NEWS: November 30, 2001
Bird’s Eye View of the News
by Atila Sinke Guimarães
RATZINGER PRAISES QUINN – While the Papacy is an essential element of the Church, there are many possible ways to decentralize governing functions in the Catholic Church, said Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. “Undoubtedly, regional forums which take on even some of the functions until now carried out by Rome are necessary,” the Cardinal said in a book-length interview with journalist Peter Seewald. The book God and the World by Ratzinger was published in German in October 2000 and was set for a late September release in Italy. In its September 13 edition the Italian Catholic magazine Famiglia Cristiana published the book’s chapter on the Papacy.
Seewald asked Ratzinger if he thought St. Peter would recognize today’s exercise of the papal office as having anything to do with his own exercise of authority over the infant Church. For instance, being head of the Vatican State, being a global voice for morality, writing encyclicals, naming Bishops throughout the world, how can a Pope find time for the prayer that must inspire his ministry? Seewald asked.
"Many of the things you listed can be changed,” the Cardinal responded. “One could discuss the ways in which forms of decentralization could lighten papal functions,” he stated, adding that in 1995 Pope John Paul II called for an ecumenical discussion on the exercise of the papal office. “Various voices already have been raised,” Ratzinger said. “Retired Archbishop [John R.] Quinn of San Francisco has vigorously argued for the need for decentralization. Certainly, much can be done in this area” (National Catholic Reporter, September 28, 2001).
For the blind-conservatives who still think that Ratzinger must be obeyed in everything he says, now there is this new repugnant plate: they have to swallow Quinn’s thesis with Ratzinger’s approval. Will the conservatives be able to digest the plate and remain obedient servants of the “infallible” Cardinal? I hope not. Will they finally suffer an indigestion that will make them realize the bad food they’ve been eating for some time now? I hope so.
GLASS CONFESSIONALS – Priests in England and Wales will no longer hear children’s confessions in traditional closed confessionals. Children must now be heard openly in church or in glass-fronted confessionals with the priest and penitent in plain view. This is one of 83 wide-ranging recommendations made by the Nolan Review, an independent committee that inquired into child abuse within the Catholic Church in the two nations and released its final report last September. The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales, who commissioned the inquiry, have accepted its findings and are already putting them into practice. Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham, leader of the implementation team, said that priests were themselves sensitive to the risks of being hidden in an enclosed space with another person. Many would welcome the regulation. Nichols pointed out that some newer churches had glass-fronted confessionals, which would now become the norm (Our Sunday Visitor, October 28, 2001).
For me, what is surprising is the absurdness of this apparently prudent measure to prevent child abuse. In fact, it assumes as a presupposition that the average English priest is a pedophile, and because of this, mandates a profound change in the millenary practice of a complete discretion in everything that surrounds the sacrament of confession.
Let me analyze only the presupposition. Instead of acting on the generalization that priests are pedophiles, why don’t the English and Welsh Bishops promote a rigorous campaign against this monstrous vice within the ranks of the clergy? Why should these vicious men be protected to the detriment of the honor of the priesthood and children’s safety? Also, consider the vast fortunes the Church is expending to compensate the victims. Wouldn’t it be easier and much more efficient to exclude the priest convicted of pedophilia from the Church? This is my opinion. I would go a little further. I suggest reducing the criminal priest to the lay condition and handing him over to the civil law, so that he would have to pay both the moral and financial consequences for his crimes. It would be a salutary measure to clean the Catholic Church of this plague, and to mete out to the guilty the deserved punition.
The real guarantee for children’s safety is to conserve the Bride of Christ pure, as she always was. What does not attack the root of the problem will not be effective, in my opinion. Today we have the glass confessional, tomorrow there will be glass walls in classrooms, the day after tomorrow we will have to create a glass dome for each priest to live in … to guarantee that these evil men will not attack our children. It seems to me an absurdity. Either the courage to resolve the problem is lacking or there is a progressivist plan to change the image of the priest, showing him as a pedophile.
40 BLOWS WITH A ROD – This is the punishment every smoker should receive, according to rabbi Ovadia Yossef, spiritual leader of the Israeli “orthodox” Shass party. The makers of cigarettes will be punished by heaven as well as the employees “accomplices of the angel of death” (Actualité des Religions, July/August 2001). It is not only in Afghanistan that one finds those who are preaching a bizarre theocratic State, made in the image and likeness of the bizarre religious creed they profess. It is difficult to understand why the Western allied forces that combat Muslim fundamentalism close their eyes to the radicalism of the Jewish religious parties that are awaiting an opportunity to install a Jewish version of the Taliban government in Israel. Proof of such a tendency exists with Mr. Ariel Sharon, Israeli prime minister, who is closely aligned to the goals of the religious parties. It was he who initiated the present day wave of violence unleashed on the Middle East with a strong insult to the Muslims. Why rail so strongly against the Arab fundamentalists and forget the “orthodox” Jews?
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