Monday, October 18, 2010

Why are ex-communication and public shame used on politicians that commit no grave delict or secular crime but not used on priests who commit both?

I thought I would continue on this theme reflecting upon grave delicts. 

As a consultant I am trained to examine what someone doesn't say as much or more than what they do say.  What a person omits can sometimes be as profound of a statement as what they verbalize. 

My last posting focused on that.  I compared what was stated in the grave delicts with what was not stated in them.  There is a grave delict against a priest absolving a woman from the sin of committing adultery with him. (Likely this ties to conflict of interest.)  There is also a grave delict against ordaining women. 

However, there are not grave delicts against raping or murdering women.  This easily could be interpreted as church leaders saying that the worst things a clergyman could do to a woman are to forgive her from the sin of having an adulterous encounter with him or to ordain her.  If there were things worse than those two, wouldn't they have a grave delict? 

Another thing I'm trained to look for as a consultant is a person's or organization's consistency between words and actions. What are the patterns between an organization's professed governing principles versus actions upon those principles?

My posting about toy Mass kits focused on that.  On the one hand we as a church state that simulating the celebration of Mass is the gravest of sins.  On the other hand, numerous Catholic organizations sell toy Mass kits, encouraging children to simulate celebrating Mass.  I've not yet heard of Catholic parents or children being ex-communicated for purchasing or using toy Mass kits. I've not heard of any of the vending companies that sell such kits being censured by the church either.  Indeed, the toy Mass kit market appears to be growing. Why is that?

There is a grave delict against priests sexually exploiting or abusing children.  Not only is it a grave delict, it is a felony in the United States.  However, I rarely hear of priests being ex-communicated for this.  Either it's not happening or it's happening very quietly.  Perhaps the secrecy and quiet discretion around such ex-communications are meant to preserve the priest's dignity rather than publicly shame him for committing the gravest of sins as well as a felony.

Aiding and abetting a felon is also a felony.   Yet aiding and abetting a child-abusing priest is not a grave delict.  Therefore, though bishops who move or ignore child-abusing priests rather than enforce this grave delict against morality do not commit a grave delict themselves, they do commit a felony.  Why isn't there a grave delict against bishops who move, hide information about, defend or otherwise fail to hold accountable child-abusing priests?

Conversely, there is no grave delict against Catholic secular politicians voting opposite the wishes of their bishop.  A politician voting their conscience is not illegal in secular law either.  Yet, in the United States there is a growing trend of bishops who wish to refuse communion to (ex-communicate) secular politicians who vote differently than the bishop wishes.  When this occurs, it carries a great deal of publicity, trying to publicly shame the politician.  Some might see such bishops' actions as using the Holy Eucharist as a political device, which to many represents sacrilegious abuse of the sacrament (a grave delict).

Why are ex-communication and public shame used on politicians that commit no grave delict or secular crime but not used on priests who commit both?   It would seem that matters related to grave delicts would be fodder for ex-communication and public shame before matters that do not.

P.S.  Keep in mind, a great theologian named Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) once spoke of the importance of following one's own conscience, even over the pope's edicts if necessary, to ward against the church becoming a totalitarian state:

Over the pope as expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority, there stands one's own conscience which must be obeyed before all else, even if necessary against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority. This emphasis on the individual, whose conscience confronts him with a supreme and ultimate tribunal, and one which in the last resort is beyond the claim of external social groups, even the official church, also establishes a principle in opposition to increasing totalitarianism.
(Joseph Ratzinger in: Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II ,Vol. V., pg. 134 (Ed) H. Vorgrimler, New York, Herder and Herder, 1967). 

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