Priest-turned-chef talks about Benedict, church
DIPOLOG CITY, Philippines – As the world’s largest religion becomes leaderless on Thursday, February 28, a former priest who once worked with Pope Benedict XVI said his replacement should be young and strong enough to fight the “power struggle” within the Holy See (central government of the Catholic Church) and deal with the “filth” within the hierarchy.
“The Pope’s resignation was not about his health, it was not about his age. It’s all about power. The Pope was overwhelmed by the power struggle in the Vatican and its inability to rid the hierarchy of its disease, like pedophilia and corruption,” said Rolando del Torchio, former Italian missionary of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME).
Del Torchio, who has kept in touch with friends in the Vatican, noted that what happens Thursday is "not just a matter of a simple transition of leadership." He stressed: "The next pope is crucial, because he will be in a position to steer the Church, whether to its own revival or to its eventual collapse.”
The former PIME priest was born in the town of Angera, northern Italy, and ordained a priest in 1984. Under then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), Del Torchio worked with the youths in Naples for 4 years. “I admire Cardinal Ratzinger because he was good, he was one of the 4 brains of Second Vatican Council (Vatican II 1962-1965) being its theological consultant when he was still a priest,” said Del Torchio, who is now running a pizza restaurant here. (He said the other 3 so-called brains of Vatican II were Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini, who became Pope Paul VI; Bishop Albino Luciani, who became Pope John Paul I; and Bishop Karol Wojtyla, who became the most loved Pope John Paul II.)
Del Torchio explained that Vatican II opened the Catholic Church to the modern world in which the “church” is no longer confined to the hierarchy. “The people are the Church. In Vatican II, the hierarchy should no longer be closed, but closer to the people,” he stressed.
In 1988, Del Torchio was re-assigned in Muslim-dominated Sibuco town, Zamboanga del Norte, until 1996. He then moved to Dipolog and worked with a non-governmental organization helping farmers.
But it was at this time that he asked for “dispensation” from priesthood – which was given to him in 1996 – because, he said, he “could no longer accept the moral authority of the Church.”
“I’m disappointed when I complain about corruption or about a church leader doing bad things, and the Church would just transfer him to another place. When I saw pedophilia, and the Church has no action, I’m frustrated,” the former missionary said.
Del Torchio said a bishop or a priest should not consider himself a prince, and should lead his flock by example, not by words.
Asked what prompted him to leave the priesthood, Del Torchio replied it was when a young man asked him for help to become a priest.
“I asked him why he would like to become a priest, and the young man said: gusto ko magpari aron mawala akong sala (I want to be a priest to redeem myself from my sin),” Del Torchio recalled.
Then a disclosure shocked the former priest. Del Torchio said the young man revealed he was sexually abused by a priest here in Dipolog, who said that “he was the sin because he has an attractive face.”
“I told the young man that being attractive is not a sin and that he was abused, which should be stopped even if that priest who abused him was supporting his studies,” Del Torchio said. “I sent him back home. That was the last time I saw him, I don’t know what happened to him. I hope he did not become a priest."
That encounter with the young man was Del Torchio’s turning point. “I told myself, it’s enough. I’m done. Something is very wrong. We can’t go on like this,” the former PIME priest said.
And he said that perhaps that was also what Pope Benedict XVI felt when he decided to renounce the papacy: “It’s enough. I’m done. Something is wrong. We can’t go on like this.”
Yet Del Torchio still hopes that those who continue to fight for the Church to reform – hopefully one of them will be the next pope – will eventually win.
“Me? I’m weak. I don’t have the strength to stay in an organization that I no longer believe in. For me the spirit of Vatican II has finally died with Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation,” said 53-year-old Del Torchio, adding that he is now contented with his life selling pizza. - Rappler.com