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Clerical Sexual Abuse in Ireland Has Roots in the Vatican

Pope Benedict and Cardinal Bernard Law

The following article comes to Open Tabernacle from Sean O’Conaill of Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) in Ireland.  It was originally published in the Jan. 28 edition of In the Vineyard, the e-newsletter of VOTF. We’re publishing it here with the permission of Sean O’Conaill and VOTF, at the suggestion of a reader of Open Tabernacle.

CLERICAL SEXUAL ABUSE IN IRELAND HAS ROOTS IN THE VATICAN

Sean O’Conaill is the acting coordinator for Voice of the Faithful in Ireland. He is a former history professor and a published writer from Coleraine, Northern Ireland.

The pre-Christmas season in Ireland was dominated for Catholics by a revelation of the total failure of four Archbishops of Dublin, and of their auxiliaries, to protect defenseless children – over three decades.

The Irish government‘s Murphy report of November 26 was based only upon a sample of sexual abuse cases, so the full scale of the Dublin horror will never be known.

Even so, the Irish Catholic Bishops Conference felt compelled to utter a stark summary of the Irish situation on December 9th. They said that the cover-up revealed in the Murphy report “indicates a culture that was widespread in the Church.”

It follows that although only three Irish dioceses have so far been investigated, no other Irish diocese can be supposed to have been immune to this catastrophe, and no Irish bishop who served in this period can be supposed to be entirely free from the same condemnation. Nor is this disgrace by any means confined to Ireland.

Knowing full well that only the papacy has the authority to discipline errant bishops, and incensed by the failure of the Irish Apostolic Nuncio and the Vatican to cooperate with the Murphy commission, Irish Catholics then looked to a meeting of Ireland’s premier archbishops with the pope on December 11th.

This meeting failed to end their justifiable anger. A papal communiqué did not address the issue of bishops’ resignations, nor the issue of Vatican non-cooperation with the commission. Worse, it implied that this Irish crisis was merely a local matter and could be resolved by a papal pastoral letter addressed to Ireland alone.

The Irish are bewildered because they know well that this analysis of the situation can be refuted simply by mentioning a name—the name of a former archbishop who behaved exactly as the four disgraced archbishops of Dublin had done.

Bernard Law.

In December 2002, Cardinal Law resigned his post in the scandal-ridden Boston archdiocese in the midst of an intense public outcry over his cover-up of decades of sexual abuse of children by priests. Yet he now presides over one of the great basilica churches in Rome.

Even if most Irish bishops were sacked tomorrow, the same cardinal sits on the Vatican body that would appoint a new set of probably more powerful Irish bishops.

Bernard Law.

The Church still refuses to hold to account bishops who endanger children. We know that only secular agencies have done that – civil courts, media, and the state. Only upon the public outcry as a result of the Murphy Report did four Irish bishops finally resign, each protesting his innocence.

The Church is still unable to regulate itself. Its central system of governance is dysfunctional. The papacy appears entirely willing to tolerate this state of affairs, misrepresenting this Dublin crisis as though it had nothing in common with Boston in 2002, Philadelphia in 2004 or Los Angeles in 2007, not to mention Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Europe, Africa and Latin America. Rome proves its obliviousness by offering the patronage of the Holy See to the person who best symbolizes the total unaccountability of Catholic bishops globally.

The still-influential Bernard Law.

It was survivors of abuse in Dublin who called to account five bishops who had served in Dublin during the period of the cover-up. These bishops had to be reminded by survivor Marie Collins that we Catholics have all been taught about “sins of omission”—the culpable evil of failing to act when action is required—in this case to protect the innocent.

What is it that prevents the Vatican from imposing accountability upon Bernard Law and other Catholic bishops? Why does it wait for a local storm to blow any bishop from office? Why can it not make any connection between this policy and the 11 million former US Catholics who no longer practice their faith? Why is Dublin’s present Archbishop Diarmuid Martin the church’s only example of a bishop seeking to hold other failing bishops to account?

Irish Catholics are increasingly asking these questions as are Catholics in the US, and throughout the world wherever the abuse scandal has been revealed. They are coming to an inescapable conclusion: their church’s system of government subverts its mission and makes a mockery of the rigid code of sexual morality to which it seeks to hold the laity and pretends to hold the clergy. It is a formula for endless scandal and disgrace.

