The Pope and the European Union
At a conference of bishops in Rome at the end of March, the Pope described the process of integration of the 15 countries in the European Union as “a sure itinerary toward peace and concord among peoples, and a faster way to attain the European common good”. He declared that the EU “must not only be a geographic and economic continental reality, but above all a cultural and spiritual reality”.
This magazine has often expressed opposition to the EU, especially because of concern over Vatican influence within that body. These words of the Pope clearly indicate that he is an enthusiast for European integration. But one feels safe in assuming that he is rather more interested in bolstering Rome’s power in Europe than in the good of its citizens. For him to speak of the EU as a spiritual reality has an ominous ring about it.
Roman Catholic Immorality
A number of newspapers and magazines have drawn attention to the obnoxious moral situation in the Roman Catholic Church world-wide. The American weekly National Catholic Reporter summed it up: “Several reports written by senior members of women’s religious orders and by an American priest assert that sexual abuse of nuns by priests, including rape, is a serious problem, especially in Africa and other parts of the developing world”.
“Most religious leaders interviewed by NCR say the frequency and consistency of the reports of sexual abuse point to a problem that needs to be addressed”, the magazine acknowledged. And the abbot primate of the Benedictine order is quoted as saying, “I don’t believe these are simply exceptional cases . . . it is a serious matter”. One of the reports, dating back to 1994, states frankly, “Celibacy in the African context means a priest does not get married but does not mean he does not have children”.
A 1998 report complains that “when a [religious] sister becomes pregnant she is usually punished by dismissal from the congregation, while the priest is often only moved to another parish – or sent for studies”. Clearly, as far as Rome is concerned, provided the problem is not visible, it need not be taken too seriously. But there certainly is a very serious problem of immorality. One report states, “Some priests . . . have actually encouraged abortion for sisters with whom they have been involved. Some Catholic medical professionals employed in Catholic hospitals have reported pressure being exerted on them by priests to procure abortions in those hospitals for religious sisters.” It goes on, “Some priests are known to have relations with several women, and also to have children from more than one liaison”.
A few days after declining to comment, a Vatican official acknowledged, “The problem is known, and is restricted to a geographically limited area”. But the problem is by no means confined to Africa; 23 countries all over the world have been mentioned, including the USA, Brazil, Italy and Ireland. Yet Rome manages to maintain its reputation for a taking a high moral stand. President Bush, apparently impressed by the Pope’s stand against abortion, recently sang his praises: “We thank God for this rare man, a servant of God and a hero of history”. But the Pope is the head of a system which is susceptible to widespread immorality – not only in pre-Reformation times but also today. People should be willing to look behind the headlines and see what is the true nature of the system described in Scripture as “the mystery of iniquity” (2 Thess 2:7).