Sunday, March 28, 2010

Body Language: Jesus and Benedict XVI

In today’s “Times,” Frank Bruni concludes his article about the sex abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church by writing, “The persistence of the child sexual abuse crisis, intensifying once again, suggests that the church’s defensive posture may in fact be a self-defeating one.” Today is Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy week. The first reading for today describes a figure, from Isaiah’s Servant Songs, who does not assume a defensive posture: “I gave my back to those who stuck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.” (Isaiah 50:6). The note in the insert containing this reading notes that “…Christians have often recognized the figure of Christ in these poems.” And indeed, the Gospel writers portray Jesus in his passion as being open to everything his accusers and tormenters heaped upon him. He went to his death without assuming a defensive posture.
Even as the church has lost credibility, the figure of Jesus still attracts many. They see in the Gospel portraits of him, a man who turns the other cheek, who is not violent in the face of hatred. We say this is not realistic, we must defend ourselves. And yet his example still beckons from our warfields and our torture chambers and in our hearts, even as we turn sorrowfully away from his example.
Mark Twain wrote that Christianity is the greatest religion; too bad it’s never been tried. Too bad for us; too bad for Benedict XVI.


Bob said...

As to the defensive posture of the Church, I believe that it goes beyond that in aggressively trying to preempt the attacks on the Church. The American church has set the tone in molding the dialogue in financial terms, i.e., compensation (making use of the legal system) to victims of sexual abuse. By so doing, the Church as a whole has tried to avoid the broader moral debate.
In my mind, it is a modern version of the historical tension between the temporal and spiritual powers of the Church. Or to put it in a more modern context, two different business models. John XXIII vision of himself as a pastor and the universal church as his flock - and in doing so launching a revolution. Or Benedict's and his immediate predecessors seeing themselves as the CEO of a great multinational responsible for maximizing profit and power for its shareholders (which in this case happens to be the hierarchy).
Ciao, Bob

Pete M said...

Thanks for your comment. It’s noteworthy that the canonization of Pope John XXIII has gone nowhere and the reforms of Vatican II have been stopped. John opened a window; his successors have slammed the door. Change is frightening and unwelcome.