THE INVIOLABILITY OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
Again and again the catholic church comes to public attention regarding different issues from which sexual assault cases, racism and the neglection of rights to the LGBTQ+ community members seem to stand out. For example, the recent decision to not give blessings to homosexual couples sparked an outrage among catholic church- as well as LGBTQ+ community members. What sparks out mostly about all three topics is that they even go back centuries and are not only a recent issue. In this blog you can find out more on the historical perspectives and narratives of the topics as well as the most recent information.
The questions of what happened in the past regarding the different topics, the churches standpoint towards them and finally if it is an inviolable institution were intended to be answered in this blog.
SEXUAL ASSAULT CASES
Sexual assault cases somehow connected to the catholic church have never been bound to a specific place but rather to people holding power positions within it. Thus, it seems to be a systemic problem that lays within the catholic church and could be a reason facilitating sexual assault (Frawley-O’Dea, 2007).
Cases of sexual assault withing the doings of the catholic church are not only a recent topic but can be traced back decades and even centuries (De Boer, 2019). There is no timeline of events as cases became public in many different places all around the world, this is also aiming at the fact that it is a systemic problem.
Although a lot of cases could never be proven, some could and came to public attention and one could hear about them in the news. Putting oneself in the shoes of a victim, would you have spoken up if it happened to you and you did not have solid proof? It will remain unclear which cases really happened but we must ask: who would put themselves in this uncomfortable position if they were not telling the truth? Who would put themself in this position with evil ambitions to ruin someone’s career?
But this fear of not being believed is real. One can imagine that victims did not even speak out because they feared to not be believed. One thing is for sure: Some cases must have happened or otherwise it would not be a topic we talked about and that is in the media from time to time.
There needs to be transparency in the issue and regarding sexual assault, not even the catholic church should hold the power to Inviolability. There needs to be a system of checks and balances to make sure to prevent possible new victims and also to hold the violators accountable no matter which place on earth we are talking about. Often victims are not believed because the church has superior power and is supposed to be acting under godly law. Assaulters could in the past sometimes not be blamed due to missing evidence and were even aided by the church to avoid penalties. For example, in a few cases, they received aid to leave the country. .
Picture one: “Cardinal Woelki suspends two priests following the presentation of the report on abuse in the archbishopric Cologne”
Picture two: “Cardinal Woelki himself under cardinal Meisner was part of the system of covering up. (…) He has to take personal responsibility and has to offer his resignation.”
Picture three: “These steps cannot cover up that the long overdue reviewing in Cologne and many other places is still at the beginning”.
Source: Tagesschau Instagram positing from the 19th of March 2021 Regarding sexual abuse allegations of the archbishopric Cologne, Germany under cardinal Woelki.
Finally: what can we do, to bring more transparency to the topic, help the victims better and hold assaulters accountable who abused their power within the system of the catholic church? Nevertheless it needs to be kept mind that abuse is an issue which should be take very seriously and by far not all cases are connected to the catholic church.
RACISM IN THE CHURCH
Racism is a topic that is happening as well in as outside the church, and is a terrible topic that needs to be discussed in this blog as well. Racism is in general already higher among white Christians in comparison to the non-religious people, and according to Think (2020) this is not a coincidence. In public opinion polls a clear pattern showed that white Christians are more likely to discriminate than other people. Not just a bit more likely, but almost twice as likely to discriminate. But is discrimination/racism actually such a big issue in the church? And what were the cases that stand out from others? This is what will be looked at in the following part.
The racism cases in church already go back for several centuries, an example is Martin Luther King Jr., who in 1966 spoke about being tired of being lynched in Mississippi, in the churches. His speech had a lot of impact on the world, even nowadays. However, there are still numerous cases known in which racism is evident in the church.
Martin Luther King’s focus was on lynching, which was a way to kill people back in the days, and it seems that this was particularly focused on the black population of America. He also stated that in America it was basically a case of ”us VS them”, to separate the black Americans from the white ones. According to Saint-Jean (2020), lynching takes a new shape these days, there is still a separation between the black, brown and white Catholics to this day on.
Another example which can be considered racism in churches can be found in the songs that are sung in the church. For example, ”Amazing Grace” is a well-known song among Catholics, but only few know that the song is coming from a slave trader, an oppressor of human beings, this is something that a big part of the black Americans is reminded of when this song is played in church, which is ridiculous of course.
Even though the Bible teaches the religious people that it does not make a distinction between races, genders or statuses. Racism is however still a topic that is happening everywhere in the world, as well in the churches.
