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Juana Bordas
Diversity leader

Juana Bordas

Juana Bordas is president of Mestiza Leadership International, a company focusing on leadership, diversity, and organizational change. Author of the 2007 book Salsa, Soul, and Spirit: Leadership for a Multicultural Age, she is a board member of the International Leadership Association.

The Inquisition we need

Q: The Pope Benedict XVI's efforts to deal with the Church's sex scandal raises this question: Can a leader hold managers to account on an issue where his own past performance is in question?

Where is the Inquisition when we really need it? For almost 700 years the Catholic Church had no qualms about punishing people - particularly Jews and women who were 'heretics." In fact, instead of being innocent until proven guilty, guilt was assumed -- try to get out of that one.

And where is a Martin Luther to tack the demands for change on the Vatican door when a Catholic reformation is obviously needed to stop predatory priest from damaging innocent youth who trusted them for spiritual guidance?

How about a good Old Catholic Crusade? Certainly the Church has a history of "holy wars" to reclaim "holy lands." A Crusade to weed out the sex offenders would certainly restore some semblance of moral authority. The Catholic Church has historically been good at taking swift and defining action when they deemed it necessary.

I didn't always have a beef with the Church; my anger is that of a true believer. I was educated by the good nuns who hovered over us in black habits teaching us to read and write giving us good Christian values. They laid the foundation for the ethical life I try to lead and my commitment to serve others just like they did.

I confess I felt guilty when in good conscience I left the Church. I could no longer be part of an institution that denied the spiritual equality of women. "Just give me a jingle when they ordain women," I told my priest, "I'll be the first one back."

I began seeing the Church as a medieval institution. Celibacy for all priests: an anachronism that just allowed for more control and ensured the Church didn't have to support families. And then the dam broke. The Church had been covering up the practice of pedophilia priests who preyed on pious boys for decades most likely centuries.

Sexual abuse by priest and Bishops has spread like a plague across the United States, Germany, Ireland, Austria, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and in the chalice of Catholic faith, Ireland.

How can we not be outraged by the thought of 200 deaf boys being molested, their muffled cry unheard by Church clergy? As a Bishop and head of the Holy See's Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith, Pope Benedict XVI took no action, citing sympathy for an old sick priest who continued his abuse. This has compromised his ability to lead the reformation that is needed to rid the Church of this moral cesspool.

Last week, the Pope apologized to victims in Ireland, but outlined no disciplinary or changes in Vatican policy to prevent future abuse. Leadership demands much more than saying "I am sorry." It calls for the righting of wrongs, moral courage, honesty, and the pursuit of truth.

As a leader the Pope faces a rare conundrum. He is the Supreme Pontiff revered as infallible and direct heir of apostolic succession. Saying that "nothing can undo the wrong you have endure" to the Irish victims implies the lack of authority to change the secret Vatican tribunals that protect Bishops and priests, or to institute a "zero tolerance" policy across the Church's domain, or to create a new Vatican court system that will defrock and take swift action against pedophiliac clergy.

You are either the Supreme Pontiff or you are not -- you can't have it both ways. In fact, there is much The Pope can do to alleviate the wrong that has been done. Leaders assume responsibility for the fallibility of their institutions and seek solutions to correct the wrongs.

In this Holiest of Weeks when we reflect on the life of Jesus, we remember His words, "Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God." It would be well for Pope Benedict, the Bishops, and Church hierarchy to have heeded Christ's words and initiated a true Catholic Reformation that restores moral authority, rebuilds its covenant with the faithful, and reestablishes the sanctity of the priesthood.

By Juana Bordas

 |  March 31, 2010; 7:48 AM ET
Category:  Religious leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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This latest episode has left me thoroughly burned out on my church. I've had issues in the past but always believed in the essence, if not the leadership, of the R.C church. Now I feel as if everything they taught me was a fabrication, something they endorsed because it was part of the power structure. Even though I know that isn't the case, I just can't muster the faith or energy to walk back inside another Catholic church and I feel abandoned.

Posted by: digiphase | April 1, 2010 8:53 PM
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I don't understand why these victims were not brought forward in the 2002-3 sex abuse scandal. It seems like there is a ready supply of victims anytime the public should feel outrage at their religious institutions.

In 2002-3, we had a sex abuse scandal with victims going back to the 50s and then America invaded a country that had not attacked us. This time the pro-peace institution of the chuch is still hobbled, but the government that invaded Iraq is weakened because of the war too. So we get another scandal. And when it's over, I guess we'll invade Iran without opposition from anywhere.

Posted by: blasmaic | April 1, 2010 7:51 PM
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The 12-16 year old victims of priests were too old for pedophiles. These priests were gay and all churches have far too many gay clergy, especially the Roman and the Anglican/Epicopal churches.

