Is the church corrupt?

Franco Origlia GETTY IMAGES Cardinals and Bishops attend John Paul II Beatification Ceremony held by Pope Benedict XVI on May … Continued

Franco Origlia

GETTY IMAGES

Cardinals and Bishops attend John Paul II Beatification Ceremony held by Pope Benedict XVI on May 1, 2011 in Vatican City, Vatican.

The trial of Msgr. William J. Lynn, secretary for clergy under a late Philadelphia cardinal, exposes every day what Pope Benedict XVI has called “the filth of the church.” As the New York Times explained, Lynn is “the first Roman Catholic supervisor in the country to be tried on felony charges of endangering children and conspiracy — not on allegations that he molested children himself.” If the allegations that Lynn ignored child sexual abuse are true, file the Philadelphia case as another clerical cover-up that will have irrevocably stained the church’s image.

If this major scandal were not enough, other Catholic news haunts the conscience: According to a report by Reuters, JP Morgan closed the Vatican’s bank account for “lack of transparency.” Catholic nuns in America, who power the nation’s Catholic hospitals, schools and social service organizations are under attack from the Vatican. Pedophilia has put mighty Irish Catholicism “at the breaking point.”

Facing the scope of these stories, Catholics can legitimately ask: “Is the church corrupt?”

The answer to that question depends on perspective. If people join the church as sinners in order to become saints, human failures are no big surprise. If most priests and faithful live the Gospel, why label the whole institution as “corrupt”? Haven’t we heard this charge many times in history?

Although Catholicism has reformed itself in the past and is the world’s largest Christian church, the corruption question can’t be dismissed by platitudes, especially when Catholicism is looked at sociologically. In fact, today’s scandals might be of less concern than what can be called “structural deficits.” The routine dissent from church teachings by church-going laity – use of contraception, divorce and remarriage outside the church, unwed couples living together, etc. – represents the loss of a trusting base. Dwindling church membership, the graying of the remaining faithful, the closing of schools and hospitals, diocesan bankruptcies, a shrinking number of clergy, a persistent refusal to include married men in the ranks of the clergy — these are realities that spell institutional doom, pushing believers to separate devotion to Jesus from faith in the church. In purely human terms, the Catholic Church seems condemned to inevitable decline.

Addressing the battle with ecclesiastical corruption, theologian Karl Rahner compared to church to the woman caught in adultery brought before Christ (John. 9:3-11). Now, as then, the Savior answers: “Let he who is without sin among you cast the first stone.” In fact, every institution (e.g. Wal-Mart ) faces the cancer of corruption. As the human expression of Christ’s church, Catholicism will never be perfect; perhaps only less imperfect.

My none-too-scientific survey of people in the pews found reasons for Catholic hope. Lay persons are smarter than some think: We can handle a field with both wheat and tares (Mt. 13:24-30). We see which clergymen are pastoral and which are not — and we donate our time and money accordingly. We rejoice that most priests have it just right. The Catholic commitment to social justice is indelible in our consciences, even if we differ about how government tax money is used for the poor. We oppose abortion as a “method of birth control,” but think changing the social environment that leads women to abortion is more effective than changing Supreme Court justices. Almost all of us know someone among family or friends who is gay, and we are more interested in seeing them live happily than punishing them with restrictive laws. Yes, we wish for a perfect Catholic world where both young people would be virgins on their wedding day, where people dressed in Sunday-best for Mass and each sermon was like a masterpiece delivered by the late Fulton Sheen. But we recognize human limitations, consoling ourselves with the wisdom of the Spanish adage: “No hay bien que por mal no venga./ Every good thing comes to us out of something bad.”

Catholics are loyal enough to Jesus and to each other to prevail against the Gates of Hell that now besmirch the institutional church.

About

Anthony M. Stevens-Arroyo Anthony M. Stevens-Arroyo is Professor Emeritus of Puerto Rican and Latino Studies at Brooklyn College and Distinguished Scholar of the City University of New York.
  • dadof6

    As a person raised in the RC church who opted out in the late 70′s converting to ELCA Lutheran I say to Mr Stevens-Arroyo as I say to my RC wife: you just don’t get it, everything must change. That includes my denomination. Do you really believe that the church is the conduit to one’s salvation? They do. That’s why they can function with such arrogance. Until our Christian churches begin to act like the expression of Christ that they should be rather than the pathways to heaven which they preach themselves to be we will have the same old problems which Christ spoke against 2000 yrs ago. Live the Gospels it’s that simple.

