The $100 million settlement by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange to victims sexually abused by some of its priests only goes part way to resolve the real issues at stake. The running scandal of the Roman Catholic Church's complicity in this vile corruption by denial, cover-up, obstruction, evasion and finally monetary compensation is an ongoing spectacle of horrific proportions. That much is clear to most people.
But it seems to me that neither the people nor the press are yet getting to the real point. For the moral and spiritual decadence of this church strikes at the very heart if its historic claim to be the one true church of Jesus Christ.
The only true church?
These are ecumenical days - days when many Christian churches appear to be getting along better and being more accommodating of each other. Since Vatican II even the Roman Church has appeared to open its arms to other churches including the Greek and Russian Orthodox communions. But be not deceived, it has never yet abandoned its claim to have the only truly legitimate and apostolic ministry, to be the only means of receiving true grace, to be the only vehicle of salvation for the peoples of the world. This means that outside of the Roman Catholic communion nobody can be sure of being right with God or attaining the bliss of heaven.
Admittedly, there will be many practicing Catholics who are neither aware of this or who give it scant recognition, but that is irrelevant. The general views of the catholic churchgoer do not define the nature of the church. That is the preserve of the church itself.
Today the lid is blown off the preposterous claim that the Roman Catholic Church is the only ark of salvation. It is exposed as a wretched, conniving, corrupt, self-serving organization of so-called religious men. And to be immediately fair - the church does contain many humble and truly dedicated god-fearing men. But the shared responsibility of the church in recognizing its collective moral failings has besmirched even the holiest.
The heart of the matter
Let's see why this current scandal is so damning - and we will do so in a very down to earth fashion. What aspect of Roman Catholic worship most commonly hits the headlines? It is the Mass. The Pope makes visits to the countries of the world and thousands attend his huge open air Masses. A prominent catholic citizen dies and his funeral Mass is attended by princes and presidents. Every Sunday it is the obligation of the faithful of the church to attend Mass.
What is this Mass? And why do so few people ever ask this question? Most people might understand this to be the commemoration of the death of Jesus by participation in the symbolic elements of bread and wine. As such this is common to all churches. But that is a mistake. For the Roman Catholic Mass claims to be far more than a symbolic commemoration. The very word mass means sacrifice. When the celebrant priest takes the wafer and pronounces the words "This is my Body" a MIRACLE OCCURS! The very substance of the wafer, or bread and wine, becomes totally and utterly transformed into the very body and blood of Jesus Christ. Outwardly, the bread and wine will appear unchanged, but we are to believe that the actual substance is as truly the physical Jesus as if we lived in the days of Christ and held his hand in ours. When the priest lifts up the wafer - which is now a host to the essence of God - he re-offers the sacrifice that Christ made on the cross. And when the communicant eats the wafer or bread, he actually consumes the physical stuff of the body and blood of Jesus. In this way the child of God receives the grace of God to fit him for heaven.
Now I, for one, do not believe that. I never have. But if I were thinking this through for the first time I would now have huge problems in believing it.
A graphic illustration
Look at it like this. It is Saturday night and up in the bedroom of the rectory the parish priest is entertaining a young teenager from his parish.
The priest is a great friend of the family. He has shown love and kindness on innumerable occasions and they all regard his as so close to God that it is a huge privilege merely to have this man enter their house or dine at their table. He has shown especial interest in their son who, the priest tells them, has all the qualities of one day being a priest himself. So the family raises no objection that the boy is often over at the father's home. The young boy himself is then introduced to a very special form of love (the priest tells him); a love that must be a closely guarded secret because most other people do not have the wisdom and maturity to understand it - not even the boy's family!
At first the boy is scared and horrified. But soon he is drawn into the strange intimacy. Priestly hands remove his clothes and explore every part of the young boy's body. The priest's body, normally covered with holy vestments, is exposed and made accessible to the boy as a special gift. Their penises are erect, excited, intrusive, dancing the seminal dance of the most sacred and ancient of priestly celebrations. The wild excitement spins giddily, and slowly subsides.
Those hands, those fatherly, priestly hands, that caressed the young boy's buttocks, that held his throbbing member, now pull on their clothes to resume the outward appearance of social normality. And the next morning these same hands take the bread, hold it aloft in front of a believing congregation and declare "This is my Body" - turning the bread into the very body of Jesus. God is there, physically, in the hands of the priest with the same certainty that he held a young boy's penis the night before.
And you want me to believe the miracle has happened?
The necessary inference
For if the God the priest proclaims bears any resemblance to the Jesus of the New Testament this Mass, this sacrifice, is a travesty, a blasphemy, a monstrous lie. For surely, if I dare to second guess God, he would pronounce in as many words, "The bread remains bread. There is no way my Son will now come at your bidding to inhabit that wafer in your semen stained hands." For a God who is mechanically at the beck and call of a corrupt priest is not a God who commands our belief.
And the grace the priest places in the mouths of the communicants is no grace at all. It is dry bread. Salvation has ebbed from the chalice. This representational act has occurred not once or twice, but tens of thousands of times over the years as child molesting priests have moved from illicit congress to communion.
When some of the bishops learned the truth, many were too ashamed to confront the issue in their priests for they knew at first hand the same experiences. Others knew about it but preferred to keep it quiet with minimum fuss less the scandal demean the Holy Mother Church in the eyes of an unbelieving world or deter the faithful. They became complicit in the felony. It was guilt by association.
Shall we not therefore say that the same righteous God who denied the grace of Christ's presence in the wafer to the offending priest, also denied it to the conspiring bishops? And why stop at the bishops? For the archbishop of Boston, the publicly humiliated Cardinal Bernard Law, was recalled to the Vatican and stripped of his position as archbishop by the Pope. But why did the Pope leave him as a Cardinal - a Prince of the Church? So even this much revered Pope has compromised his judgment by his failure to do that which was right.
Now let us say it. If ever there was a claim by the Roman Catholic church to be the only way of salvation, the true guardians of the sacraments of grace, that claim is once and for all trashed by the behavior and admission of its own priests. Its claims are phony. The mass is a myth - a medieval vestige of religious hocus-pocus. It is therefore sad that the people and the press do not call the church on its fraudulent masses, that they superficially skip over the arrogant claims of an archaic institution and continue to give respect where none is due.
Perhaps because the church is still such a large social institution able to command millions of votes and even more millions of dollars it would be imprudent to press the point.