I was really impressed by the Vatican when I saw it a few years ago. It’s a magnificent little state, exuding power and authority in every part of it. You feel, very much so, as if you are in the centre of something when you are there. You can sense the history seeping from the stones. I got to see the most wonderous works of art and architecture, a personal highlight being the Prima Porta Augusta, a statue I had written essays on in my time at college.
Seeing the Vatican nearly ended my association with the Roman Catholic Church.
I left the place feeling somewhat hollow, a feeling I couldn’t quite pin down for a while. The recent publication of the Cloynes report, with its damning indictments of the Church’s activities in this nation and the Vatican’s response to same, has brought it all back to me.
I am not a good Catholic, as I have spoken about before. But still, I have an allegiance to the Church that is innate part of me, from my upbringing, my family, my personal heritage.
But the Vatican trip hit that hard. What I saw was a religion that prided itself on the issues of charity, love for your fellow man, mercy, forgiveness.
What I saw was a place that was a horde of valuable treasures, many of them pagan in origin, including one of the richest banks in the world. All just tucked away across the City, open to the public, yet making the Holy See one of the most concentrated areas of wealth in the world. I saw a place that seemed designed not to be humble or penitent, but to give the impression of absolute authority and power. I saw a place designed to make the common man feel small.
That is not what the Church should be, yet it is.
And it is that attitude, from the heart of Christendom, that allows the Church to ignore accusations of clerical sex abuse, to cover it up when it does happen, to protect those who carried out such foul deeds, to take out insurance to protect themselves from compensation claims then insist they never suspected anything. It’s what allows them to cry foul on suggestions that state law trump canon law, to put their fingers in their ears and pretend that what the Church did to innocent men, women and children in this country never happened or should just be forgotten about.
And all the while, the Vatican says nothing, does nothing, other than the same spineless condemnations, the empty gestures of sympathy.
I am losing my religion to an extent, in that I no longer feel as if the Roman Catholic church, in its present backward state, is deserving of the devotion that I have shown to it. In combination with a growing disillusionment with the sacrament of Mass that I see performed in such a lackadaisical way, the utter refusal of the Church to consider modernisation or liberalisation, the way that supporters of the Vatican spend their time attacking Enda Kenny for doing the right thing instead of actually daring to acknowledge the Church’s crimes…I get tired.
I am closer now to renouncing my ties to the Roman Catholic Church then I have ever been, even if that does not mean I will stop being a Christian. I just suddenly realise that I don’t want to be associated with it anymore.
That can change. The Church could choose to fully co-operate with the Irish state in prosecuting those responsible for so much suffering. It could choose to consider being a Church of the modern world, where clergy can marry and not be limited in their choices by the genitalia they were given. It can become an organisation that leaves the Vatican as a monument to its past and moves somewhere smaller, humbler, more in line with the vision of Jesus of Nazareth.
I retain my faith in God and my belief in the teachings of Christ, regardless.