Church Afire

Reading all the news reports this week about the latest in child abuse cases in The Catholic Church has just been devastating.  200 deaf boys.  Over 24 years.  Deaf children.  One victim’s, Steven Geier’s, detailed account of his abuse in The New York Times on March 26 was particularly disturbing.  He was a teenager and reported it to a few other priests and a police officer — and no one did anything.

I went to Catholic school from 7th grade through high school and I remember how relieved I felt to be there.  It was my one true safe place.  I trusted my priests and nuns (who were exemplary people, by the way) more than my own family members, so I can’t imagine the destruction of that kind of trust.  I can only hope that ALL Church members stand up and make those who are accountable — and criminal — take the consequences they’ve somehow avoided for so many years.

This is, however, a Book Blog so let me get to the book part of this post.  William Manchester wrote an incredible history of the renaissance which, of course, includes the history of The Catholic Church and the Vatican:  A World Lit Only By Fire.  If you are interested in this dense and fascinating history, I highly recommend this book.  It’s not “dry” like some of these books can be.  It’s absolutely readable and compelling.  This morning I picked it up and took another look.  The Church has been such a powerful entity since its inception.  In the 1300’s, one pope said:  “The Church is independent of any earthly power, not merely in regard to her lawful end and purpose, but also in regard to whatever means she may deem suitable and necessary to attain them.”  600 years later this still seems to be the case.

I think Maureen Dowd had it exactly right in her column today:  “American bishops have gotten politically militant in recent years, opposing the health care bill because its language on abortion wasn’t vehement enough, and punishing Catholic politicians who favor abortion rights and stem cell research. They should spend as much time guarding the kids already under their care as they do championing the rights of those who aren’t yet born.”

Amen, I say.