Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Corruption, Crisis, and Compassion

Sitting at the coffee shop, I read for a detailed account and reflection on the Vatican scandals. Sit and enjoy a peach danish with me in the air conditioning, and let's see if we can get less angry.

You've seen this in the news: the Vatican has been slowly opening its finances so as to belong to various Interpol and European financial networks, and a few leaks have broken them open even more. No matter the identity of the mole (probably not Paolo Gabriele, the butler) the world now knows the extent of financial and doctrinal corruption in the Vatican.

just a little secretive
The Vatican gives the impression of being infallible, a walled fortress of orthodoxy. Until now its interior workings - departments like the Pope's household, or the massively influential financial sector - were a mystery to everyone but experts and insiders. But combine the Vatican's desire to participate more openly with the EU as a nation, a series of document leaks, and intensified scrutiny following controversial stances, and we now see inside the wardrobe.

The sunlight is disinfecting the ark spaces of the Vatican. More than a few firings that seem to have been overdue make me wonder, "What else are we missing?" and, "Is there much more?" It seems that the Vatican is essentially a tax haven and mafia money laundering enterprise. I don't think that inspires faith or loyalty from our community. No, I think that there are real reasons to be very irate at our leadership.

In the meanwhile we are being asked to remember 'obedience' and 'humility' as our leaders in the US get more aggressive on controversial topics like birth control, health care, and justice for victims of abuse. And less than a year ago we were forced into an unpopular new old translation of the liturgy. I think Catholics in the US of all ages are at the breaking point.

Let's not be unkind, though. Criticism is fair in this case, since we have faith in an organization that is not trustworthy, and it can become better. But Criticism must not turn into Judgment and Condemnation. Fair criticism must come with compassion.

Compassion is the recognition that I, too, have failed in similar ways. The same demons and faults and shortcomings that led to this failure are inside me, too. Empathy is the heart of the Christian message - not corruption, not scandal.

Jesus punches money in the mouth
It's worth mentioning that the Vatican does not formally hold itself to be Camelot. Everything from the Vatican should be treated like Roman driving rules: idealistic, not realistic, and it's okay to break the rules. You will hear Vatican spokesmen talking as if this is to be expected, like any human organization (in the unlikely event that they talk with us at all). But we shouldn't let the Vatican back out of this mess. We do expect more from the Vatican, and these scandals are serious and systemic. We as the Church deserve an organization that works with the same wholeheartedness with which we serve. The Church must follow the Spirit, must follow Christ who turned over the money tables.

Even if that's an unobtainable, heavenly ideal towards which we are working, it is the Church's responsibility to show us the way, not to show us what not to do.

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