Jun 19, 2012

The Vatican: Still Tone Deaf After All These Years

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

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Just when you think Pope Benedict might be getting it, he dismisses generations of abuse at the hands of clergy as "a mystery." Understandably, this has angered survivor groups. SNAP's Barbara Dorris decried the comments as "platitudes, refusing to even accurately name the crisis."

" The pontiff's wrong: there's little mystery here," said Dorris in an emailed statement.

She cited priests' having `'sometimes almost absolute power, over devout and defenseless kids," as well as bishops who abuse power and `'ignore, hide and enable heinous crimes against kids."

The pontiff's unintentionally incendiary statements came in a pre-recorded address played during the grand finale of the previously discussed Eucharistic Congress in Ireland. And this was the event that was supposed to stop the Church's hemorrhaging in that country. I don't think this will help.

I will say this. His Holiness seems genuinely mystified.

`'How are we to explain the fact that people who regularly received the Lord's body and confessed their sins in the sacrament of Penance have offended in this way?" said the pope, referring to church staff who abused children.

"It remains a mystery," he said. "Yet evidently their Christianity was no longer nourished by joyful encounter with Jesus Christ. It had become merely a matter of habit."

Religion, even participation in the mysteries, is not a cure-all. It doesn't automatically fix mental illness any more than physical illnesses. This is the cardinal error of viewing every problem as one of sin, and symbolic redemption as the sufficient solution. It's the same mistake made repeatedly in Amish communities, where a forgiveness and reconciliation process has fueled recidivism and marginalized sex abuse victims rather than perpetrators. Pedophilia, psychopathy, narcissism, and other pathologies, that have been so clearly demonstrated in the cycle of abuse in the Church just aren't going to be resolved by prayer. And forgiving people for their sins doesn't mean they won't keep committing them.

This core error in thinking has been a prime mover in the decades of mishandling and cover-ups at every level of the Church. Abusive priests were given spiritual counsel, forgiven, and told, go (to another parish) and sin no more.

As with the Amish communities, apparently repentant abusers have been protected and supported over anyone who knew better than to simply forgive and forget: victims, law enforcement, the media, an angry public. These critical voices have been ignored, disparaged, and even demonized.

The Church has a propensity for blaming its internal problems on those who point them out rather than the criminals who cause them. Oh, and, the devil.

The Vatican's No. 2 official on Monday blamed the media – and the devil – for fueling the scandal over leaked Vatican documents.

Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone told an Italian Catholic weekly that journalists reporting on the leaks scandal are "pretending to be Dan Brown ... inventing stories and replaying legends." The reference to Brown is particularly acute; Brown wrote "The Da Vinci Code" and "Angels and Demons" the best-selling fictional accounts of power struggles and scandals inside the Catholic Church.

. . .

"The truth is that there's a will to create division that comes from the devil," he said. The interview is due on newsstands Thursday but was made available to journalists Monday.

What the Vatican continues to engage in is what Jungian psychology calls shadow projection. As defined by Paul Levy:

Shadow projection, or scapegoating, is when we split off from our own darkness and project it outside of ourselves. When we project our shadow onto someone else, we believe that the other person is the embodiment of the darkness that ultimately belongs to ourselves. We then want to fight and destroy the evil we see “out there,” as it reminds us of something dark within ourselves that we’d rather have nothing to do with. By trying to destroy the evil we see in the outer world, however, we become possessed by and incarnate the very evil we are trying to destroy. Shadow projection is a reflection of the inner process of dissociating from and wanting to get rid of─exterminate─a part of ourselves. Shadow projection is a self-mutilation that is actually an act of psychic violence, not only on ourselves, but on the “other” who is the recipient of our projection.

Perhaps we should all just start mailing the Vatican Debbie Ford books. Dark Side of the Light Chasers indeed.

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