  • ThomasBaum

    The people that believe that the Catholic Church can do no wrong are just as blind as the people that believe that the Catholic Church can do no right, just in a different way.

  • ThomasBaum

    The Church, as defined by Catholicism, is not confined to Catholics nor is it confined to Christianity.

    The Church has had corruption pretty much since day one, all one has to do is look in the bible for confirmation of us.

    The Church’s mission is not to be corruption-free but that “the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it”, the Church is an instrument of God.

    The Church is not the institution but is people, Jesus called Peter to be a rock, a living stone, and we are all called to be living stones in a “building not made with human hands.

    The world is full of corruption, every human institution in the world is full of corruption why should the instituion of the Church be any different, however, the mission of the Church will come to Fruition.

  • ThomasBaum

    Last word of second paragraph should be this not us on my posting of 1:34 PM.

  • Rongoklunk

    The Church’s number one priority is continuing to exist. Nothing else matters nearly as much. Staying relevant as a superstition in a rational world ain’t easy.
    So it looks to Africa, where folks still believe in magic, to expand its fan-base among the poor and uneducated, while its numbers in educated countries decline.
    It has a dreadful history of wars, burnings, torture and drownings; of crusades and inquisitions and lies upon lies. But now it’s just a matter of time before it collapses altogether. Being called the largest pedophile ring on the planet hasn’t helped either.
    What sensible person would ever leave his child alone with a priest after all we have learned about them in recent years? It’s a disgusting occupation that we’d be better off without.

  • salero21

    Is the church corrupt?
    Depends who is asking, to whom the question is addressed and who answers it!
    There is much corruption in the church in general. However the church is not a Monolith today. So there are degrees and levels of corruption that are different from one church to another. Some churches or groups are more corrupt than others. Some churches or groups don’t have the traits of others etc. It goes on and on.
    However in the specific case of the Roman Catholic church, which in this case is the one being under questioning.

    The answer is a loud and resounding YES, it is Corrupt and has been Corrupt since it’s beginnings, since the 4th century on. It is Corrupt from top to bottom, from beginning to end, left and right. It is Corrupt in her structure of hierarchies, in its Idolatrous worship, in her dogmas and doctrines. YES, the Roman Catholic church in particular is very Corrupt.

    .

  • ThomasBaum

    Are you saying that “the Roman Catholic church” is a mirror of humanity?

  • salero21

    ThomasBaum,
    No I’m not saying that in my post! Is a thought on your part. However I could say that indeed is part of the wrongs of mankind. I does not reflect humanity from my perspective. Because humanity is made up of ALL of its members and its endeavours both the good and the bad. Humanity for me includes a man his wife and children. The RCC, which really is those who are part of hierarchical structure. Namely the priests, bishops, archbishops, cardinals, the pope, the nuns and whatever else have them in their schematic pyramid. Do Not mirrors that at all!

  • salero21

    Pardon misstypo. Page/site in Internet Explorer keeps jumping up and down! I meant to say in 4th sentence: It does not reflect humanity from my perspective.

  • loonie259

    A sad note of irony is that throughout history, teachers have a much worse record of pedophilia. I’m sure no parent gives a second thought to leaving their child alone with a teacher. Maybe we’d be better off without them too. Sounds pretty stupid doesn’t it.

  • loonie259

    No the church is not corrupt. It has been led by the Holy Spirit for over 2000 years. It may stumble now and then, but it is constantly being barraged by evil. The bible says the gates of hell will not prevail against her. Those words give me great comfort.

  • Sadetec

    Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity,
    For he’s a fiend in feline shape, a monster of depravity.
    You may meet him in a by-street, you may see him in the square–
    But when a crime’s discovered, then Macavity’s not there!

    Except from “Macavity, the Mystery Cat” (T S Eliot)

  • Sadetec

    @loonie259 “I’m sure no parent gives a second thought to leaving their child alone with a teacher.”

