Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I don't understand. Not anymore.

The trouble with us Catholics is that we're willing to sell our souls to Eros' pervy cousin so we can keep buying the party line -- so we can keep believing in a God we kind of understand who speaks to us through weaselly little men we can't trust.

I realize it wasn't overly auspicious when Jesus picked a fly-off-the-handle dullard as the first pope, a guy who would go on to deny Him three times when the chips were down. Of course, I also realize that, with Peter, at least there was room for growth.

He turned out pretty OK in the end.

That more of Peter's successor popes and bishops haven't exhibited equal growth potential have contributed to an ongoing crisis of authority in the church. "Do as I say, not as I do" is a better ethos, I suppose, than "do what thou wilt," but it only takes one so far -- especially when one believes, as Catholics are taught, that salvation runs through the church.
When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"
They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."
Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
OF COURSE, in 1517, it became a little hard to take when yet another crooked Borgia pope wielded the keys to the kingdom with a capitalistic flair including not only the sale of indulgences, but also the keys to the kingdom itself. It had to be rather like acceding to the belief that salvation ran through the Corleone family.

When the Reformation blew up in the church's face, things got so bad that Catholics actually had to clean up their own soiled sanctuary. It was too late, of course, but better late than never in the eyes of the God we kind of understand, one supposes.

In our own time, the God we kind of understand tells us that salvation runs not through the Corleone family (yay!) but instead through the National Man-Boy Love Association (crap!).

Of course, that's not what the God we kind of understand actually says through His district managers -- indeed, they will swear up and down that everything's on the up-and-up -- but we're well familiar with the whole "do as I say" deal. Besides, every day we have hammered into our weary brains the sights and sounds of the dirty deeds done by those weaselly little men we can't trust.

JUDGING by appearances, the God we kind of understand is fine with that. Well, at least the prosecutor in Clay County, Mo., must be. The Kansas City Star reports he just gave the weaselly little bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph a "get out of jail cheap" card:
Bishop Robert Finn today avoided facing a criminal misdemeanor indictment in his handling of a priest facing child pornography charges by agreeing to enter into a diversion program with the Clay County prosecutor.

Authorities have pledged not to prosecute Finn, the leader of the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, if he lives up to the terms of a five-year diversion agreement.

Clay County Prosecutor Daniel L. White also said that a grand jury indicted the Rev. Shawn F. Ratigan on three counts of possessing child pornography. The new indictment supersedes a state criminal complaint that charged Ratigan on May 19. Ratigan, 46, also faces a 13-count federal indictment of possessing, producing and attempting to produce child pornography. He remains in federal custody.

The Clay County indictment alleges that Ratigan possessed three images of child pornography on a computer on May 13. White said each of those counts is a Class C felony, punishable by up to seven years in prison and fines of up to $5,000.

Finn’s agreement with Clay County requires him to meet face-to-face each month with White for the next five years to discuss any allegations of child sex abuse levied against clergy or diocesan staff within the diocese’s Clay County facilities. Finn also is to describe what steps the diocese has taken to address the allegations. White would then decide whether to encourage police to investigate any allegations.

Finn also agreed to visit all Clay County parishes to outline new programs the diocese is implementing to protect children. In those meetings, Finn will be accompanied by the diocesan ombudsman and its newly appointed director of child and youth protection.

ON THE other hand, Finn's treatment at the hands of the Clay County prosecutor is far harsher than anything he faces from the long arm of the Lord. The one we understand, because He's been explained so thoroughly to us these days by weaselly little men.

No, so far as I know, what Finn faces from his Catholic Church superiors would be . . . nothing.

I hope I'm wrong, but somehow I doubt that.

That would be close to the extent of what I know about anything anymore -- particularly my church. I do know this: I am sick of being repeatedly sickened by the institution that's supposed to help me get to heaven.

I also know this: I no longer believe in the God we kind of understand. The God who reminds one, more than anything, of the Mighty Oz. Pay no attention to that pederast-protecting bishop behind the curtain.

What I want to believe in is the God we don't understand at all.

Flannery O'Connor once wrote that a god we understood would be less than ourselves. Minimalist bishops -- those whitewashed sepulchers who helped get us into this mess -- understand that one quite well. To hell with it, and them.

I want that other one. I want the God who flummoxes me, yet gives me life.

I want my church to want Him, too. And I want "shepherds" like Robert Finn to get the hell out of His way.

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