Shakespeare wrote: Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. The same can be said of the town of Linburg an der Lahn or, to be more accurate, in the Bishopric. Massive renovations for unheard of sums of money have been carried out, and all on the order of the Bishop, Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst. Nothing unusual, many may claim, renovations are necessary to keep Church buildings in order, to protect our heritage. But when the budget is overspent by several million Euro? When money which should have been used for other causes is purloined and hidden from the overseers? When a charity is plundered?
Photo Credit: Jeanne Menjoulet & Cie – Creative Commons
Clearly it is time for the Church to take action, to investigate and determine exactly what is happening, what has gone wrong, who is to blame. And that is precisely what has happened: the Bishop and his expenditure have been examined, he has been questioned, the books have been checked and double-checked and major problems have been found. The Bishop, it has been alleged, has taken money from good causes and paid it out for the rebuilding of his official residence, even at the cost of helping children and needy people in the diocese, even at the cost of potentially bankrupting the local church.
In the real world, away from the Church, this would have had consequences. Heads would have rolled, either voluntarily or with a little help from above. The Church, as we know, does not work that way. Whether it be misappropriation of funds or the abuse of children, the Church has its own methods, its own court of law, its own idea of justice. But our idea of Justice is not the same as that of the Church, not even the same as what the Church preaches. Criminal acts are covered up, hidden away as if they had never happened. Money is paid out to buy silence. The Church must be protected at all costs, and the main cost is usually that of the ordinary person on the street or, even worse, those who are within the care of the Church, who have nowhere else to turn.
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And so it is with the Vatican’s answer to Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst and his misappropriation of funds. Last year, as the story became public, as answers were demanded, he tendered, after much protestation, his resignation as Bishop of Limburg an der Lahn. A few days ago, many months after it became clear exactly what he had done, Pope Francis finally accepted his resignation, in a manner of speaking.
As with so many of his predecessors, the child molesters and sexual predators included, he has only lost his current position. He has been placed in a form of earthly limbo rather than being set out on the street as many believe he deserves. He awaits a new position, somewhere out of the limelight with the same employer, the same possibilities, without any true form of Justice being served. And while his actions cannot be placed on the same level of those who sexually abused children over decades and were allowed to carry on elsewhere, his crimes are severe enough to cause a new shudder to run through the Church. The belief in Justice is gone. The trust in a Church which does not do what it preaches is also dissipating. The flock is leaving in droves and seeking their sustenance elsewhere, often outside the realms of the Church.
And so we return to Shakespeare who wrote: More honored in the breach than the observance. Without Justice there is only chaos. The Church should be there to prevent this chaos, to bring form and meaning into the lives of those who need it, those who cannot survive on their own, through their own intellectual capabilities, without a dogmatic guide to help them make simple decisions. As a guiding light, the Church is failing its flock, preaching what it does not practice, setting itself as a higher power over what is Right and what is Good and following the path of the material world where companies protect their own. It has signed, yet again, its own moral death sentence.
- Viktoria Michaelis.