If this papacy is to rise to this challenge it must stop behaving as though there were no systemic weakness paralyzing its mission everywhere. Unaccountable bishops misbehave precisely because they are unaccountable. Rome needs to demonstrate that it has finally gotten the message that the people of Boston sent it in 2002.

How? First, by sacking and secluding Bernard Law and then by undertaking a comprehensive overhaul of the present clerical governance structure of the Catholic Church.

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24 Responses

  1. Good Lord, Rome still hasn’t gotten the message about it’s failures from world war II. How can we expect Rome to get a message from 2002?

  2. good good stuff ! If the church is to be a true and real loving family they will learn & respond in the appropriate way. disbelief and non ackanowldgement as well as isolation , shunning is as damaging as the abuse itself to a survivor of abuse .
    true and real love & families do not keep secrets and let 4yo children carry the guilt and wrongs of the true abuser .
    the church should if it wants to call itself a family learnhow then does a family deal with the issue of incest and heal . also acknowledgnment just because one gets caught is not true sorrow of what has happened . Just a polite way to cover ones butt again etc.
    To help clean up the church I think they should start appointing real survivors who have healed to to title of priest and bishop . Let those family members who deal & heal and are not afraid to speak truth and do not need to hide sin become the parent role models in the catholic church . let women be the prieststhey are called to be , let married couples be the priests they are called to be etc. letting a bunch of celibate men govern and be the head of a family is just not a true representation of what a family is . I always think of mother Teresa , what if she was called to be pope ? did she not have the right to continue her journey if that was her true calling ?
    sorry I’m beginning to stray from the topic …. abuse is abuse and people can pretend all they want it is not there or not happening ,just because you pretend dosen’t make it so. in the end even in denial truth is still truth

  3. Thank you for sharing the article. O’Conaill gets it, but I doubt the Vatican does. The Vatican kicked Law upstairs, and it was a slap in the face to all the abuse victims and their loved ones.

  4. The Roman Catholic church has shown itself to be un-reformed, and unfortunately there is no evidence that the hierarchy is capable of initiating the necessary reforms to ensure appropraite clerical accountability.

    I am no longer a member of the RC church because I believe that to continue to belong and to contribute to its financial support is to be complicit in its corruption.

  5. “Unaccountable bishops misbehave precisely because they are unaccountable.” ?? I was taught that people misbehave because they have the taint of original sin.

    I think we need to remember some salient points:

    1. Many of the bishops behaved according to the cultural mores of the time. Everyone used to cover up sexual abuse, even the parents of the children. It was thought that going public would just traumatize the victim again.

    2. We also need to remember that it wasn’t the bishops who were committing the acts; it was the priests. The answer, if there is one, lies with the abusers, not with those in charge of the abusers.

    3. Further, most denominations don’t have the power structure necessary to discipline the abusers. I have seen studies that show that sexual abuse among clerics in the Church is about the same as across other denominational lines. Changing the power structure could result in MORE, not LESS, abuse.

    4. Lawyers have often gone after the Catholic Church because it is easier to get money from the Church because of its power structure. Hence, the Church has been under a lot more scrutiny than other denominations, and has probably taken more institutional steps to address the situation than others.

    I think the problem is much more complex than just suggesting that the fault has its roots in the Vatican. I just don’t see many good options for the Vatican, especially if the Pope is going to act true to the faith. Why kind of power structure change would be better?

  6. “We also need to remember that it wasn’t the bishops who were committing the acts; it was the priests.” ok this statement is just sheer ignorance . It is also an insult to those who have been , were and are still being abused by a bishop , nun , lay person, pope etc. people do not put the title of child rapist on thier resume . It is a given there will be bishops , priests , popes , cardinals who have sexually abused children . To assume just because someone has reached a certain status or title means they have not abused a child is just ignornace . children in residential schools of all faiths were abused by both those teaching , ministering etc. within the church . again it is not ones vocation , religion , economic status that makes one abuse children .
    coverups also happened because those abusing want thier sin to remain heidden.
    TRUELY DO NOT SPEAK FOR THOSE WHO KNOW AND WORK IN THE PREVENTION / HEALING OF ABUSE .
    ALSO STOP INSULTING THOSE SURIVORS OF ABUSE . oops I did not mean to appear to be yelling but maybe it is appropriate that it be said loudly , after all education is the key to prevention regarding abuse .

