Humility needed at difficult time
ARCHBISHOP Rowan Williams made a serious mistake when he said that the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland had lost all credibility. He has apologised promptly and graciously, but he has incurred the just wrath of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin.
The Archbishop of Canterbury meant no harm. He was quite right when he said that the damage to the reputation of the Irish Catholic Church caused by the clerical sex abuse scandals was a problem for everybody in Ireland, not only Catholics.
But his intervention was not helpful to those struggling bravely to restore that reputation, the chief of whom is the Archbishop of Dublin.
His mistake, more a matter of ill-judgment than of intent, serves if nothing else to show that clumsy reactions to the scandals and cover-ups that have caused such devastation are not unique to Ireland. Much more serious than his remarks is the evidence that such reactions prevail at the highest level of all.
Yesterday the Dean of College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, publicly addressed Pope Benedict XVI in person: "The people of God are with you and will not let themselves be influenced by the petty gossip of the moment."
Such language might suit a political rally well enough. It was grossly inappropriate on a dignified and solemn occasion, the celebration of the greatest feast in the Christian calendar, in reference to dreadful events which have shaken the faithful worldwide.
An even more bizarre comment has come from Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the Pope's personal preacher, comparing the criticism of the Church to the persecution of the Jews, and cited a letter from a Jewish friend in support of this opinion.
Like Archbishop Williams, Father Cantalamessa has apologised -- but only to the victims of the abuse. Can he be unaware of the immense harm wrought to the Church he serves? And does he lack the sense of proportion which would tell him that the criticism he deplores could not remotely compare with the 2,000-year persecution of the Jews, culminating in the mass murder of six million people in the Holocaust?
All the Christian churches need reform and renewal. That applies with special force to the Catholic Church, which is by far the biggest.
Easter, the core of the Christian faith, is a good time to ponder those needs. To meet them will require courage and realism. And it will require that most Christian of virtues, humility.