Cardinals confront crises as they meet to elect pope

Catholics disillusioned with the Roman Catholic hierarcy can find solace in the willingness of the cardinals who will be electing a successor to Pope Bendict XVI to address the myriad problems that have caused deep divisions within the 1.2 billion-member church.

The upheaval is most evident in Europe and the United States, where Sunday Mass attendance is at an all-time low. The point of contention for Catholics who have fallen by the wayside is the seemingly standoffish attitude of priests, bishops, archbishops, cardinals and even the pope toward the ever-growing pedophile clergy scandal. For years, there was a major cover-up of the abuse of children, with guilty priests being reassigned by bishops to other parishes, rather than being punished.

But, as the civil lawsuits against Catholic dioceses mount, the heierachy of the church is forced to publicly admit that there were sins of commission, rather than omission, committed with regard to how the evil within the church has been addressed.

Even today, however, there is still an unwillingness by the men of the cloth to admit wrong- doing. Two cases in point: Cardinal Roger Mahoney, who has been shown to have moved predator priests from parish to parish when he was head of the Los Angeles diocese; and Britain’s Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who on Sunday admitted that he behaved inappropriately with priests and seminarians after first denying the allegations.

Another major issue to be taken up by the cardinals in Rome as they prepare to attend the papal conclave in the Vatican is known as “Vatileaks,” which exposed corruption and rivalries in the Vatican’s bureaucracy. Documents laying out in detail the behind-the-scenes maneuverings were published by an Italian newspaper. The documents were taken out of Pope Benedict’s office by his butler. The butler was convicted but was subsequently pardoned by the pope.

Benedict’s retirement last week has focused attention on the the operation of the Holy See, which has long been the topic of intrigue because of the secrecy that surrounds the Vatican.

Electing a new pope

The cardinals, who are expected to begin the process of electing Benedict’s successor next week, are well aware that the reputation of the Roman Catholic Church has been damaged. But they are being too close-minded if they believe that the decline in church attendance is the result of a loss of faith.

That’s what Cardinal Leonardo Sandri of Argentina suggested during an interview with Reuters news service.

Sandri said one of the greatest problems facing the church was “the loss of faith” among many who had “turned their back on God” and need to be brought back into the life of the church, Reuters reported.

There are many reasons Catholics do not attend Mass and other services as regularly as they used to, but a loss of faith isn’t the main one. Indeed, many Catholics in this country have joined other denominations.

The cardinals would do well to look within the structure of the Roman Catholic Church for explanations.

Cardinal Sandri was right when he told Reuters that the church must open itself up to women in the next pontificate, giving them more decision-making positions in the Vatican and beyond.

Don't Miss a Story

Sign up for our newsletter to receive daily news directly in your inbox.