    • Roxie, thank you for a powerful response from a very credible voice, re: these issues. I completely agree with you: it makes absolute no sense (and it’s exceptionally ignorant) to imagine that, in a top-down, hierarchical church, bishops (and the Vatican) aren’t ultimately responsible for the situation of clerical abuse of minors. The Dallas newspaper’s study of the situation in 2002, when the bishops met in Dallas in the midst of a flurry of revelations about the abuse situation, showed some 2/3 of American bishops having knowingly shielded and/or transferred a priest who had sexually abused a minor.

      I’m very frustrated, too, with the argument that, since this happens in other institutions, we who are Catholic can shrug our shoulders about the problem in our church. That’s akin to saying, “Fathers in other families molest their daughters, so why should I get upset when it happens in mine?”

      I have never seen any credible study which shows that the problem of abuse of children is as serious in any other religious institutions as it is in the Catholic church. This–and the arguments that it has always gone on and that this story is now being driven by survivors and lawyers out for money–are all games being played by those who put the institution first and people second.

      And that’s why the problem is there in the first place. And that needs to stop.

      Thank you for letting us hear your voice.

    • I didn’t mean to suggest that bishops are incapable of committing abuse or did not commit abuse. But, sins of omission by cover-up and sins of commission by abuse are not the same; they aren’t even close to the same.

      The suggestion made in the post is that the abuse of the children was somehow tied to the Vatican, and the sexual mores of Church teaching.

      I agree that education is very important – on all sides of the issues. It is easy now to see what should have been done then. But, it isn’t easy to know what should be done now about what happened then. We could systematically dismantle the institution of the Church. But, what will have been gained? Will more children be protected if there are no bishops to watch over the clergy?

      There are many who are willing to feed survivors’ desire for vengeance. But, as we know, vengeance is the Lord’s, and the Lord’s alone. We have to find a more reasoned approach, and one that is true to the faith.

      • It isn’t about vengeance, Mr. Ludescher. At least, that’s not what I’ve observed, interacting for some years now with survivors of childhood sexual abuse by priests, brothers, and nuns.

        It’s about healing. And that healing begins with truth-telling. The leaders of the church have chosen to put what they perceive as the good of the institution (read: the good of the clerical system) above the well-being of these hurting members of the people of God.

        They have done everything possible, almost all church leaders, to keep the truth from being known. Look at what is now coming out of the Bridgeport, CT, diocese after Bishop Lori spent countless thousands of dollars and litigated ad nauseam there for several years to keep the public from knowing what has gone on in that diocese.

        This is obscene–protecting an institution (and an elite group within the institution, at that) rather than children. This is obscene–putting the well-being of the institution ahead of the well-being of the people of God.

        It’s especially obscene when pastors do this.

        I’m afraid I don’t see the large distinction between sins of omission and commission here. When one is complicit in the rape of children by one’s omission, is one really guilty of a less serious sin than one would commit directly? And when one knowingly protects and reassigns a priest abusing children, how can one credibly be said to be committing a sin of omission?

        (There are proven cases of bishops who themselves abused minors, by the way–Dupre in Springfield, MA, comes to mind, and the bishop of Antagonish, Nova Scotia, whose name I am forgetting.)

        P.S. The Vatican is very definitely involved. As head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict) sent a letter to the world’s bishops instructing them to refer all cases of clerical abuse directly to the Vatican–circumventing the criminal justice system in their countries. Obstructing justice, in other words . . . .

      • Mr. Lindsey,

        I think vengeance is a natural reaction to being the victim. While it is natural, it is neither productive nor Christian.

        What I have observed from my years in the criminal justice system is that the system is very ill-adapted to deal with problems of sexual abuse. It is especially ill-adapted to deal with the humanity of the abuser.

        As an institution and as a people, we need to have a different response than just, “turn it over to the secular authorities.” What the civil authorities do is, in many ways, simply irrelevant to what we should do.

