09 May, 2010

U.S. Catholics Speak Out on Pope's Resignation : YES or NO ???

The Pope can't be kicked out of the Catholic Church. Nor is there any way to force him to resign. It's not even clear that he could resign, since no one  has the authority to accept his resignation.

Yet many have pondered and some have "demanded" that Benedict XVI resign his office for mishandling the Church's response to the "sex abuse" or "pedophilia" issue and scandal that is nearly worldwide now. The question is, how do ordinary Catholic people feel about all this?

On May 5th, the National Catholic Reporter released results on a few key issues found in a Zogby Poll which was to be released May 6th. The NCR reported on results based on the following three questions:

Do you approve or disapprove of the overall job that (a) Pope Benedict XVI, (b)  that the American Catholic Bishops are doing?   [emphasis added].

Over half (56%) of the American Catholic adult population expresses confidence in the overall job the Pope is doing. Only about 3 in 10 (32%) disagree that the Holy Father is doing and adequate job. However, when asked about the American bishops' "job rating," the split is basically 50-50. forty-five percent said the Bishops are doing a good job, while 44% are not happy with the overall job the bishops are doing.

Perhaps the full report will give further details and other comparisons. As it stands now, whether the Pope or the bishops are doing a "good job"overall may well be influenced by specific issues. for example with the American bishops, some could be very "pro-life" with the bishops but against them on immigration. Some people support the Pope's efforts on getting rid of sex abuse but oppose his efforts to stave off global warming. There is a more specific question.

Overall how would you rate (a) Benedict's, (b) the American Catholic bishops' efforts to address the sexual abuse situation within the Catholic Church?

Regarding Pope Benedict, 38% say he is doing an "Excellent" or Good" job handling the sex abuse crisis. But more than half of all adult Catholics (56%), express negative feelings about Benedict's efforts to address the sexual abuse problem in the Church.

The American Bishops fare even worse than the pope. Only one-fifth of American Catholics (20%) are positive about the Bishop's efforts to solve the crisis. On the other hand, three-quarters of  American Catholics are negative about the bishops' efforts to solve the sex abuse crisis.

How might we explain these very negative ratings? Many have already tried to explain the "loss of faith" in Catholic leaders. Just a few of the reasons given include: moving priest abusers from parish to parish so they might abuse again, fearing more for the reputation of the institutional Church than the harm done to the abuse victims, the lack of compassion to the victims and their families (and we learn now, a lack of compassion toward those priests who have been exonerated by civil and religious authority). The list is nearly endless.

Certainly individual cardinals, bishops, priests, lay persons employed by the Church (E.g. lawyers, media spokespersons, etc), have made "mistakes" and even sins in the way cases of sex abuse have been handled.
Some Cardinals have praised bishops who refuse to cooperate with civil authorities. Some American bishops have been very slow to implement the procedures (E.g. "One-strike and you are out") to attend to sex abuse as agreed to by the Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Vatican with the Pope's blessing. Many of these examples apply to mistaken judgments on the part of individual clerics, some of whom were  naive or misguided. In some other individual cases, I suspect that sinful motives of power, control and advancement were present, even dominant.

The American Catholic community, like the U.S. population in general can be very forgiving and compassionate as long as leaders accept responsibility and make amends, even if that involve resignation from office or imprisonment.

Until the very bureaucratic, secretive system that has grown, not only for legitimate governance, but also as a control mechanism, is thoroughly modified from top to bottom, with a very high level of transparency, trust will never be fully restored. The American people have suffered at the hand of misguide or criminal entrepreneurs, politicians, bankers, and Congresspersons. What they are upset and angry about is that the institutional Church has not held itself to a higher Christian code of ethics. Again, a more Christian, humane, transparent, justice with mercy  system must be established to restore the faith and confidence of American Catholics.

Some have called for the Pope to resign as a result of the sex abuse in the Catholic Church. Others believe he should not resign. Do you believe that Pope Benedict XVI should resign or do you believe he should continue?

There is clear evidence in this survey that the bulk of American Catholics do not believe that the Pope should resign. In fact, almost two-thirds (64%) say that Pope Benedict XVI should continue as pope. Only 16% say that he should resign. Finally, about 20% of American Catholics say they are "insure" or "Don't Know" if the pope should continue or resign. Assume for a moment that the entire group of "unsure" and "Don't know" Catholics make up their minds in favor of resignation. Even then, those in favor of the pope remaining in office would be double the number favoring resignation.

Those who seek resignation do so for a number of reasons. Most salient these days is dissatisfaction with  the handling of the pedophilia / abuse reality as indicated in the answer to the second question above.  Also there is a belief by some that the way the pope, Vatican Congregations and bishops conduct affairs to much too secretive and authoritarian; that in today's world the Church must be more "open" and "democratic".

Yes, there is much frustration and anger that so much has been covered up in the past and that vigorous reformation of  the procedures and processes in the Church are too slow and incomplete in light of the terrible seriousness of this situation. I too am frustrated and saddened over the current state of affairs!!

But should Pope Benedict XVII resign?????  NO !!! I have come to this conclusion on my own, but I was influenced by two recent articles in NCR  by John Allen. Allen praised and critiqued the Pope. He laid out things that the Pope could do and and "should do" to deal with the Sex Abuse issue and set the stage for appropriate procedures in the future.

Allen suggests that Pope Benedict XVI is the best available (only??) person to have at this time for response to this particular crisis. Benedict knows more about the history of sex abuse than just about any living person. Since being made responsible to handle all sex abuse cases in the 1980s as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he has the best overview of what has transpired recently.He has also made some very important changes. He was a key player in approving the American Bishops' "One strike and you're out" policy and telling bishops to cooperate with civil authorities. More recently he has shown some compassion toward the actual victims themselves.

Yes, in spite of the slowness of these moves and errors in judgment and action, The Holy Father is the most knowledgeable person and the one with the authority to set the record straight, require bishops to respond in appropriate ways and implement necessary changes to provide transparency in Church decisions, procedures.

If the Pope resigns can anyone not realize the confusion and vacuum that would delay any further progress in dealing with this issue? Can anyone not realize how long it would take a new pope to "get up to speed" on this issue? Although it has been much less than adequate, Benedict has the knowledge and experience to act. How many others, who have a chance to be elected pope, have this knowledge and experience? How many have realized that a new pope might be more conservative, even reactionary and undo what has been done. Anyone for a certain French bishop as pope?.

No, what we need now is relatively quick action to handle this issue now! The responsibility of the laity and much of the lower clergy is to address our frustration an/or anger to influence (pressure?) for changes we know must occur.

What do you think about resignation or continuation for the Pope?

Do you have any suggestions for me or others of ways to successfully influence the Pope (and the Vatican / bishops) to implement better ways of responding to this issue?

I would appreciate comments on this post :)

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