In the recent flurry of news about the Roman Catholic Church, there has been a lot of bad news that is causing a lot of headaches in the Catholic hierarchy, and a lot of heartache in the laity. Not the least of these reports was the recent report about the Scottish head Prelate Cardinal Keith O'Brian, and allegations of his sexual misconduct with three young priests in the 1980's.
Now, I have always been one to chortle over the revelations of strict anti-gay advocates having been caught in the act of practicing that of which they preach against, and the initial reaction of mine was just that the other day. But having had a couple of days to let it swirl around in my head and mix with the other news stories about his fellow prelates, including the up and coming resignation of the Pope, today's news that he was forced into retirement by the Pope and that he now does not plan to travel to Rome to take part in choosing the next one made a surprising difference in my attitude.
I kind of didn't expect to hear myself say this about Ratzinger, but - Bravo! This is exactly the kind of reaction an organization under the gun about members' misconduct should be doing: taking a hard line on that misconduct, even if it means rolling the metaphorical head of a high ranking official.
The good news is kind of tempered by the thinking of a lot of folks that this is simply to prevent the good cardinal from distracting the press/media from what the church really wants them to pay attention to - the election of the next Pope, but one hopes that this means that cooler heads are now getting some traction in the public relations department by getting the top dogs to listen to reason.
An additional caution to my thinking was that the allegations are just that, allegations. Until proven or admitted to, he really should get the benefit of the doubt, at least from a legal standpoint. Obviously, since the church isn't a government and is his employer, they've the right to can him if they wish. Not an unusual thing for people accused of unethical behavior. Not that he's been canned, just "retired" early, if only by a few weeks, and denied the honor of attending what is probably going to be the only papal conclave within the rest of his life.
Now, there are demands that the other prelates under clouds of suspicion, the Irish cardinal and Cardinal Mahoney of LA be "uninvited" for the conclave as well. Both are accused of condoning the sexual abuse of children and moving priests and protecting them. Additionally, the Irish fellow is also under the cloud of the Magdalene Laundry scandal.
We'll see how that plays out. Obviously, the non attendance of all three of these gents would slim the ranks of the more conservative cardinals. what affect that would have I can't pretend to know, but I'll take what I can get.
Both should stay at home and allow the untainted ones to make the choice. At least that would eliminate the possibility of the future Pope being rumored to owe any favors to any of those men for his election. Any lowering of the possibilities of further corruption at the top gives the whole organization more credibility.
And the outgoing Pope should get the benefit of doing something right in his last week.