The Pope in a rage

A friend told me last week that a friend of hers had been on holiday with a close friend of the Pope. At the end of this long holiday, having built a rapport with the Pope's friend, she suggested that perhaps he might like to broach the question of birth control with the Pontiff. The Pope's friend sadly replied that this was impossible: only to raise the subject in the Pope's presence was to send him into apoplectic rage!

I could imagine the Pope in varied states of emotion but apoplectic rage (as it happens) was not one of them (though it must be galling when the vast majority of your flock ignore you on what you see as a key aspect of morality while the majority of your flock tend to see it as a sensible, functional part of managing their family)!

Today, I heard that the Vatican had withdrawn their envoy from Ireland following the debate in the Dublin parliament last week on yet another damning report into the Church's mishandling of child abuse at the hands of its priests. The Irish Prime Minister's remarks (from a practicing Catholic) , though severe, seemed measured to me. Meanwhile, the Irish President, an exceptionally thoughtful and practicing Catholic, weighed in with robust yet thoughtful criticism of the Church and the continuing need for it to overhaul both its understanding and policies with regard to abuse. 

Frankly if the people of Ireland burnt paper Cardinals in the street and danced on the ashes it would be an appropriate response to legitimate anger that the Church should sensibly keep silent about!

But the measured remarks of politicians have the Papal envoy withdrawn in what can only be interpreted as protest.

Now on birth control (unlike child abuse), it seems perfectly possible to have a moral spectrum. It is not the Pope's opposition that strikes me as misplaced (though I personally think it wrong) but his apparent refusal to actually engage in a subject in a manner that conveys that your are at least listening to alternative perspectives.

This failure to truly listen and respond appropriately is evident in the Church's ongoing failure to get a grip on its abuse scandal (only this week it was reported that the Diocese of Portsmouth were arguing in court that priests were not the bishop's 'employees' so the diocese could not be responsible for their actions).

You wonder if it were the same in the 1520s: Vatican officials dismissing complaints about indulgences emanating out of Germany. It will blow over they thought to themselves if they ignore it long enough! Alas I think it is one of those issues that we will look back on and be foundational in restructuring how we see the Church - a seeing not to its benefit and it still shows no coordinated signs of fully responding to this, its systemic failure.


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