Can and should the Church survive?
Yesterday, the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Sodano, compared the discussion of past cover ups of clerical sexual abuse as "gossip" at Easter Mass at the Vatican. This is what one would expect of someone who is culturally hierarchical. Indeed, much of the Vatican household is circling the wagons against what it regards as an outside threat.
Today, the Catholic and non-Catholic blogosphere and the main stream media were understandably and justifiably outraged (with the possible exceptions of the Deal Hudson crowd of ultraconservatives). The question has been raised on what will happen next for the Church and the papacy.
Considering that the prophesies of St. Malachy carry a bit of credence behind the walls of the Vatican and the current pope (the Glory of the Olive, which has to do with both his name and his mission) is second to last, if not last pontiff (the last prophesy on Peter the Roman indicates he may be an anti-pope), the question is not unfair.
Some of the Faithful from Boston are organizing a conference of sexual abuse survivors for October 31st of this year, however their objectives are limited to remedies in this area. While they have legitimate demands that must be met, they are not the only ones. Indeed, even without this crisis, the essentially feudalistic structure of the Church has been ripe for reform since most Catholic nations evolved democratic structures (which is part of the reason the Church has historically resisted democracy, since it could see the writing on the wall).
The Church is actually no stranger to democracy. Indeed, for centuries bishops were elected by the local clergy and even the faithful. Papal appointment of bishops is a later development and comes as part of the interplay between Rome and Catholic kings who claimed the right to appoint bishops instead. Given the choice between Rome and the state, Rome was a better source of authority. Where monarchy is only formal and not absolute, however, it is time for Rome to take a back seat. Additionally, much of the Church in the western world has expanded outside of Europe, particularly Roman Europe, into lands that are ethnically Germanic and Gallic. There was an ancient Gallic community that was a Church in its own right in Asia minor before it was swallowed up by Constantinople. There is a reasonable argument for its revival, especially given the overtures Benedict XVI has made to the Ecumenical Patriarch since the beginning of his papacy and the almost day to day deterioration of the the Vatican's reputation, much of it self-inflicted.
I suspect that God is being obvious about his intentions for the Church and that these intentions have to do with christian unity at the price of papal authority. Until very recently, Rome was still proclaiming primacy in reference to the Eastern Churches. This claim is quickly being diluted by events. One wonders how quickly the various episcopal conferences will seek refuge in Constantinople - or rather how quickly the faithful will see this as a possibility and demand it. Until Rome eventually humbles itself, there is no hope that the remainder of western Christianity will seek union with it - however they may seek union with its non-Roman parts, should they bypass Rome in search of competent stewardship.