18 November 2020, The Tablet

Our feudal church must reform

Faith and power


Two heavyweight blows to the good name of the Catholic Church, in Britain and worldwide, have left painful bruises all over the Body of Christ. The report of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) has followed its highly critical report on how the Church of England dealt with this issue, with one, no less severe, on the Catholic Church in England and Wales. The Holy See’s inquiry into its own mishandling of the case of ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, while not independent, does not pull any punches either; every mistake by bishops, cardinals and even popes, is examined in detail. There were plenty of them.

Is there any light at the end of this dark tunnel? Will the many lessons from this devastatingly critical examination of Catholicism in action be readily grasped and fully assimilated? These reports are about the deeds and misdeeds of hierarchs, men ordained to high office. They are not “the Church”, only part of it. The harm they did was done to ordinary Catholics – the other, greater part, who are best described in the language of the Second Vatican Council as “the People of God”. Unfortunately, despite the reforms generated by the Council, they remain largely voiceless and powerless.

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