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What I’ve Learned: The Outsider
Comments () | Published August 23, 2010
A lot of people were angry with the Vatican’s response to the abuse scandals in Europe.

Pope Benedict simply doesn’t comprehend the media. He is much more interested in what’s in a scholarly journal than what’s on the evening news. There’s one press person for the entire Vatican; he’s not in there talking to the pope about what we ought to do and how we should respond to this in the media. So structurally it’s not organized to deal with it.

The Vatican didn’t learn from the mistakes the bishops made in America. Don’t blame the media. And calling it petty gossip or comparing it to antisemitism—give me a break. The people in the Vatican think they are defending the pope; they are pouring gasoline on him.

It’s been several years since the scandals first broke in America. How have priests been affected?

Every priest’s worst nightmare is a false accusation. How do you prove yourself innocent? After Mass, I used to hug kids. No way I’m going to hug a kid now. I mean, if there’s a tornado and I see a couple kids on the sidewalk as I’m driving by, too bad! Lightning, rain? Sorry, find your own way home. This is the world we live in.

But it’s not just priests. I know of husbands who will not drive the babysitter home. And considering the epidemic of abuse we’ve had, it’s a good thing.

What are the other biggest challenges facing the Catholic Church?

We’re losing people like crazy. One-third of Catholics born and baptized in the United States have left the Church. This is a disaster, but you wonder if the bishops have noticed. They haven’t, because the people leaving have been replaced by Hispanics, so our numbers are still pretty good. We’re still the biggest church, but we would be so much bigger if we kept all those people.

Why are so many Americans leaving?

We use 13th-century language to talk to people in the 21st century. It worked when we were isolated in ghettos and weren’t influenced by everything happening in the world, but not anymore. The trouble is many people in church leadership see certain issues as not debatable. But people are going to discuss them no matter what.

What issues are off limits?

A lot of them are in areas that affect women—birth control, abortion, women priests, married priests. The more educated a woman becomes, the more alienated she becomes from the Church. That’s a recipe for disaster. The Church can be run without men; it cannot be run without women.

Women pass on the faith to the next generation. They teach their kids their prayers, they talk to them about God. They are interacting with kids all the time. Priests get five minutes on Sunday.

Will women ever become priests?

We have a leadership that is saying no to these things, and this is a self-perpetuating leadership. They’re not elected. And what does a self-perpetuating leadership do? It selects people who are very much like themselves to replace them.

As a social scientist I have very little hope. But as a Christian I have to have hope.

Should priests be able to get married?

For 1,000 years the Church had a married clergy. Peter, the first pope, was married. All the apostles except John were married. Jesus chose married men.

The issue we’re starting to see now is that we don’t have enough priests to serve the community. If we don’t have priests, we don’t have the Eucharist. We become a Bible church, and we’ve always been something more than that.


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Posted at 12:00 AM/ET, 08/23/2010 RSS | Print | Permalink | Articles