Posted by: ravitchn | April 1, 2010 3:41 PM
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Re-establish the sanctity of the priesthood? Methinks this is part of the problem in the first place.

Posted by: PatC1 | April 1, 2010 10:34 AM
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All these recommendations seem quite sensible. However, then-Cardinal Ratzinger (as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) confused sexual orientation with pedophilia when he essentially attempted to purge the seminaries of openly gay men. There's reason to worry that a new inquisition would really get things wrong and just use its authority to purge the wrong people.

Posted by: weiwentg | April 1, 2010 9:48 AM
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I believe, Ms. Bordas, that if you dig a little deeper, you will find that the list of those countries in which sexual abuse of children by the Catholic Church is even longer than than the seven countries that you list in your seventh paragraph.

And yes, you do refer to the Spanish Inquisition, as well the centuries-old abuse of young people by the Church. Were that the Inqisition was the only incident of the Catholic Church trying to rid itself of so-called heretics.

I was listening to the NPR program "The World" yesterday afternoon only to learn that a young Catalan musician, Jordi Savall, has been working on a project--both literature and music--to both inform us and convey a dark chapter in medieval history, his forthcoming work titled "The Forgotten Kingdom--A Cathar Tragedy." During the interview, Savall said that one of the reasons for the project is bacause even the French have forgotten this part of history, the Albigensian Crusade against "heretics" who did not believe in the tenets of the Catholic Church.

Of course, one could also mention the horrible demise of the Knights Templar, actions taken against this brotherhood by France's King Philip the Fair, while Pope Clement V essentially looked on.

I disagree with your last sentence completely, by the way. Abuses over the years, over centuries, would hardly inspire in me any sense of moral authority or a belief that a human has sanctity over others, but then I don't believe in any religion. Each entitled to his or her own.

Posted by: laloomis | April 1, 2010 9:46 AM
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PART OF THE PROBLEM IS THAT THE CATHOLIC RELIGION HAS ALWAYS USED AN "IN BETWEEN" PERSON. THERE IS NO BIBLICAL REQUIREMENT THT SOMEONE REPRESENT ME BEFORE GOD. I CAN AND DO HAVE A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD BY MY SELF. THAT IS WHAT JESUS PROMISED. THE CHURCH HAS ELEVATED MAN TO A POSITION THAT HE SHOULD NEVER HAVE HAD. THIS WAS LIKE THE PHARISEES OF THE OLD TESTAMENT WITH THE MORE THAN 600 LAWS THAT THEY CREATED FOR MAN, YET NEVER APPLIED THEM TO THEMSELVES. MANY CATHOLICS TODAY SET THEIR OWN STANDARDS OF ADHERENCE TO THE LAWS OF THE CHURCH. ANY TIME ONE PERSON IS DESIGNATED TO BE SO MUCH HIGER THAN ANOTHER THERE WILL BE A PROBLEM. FOR CENTURIES THE CATHOLIC CHURCH HAS MAINTAINED THIS AURA OF OVERSIGHT. THE LEADER IS SUPPOSED TO BE A SHEPHERD. ONE OF THE PROBLEMS WITH THIS IS THERE IS SOMETHING CALLED MONARCHIAL EPISCOPATE (HAVIN A PERSON OVER ALL OTHERS) THIS LEADS TO A HIGH NUMBER OF MORAL FAILURES. THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT THE VOW OF CHASTITY OR THE LACK OF MARRRIAGE HAVE CONTRIBUTED TO THIS PEOBLEM.

THERE IS IS ALSO NO DOUBT THAT MEN HAVE SEXUAL URGES. THE APOSTLE PAUL SAID THAT "IF A MAN DID NOT WANT TO MARRY THAT WAS FINE." HE DID NOT SAY NOT TO MARRY.
FOR A PRIEST TO SATISFY THE URGES HE HAD SEVERAL OPTIONS EITHER PRAYER, MASTURBATION, WOMEN, OR BOYS. OBVIOUSLY THE MOST DESPICABLE WAS THE SITUATION WITH BOYS. THE PRIEST CANNOT CONDEMM A GAY LIFE FROM THE ALTER IS HE ENGAGES IN THE PRACTICE WITH BOYS HE SHOULD BE PROTECTIONG.
THIS SITUATION WILL BE ,NOT ONLY TROUBLING TO THE CHURCH, BUT LEAD TO MORE AND MORE "CATHOLICS "SEEKING SPIRITUAL COMFORT AND DIRECTION IN OTHER PLACES.

Posted by: MALBENNET | April 1, 2010 9:37 AM
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