Germany: These are sad chapters of the Church that we have seen in recent decades, especially because many churchgoers, especially the many women in the Church, had hoped to have overcome an even darker time before. Hopes for an open church, a patient church, a church more responsive to people’s diverse needs, a healing church, and a welcoming church, were dashed over the years. Instead, church authorities looked to hide or ignore the abuse taking place in the church and abandon the victims.
It turns out that even the pope who gave himself the name Benedict, which comes from the Latin word “benedicere” meaning “to bless, consecrate, praise,” threw up his hands when it became known that there were cases of abuse among some of his priests. The man who was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, founded on July 21, 1542, as Congregatio Romanae et universalis Inquisitionis, could not bring himself to act. Yes, that’s right, the word “Inquisition” is in the title, the head of the institution that had to take action against so-called heretics in church inquisition proceedings. It was reported that when he was archbishop, he disregarded the advice of the appointed psychiatrist, and a priest was placed where abuses eventually occurred.
Benedict, at that time not yet pope but cardinal, had a conflict with Hans Küng, the Swiss-born author who had caused unrest in 1962 with his much-discussed book, Structures of the Church. Küng’s major themes were celibacy, papal infallibility, and women’s priesthood, which become relevant again today after his death. In 1979, Kung lost his teaching license but authored many books on Faith and Church and died in 2021, and Ratzinger became pope in 2005 until his resignation on Feb. 28, 2013.
Now a voice has been raised, and priests should be able to marry. In 2017, 74 men were ordained as “late-called” (Spätberufene) married priests, compared to 77 the year before. It was because there was a priest shortage. I wonder why? In my view, the burden of celibacy is one that should only be taken up voluntarily and should also be reversed if it does not suit. Especially now, after the scandals have become known, it is understandable if mothers have little confidence in incumbents, even if it is by no means true of everyone. One lesson that history shows repeatedly is that endless and uncritical trust leads to abuse of trust, not only in the church.
There are enough examples of how this trust in the leaders of ideological movements was drastically disappointed. Solzhenitsyn in his “Archipelago Gulag” shows how convinced communists were interned and even until their death still believed that they would be reinstated to office. This shows how absolute trust can be against all evidence, even when people’s livelihoods or even lives are at risk. It is a warning that we should circumspective enough to assess trustworthiness, and not assume it because of the position people have.
I believe that it would do the church good to move away from obligatory celibacy, which was official from 1074 onwards, after Pope Gregory VII said that anyone to be ordained must first pledge celibacy, and that priests [must] first escape from the clutches of their wives. A clear misogynist move, a fear of femininity, which had bugged the church for centuries before, as shown in the brief history of celibacy on this site: https://www.futurechurch.org/brief-history-of-celibacy-in-catholic-church
Having collaborated with women for a prolonged period of time, it seems that there are two types of men: Those that admire them and those that are intimidated by them. I personally admire women, and see the struggles they go through, not least trying to protect their children and keeping a family together, whilst at the same time holding down a job. I, like many other men, regard my wife as the best friend in my life, and the better half which makes me whole. It would only make sense for her and I to share our decisions and plans, contributing each from their own perspective. This, I feel, has been severely lacking in the Catholic church.