Monday, March 29, 2010

The challenge to the Pope--and the Papacy

The headline on yesterday's Boston Herald echoed a question I have been asking since last week: "Can the Pope Survive?"

As the lovely Diane pointed out when I expressed that, short of murder there is no way for the Church hierarchy to remove a Pope, and despite a number of popular novels positing plots for papal homicide, we surely don't expect that.

On the other hand, there are levels of survival. Given the burgeoning sexual abuse scandal across Europe, the present occupant of St. Peter's throne might conceivably be "forgotten but not gone," if the Vatican does not do much more to address what has happened, and the responsibility of high officials in the church for allowing it to continue for so long after the pattern became clear. Today's New York Times has an account of Palm Sunday reactions to the scandal from several cities in Europe and the United States. Including this telling comment from an Austrian woman in her '60s:
To think of Jesus Christ is one thing. To think of the pope is another.
Coming from an older woman from one of the most Catholic countries on Earth, that is exactly what the Church hierarchy should fear: the separation of the Church from Jesus, and Jesus from the Church.

(You might wonder why I, a non-Catholic, comment on this issue. Coming from the most Catholic large city in the United States, the Church has always had a presence in my life. And the Church is a very important institution, for good, ill or neither, and thus of significance to all of us.)

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