Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Pope, Gossip, and Legitimate Criticism

Recent articles in the news have been covering the current controversy in the RC church with regard to the Pope's role in allowing the sexual abuse of children by priests and other clergy under his charge. Reportedly, there is an uprise among RC church goers, calling for answers and accountability at the highest levels, as well as among many secular thought leaders, who also want to see criminal prosecutions.

One of the most unfortunate developments, in my opinion, are the Pope's charges against the mounting criticism as "gossip."

It seems to me the "gossip" card is getting more and more common among church leaders whose leadership is scrutinized in the public domain. This is quite disheartening, I believe, for two possible reasons:
1) It could indicate a violation of the Biblical process for confronting someone with whom those within the church have a conflict. In other words, descretion is not being exercised and parisoners are going public first, before bringing their concerns before church leadership. Admittedly, we do see this fairly regularly out in the blogosphere.
--OR--
2) After the sheep/layperson has brought their specific concerns, with Biblical warrant, to the leadership authority of their church, that individual (or group of individuals) is denied a hearing or their concerns are dismissed/ disregarded.

Obviously, this is the case of what has happened with the sexual abuse cases in the RC. Hundreds of petitions have been made on behalf of individuals concerned about the lack of accountabily of those who have been placed in authority over them.

My question and concern generally comes from having read and heard the "gossip" charge bantied about from pulpits, websites and blogs, as leaders point fingers at congregants who share their concerns about church leaders in the public domain. Yet, I have yet to meet a bloodied sheep whose wish or will is to do harm to their churches or their pastors, but only to be heard and have their concerns respected and addressed toward the end of the peace and purity of the church.

Granted, there is plenty of illegitmate criticism going on in the public domain.

However, it does seem as though a lack of due process exists for raising concerns, if local leadership has chosen not to address legitimate criticism. This leaves most individuals with the options to either put up and shut up, or to get out and stay out, after receiving verbal slapdowns or advice not to let the proverbial door smack your tush on your way out the door. This is usually followed by statements back home to the effect that "our church is being purged from the goats" when people 'mysteriously' leave the fold.

My experience has been that those who have the courage to leave churches that have poor accountability actually do suffer very greiviously -- similar to how it feels to lose one's parents. (Imagine how incredibly painful it must be for those whose trusted leadership not only sexually violated them or their loved ones, and now utterly rejects, and suggests separation from their family - the local body of Christ - for asking for justice!!!)

I believe that most Christians are primarily concerned for the purity of the church and that justice be demontrated, but have not been given legitimate recourse or due process. Far from being goats or gossipers, truth be told. Rather, they are scapegoated and labeled as toxic gossipers to be avoided and ignored by the Church. Now the Pope is trying to attach that label to folks in the RC who want to see accountability.

Nonetheless, the RC is in for a rough road if they continue to not hold their leaders accountable. I expect accountability to be a headline issue for quite a while to come.

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