William White’s letter last week on the Catholic Church raises a number of serious issues which have to be addressed. His comments on the official Church’s attitude to human sexuality deserve attention. (‘Obsession with’: true; ‘contempt for’: I’m not so sure.)
We are now aware of sexual abuse and the Church authorities have made vetting and protection a priority.
The writer rightly condemns physical and sexual abuse. He could have gone on to mention financial scandals, materialism, support for oppressive political regimes and other abuses. The Church will have to undergo further reforms: it is not a perfect Church: it is a pilgrim Church. It is not difficult to find fault. But the Catholic Church does not have a monopoly of sin.
Mr. White fails to recognise the positive side of the Church. ‘The Church has opposed all movements for progressive change within this country and indeed internationally.’ Has the writer heard of liberation theology? What about the worker –priests? What about the thousands of religious and lay people who work ceaselessly for justice in the Third World? There is no mention of the positive aspects of Catholic education. We are not told anything about the Catholic contribution to civilisation and culture.
The downside of the kind of negativity that Mr. White displays is that it is widespread and it can have an effect on ordinary Catholics and undermine their faith. It fails to acknowledge that Catholicism can be a source of comfort and happiness. It fails to recognise the great work of clergy at a human level, here and throughout the world, giving guidance and bringing hope and consolation to people in times of great distress.
Debate on what is undoubtedly a crisis within the Catholic Church is welcome. It should, however, be balanced. We should not be throwing the baby out with the bath water.
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