The editorial staff of the National Catholic Reporter has issued an open letter lambasting the USCCB for it’s handling of the CSA crisis over the past 33 years. The open letter is titled “It’s over.”
The authors echo the theme repeatedly - but what is it that they are referring to? For all of the excoriation that the Church is receiving from this outlet and other outlets, I do not see sufficient effort at diagnosis. Why did this happen? How did this happen? I sincerely hope that NCR has some theories, and I would sincerely like to see them lay out those theories on the page.
For the majority of its history, the Church (through its priests) has assumed an autocratic role in the provision of the sacraments of confession, absolution, and communion. By and large - in my opinion and in my experience - the same autocracy assumed and promulgated as to these sacraments was assumed and promulgated as to the profanities of sexual abuse. Can you teach a child that a priest holds the keys to heaven and then be surprised when those keys are jangled coercively? But what is the Catholic Church, without a laity believing that a priest, through his autocratic control of the sacraments, holds the keys to heaven?
I believe that is the precipice over which the Church is currently, dizzily gazing. The "excesses of power, authority, and privilege" that have been abused are ultimately rooted in the autocratic control of the sacraments. To remove those powers from the hands of priests is to simultaneously save the Church and destroy it. The full democratization of the sacraments would be the simultaneous salvation and destruction of Catholic theology.
In my mind, the Church finds itself at the same crossroads of defiance or surrender that a man finds himself when seeking God: do I hope, in the end, to preserve my consciousness and my history and my power, and thereby remain separate from God, or to surrender my consciousness and my history and my power, and therefore be reconciled with God? We are promised that we shall find what we seek; our human consciousness and power is our "sin," our without, our anti-God. It is in seeking the cessation of ourselves that we can hope to find reconciliation with God. In our end, then, is our beginning. Who thinks that the Church has the capacity to make such a fundamental surrender? I remain skeptical.