The Catholic Church: A Crisis Of Trust

The Catholic Church is collapsing into a state of moral bankruptcy.

In America, the Church has been the leading advocate for universal health care and other social justice issues for generations. But Church leaders put that history aside in the weeks leading up to the House vote on health care reform, on the specious grounds that maybe, just maybe, federal funds might be used for abortions per the health care bill.

Meanwhile, new revelations in the sexual abuse scandal have reached the Pope himself. This Thursday the New York Times reported on the case of the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, a Wisconsin priest who molested nearly 200 deaf boys between 1950 to 1974. The future Pope may have turned a blind eye to multiple warnings about the abusing priest. On Friday the Times reported that Ratzinger was cc'd on a memo concerning the relocation of Rev. Peter Hullermann, the offending German priest whose outing kicked off the latest rounds in the sexual abuse scandal. Somebody, if not the Pope, should have blown the whistle.

The hypocrisy here is incredible. On the one hand, U.S. Bishops claim "vigilance" in their misguided stakeout of the possibility of government-funded abortions, while on the other, the Vatican largely ignores the plight of countless children whose lives have been blackened by molesting priests.

What argument could be made for the Church's inaction regarding sexual abuse? That the priests suffered from a psychological weakness? That the church acted in a pastoral role by assisting them and only in rare occasions punishing them? The implication is that the Church values its priests more than it does its children, that the clergy is worth more than the laity. The Church appears to value its institutional image more than it does its flock.

And what of the U.S. bishops? They hang on to paper-thin fears that the health care bill would fund abortions. They fought its passage tooth-and-nail and gambled with the security of millions of Americans who live -- and die -- with little or no health care. An infinitesimal risk, as it were, outweighs for them the acute, collective need of millions.

As a Catholic, I feel more distant than ever from the clergy and the Vatican. The Church acts like a corporation fighting for survival at the expense of what is right, at the expense of its shareholders. The Church has lost its way.