Thursday, 28 February 2013

Is the Catholic Church finally imploding?

Well! Well! Well! So Cardinal O’Brien, the most senior Roman Catholic in the UK, and one of our most outspoken and vituperative opponents, has resigned over allegations of “inappropriate” behaviour towards young priests under his tutelage. The allegations have yet to be corroborated, and are under investigation by the Vatican, though I have little confidence that we will ever get to the bottom of them. The Vatican, as we all know, is very good at cover ups. However the fact that Cardinal O’Brien has resigned and will no longer have a vote in the selection of the next Pope speaks volumes.

Coming so soon after the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, the first Pope to resign in over 600 years remember, what does all this mean for the Catholic Church? Well it certainly exposes the hypocrisy that exists within.

Responding to the news of O’Brien’s resignation, Stonewall’s Ben Summerskill said, “We trust there will now be a full investigation into the serious allegations made against Cardinal O’Brien. We hope his successor will show a little more Christian charity towards openly gay people than the Cardinal will himself.”  If the rest of the Catholic hierarchy is anything to go by, I’m not holding out much hope.

Cardinal O’Brien is not an isolated incident of course. For a while now, there have been allegations of a secret gay mafia within the Vatican, including Cardinals, participating in gay bars, saunas, chat rooms and using the services of male prostitutes. According to Peter Tatchell, “The Vatican is shamelessly championing homophobia and the denial of legal equality to gay people, while hosting a hotbed of secret, guilt-ridden clerical homosexuality.” Tatchell hopes that Cardinal O’Brien’s resignation will result in “the Catholic church turning over a new leaf by selecting a more caring, compassionate replacement who respects LGBT equality and human rights." I would like to think so too, but, call me cynical, somehow I doubt it. With an African Cardinal being touted as a possible new Pope, there’s more chance that the Vatican will close ranks, and, if anything, go back on the attack. The Church certainly doesn’t seem to be able to learn from its mistakes.

Bit by bit over the last few years, scandals have been emerging in various countries. There have been countless allegations of child abuse by priests, some covered up by Ratzinger himself, the victims silenced, whilst the real criminals, those paedophile priests were just moved on so they could carry on their crimes elsewhere.  In 2011, it was discovered that up to 300,000 Spanish babies were stolen from their parents and sold for adoption over a period of five decades. The children were trafficked by a secret network of doctors, nurses, priests and nuns in a widespread practice that began during General Franco’s dictatorship and continued until the early Nineties. The present Pope cannot personally be blamed for that of course, but it is just another example of the rotten core that exists within the heart of the Catholic Church. I rather hope that it means that the Church is gradually imploding and sinking into a cesspit of its own making. No doubt I am wrong and it will rise phoenix like from the ashes, but at the moment it’s a very nice thought.

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