Angela Shanahan |
February 08, 201412:00AM
IF there is one area where your opinion columnist provokes the ire of a certain type of reader, it is on the topic of religion.
Only about religion, especially when it touches on the Catholic Church, do I get a lot of very negative correspondence – and then some.
Admittedly, lately there seems to have been only one story about the church and that is the seemingly endless one of the sex-abuse crisis. But then, last March, a new story emerged: the Francis phenomenon.
The European press is full of Pope Francis. Everyday we hear about the new Pope’s various eccentricities and style, but very little about what he really thinks. We know the new Pope, like previous popes, wants to end corruption and tackle some of the institutional problems that led to this crisis in the first place.
The church does have to keep on addressing this problem, at every level and all the time, in many different ways. In the West, the fact it is doing so hasn’t really quelled the criticism from the secularists.
There will never be accord between the secularists and the church on this, as a new report from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child illustrates.
The Holy See has had an uneasy relationship with the UN for a very long time now, partly because it is a very different kind of entity from any other nation-state: no temporal power at all but huge moral authority.
Meanwhile, the moral authority of the UN is dwindling, along with its malleable attitude to its own charter of human rights, and the corruption of many of its agencies.
The new report on the rights of the child has concentrated on repeated, and often justified, criticisms of the church. It may seem the UN has decided the new papacy is just the right time to respond to the church’s attempts to tackle this problem, via the UN representatives to the Holy See.
But that is not actually what the report is about. If it had confined itself to the administrative, practical area, that would have been perfectly fine.
However, it goes much further. It makes demands on the teachings of the church, which no secular organisation is justified in making. The UN exposes its deep ideological agenda in this report.
Not content to recommend ways in which abuse of minors can be exposed and tackled through institutional avenues, the UN has decided to give the successor of Peter a bit of a lesson in modern sexual mores, which it seems to think is a very successful way of implementing the rights of the child. So it has suggested the church change its teaching on contraception, abortion and, of course, “gender” – that is, homosexuality.
Considering the mess that liberalising sexual mores has made of 21st-century Western family life, it is strange indeed that the UN feels it has some sort of superior mandate to set norms of sexual behaviour.
It also seems rather pointless for the UN to suggest the church change its view on sexual morality when the UN has been less than successful in its own pursuit of the rights of the child, with the activities of sexual predators (some of whom are even Australian) making a multi-million-dollar business out of peddling children on the internet.
Not only that, in recommending the church have a more lax attitude to abortion the UN committee also recommends the ultimate abrogation of the child’s rights, and a contradiction of its own charter.
The preamble of the Rights of the Child speaks of the child’s rights “before and after birth”. Hypocrisy and doublethink is deeply emebdded in the UN rights agenda.
So why does the UN presume to make demands on church teaching when it knows the church cannot succumb?
It is simple, really. By doing so, and pointing to the intransigence of the church, the UN has tried to embarrass the Holy See, generate yet more negative publicity about what simple-minded secularists call “church policies”, and thus undermine the Francis phenomenon.
Nevertheless, at least the UN notes with approval that Pope Francis has set up a committee to create a special commission to deal with sexual abuse cases at the hands of clergy, to work with local authorities to prosecute offenders and to help victims.
The problem is that the church is global, with more reach than the UN, and it will take a long time to sort this.
In Australia, there has already been change. Oddly, there has been a rise in the number of vocations and many of these have emerged from the phenomenon of the new ecclesial movements, some of which use radically different styles of worship while maintaining Catholic orthodoxy.
The Missionaries of God’s Love, a new Australian order of priests started in Canberra, are an example of this.
They take a radical vow of poverty, they have a long period of discernment, and they are not trained in the old strict institutional model, which can be blamed for a lot of the stultifying, warping effect that caused the flourishing of sexual misconduct in the past.
Rather, they live within the community and have a lot of contact with lay people. Happy clappies are not everyone’s cup of tea, certainly not mine, but the modern church is less hung up on rubrics and more interested in substance.
The church won’t change overnight, but it is changing, and the new papacy is not just an engine of change; Pope Francis is almost a personification of it.