mishandled in the past. A reexamination of such things does not a crisis make. Indeed, such things are only a crisis for some in that they reveal the need for the expanded participation of the laity. Only rabid defenders of the feudalistic system of Church governance (the "clerical culture") are in crisis. The rest of us just want an accounting and some measure of change. Instead of hysteria, what we need is a clear and unmistakeable call for reform.
Reform is necessary on its own merits. It is simply time to pull Church governance out of the feudal era. Society is now mostly democratic. Most charities operate just fine as non-profit corporations. Catholic Charities organizations in most diocese can operate the same way, as can its educational arm. In many Protestant congregations, elected elders make the decisions we force priests to make, which is a distraction. There is no reason parish councils cannot take on the same responsibilities.
The other set of reforms required have to do with gender and sexuality.
In a modern Church, there is no excuse for not ordaining women to the deaconate, to the priesthood and to the episcopacy. Indeed, the last Pope favored making abbots into bishops. There is no reason a Mother Superior could not do as well, if not better.
One must also recognize that the fourth century genesis of much of the Church's sexual teaching comes from the misgynistic belief that sexuality renders priest and congregant alike unsuitable to recieve the Eucharist. This is a denigration of the married state and cannot continue. Since celibacy, as well as much of Catholic sexual teaching is the fruit of this tree, it must also be cut down - from masturbation to homosexuality to birth control (I deal elsewhere with the state of the blastocyst - I am only referring here to the clerical idealization of married sexuality).
Taking care of the victims is necessary for its own sake and should be accomplished as soon as possible, especially when justice has been denied for decades. We should not cheapen their experience, however, by linking reform to their pain. The reforms I have laid out, which are a surprise to no one, must be undertaken for their own sake.