The Catholic Church: An Institution In Need of Change

The papal election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was another in a series of disappointing decisions made by the Catholic Church. Ratzinger, now known as Pope Benedict XVI, cracked the ideological whip for Pope John Paul II. He led the crusade to ban communion to Catholic politicians in the US who supported abortion rights. As a Catholic estranged from the church, I was hoping – even praying – that the church would reach out to its moderate and liberal members. It’s unlikely that Benedict XVI will embrace the needed changes to church doctrine to keep the church and papacy relevant in the modern US. Religious institution should be dynamic, not static. For what its worth, I’d like to outline a few ways in which the Vatican can modernize and improve the Church.

The Catholic Church’s contraception policy needs revision. An AIDS epidemic is sweeping the world, and condom use is the only hope to prevent the spread of deadly disease. By condemning contraception, the Vatican is sending a horrible message to its followers in Africa, where AIDS kills more people than in any other part of the world. Additionally, the Church’s stance alienates young Catholics. Thankfully, many have ignored Vatican doctrine and have used contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancies. If the Church continues its backwards policy on contraception, it will only alienate more young Catholics in the US and Europe.

As most Catholics can attest to, membership to the priesthood is declining. Soon, there will not be enough priests to fill parishes across the US and the globe. The celibacy requirement of the priesthood has surely hampered membership. Passing up family life for religious life is not a viable option for many American Catholics. By joining the priesthood, a young man closes many doors of opportunity, including the opportunity to raise a family. If the Vatican allowed priests to marry, I’d guarantee an immediate increase in seminary enrollment. There are many devout Catholic fathers and husbands who would certainly jump at the opportunity to serve their parishes and their church. If the church was interested in recruiting new priests, surely it would look into this.

Since we’re on the subject of priests, why not ordain women? Is there somewhere in the Bible that says women are less holy than men? If there is, I must have missed that part. The entire Church’s hierarchy is entirely too male dominated. I’d guess that women count for a fairly sizable part of the world Catholic population, so wouldn’t the Church want to reach out to this constituency? What other institution in 2005 is so blatantly discriminatory to half of its membership? The ordination of women would certainly follow in the message of love and acceptance that Jesus Christ preached.

Since the pedophilia scandal, many Catholics, including myself, have grown disillusioned with the Church. I was stunned to hear that not only did these disgusting events occur, but that Cardinal Law, the man behind the cover-up, was not even cast out of the Church. In any other organization, if a leader is accused of covering up a sex scandal involving children, that leader is fired. Though the Church did address these problems, they need to work on rebuilding bridges with American Catholics. Moving the Church in a progressive direction would help mend fences with alienated Catholics.

Like I said, it doesn’t look like these changes will occur. We have a new pope who is anti-progressive. Hopefully, the Vatican will embrace progressive changes in years to come and modernize the Catholic Church.

On a completely separate note, I’d like to use this space to pay respect to the members of the Class of 2005 that have touched my life over the last year and a half. Our Editors-in-Chief Kay and Steve, have succeeded in their goal of bringing The Maroon-News to a “Division I” level. It’s been a pleasure to work under them this year. My involvement in this publication would not have been possible without Evan LeBon. He’s been a good editor and great friend, and he will certainly be missed. Last but not least, I must pay homage to three of my favorite girls at Colgate: Nathalie, Sarah and Katie. I hope that I’ve given you a few laughs, even though many were at my expense. Good luck to all of the graduating seniors and to the underclassmen: prepare for more left-wing lunacy in the fall!