Re: “Amid continuing scandal, the Catholic Church loses touch with its flock” (Aug. 22):

Bill Nemitz’s insightful commentary on the continuing scandal of clerical sex abuse in the Catholic Church raises the possibility that “maybe, out of this wreckage, a new church could arise that is, in reality, what so many of us grew up falsely believing it was all along.” His column was printed on the same day when a similar assessment was published in the Irish Times by its leading commentator, Fintan O’Toole.

O’Toole’s searing assessment that “not even Pope Francis can resurrect Catholic Ireland” will go down in history with Columbanus’ famous letter of advice to Pope Boniface IV in 612 A.D.

This great Irish educator and missionary of Europe did not flinch to rebuke the pope for failing to address a serious theological threat in the seventh century:

“Watch, for the sea is stormy and whipped up by fatal blasts … . Death walks the waves … . Watch, for water has now entered the vessel of the Church, and the vessel is in perilous straits.”

The flames of self-immolation ignited by bishops from Boston to Dublin and in Pennsylvania and Australia through the systematic cover-up of atrocities perpetrated by consecrated persons may burn furiously for, as Dante allegedly observed: “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality” and do nothing.

Nemitz asks: Should “the bishops tender their mass resignations and leave it up to Pope Francis to decide who stays and who goes?” He answers: “Wouldn’t bother me.”

However, in light of the pope’s recent tepid letter and history regarding clerical sex abuse, a better answer might be found in the early centuries of the Christian church when the nominations and elections of bishops were done solely by a popular vote of the faithful. What would all the faithful say today?

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