It is generally understood that our childhood experiences have a strong impact on our life and our values. Our two most recent Popes had similar childhood experiences. Karol Wojtyla grew up during the Russian occupation of Poland, and Josef Ratzinger grew up during the Nazi rule in Germany. Both their experiences included totalitarian government: people kept in line by punishment and threats; persons denounced for any deviation without necessarily knowing just why they were being denounced; preoccupation with secrecy, power, control – to name just a few examples.
These same practices apply to governance system of the church today. It is not farfetched to say the these Popes ruled/rule the church with the totalitarian attitudes they experienced in their youth. Both these systems generated a level of fear among the persons to whom they gave various levels of responsibility. These minions knew that, if they wanted any kind of advancement, they would have to please their boss more than others did. The same is painfully true of the church governance system today.
Also, these systems made good use of scapegoats, people to focus attention on in order to give their subordinates something to do to please their bosses. This is true today in the church, where current scapegoats are, among others, women in general and persons with same sex attraction. Examples include, but are not limited to, the way the hierarchy treats women who feel called to priesthood, the LCWR whose members dare to live the Gospel in a way that puts the hierarchy to shame, the threats that recognizing same sex marriages will assault catholics freedom of religion and destroy marriage as we know it. The harder the hierarchs work at promoting al this, the more they will please their bosses, and the better their chances of being promoted or rewarded for their efforts. Where is this in the Gospel? The folks are beginning to see through all this.
Secrecy is important because knowledge is power. If people don’t know what is going on, it is easier to keep them in line. If theologians know they might be persecuted for something they write without knowing just why, the hierarchs think they can keep these folks under control and afraid to say anything controversial. If people do not know how their local “rulers” are chosen, they are easier to rule, or so it seems. However, the folks are becoming upset at this. Is this the way Jesus treated folks?
Totalitarian regimes depend on their secret police, and the church is no exception. No one knows who they are, but that they are is no secret. Unnamed persons denounce to local or higher authority, or to their friends in high places, priests who speak what seems to be other than the party line. Unnamed readers denounce theologians who think outside the box, reporting them to whomever. How these theologians are dealt with often is a matter of public record.
A totalitarian regime will do whatever it thinks necessary to preserve itself in power. Keeping people in line and under control is vital to a regime’s survival. Honesty and fairness are not important. Fear is an effective tool. Some ways the church shows this facet of its character include: silencing persons who do not toe the party line; denying a person’s participation in Eucharist; excommunicating or defrocking any who do not submit. An advantage the hierarchy has is it’s claim to be acting in the name of Jesus. Folks are beginning to see through that facade, because they know Jesus did not live that way.
Ideas are dangerous, while acts, no matter how heinous, are not. Examples are numerous. A clergy member of any level is swiftly removed if he shows any encouragement for optional celibacy, women priests, or same sex marriage, while those who cover up, or who have covered up, child abuse, etc, are left in their positions. Independent thinking is a real threat to any totalitarian system, and the church system is no exception. Nothing new here.
Totalitarian values do not appear in the Gospel. The impression is that the system of the church has long since departed the Gospel. While the Gospel is among its stated values, it does not seem part of its operational values.
The governance system of the church is very different from church of the folks in the pews, or who used to be in the pews. It might even be two churches — the church of the system, and the church of the folks. The folks who stick around are often bewildered by the system, yet do their best to live the Gospel as they see it, whether or not they agree with the system. They see the goodness of God in other folks around them, and respond to it as best they can, again, not always consonant with the system. They know that folks are not bad because their lifestyle might not be approved by the system. As they watch the system deal with folks it fears, they come to realize something is disturbing. These sorts of actions are nowhere in the Gospel.
However, it is good to know that, in the midst of all the turmoil surrounding the usual hot spots of abuse and coverup, same sex marriage, ordination of women, optional celibacy, shortage of priests, etc, the hierarchy have addressed issues around the Agnus Dei sung at Mass. This should immediately wipe away all its malfeasance and nonfeasance, and restore all creation to its original innocence. The gentlemen who are the system really have folks’ good at heart.
Just sayin . . .