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Maxima Mea Culpa: A Review And Catholic Context Today

by John on 02/18/2013


I just finished watching the HBO documentary Maxima Mea Culpa – about the Catholic priest pedophile scandal.

I had intended to watch it either way.  As you know from this site, I am curious about how religion affects politics and the economy.

There were two reasons why I did immediately.

  • The first is Pope Benedict’s announced resignation.  There is some speculation that the resignation had something to do with the scandal.  There are only hints, but nothing concrete.
  • The second reason was someone close to me who saw the documentary earlier.

“I no longer go to Church,” he told me. 

I was stunned.

“You mean you’re no longer a practicing Catholic.” 

He said yes.

I went right to the TV and spent the 1 hour and 48 minutes.

I understood the feeling.  It is riveting, sad, and maddening.

If you are a practicing Catholic, be aware, it will be difficult.  Someone else close to me, I later found out, left in the middle since it was shaking her faith.

The film lays out the case that the priest pedophile crisis has been going on for centuries.  The crisis has been covered up – at the expense of Church followers to save deranged members of the Church hierarchy.  The crisis also is criminal – deserving of harsh legal action.  It would be hard for someone to argue against that.

But – and here’s what I want to cover here — what’s happening in the Catholic Church is endemic of what is happening elsewhere in our society.

I mention a book that I reviewed here – called The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt.  He has a great line that sums up his book.  Organizations bind and blind.

I also believe – and have said it here – the Catholic Church denied the teachings of Jesus Christ for the teachings of Adam Smith.

This is also what happened to many other institutions that have failed us.

To name a few:

  • Penn State
  • Major League Baseball
  • NFL
  • World Soccer (alleged betting scandal)
  • Congress

The worst is Congress.

It is an organization, once revered, that is now a collection of men and women who take bribes from special interests – and then vote on those bribes to pay back those special interests.

As I always point out: journalists can’t do that; and judges recuse themselves from cases if there any conflicts of interest.  How come members of Congress can ignore these professional standards?  It makes us look like a Third World Banana Republic.

It’s no different that Catholic priests preach about abstaining from forbidden sex, but they do it — and they avoid any criminal repercussions.

Congress has done its share of molesting the U-S economy.  We have rampant income inequality.  (Granted, there are other outside reasons such as technology and the changing world economy.)  But the fact that Congress is controlled by massive corporate interests – that keep them from addressing problem – is a crime in itself.

Another rape of the public interest is the consolidation of businesses into oligarchies.  Yet we hear the business community screaming about pure capitalism when the powerful in the business community does nothing to create a climate of fair competition.  This is the equivalent of “she wore a revealing, tight dress.  I couldn’t help it.”

The result of all this shenanigans: the stifling of innovation.  Look no further to the energy, banking, and media sectors.  Think about it.

  • We had few choices except to be beholden to coal and oil. 
  • We bailed out big banks and yet they avoid any punishment for acting recklessly. 
  • And in the media, we see maybe 5 or 6 companies controlling your internet, TV, and phone.

Talk about ignoring the doctrines you believe in.

But this is not Armageddon.

This is – as horrible as it may seem — logical change.

Look at our demographics, the new technology, and the new economy.

Those 3 factors are changing how we work, how we see the world, and what we do to make us happy.

Sure, there is also a major push-back against this change.

There is a large portion of the American society that doesn’t want this change.  They want the 1980s and 1990s again.  And you find it in both political parties.

In fact, there is probably a battle going on within individuals – myself included — trying to reconcile these new upheavals.

We’re slowly seeing this change in society – and in all of us – play out.

Communication technology is giving many people a voice – but also connecting them to people with like thinking and needs – who feel our leaders and institutions have failed us and they need to be changed.

The long lines at the polling stations – during the Presidential election — have a lot to do with new communication tools and the new way of community organizing.

The Republicans will roll their eyes and scream about this.  But, as we speak, they are looking at what the Obama campaign did, and are putting those practices into place.  The Democrats did the same thing watching GOP successes in the past.

This should moderate both parties – because people are now calling for more accountability and transparency from all of our leaders.

The younger generation will find the solution to investing in the future and preserving the safety net.  They won’t know what big or small government is; they will create efficient government.

They will have no choice.

The same will be true for Catholics.

We’re seeing the younger generation not following organized religion.  I don’t think these kids are any less religious.  They seem to be more intellectually curious about spiritual matters – while dismissing what has happened in organized religion.

Here’s a good piece on more college kids going secular on college campuses – rejecting traditional religion and doing it with humor and wit, I might add.

But we are also seeing similar questioning and fissures in other religions.  Jews are not a monolithic group of thinkers.  Islam has its share of extremists that have the majority of Muslims frightened.  At some point, the middle of the road, common sense Muslims will have to speak up.

And what about the Catholic Church?

Some say the Church will no longer exist.  I doubt it.

In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a major shake-up in the Church with Benedict’s departure.  Think of the amount of money the Church has paid out; think of the reduction in Church attendance; think of where the Church is strong — in less affluent Africa and Latin America.  Like any business, you need to stop the financial bleeding to survive.

But religion is also a large part of our human make-up.  We all think about our deaths – and how we want to make some impact on this world.  Many of us need spiritual guidance.  We also know that religion offers us the order we need in our societies.  And history has shown that religion works.

My good friend Matt Weber makes a passionate, humorous, and credible plea as a young and intellectual believer of the faith.

So, I think the Church will change.  You will see priests being allowed to marry.  You will see women as priests.  The Church has no choice.  It’s all about the math.  If there are no followers, there is no Church.

Will this happen overnight?

No, it will take time – like the changes we will see in our economy and our politics.

Get back to me in 5 years.  You’ll see.  Or better yet, give me your view of the future.

Just a bias reminder: I consider myself a non-observant Catholic who has fallen away from the Catholic not because of anger, but because of intellectual curiosity.

Also, this is an analytical piece that should in no way diminish the harm done to the boys and girls who were victims in all this.  If I seem to have negated them or what they went through, I did not intend that.


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