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Mickey Edwards
Political leader

Mickey Edwards

Former U.S. Congressman, Mickey Edwards is vice president of the Aspen Institute, where he directs the Institute's Rodel Fellowships in Public Leadership.

Necessary steps of confession

Q: 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?

It's imperative that the Pope act quickly, decisively and comprehensively. That means admitting that the Church, at all levels, failed to meet its responsibilities.

The possibility of his own inadequate handling of the sex-abuse allegations adds a dimension of urgency because any response that falls short of the necessary trio -- prompt admission, genuine remorse, commitment to correction -- will add fuel to the growing belief that the Church is more interested in preserving its own authority, and in protecting the Pope, than in dealing honestly with its failings.

The Church has no authority other than moral authority; if it permits its moral authority to erode by an unwillingness to admit its errors and undertake reform, it will have no authority at all and ever-fewer adherents.

By Mickey Edwards

 |  March 30, 2010; 6:08 AM ET
Category:  Religious leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: 'Mine own teaching' | Next: The power of coming clean

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I agree; if the Church values its current power in the world, it will acknowledge the true depth of the scandal and take some real responsibility for what happened. The Vatican values the faith and loyalty of the laity cheaply and shows little genuine sympathy to the millions of people who look to them for guidance and wisdom. Official tolerance of such serious, violent crimes over a fifty year period is the worst sort of betrayal of the spiritual stewardship and moral leadership the Church has undertaken to provide for the past 2,000 years.

The fact that the crimes themselves were deliberately shielded from secular authorities, and that abusive priests were – as a matter of official policy handed down from Ratzinger himself – less harshly punished than those who reported the crimes to the police, only reinforces the perception that the Church hierarchy considers itself an exclusive club, to be protected at apparently any cost (to others) from the scrutiny or influence of non-members. The Church's tolerance of the abuse of children appears only to have fallen short of actively encouraging it. But now the Pope acts as though the Vatican is as much a victim as anyone, implying there is no more to be done but for individuals to pray for healing and offer forgiveness to the abusers. I don't think we need to call it matter of opinion any more that the Church is “more interested in preserving its own authority, and in protecting the Pope, than in dealing honestly with its failings.” It's hard to imagine anyone of deep faith finding comfort or inspiration in the Pope's response thus far. It calls into question the value of the Church's leadership on all other matters as well.

Posted by: WMM428 | March 30, 2010 12:27 PM
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