        • Once again: I haven’t heard or seen survivors of childhood sexual abuse by priests, nuns, and brothers demanding vengeance. The predominant response I hear and see is a request for healing–and justice. And both of those require church leaders to admit what they have done. The response of most of our leaders has been exceptionally unpastoral. It has been to meet the request of survivors to talk with them, to see them face to face, with legal hard-ball tactics. Very few bishops have been willing to sit down and talk to survivors.

          This is a shameful period in the history of the church.

          When pastoral leaders behave in this way, and when they seek to circumvent the criminal justice system, why on earth wouldn’t survivors of abuse turn to the legal system for recourse? What other option do they have, when men who claim to be committed to the path of the Good Shepherd won’t even meet with their flock, and when they play hard-ball legal games to try to silence and shame those asking for healing and justice?

          I agree with Bishop Geoffrey Robinson’s conclusions about the abuse crisis: the church stands in dire need of reform right now. And the testimony of survivors of clerical sexual abuse is extremely important to us, if we expect to reform our broken institution. We are all in the debt of the many survivors of childhood abuse by Catholic authority figures who have not chosen vengeance as their response, but who continue to knock at the door of the church and ask it to be what it professes to be.

          • Mr. Lindsey:

            The legal system has been, is, and probably will continue to be a serious impediment to any fruitful discussions with the Church. Any concessions or admissions of wrongdoing can subject the Church to substantial legal liability. Many archdioceses have become financially crippled or even bankrupt as the result of lawsuits. The size of these lawsuits affects the Church’s charitable arm in a negative way.

            I disagree that the Church has been exceptionally unpastoral. I’m not sure that the authority’s response to hearing of the abuse was much different than the cultural more of the time.

            It has indeed been a shameful time. We can, and are, doing better. I couldn’t even teach my son’s Confirmation classes without a background check and attending a session on sexual abuse. So, I think we are seeing changes for the better. And, these changes wouldn’t have occurred without a structure in place to implement those changes.

          • In case after case that I’ve read about, or know about personally, survivors did not initially take the legal route. They initially sought pastoral assistance and compassion from church officials–only to be rebuffed. It was then that, lacking any other recourse, they turned to the legal system for assistance.

            And as this pattern has developed and has been uniform everywhere new cases are discovered, I can understand why many survivors would no longer bother with attempts to receive pastoral assistance and compassion from the church. It’s just not there, and it’s not going to be there. The pastors are behaving like CEOs of a corporation more about fiscal issues than their pastoral charge.

            And I’m afraid we read the evidence for “doing better” very differently. As the Bridgeport case I mentioned previously demonstrates, church officials continue to fight tooth and nail to keep documents concealed. And new cases are being revealed constantly–look at the Murphy report in Ireland, and the reports now coming out of Germany. And new reports continue to surface right here in your own back yard in places like Chicago, even as Cardinal George tries to assert his moral authority in the same-sex marriage debate.

            We have seen the almost complete abdication of pastoral leadership among the large preponderance of Catholic pastoral leaders at this point in history. It’s a disgraceful situation, and one that causes tremendous pain to many people. In my view, if we care about the church and its future, we need to admit where we are and then deal with the situation realistically–with strong legal pressure to force church leaders to do what moral inducements and pastoral appeals have not accomplished.

  7. The abuse of vulnerable people by Roman Catholic priests is primarily an abuse of power. This occurs because the priests are not obliged to be accountable in the way that the vast majority of citizens are accountable. If clerics were required to be appropriately accountable to parish representatives, who in turn could dismiss a priest from his parish ministry in extreme circumstances, as occurs in the Anglican Church, or was even accountable to his partner, then we would have a much more functional priesthood. The lack of accountability goes all the way to the Pope via the bishops – none are free from blame.

    As long as Popes, Bishops and Priests remain on their pedestals and ‘untouchable’ there will always be abuse within the Roman Catholic Church.

    Indeed clerics deserve to be accountable to the wider community because only in that way can they be authentic, psychologically functional human beings.

    The only hope I see for the Roman Catholic Church is if committed ‘lay people’ continue to insist on change to the clerical club mentality. Change will not come from the hierarchy.

