Saturday 3 December 2016

Garry O’Sullivan: Papacy needs a Gorbachev to confront tired empire

Published 26/02/2013 | 17:00

Pope Benedict XVI delivers his message concluding a weeklong spiritual retreat at the Vatican over the weekend. But can the Church afford to cling to such pageantry and ceremony if it hopes to survive and prosper?
Pope Benedict XVI delivers his message concluding a weeklong spiritual retreat at the Vatican over the weekend. But can the Church afford to cling to such pageantry and ceremony if it hopes to survive and prosper?

'BE not afraid' was one of the great recurring catch-phrases of Jesus, and yet, 2,000 years on, his church persists in the shady business of fear management. When there isn't openness, transparency or accountability, then power is devoid of collective scrutiny and inevitably becomes warped and misused. We've seen it in the banks, in politics and the media. The wielding of power by the few needs to be regulated by the many.

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In the case of Christ's church, we should expect better checks and balances than are found in secular institutions but, ironically, the church has no oversight structures. It is run by a clerical caste, much to the embarrassment of many decent priests and laity the world over.

Historically, the institutional church manufactured fear based on its own fears; fear of science and progress, of educated followers, of other religions, of bible reading, of change, and it is fear that drives the institution today. A humble church for the people became a church that took from the Emperor Constantine the clothes of a dying empire, parting ways with the simplicity of its early foundation.

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