The definition of “hubris” is “extreme haughtiness or arrogance” but now we will have to add an “extreme holier than thou” attitude to the definition. We all know that the Catholic church has been rocked by multiple cases of sexual abuse against children committed by priests and by evidence that senior members of the church tried to cover up these cases. There is even some evidence that the current pope, back when he was a cardinal, failed to act against known pedophile priests.
So what does the church do? At Good Friday services, a senior Vatican priest compared the outrage being expressed against the church to the persecution of the Jews. Bad move. Jewish groups and support groups for victims of pedophile priests responded immediately, saying that the remarks were “breathtakingly callous and misguided” and “a so-far-unheard-of insolence”.
They’re sitting in the papal palace, they’re experiencing a little discomfort, and they’re going to compare themselves to being rounded up or lined up and sent in cattle cars to Auschwitz? You cannot be serious.
But it just gets worse. The Vatican then tried to distance itself from the remarks, saying that they were not an official statement from the Vatican. Unfortunately, the official Vatican newspaper had already published the remarks on the front page of their Saturday edition.
Cases of sexual abuse by priests are widespread, having been reported in Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Austria, France, Italy, and the United States. Will the church trying to protect its reputation against charges of pedophilia backfire? Well, today was the day that an priest abuse hotline opened up in Germany (Pope Benedict was born in Germany), and it was inundated by over 4,000 calls from victims of priests. The head of the hotline admitted that they weren’t prepared for “that kind of onslaught”. The system was only able to handle 162 calls before it was shut down.
It looks like the Church will have to wake up and figure out how to deal with this, and make sure it doesn’t happen again. Already, one quarter of Catholics in Germany say that they have lost faith in the Church leadership and many are leaving the Church.