  8. Yes for surivors the hiding , nonbelief and lack of acknowldgement are often as horrific to deal with as the abuse itself.
    Often people see the issue of compensation as a vengful thing . However this is usually not the case .In fact often the whole outcome of compensation has come upon the request of those having been brought into the criminal justice sytem, those being charged . It is usually those being charged who wish to have the problem remain hidden and compensation is usually the route being taken . Yes it is unfortunate that many lawyers now see it as a money maker etc. but it is pretty much a myth that those seeking justice want money .
    survivors who have not healed also can be trapped not wanting to talk openly yet the pain is so deep all they want is the pain to go away . wanting some sort of comort.Society bases our feel good on money the material wealth . Even the selfhelp industry is mostly based on feeling happy is about getting what you want . .So why would a survivor of abuse not be led to believe relief and healing will come through compensation . A very good doc. about the abuse in the church and compensation is The Hand of God http://www.handofgodfilm.com/
    I personally never sought nor would accept compensation . The true reality is it keeps the cycle going . yes the church needs to acknowldge and put into place help for survivors . therapy etc. money just dosen’t cut it and in the end people who still attend church tend to suffer for it often loosing property etc. in order to pay settlements reached .
    reaction to abuse is no different in the church then in any other institution in our society be it the justice system , education system etc. people choose to hide abuse for all types of reasons . The reason child sexual abuse is epidemic now is because people do not want to believe . Playing pretend is the #1 cause for it to go on and not stop the abuse .
    Someone told me once they were shocked I became catholic after all the abuse in the church and my own sexual abuse .
    being created catholic has nothing to do with abuse in my church .
    It takes a lot of grace for people to come to terms and have empathy for abusers as well as victims . In fact I beleive it to be a rarity .How can one love a monster ? right ? Our justice system is based on punish , not heal.
    Abusers fear punsihment and yes many victims not healed have anger . again this is the norm be it in a church or a school or hospital .
    The way our justice system works rarely are abusers dealt with if at all but if they are our justice is based on a system of punishment . To assume locking someone up for 3yrs and then hoping they will somehow miracously learned on thier own not to rape a child . We in Canada do have a social justice movement but it is very slow and changes with each new gov. etc.
    It takes alot to come to terms and have acceptance for ones abusers . To know the why , to have understanding etc.
    My main abuser remains abusing children , some are safe such as family members who have chosen to deal and heal etc. but children elsewhere are still at risk . Ironically I know of 3 victims paid off , one , my own brother is in jail while his rapists ar free roaming citizens . Of all the perdtors I have known the only 3 who no longer are raping children is a result nothing to do with our system but rather 2 were murdered and one took his own life . That is the reality of how often predators of children are dealt with.
    My abuser would see and be to afraid to seek help because he fears punishment and of course is convinced he did not hurt anyone . Yet if we were to approach the healing in a whole different light people would see being watched so you do not harm others , talking about the abuse , healing etc. is true love it is not punishment at all.
    I have much empathy for those who abuse just as I do for survivors of abuse . Forgiveness , understanding , acceptance has nothing to do with playing pretend , hiding or forgetting . I know full well most abusers were victims of abuse themselves .
    I hope survivors will grow to know how important it is to speak the truth in order to keep children safe . For me I can risk being shunned , not beleived , labeled witch , herotic etc. to protect children .It is a given , it is a must .
    I’ve a dear dear friend who’s child was molested 3 yrs ago in church . The people did not know how to deal with it etc. turns out the man moslested other boys . Of course he did . Beacuse of people not knowing how to treat the man or deal etc. they choose to ignore it and play pretend . This is the priest , people put in place to deal with abuse etc. so this man serves the eucharist almost each sunday . Children are still at risk and my friend and her whole family had to leave that church because of the harm it brings to children to have them return to the abuser and pretdn it did not happen .
    People are just so fearful they haven’t a clue how to respond .
    to help a family heal acknowldgement , belief and dealing with the abuser upfront is a must . This goes for a small family to an instintutional one . I also have a blog and there are many out there now to help people deal with sexual abuse .
    Some sites I will warn you are hatefelt and bent on punishment .and I warn people if you come across one leave because moving on and healing one cannot have hate in ones heart . There are very positive blogs out there now by survivors and message board too . There is a great site darkness2light which is all about prevention , which I feel is key to fighting abuse .

  9. For readers following this discussion, I highly recommend the News Link page on the Open Tabernacle site, which has been linking to valuable articles about the abuse crisis in the Catholic church.