A response is shown by churches, for example by the ‘’Church of England’’ (COE), which is for example promoting the understanding of racism, racial issues and cultural diversity in order to make clear that racism is such a big issue. Moreover, COE is working with several organizations in order to work towards the elimination or racism in the churches and trying to support cultural understanding (Church of England, n.d.). In this case the organization COE is working together with lots of churches to try and eliminate racism from the house of God. This can be seen as an example for other countries in which racism in general, but also in churches is an issue (US for example).
Discrimination of LGBTQ+ members
The just mentioned statements has been withdrawn from the Catechism of the Catholic Church which can be seen as the rule and moral book of the Catholic faithful. As clearly stated in there but also through several other statements, the Catholic Church calls to Catholics to act respective and welcoming towards members of the LGBTQ+ community (Chapel, 2021). Sadly, actions and words reflect two different opinions in the Catholic Church.
The institution urges its followers to be inclusive and sensitive when interacting with LGBTQ+ members, however the Vatican doesn’t want homosexual men to join the clergy (Deutsche Welle, 2021). The Strength of a Vocation: Consecrated Life Today, is a series of texts which has been published in 2018 by Fernando Prado in which he states: “the Church urges that persons with this rooted tendency not to be accepted into (priestly) ministry or consecrated life”.
This is just an example of the double morality which the Catholic Church is practicing. Just recently in March 2021, the Church has set yet another obstacle towards reaching equality for ALL members of the community.
In a statement published the Vatican announced that they cannot bless same-sex unions. The issue of blessing has been raised based on several requests coming from dioceses whether they would be allowed to execute these practices with a same-sex couple and the answer of the Vatican was simply “NO” (Pullella, 2021).
In explanation to the rather bland answer Pope Francis responded that it is “not intended to be a form of unjust discrimination, but rather a reminder of the truth of the liturgical rite” (Note of congregation, 03.2021).
The reluctance of the Catholic Church against the LGBTQ+ community is a widely known fact. The opinion of the church on the unnaturalness and revoltingness of the LGBTQ+ behaviour has somehow been accepted by so many followers of the Institution by saying that this is just how the church has always been.
With the refusal of blessing however, the Vatican has sparked another and more infuriated discussion about the attitude and actions of the church and whether their practices are outdated. Some countries Committees of Catholic Church are revolting against the statement (Deutsche Welle, 2021) yet most just follow the dogma of the Vatican.
When thinking about other institutions and business, even public figures, discriminating statements and philosophies like the Catholic Church displays, would be a reason for their public image to be destroyed and their business to be demolished.
As an example, J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series has received major backlash in 2020 for publishing a transphobic statement on the social media platform Twitter. This statement went immediately viral and led to many people, even celebrities, responding to it. Some even taking is as far as burning all there Harry Potter books (Madani, 2020).
Retrieved of J.K.Rowlings publicly open Twitter account: @jk_rowling
It is astonishing how the career or public image of a person can be demolished with just one wrong sentence, yet the Catholic Church openly and knowingly discriminates the LGBTQ+ community over decades and there have been no major improvements.
The inviolable Church
The catholic church draws negative attention, in various topics. For this blog, sexual assault cases, racism cases and the discrimination of LGBTQ+ members that are in the church have been used to display that. All these issues get media attention and are putting the institution in a bad day light. .
Numerous sexual assault cases, most of them even unknown till today and the Church always find a way to slip out of any persecution.
Exclusion of minorities, whether based on race or sexual orientation and yet still the Church is allowed to proceed with their ways unhindered by higher instances and the people.
There are trends that will likely influence these aspects in the future like the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, which is supporting black people’s rights as well as the LGBTQ+ movements fighting for inclusivity for everyone.
With more and more people spreading the awareness and standing up for these communities the oppression, of exactly these minorities, by the church becomes more evident as well. The LGBTQ+ population is getting bigger and bigger and way more accepted in comparison with how it has been in the past. People from all races demonstrate on the streets to fight against racism and more people are given the room and encouragement to speak of their sexual assault stories by being given a voice that is heard.
All these movements seem to be missed or passed over by the church which is also why their position and power gets questioned by more people every day. Till now there haven´t been major changes in the institutions behaviour which creates anger that spreads even under Catholics about their institution.
At the moment, it doesn’t seem like the state and other instance can do much about the outdated methods and behaviours of the Catholic Church simply because of its anchored status. The only thing to create improvement for the future is to create awareness of the Churches actions because only with the majority of people leaning up and turning their back against the institution, change will happen.
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