A Catholic PR campaign

By Nick Milano

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Has anything ever been in direr need of a good public relations expert than the Roman Catholic Church? The days, weeks and months of bad press are just beginning to break my spirit. It has come to the point where I no longer even read the articles, just make my own conclusions from the headlines – it’s too depressing to read them. As a Roman Catholic, and someone who is relatively active and frequently attends Mass, I do not know how much more I can take. All this misguided anger at the federal government being a slow, corrupt and abusive bureaucracy deserves to be showered upon the Catholic Church.

I love the idea of the Catholic Church. In a perfect world, it would exist to stress its teachings: treat others as you would have them treat you; blessed are the poor, care for the poor and needy. At its very basic root, the Catholic Church is a huge engine for good. Its social justice platform is incredibly beneficial to greater society both here in the United States and abroad. But this is where the Catholic Church departs with reality.

I have been raised in the Church, from baptism through confirmation. My family is tied very closely to it as well. My mother’s parents were raised in Catholic dominated Ireland and they brought their faith with them to America. My father’s mother taught in a Catholic school for nearly twenty years, while his father grew up in an Italian immigrant home. We even used to do a watered-down version of the Feast of the Seven Fishes. My father used to serve on a board that met with Cardinal Sean O’Malley to help guide the archdiocese of Boston. I used to do readings at Mass all through high school and still attend mass every weekend when I am home.

In short, I am not someone who would lose faith in the Catholic Church very easily, but this past Easter weekend was a sort of tipping point. When scandal after scandal breaks, when more and more sermons concentrate on cultural and political issues, when the very man who is supposed to be God’s representative on Earth is unable or unwilling to take a proactive approach, it gets hard to take the Church very seriously. Three definite steps must be taken for the Church’s image to improve.

First, the Pope must come clean. It’s next to impossible to put such a celibate man in the same sentence as Tiger Woods, but Tiger answered all the questions that were asked of him. Yet, Pope Benedict’s reaction to the crisis in Ireland was a letter. It goes without saying that the Church is a backwards organization, but it really needs to enter the 21st century. If my father can pay his contribution of the weekly collection with a credit card over the Internet, then Pope Benedict can use the television or perhaps have a webcast shown for free around the world offering an apology and putting out an action plan.

Second, the Pope must convene a new council to seriously consider ending the celibacy requirement for priests. Deacons can marry and raise children, but priests are prohibited. 99 percent of priests may not be child abusers or inclined to commit sexual assault, but maybe ending celibacy will help prevent any other disgusting acts. It is also another way to rebuild the Church community – having a priest who is raising a family within a parish will surely strengthen the bond between a priest and his parishioners. The Vatican II Council allowed Mass to be spoken in a country’s vernacular language – a similar council could play as crucial a role in modernizing the Church.

Third, the pageantry of the Church must be sharply curtailed. Clips from the Pope’s Easter Mass just reeked of fake worship. Sure, bring out the pageantry every once in a while when a new Pope is chosen, but otherwise, keep it to a minimum. Watching the ornate, egotistic flaunting of wealth by the church makes me wonder where my money every Sunday goes. In light of the accusations against the Church, wouldn’t Jesus Christ prefer his resurrection be celebrated with reconciliation and righting years of wrongdoing than with an obscene ritual of wealth. It is altogether fitting that when the Pope was a cardinal, he was the one responsible for condemning liberation theology – an approach to religion built from the ground up, concentrating on the plight of the poor.

I will never completely abandon the Catholic Church. It means too much to my family. The idea of the Roman Catholic Church is awesome to behold. Imagine all the good it can do, the light it can bring to people’s lives. One does not have to be a true believer – I certainly do not agree with the Church’s stances against abortion, same-sex marriage, pre-marital sex, birth control use and other issues – to see the Church’s ability to be a force for good in this world. Right now, it is a laughingstock in America, and has a long way to go before reclaiming its former status. Perhaps with some strong, decisive leadership from Pope Benedict, the Roman Catholic Church can find its road to recovery.  

Nick Milano is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]