Crisis in the Church "Private Line"

By Jeannette Layne-Clark
Daily Nation [Barbados]
July 27, 2003

The straight and narrow. That's a path many of us secular souls earnestly try to keep in view even if we may not always manage to follow it in our unpredictable journey through life.

We do, however, expect a more resolute approach from the appointed shepherds of the flock whose mission it is to show us the way, to guard the faith and to stand out as role models, respected and emulated by those whom they purport to lead.

Developments within the First Estate have ruptured our expectations. The unwelcome reality is that the Church that revered institution to which we look for guidance, inspiration, spiritual nourishment and moral standards is in crisis.

Of the two long-established churches, the Roman Catholics are still reeling from last year's scandalous revelations which exposed so many of their priests as pedophiles. Many of their men of the cloth have turned out to be little more than wolves in sheep's clothing, preying shamelessly on innocent, unsuspecting children to satisfy their deviant desires.

It was revealed that these messengers of God had, for decades, been corrupting the morals of minors by condoning sexual relations between men and boys. They had, in fact, chalked-up chilling records of sexual abuse of children; shrouding their nefarious activities in a cloak of secrecy that protected their careers as well as the reputation of the Church.

Perhaps even more shocking were reports that the Catholic Church had, in a period of 30 years, paid out billions of dollars in hush-money to victims as part of an official cover-up of the crimes committed by priests.

The scandal was one of worldwide proportions, with exposes from Ireland to Argentina, from Canada to the Caribbean. But it had erupted in the United States, where the infamous Cardinal Bernard Law, head of the Boston Archdiocese, had resolutely refused to resign after it was discovered that for years he had been hiding the crimes of priests. (That his eventual arrest has led him not to a lengthy sojourn behind bars, but to a convent in Maryland, where he is now working with nuns, is in itself another disgusting revelation!)

But it's not only the Roman Catholic Church on which our disappointment should be focused. This year, the spotlight switched to the Church of England whose image, more than a decade ago, was decidedly impaired by the disclosure of rampant homosexuality among a significant percentage of its clergy.

That recollection has resurfaced with the recent brouhaha over the near-appointment of a gay priest the Reverend Jeffrey John as bishop of Reading.

Reverend John's claim that he is practising celibacy though still involved in a homosexual relationship has, thankfully, proved ineffective as an aid in his effort to secure the appointment.

Now, from the United States comes the news that a homosexual priest the not-so-venerable Reverend Robinson could, should the decision go in his favour at the upcoming convention of that country's Episcopal Church, become bishop of New Hampshire.

Like the situation in England surrounding Reverend John, the possibility of Robinson's elevation threatens a constitutional crisis within the United States' 75-million strong Anglican community, to say nothing of the Anglican Church worldwide.

Meanwhile, with current trends as they are, one is left to wonder if the increasingly contentious issue of same-sex marriages, will, in another few years, still be considered in violation of the doctrine of the Church As morals become a casualty of decadent modern lifestyles, the crisis in the Church deepens.


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