Clergy abuse needs conversion, not radical change, pope says

Is the headline on this NCR piece. Money quote:

The problem of abuse by clergy is solved more by a spirit of penitence and conversion by its members than by a radical change of church structures, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Right. everything's just fine the way it is. No need thinking about structures of clericalism cultivating in-crowd secrecy, abuse (and abdication) of authority by bishops, stonewalling of lay review boards, scapegoating gay priests and theologians, continued refusal to allow laity a voice in selecting leaders, etc. etc. While we're at it, let's ignore the dearth of clergy which threatens our sacramental life, the vocation-drain of people called to priesthood but not to celibacy, and of women called to priesthood, the fact that the young increasingly find the Church irrelevant to their lives and unhelpful with their concerns, and the increasing division of the Church into factions of the left and the right hurling epithets at each other. Just pray and it'll all go away.I'm all for prayer, penitence and conversion. But more is needed if we want to address the heart of the matter. It wasn't a few sinful apples. What must change are the structures that allowed them to flourish. And let's not miss this: "even theology can receive the distinctive contribution of women..." Even theology. Sigh...UPDATE: Some commentators below note that the connection to the clergy sex abuse crisis is not present in Benedict's text, but is the interpretation of the headline writer at NCR. Indeed, the "clergy abuses" referred to here are those attacked by the German Cathars in Hildegard of Bingen's day, not our current abuse scandal. Here's the closest passage from the Italian text, via Google-translator, with some fixes by me:

[Hildegard] scolded [those who] want to subvert the very nature of the Church, reminding them that [those who want] a true renewal of the Christian community do not get much with the change of structures but with a sincere spirit of penance and a path of active conversion. This is a message that we should never forget.

Indeed, I fell for a misleading headline. I'll leave the thread up because of the good comments below. The pope does resist calls for structural change in the Church, but I see no direct link to the current clergy sex abuse crisis. That IS the most common context for calls for structural change these days, but still...no need to read in more than is already there. But to all hereabouts, I apologize for falling for a misleading headline. My bad. HT Jim Pauwels, and Sonja for link to Italian source.

Lisa Fullam is professor of moral theology at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley. She is the author of The Virtue of Humility: A Thomistic Apologetic (Edwin Mellen Press).

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