Friday, April 30, 2010

Church Scandal

There are times when the power of theology bends reality and creates a better world for ourselves and our children.  And there are other times when theology blinds us and distorts reality.  The vision exalted by our prophets is an example of the former.  The latter describes the current situation of the Catholic Church.  Abraham Joshua Heschel and Martin Luther King are as well examples of the power of theology to transform reality for the better.  Theology and faith in God can summon us to be better, can call us to transform our world.  Faith is intended to give us strength day in and day out.  It is our source of confidence during troubling times.  This is why it saddens me to read of the growing scandal in the Catholic Church.  Today I read yet another article about the church's handling of priests accused of pedophilia.  Pope Benedict appears to have addressed this issue more forthrightly than any of his predecessors.  Yet there still appears to be a tendency to blame the crimes of priests on contemporary sexual mores rather than looking more closely within the church and in particular examining its theology of sex.  I admit I am biased.  I am of course Jewish and not Catholic.  I fail to understand celibacy.  I do not believe that sexual passion can be suppressed.  I believe it can be framed.  Judaism frames sex within the holiness of marriage.  Suppressing such a powerful drive leads to pain, confusion and…  I have no doubt that many priests are faithful to their vow of celibacy.  I also know that there are rabbis and ministers who abuse the power of their pulpit, using it primarily for the fulfillment of their own passions.  Despite this I do understand one part of the theory of celibacy.  It offers the priest the ability to be singularly devoted to his calling.  He can do what is best for his church.  His entire life can be about providing meaning for others.  His theology need not ever be compromised, in particular by the concerns of a spouse or family.  Sometimes I wonder what sacrifices my family has been called to make by my choice.  What have they lost in order that I can devote myself to this life of providing meaning for others?  I prefer of course this balancing act.  (I hope my children do as well.)  I would have it no other way.  I believe I am a better rabbi, not only because of the choices that were made for me, that I am a son and a brother, but more importantly because of the choices I made for myself, that I am a husband and a father.   There are times when I admire Catholic theology.  I admire the Catholic Church and Pope John Paul II for using the power of theology and faith to help bring down the Berlin Wall and end the tyranny of Communism.  In the cases we read about today, however, the church's theology is drawing a veil over reality.  It would be best if the Church examined itself and in this case allowed reality to bend theology.  Sometimes that makes for the more powerful faith.

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