Sexual abuse scandals are causing a lot of people to lose confidence in the Pope. There are striking results from yesterday's poll of Germans, which found that "even among Catholics, only a minority trusted the church or the Pope. Only 39 per cent had confidence in the Pope, down from 62 per cent at the end of January, and 34 per cent trusted the church, down from 56 per cent." If it's true that they did nothing about the priest who molested 200 deaf children (was he trying to set a record or something?) the loss of confidence is warranted.
I think the best reasons for opposing the church hierarchy have to do with their policies on contraception, which cause massive suffering in poor parts of the world. The Pope goes to Africa and says things like "It is of great concern that the fabric of African life, its very source of hope and stability, is threatened by divorce, abortion, prostitution, human trafficking and a contraception mentality." From the point of view of human welfare, of these things are not like the others. Condoms prevent people from dying of AIDS or having children they can't support -- both of which are huge problems in that part of the world. Somebody who uses his position of authority to liken the "contraception mentality" to human trafficking should be despised by anyone who cares about people.
As I've said before, I admire American Catholics for thinking for themselves about what's right and wrong, and rejecting many of the views of the church hierarchy. If there was some way to replace the pedophile-protecting, contraception-opposing old men of the church hierarchy with randomly selected Catholic men and women off the streets of Boston and El Paso, it would become a far more admirable institution.
Just some clarification on the issue of the horrible instance of abuse by the Wisconsin priest:
At the time the Vatican was notified (1996), the abuse had occurred 22 years earlier (1950 - 1974), civil authorities had investigated but not come to conclusion on the charges, and the priest had been already removed from ministry and was pretty much on his deathbed (he died 4 months after). The Vatican confirmed he should remain stripped of his ministry to others but did not 'defrock' him. Current policy, proposed by this same Pope in 2002 set higher standards and under this ruling the priest would more than likely also been 'defrocked'. One can still debate whether the issue may have been handled differently but the insinuation that seems to be made in the press is that he allowed this priest to continue in his ministry in the midst of his terrible actions.
Mr. Kautzman, no doubt deliberately, conflates current policy (reaffirmed in 2002) with Cardinal Ratzinger's (= the current Pope's) actual response in 1996. His response then: he did not even reply to letters sent to him directly from Wisconsin. Here is an informative piece: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpZz8Ps6u6M
As for "American Catholics", I'm not so sure they are any more enlightened than the rest of us. If anything, the opinion polls you mention, from Germany, show that many Catholic laypeople worldwide are far more enlightened than the Catholic clergy. And the BBC report linked to above was followed by an interview with (Democrat and faithful Catholic) Ray Flynn, former mayor of Boston, who tried hard to whitewash the whole matter, essentially absolving Ratzinger/Benedict of all charges of wrongdoing and negligence, instead blaming the press for being "anti-Catholic" and for blowing things out of proportion.
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