In announcing his resignation, Pope Benedict XVI said: “In today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the ship of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”
We have to admire Pope Benedict XVI for knowing when to relinquish power and privilege for the sake of the big mission. His era was one of the most challenged with a series of sexual abuse scandals, financial embarrassments including expose of a 100% Vatican owned company that was producing porn. In a way, more than old age, it may have been the enormous burdens of our New Age that really caused the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.
Pope Benedict XVI shall turn over a Catholic Church in turmoil and in decline. The Philippine Catholic Church is in the same crisis. The recent writings of Jesuits Fr. Joel Tabora and Fr. Joaquin Bernas about the mistakes of the Catholic Church in confronting the RH Bill had been very popularly received on Facebook and were shared because these captured what majority of Filipinos felt about the bullying tactics of several Catholic Bishops, priests and nuns who have gone rabid over the RH Bill issue.
“People have been leaving the Catholic Church. People are about to leave the Church. It is time, I think, for Mahar Mangahas to take out his social survey tools to help us understand what is happening.” Fr. Tabora wrote in his February 7 blog posting titled The Catholic Church: Between the Sublime and the Ridiculous. Mahar Mangahas is the research guru of the SWS (Social Weather Station) to whom we run to get the social trends.
Fr. Tabora added: “People are tired of lousy homilies that ramble in inanities that begin and never end, and never end because they should never have begun. People are tired of being preached at, of being treated as if they were younger than adolescents, of being lectured, of being scolded, of being dictated upon. People are tired of obstinate claims to absolute truth, when the thinking world continues to seek truth. People are tired of being told how to think, when they can think for themselves, and how to choose, when they can choose for themselves, and how to have sex when they can have sex for themselves.”
He continued: “People are tired of the reproductive health (RH) discussion, debate, disaster, debacle. All right, they are willing to receive a clear statement of the teaching of the Church on this matter, and they understand that the hierarchy is serious about conveying its message, and that there are lay persons very passionate about making sure that that message gets conveyed. But hey, was it really necessary to devote the whole of Advent to it, including all of Simbang Gabi, and for Christmas fare, was it really so necessary to talk about Reproductive Health and the Virgin Birth through Conception by the Holy Spirit? And when New Year’s came, was it really so necessary to preach on Reproductive Health and Child Circumcision?”
Catholic Church has been experiencing sharp decline in numbers all over the world and it’s wrong to assign the cause to sexual abuse scandals. The sexual abuse scandals merely accelerated what is already in the woodwork — decay, rot, arrogance of narrow-minded clerics and a growing detachment from the reality of peoples’ lives.
The Week editorial of April 30, 2010 had this to say: “It’s “the largest institutional crisis in centuries, possibly in church history,” says the National Catholic Reporter. Worldwide, the Roman Catholic Church now has 1.1 billion members, compared with 1.5 billion Muslims and 593 million Protestants. In the US, all the major denominations have seen their numbers decline in recent years, but the Catholic Church has taken the biggest hit. Since the 1960s, four American-born Catholics have left the church for every one who has converted, according to a 2009 Pew study. In 2008 alone, Catholic membership declined by 400,000. More than 1,000 parishes have closed since 1995, and the number of priests has fallen from about 49,000 to 40,000 during that same period. Some 3,400 Catholic parishes in the US now lack a resident priest. “Catholicism is in decline across America,” says sociologist David Carlin.”
In Europe, the editorial added: “The situation there is even more dire, especially in the most historically devout countries. In 1991, 84 percent of the Irish population attended Mass at least once a week. Today the weekly attendance figure is less than 50 percent. In Spain, 81 percent of the population identifies itself as Catholic, but two-thirds say they seldom or never attend services. And the priest shortage is acute — in England and Wales, the church ordained only 16 clergy members in all of 2009.”
My February 3 “Where’s Jesus Christ” column elicited many responses that reflect this declining affinity and respect for the Catholic Church. Again, the loss of faith in the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church didn’t just result from the RH Bill issue. The RH Bill merely provided the trigger for expressing what’s already in many Catholic hearts and minds.
Over here, some leaders of the Catholic Church have crossed the line between church and state and are said to be actively campaigning for the downfall of President Benigno S. Aquino II (P-Noy) — the person they blame for the passage of the RH Bill. There’s a Jesuit, a nuisance more than a threat, that’s been actively meeting with military men, and reportedly agitating them. The Jesuit community, my source of information, doesn’t sanction this Jesuit’s activities. The Jesuits are generally supportive of P-Noy’s brand of good governance that targets inclusive growth and meaningful reforms.
The more the Catholic Church leaders here dabble into politics, especially when they seek the ouster of one of the best presidents this country has had, all the more they’re seen with dirty hands and are perceived as Pharisees. Times have changed. Peoples’ needs have changed. Sadly, some Catholic Church leaders are still in medieval mindset mode.
In a world where the pace of technology is dizzying, there’s an avalanche of new ideas and concepts — admittedly not all of them good. The Catholic Church couldn’t relate to its flock in this modern era unless it discards their medieval mindset and retrace their footsteps from Vatican II.
In Vatican II lies the Catholic Church’s redemption. The Pope’s resignation could be the opportunity to reform and attune the Church to the New Age.
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Shakespeare: “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.”