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“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.
“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
It must be said that being Catholic and frustrated is nothing new. I certainly have had personal schisms with church dogma, for example the church’s stance on gay rights and women’s right to choose. Yet even such divisive issues never once caused me to doubt the church’s inherent good intentions, however wrongheaded its stands. That is no longer the case.
Before I proceed, I want to make clear I don’t renounce my church or abandon my faith, but call for accountability because of what my church taught me. Beyond everything else, the core of what the Catholic Church has taught me is that what I do matters; that my thoughts, words, and deeds are not inconsequential but permanent. It remains to be seen if the teacher has learned that lesson.
The church cannot claim infallibility while embracing the most sickening corruption. No man can serve two masters. For the church to survive with spiritual authority intact it must humble itself as never before. If the extent of Benedict’s corruption is as deep as suspected, he is unfit to be Pope and must step down.
Some will say it is not Benedict’s fault, that he merely happened to be in charge when the full extent of the horrors became known; that the corruption was systematic, that he is much more responsive than was John Paul the II in the face of the crisis. But the New York Times published a correction on March 27 that says the paper had misquoted an Irish study by reporting hundreds of thousands of children were molested by priests in Ireland. As the Vatican pointed out, the revised statistic brought the number down to a much more manageable tens of thousands, as though that number is permissible, which sickens me to my very core.
I say again, if the Pope, as a Cardinal and Arch Bishop did actively cover up child molestation and hide guilty priests, as the revelations from Munich suggest, he is unfit to be the spiritual leader of 1.115 billion people.
I believe the Gospels are the greatest truth bestowed upon mankind. Whether you believe their origin is divine, or produced by the better aspects of the human mind, is on this point inconsequential. If we do not embrace their true spirit, which does not necessarily mean we must accept them as celestial, mankind will not survive.
It pains me to write that the Catholic Church has become an unworthy bearer of this message. For years Catholicism, thanks to its strong central leadership and grounded theology, has served as a bastion against the lunatic fringes of the religious right. Now it finds itself shamed, even by the venal hypocrites who parade around that freak show. Say what you will about Ted Haggard, but his love for gay prostitutes and crystal meth was hurting no one but himself.
The coming months will be a crucible in which the church will either prove its worth or diminish. I am proud, still, to be a Catholic. Nothing I have encountered in this life has changed that. And in all likelihood nothing will. What has changed is my wrongheaded belief that the church is beyond—not fault; I never disbelieved that—but judgment.
The church must be held accountable for its actions. If not by others then at least by itself. The church certainly has some well-formed ideas about confession and atonement: It should adhere to those principles and tear down the years of cover ups and lies. Let the truth out no matter how ugly it is. It can’t be worse than what we’ve already seen. At this point, the church has precious
Bryce Wilson is New Times’ irreverent DVD reviewer. Contact him via the editor at econnolly@newtimes slo.com.