William Hewstone writes for The Student Journals on the deference that we still have for religious institutions, despite their wrongdoings.
Major religions have run riot with impunity for too long. In the decision preventing female bishops, the Church of England lost credibility in the liberal-minded 21st Century Britain because the church leaders’ arguments fell back on scripture, of all things. Since then, we have seen time and again how the church has become a bubble of suspicion and old dogmas, protected by the weaknesses of outsiders in their criticisms. Most recently, in a different church, a cardinal’s alleged encounters with priests were covered up because of the nature of the relationship between initiate and bishop.
Cardinal O’Brien’s resignation (much as church spokesmen argue, laughably, that it was unconnected to the scandal) was not so much down to his actions as the fact that his church was a secretive and authoritarian institution without scrutiny or the usual procedures to prevent this type of indiscretion from happening. We come here to the crux of the problem: many members and leaders of mainstream religions have long thought that it is their right to claim ‘offence’ or tradition in order that they may continue in an out-dated status quo unhindered. This allows abuses, of all kinds, and puts the church on the defensive whenever an aspect of their privilege comes under scrutiny. This was epitomised by the reference, during the same-sex marriage debate recently, to the “merciless prism of equality”. What callous man or woman would ever have thought to use such a phrase? One who is cornered, clearly. The institution of the Catholic Church, and indeed, all religions had become, until recently, untouchable. In the last decades though, this has changed at a pleasing rate and now atheism is on the rise. Public criticism has finally become accepted. These organisations finally have to take some responsibility, but we mustn’t let them keep their privileges and protections.
Full article here.