A reader writes:
Your reader wrote:With regard to the people who exist within its hierarchy, the Roman church’s power is absolute. It could remove these men with the same dispatch that the Episcopal church showed if it wanted to. It doesn’t want to.
While, as a Catholic, I'm at least as down on the hierarchy as anybody can be, the statement above simply isn't true. The whole Catholic Church, including the Pope, is bound by an international Code of Canon Law, in which protections of the clergy, and the insistence on what we may consider excessive due process, are hard and fast. The Pope has no power just to "remove" a priest, especially one who has been entrusted with a parish. As a former Episcopalian, I often marvel at the power a local bishop has in that church. It's far beyond anything a Pope can dream of.
Your reader's comments about the Episcopal Church and its ability to deliver a swifter and more decisive response to abuse it well taken. But it should be noted that the Episcopal Church has a better track record with abuse not only because clergy are allowed to marry (and allowed to be from any gender and, increasingly, any sexuality), but also because the Anglican Communion is a highly decentralized body, with much autonomy given to individual congregations. It's obviously not so with the Catholic Church.
But the difference between the power structure of the two churches is not simply an administrative matter; it's a theological one. The Episcopal Church (which happens to be my own) sees theology as a dialogue between inherited traditions and the tug of regional and temporal change. It's designed to be responsive to those differences (and as a result, incidentally, it's teetering on the edge of schism ). It wouldn't be possible for the Catholic Church to follow the Episcopal model and still be Catholic. I think that's an important distinction.
Now, that said, I don't think the theological necessity of a large international hierarchy in any way justifies the sluggish response of the Catholic Church, which has been unequivocally criminal (why can't more people say it?). The idea that there are two systems of justice - one for rapists, and one for rapist priests - is indefensible and grotesque.
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