No worldwide apocalypse kept 2013 from coming. If you are Catholic, you may say the apocalypse happened anyway. Surrounded by scandal and suspicion, Pope Benedict XVI announced he will resign — the second-ever resignation of a pope and the first in 598 years. The Catholic Church faces an uncertain future as its leader leaves amid social changes and political pressure.
Bowing out silently is not an option. The Church is generally quiet, but the uproar of scandals booms too loudly.
On Monday, a Huffington Post article revealed that last year, Benedict had investigated an “origin of leaks” in which three men “revealed petty wrangling, corruption, cronyism and allegations that senior Vatican officials conspired out a prominent Catholic newspaper editor as gay.”
The investigation resulted in the conviction of the pope’s butler in October for the aggravated theft of official papers he gave to a journalist.
On Tuesday, CNN reported that Benedict encouraged the speedy resignation of Keith O’Brien, a scottish cardinal of the roman Catholic Church and the archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, because of allegations leveled against him by three priests and a former priest that goes back three decades, one of which accused “that the cardinal developed an inappropriate relationship with him.” Add to that a scandal of gay priests blackmailed by male prostitutes in Rome.
The Catholic institution has been challenged since its birth. Out of constant persecution and revaluation, there is a metamorphosis from institution to culture. Interwoven are the values from its origin that are difficult to shake. As newcomers refuse to give up their passions and values, there is a mixing of old and new ways.
Two years ago, my cousin was ready to face his values and tell our family he was gay. During our Thanksgiving prayer, I glanced across our family circle, hand in hand, and saw my cousin quivering. As soon as the prayer ceased, he piped up, hands still clasped, and told us his secret. All eyes were on our grandfather. Despite our love for my cousin, we knew where the decision laid. After a pause that seemed like an eternity, my grandfather spoke.
“You’re always my grandson mijo,” he said.
Tears filled my cousin’s eyes and the eyes of the women in the room. His brothers all had relieved grins, and my father broke the tension calling “all Lucios to eat.” That’s the family you see these days and the kind of understanding that occurs within the church. Music education freshman Abel Rocha has faced a similar scenario.
“I remember sitting in church one day and feeling angry at everything the priest was saying,” Rocha said. “I can’t even remember what it was. I just felt (like) hypocrisy.”
He found himself at odds with the religion his family had raised him in. That is no longer the case. Now that he is comfortable with himself, he confidently faces challenges regarding his religion.
“I just wasn’t happy,” Rocha said. “I want a community of support and comfort.”
As his first year of college steamrolls through, he makes an effort to attend mass during his busy schedule. For him, this Lenten season is a time of “giving up something of yourself, renewal and improving.”
Ideas and notions fade away, words can be forgotten but feelings are preserved. It’s those feelings of comfort, support, love and belief that carry the Catholic Church through dips and foils. Even when its leaders must bow down, we see that it was their dedication to a practice not divine right, which put them there. This reminds us of the humanity that is forever binding. In a time of chaos and questioning, it is best to reflect and renew what we believe strongest in.
Leah Lucio is a journalism freshman and may be reached at [email protected].