Friday, April 16, 2010

Transparency and the Church

It's well known that for the last month or so Pope Benedict XVI has suffered unwarranted attacks in the media in regard to sex abuse scandals. I wrote in defense of the pontiff here. I believe that then Cardinal Ratzinger is innocent of the charges that the media are slinging at him. While I will come to the defense of the pope, I can't, nor do I believe anyone can say that high members of the Catholic Church did what was necessary to do protect the innocent children during the 50's through the 90's. I think they were so scared of the Church looking bad that they hid things and attempted to cover them up. They failed to take the advice of Jesus that everything in darkness will eventually be brought to the light. Obviously this mentality blew up in their face. Bishops would have been better served if they would have been transparent.

Transparency is a buzz-word that has been going around for the last several years. I admit that until a couple years ago I didn't understand what it was. The police department then, always mindful to have a mission statement, a vision statement and all that other stuff that commanders like to have, came out with C.R.I.T.I.C.A.L.---"Critical values." Each letter symbolizes a word the department is striving to be. The only one I remember is "T"--transparent. It means that if we are upfront with the community and are open with our failings instead of trying to cover them up then we, as a department, will build trust because the community will see us being honest. The department has done this by going to the media when officers have screwed up--much to the chagrin of the officers sometimes.

It appears to me that one of the reasons the church got into such a mess is that they were such afraid of a scandal that they swept stuff under the rug. They hid things. They failed to be transparent. To be sure, there are pastoral concerns to take into consideration. There is some secrecy needed in order to protect the child and the priest (they still get that whole "innocent until proven guilty" treatment too, ya know) Even after the priest is found guilty some secrecy is needed because again, the child needs to be protected. I don't think that was the thought process that bishops may have had though. I think they thought that if they covered it up the church wouldn't be scandalized. Not only were they wrong but it actually made the problem worse.

It's been said that the church is not a museum for sinners as it is a hospital for sinners. It is so important for people to remember that. Bishops, priests, nuns, deacons and other religious brothers and sinners are just as much sinners as the rest of us. We should love them and respect them because of their having dedicated their lives to God but we need to realize that they face the same temptations that we do and they are sinners just as we are.

One thing that I has helped me on my spiritual journey is by being transparent. The fear of someone thinking that I'm a hypocrite because I proclaim Jesus but fail to live the life he wants me too was always one of my stumbling blocks. Believe me, I have plenty of flaws--just ask my wife, Abby. That's why I go to confession regularly. I'm doing my best but I fail. I prefer to be up front about this obvious fact. I've been told that I am too open. I've been told that some may be critical an say, "LOOK! This is the type of person that the Catholic Church has accepted into the diaconate formation process!! The church is wrong again!!" I respectfully disagree. I think people see me for who I am and find me more approachable and instead say, "Hey, if Jamie can keep tripping and getting back up then so can I."

I think people in the church need to worry less about scandal striking the church and focus more on what causes that scandal. It has made great strides in the last 8 years. The Roman Catholic Church is now one of the few religious institutions that publicizes statistics of reported sexual abuse. I think this is a great example and how the Catholic Church will start to rebuild trust.


  1. Jamie I agree with this post 100%, I love my church and thankful for my faith but I didn't like all the cover ups and pay offs, priest with children, etc. We are all human, we make mistakes, we sin.....but by admitting our flaws and sins, learning from them and correcting them we can build a stronger church, the church God meant it to be.........:-) Hugs