    That is perhaps because when the floodgates opened a while back and child abuse victims started to be taken seriously, the teaching profession largely responded with transparency and welcomed checks and safeguards. The Catholic Church, by contrast, continues to resist transparency and seems more intent on protecting itself. And this from an organisation whose sole reason for being is to provide moral and spiritual guidance.

    If there’s something worse than doing a bad thing, it’s not accepting responsibility; and if there’s something worse than not accepting responsibility, it’s having the gall to tell everyone else you’re a paragon of virtue.

  • xexon

    The church was corrupt from it’s inception.

    It’s a spiritually blind institution that leads others who are blind. And if you’re blind, you have to take the word of the one leading you by the arm, don’t you?

    How many times have you tried to take over the world?

    Your power comes not from your spirituality, but from a better argument that those you lead. Your followers want to believe they are doing the right thing by staying true on your path and that’s how you take advantage of them.

    The church is dying. Because it knows nothing of eternal life.

    You believers need to stand aside and let it go.

    x

  • catatonicjones

    Here it is again, since other human groups suffer pedophilia too, it’s ok that the catholic church is doing it. What’s wrong with you people! You’re positively evil to go on like that, forgiving your evil church for the evil it has done and continues to do to children.

    This makes you conspirators after the fact, if you didn’t molest that little boy then you letting your bishops hide the priest who did it makes you an accomplice.

    Sick, perverts!

  • amelia45

    People in the Church can be corrupt. They can lead the Church to committ atrocities, to err. That includes the pew sitters, the priests, bishops, cardinals, even popes.

    While Stevens-Arroyo finds “hope” because “lay persons are smarter than some think”, it won’t help if the Church leadership won’t lend an ear to listen to what we have to say.

  • KingDavidRetired

    Whether Mr Stevens-Arroyo likes it or not, the Catholic Church brings the faithful to the fullness of the faith. If it was corrupt, it would fail to do as much. He very much exagerated the truth in his story. And he very much exagerated the extent of corruption in the church. This story is grossly inaccurate.

  • xexon

    All I see is a piper calling the blind. Thirsty people will do anything to put out that terrible burning. Religion is the first cup handed to most of them.

    Here we have a very powerful organization that operates under the Jesus trademark. Remove that trademark, you’re not that different from how a mafia familiy operates.

    And your spiritual licence?

    All the rituals and traditions have nothing to do with a spiritual path. That path is inward, between you and yourself. You put on a good song and dance, but you have no idea how to appraoch the divine.

    You all dance with an angel of light. Because you cannot see the hand offered to you.

    x

  • just_looking

    Ratzinger is the very embodiment of the “filth” that is the Catholic Church.

  • WulfranoRuizSainzCAM

    Just ask Milingo, Malachi Martin and Gabriel Amorth.

  • WulfranoRuizSainzCAM

    The Church was holy for 2000 years. However, since John XXIII and Vatican Council II she started to become unholy and unfaithful. This is why the world will end soon.

  • memor2day

    “Almost all of us know someone among family or friends who is gay, and we are more interested in seeing them live happily than punishing them with restrictive laws.”
    As faithful Catholics we are called to carry the mesage of redemp[tion, especially to those living in sin. If I am just wanting a friend or co-worker to be a “happy” active homosexual and never challenge them gently & firmly about living in sin, then I am enabling the behavior. That is not punishing them with a restricive law enforcement method, It is being done out of love to guide them to repent and live a “truly” happy life in the Lord. Silence is compliance.

  • Elohist

    I think the article made the difference between personal feelings and campaigns to punish gays and lesbians by preventing them from getting medical care, living quarters, or job discrimination. Bullying is a particular issue among gay childredn leading at times to suidice. Some Catholics feel it is their duty to pass laws prohibiting gays and lesbians from their full rights as citizens. Most of us don’t. As for who is living in sin and who isn’t, the bishops have some problems in that issue. Also, memor2day, didn’t the Savior say something about “not judging others”?

  • etza22

    How easy to it to publish falsehoods. The author should educate himself.
    The international Catholic priesthood has been growing on a yearly basis, not shrinking as alleged. The Catholic population has also been growing on a yearly basis. Open your eyes and obtain statistics from the true Church, not from gossip magazines.

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