Beyond Damage Control and Church Structural Reform: Theology Supports Sex/Power Abuse?

There was a time when damage control worked well for the church. That time is no more!

Now, damage control like sincere apologies, policy changes and even sacrificial scapegoats fail to convince Catholics and others that the Church is determined enough to change its fundamental “modus operandi”.

Fortunately for the church, Catholic consciousness has been raised by the Spirit of Vatican II to expect more than damage control. This new consciousness cannot be rolled back any more than a born child can go back into it’s mother’s womb.

Those who talk about the need for structural change in the church rarely, if ever, recognize the origin of church sex/power abuse in theology itself.

In the past several decades, Popes Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and now Pope Francis have adamantly steered the church away from the deep theological reform that Vatican II set in motion. Their unwavering resistance to deep theological reform unwittingly supported the clerical power abuse and cover-up that we find today in the global Church. Continuation of this resistance will only lead to more virulent and deeply-entrenched power abuse cover-ups.

If the connection between theology and power abuse is not recognized now, then any policy and structural changes enacted by the Church will be worthless. As empowered as the laity will appear to be after all new policy/structural changes are in place, laity will NOT be allowed to cross the boundaries of “religious freedom” around well-guarded Church doctrine.

If Augustine could assimilate Roman ideals into Christian theology, surely by this time, Catholicism is capable of assimilating the best of modern findings in scientific, philosophical and theological research. Vatican II brought attention to the need for updating and adapting the Church to new conditions. With the extent, horror and gravity of the sex/power abuse scandals in the Church, one would think that the Church would wake up to Vatican II and its focus on the many momentous new questions that modern society must deal with in terms of human survival, not to mention the survival of its religious institutions.

The sex/power abuse scandals bring into question the domination model of traditional Biblical understanding and its application in doctrine. The domination interpretation of power in Scripture has been seriously questioned by many post-Vatican II theologians.  Even so, the institutional teaching authority of the Church has opposed little, if any, change in this ancient theology of power.

NOW IS THE TIME to re-evaluate theology that sanctifies and sacramentalizes domination. We must ask ourselves: Should modern scriptural interpretation be supporting the understanding of God as the One Who Desires Power Over Us?…justifying the way that we desire power over the earth and each other?