So on 4 November Tom Gumbleton was in Milwaukeee revealing that Rome removed him from pastoring his inner-city African-American parish four years ago because he testified in support of extending the statute of limitations for survivors of clerical sexual abuse.
And on that same day, in a very different world–in Rome, in fact–Cardinal Bernard Law who fled his Boston see after the world learned how he had protected priests abusing children and who now lives in “disgrace” in the Vatican, was throwing himself a party. A big one, by all accounts. Chris Livesay, John Zaremba, and O’Ryan Johnson report that Law’s party at a four-star Italian hotel was lavish, with “a conclave of clerics,” a mariachi band, and guests driving up in Vatican Mercedes sedans:
Beyond the gate, a cobblestone path led to the airy courtyard, where two banquet tables offered dozens of bottles of vino and meat-stuffed pastry d’oeuvres. Inside, a mariachi band played and sang the well-known ranchero refrain, “Cielito Lindo,” as guests devoured a main course of lasagna and snacked on cheese, tomatoes, vegetables and fine prosciutto, piled in a pyramid and placed on a pedestal. The party drew high clergy and laymen alike; guests sat six to a table.
“The meal was spectacular,” said Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar general emeritus of the Archdiocese of Rome. He twirled his hand in the air, a common Italian gesture for satisfaction. He said Law appeared to enjoy the feast as well.
“Of course,” Ruini said. “He threw the party himself.”
“He’s a good friend of mine,” he added before heading toward his cab. Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan of Mexico was all smiles as he left in the company of two nuns.
“Everyone enjoyed the party,” he said. “It was very animated. Everyone was very, very happy.”
And as the band played “Cielito Lindo” and the prosciutto pyramid diminished, while cardinals feasted and twirled and animated nuns joined the fun, in Boston, where the archdiocesan Catholic newspaper The Pilot has just considerably besmirched its venerable image by publishing and then retracting a statement by a former advisor to the U.S. Catholic bishops indicating that gays are the result of devils tampering with their mothers’ wombs, the very same newspaper, only a few days later, appalled survivors of clerical sexual abuse by publishing an article celebrating the cardinal’s legacy that many survivors took to be a slap in the face.
“Happy Birthday, Your Eminence,” the article ends, after it recites a long litany of the cardinal’s accomplishments, mentioning by the way in its penultimate paragraph and the one preceding it that the dignitary being feted had also generated “a public outcry” when legal documents showed “instances” in which “the Archdiocese of Boston” had allowed priests abusing minors to continue in ministry. (I would provide readers with a link to the Pilot article, but the url for the article is now returning an error message when I click on it [another yanked article in less than a week's time?!], though the original is cached at Google and that’s the text I’m citing here.)
For one bishop who dared to speak out in support of those molested by priests when they were children, harsh punishment, deprivation of the ministry that had been permitted him in an inner-city African-American parish in his retirement. For a prince of the church who protected dozens of priests who abused thousands of minors in horrific cases of serial abuse spanning years, “Cielito Lindo” and guests driving Vatican Mercedes and pyramids of prosciutto and tables laden with vino and goodies.
One church, two very different stories. And at the foundation of it all, Jesus and the message he preached. Which tells us that the poor are blessed, for they own the reign of God. And those who hunger and thirst for justice will have their fill.
And those who weep will be comforted.
I wonder at whose event we might have spotted Jesus on 4 November.
Cross-posted from Bilgrimage, 6 Nov. 2011.