    Today’s list of news links contains a particularly revealing article about the situation now emerging in Germany, which is very much like the one that has now been tracked in the U.S., Canada, Ireland, and other places: secrecy, stonewalling by church authorities, putting the institution above the needs of survivors, moving abusive priests around where they can abuse again, etc.

  10. “…even as Cardinal George tries to assert his moral authority in the same-sex marriage debate.”

    This seems to get to the heart of the matter.

    Just as, in the 80’s and 90’s, every revisionist condemnation of Pius XII somehow ended with “therefore, the Church has no moral basis for condemning abortion,” the bishops’ negligent response to sexual offenders must now shut them up about the Catholic understanding of marriage.

    The real problem with this approach, of course, why being morally discredited extends only to marriage issues, why, in fact, it doesn’t justify disposing of the church entirely. It’s a sensible argument for those attacking the whole church. But it makes no more sense than Catholic conservatives saying, “therefore, the church can’t assert its moral authority in favor of economic justice for the poor.”

    This is the age of the political non sequitur.

    On a side note, I see Paul Shanley just got his conviction upheld by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. Personally, I have no idea whether he was guilty of the acts he was charged with. But, as a lawyer, and as a civil libertarian much concerned with how little we esteem the bill of rights in this country, and the rights of defendants, I was appalled that a man could be sentenced, essentially, to life in prison based on nothing but “recovered memories” triggered by an article in the Boston Globe, with no corroborating evidence.

    I may have a skewed view on this. My only experience in this area was representing a young man–a teacher, not a cleric–against whom a credible charge of molestation was made. We were able to prove the charge false only because we were able to make the accuser pinpoint the time and place of the alleged crime, and we were lucky that phone records were found to completely corroborate the impossibility of the accused’s guilt. Such would not be possible with many of today’s accusations, with statutes of limitation swept away, and the presumption of innocence set aside.

    • You’ve missed my point, unfortunately, Rick. You’re missing it because you are reducing the conversation to a tit-for-tat approach which assumes that one could question the bishops’ abysmal handling of the abuse crisis only because one had some hidden motive to undermine church teaching–because one is ill-intentioned towards church teaching.

      This overlooks the fundamental point: through their handling of the abuse crisis, the pastoral leaders of the church have radically undermined their moral authority in all areas.

      Except, I suppose, for those who can stomach sexual abuse of children and its coverup. And who agree with the pastoral leaders who have covered up this abuse–and facilitated it by transferring known predators around–that the primary value to be considered here is protecting the institution.

      Not children. And not the badly damaged faith of millions of Catholics who can’t stomach such abuse and its coverup, and who are leaving the church as a result.

      • I don’t doubt the bishops’ abysmal handling of abusing priests, but yes, I do doubt the bona fides of many who seek to use it for other ends.

        The church has the same problem with child molesters as all other institutions. Suspicion of abuse isn’t proof. Unlike the situation in bad TV movies, we don’t know from the start who is innocent and who is guilty, who is lying and who is mistaken and who is telling the truth. And it’s not easy to get at the truth in these situations. The easy solution, engaged in by churches and schools and sports programs for years, is to have the suspect “move on.” Locally it is “moral;” it serves to protect “our kids.” The larger effect is devastating. But of course it continues.

        I have no more inclination to leave the church over bad priests than I have to pull my children out of public school because of molestation there. I recognize that many have left the church for that reason, but I hope that it is part of maturity to recognize that our faith does not depend upon the personal watchfulness of our bishops–as much as we would like them to do a much better job.

        Men who molest children should be indicted, tried, and, if found guilty, incarcerated for it. But it should be done in accord with the bill of rights.

        You may recall from recent history that, after the reading of Mit Brennender Sorge in the German churches in 1937, the Nazis initiated a series of widely-publicised “morals trials” against Catholic clergy and religious, obviously calculated to discredit the moral authority of the church. I used to think that those were all trumped up charges. Now I wonder. Nevertheless, the incident simply highlights the fact that, much as we would prefer a morally heroic clergy, the authority of the church is not conditional on that, any more than the efficacy of the sacraments.

        • See, we continue talking at cross purposes, Rick. You say, “I do doubt the bona fides of many who seek to use it for other ends.”

          And I’m telling you there is no other end involved in this discussion except the church’s obligation to live the gospel, to do what is pastoral, and to be a sacramental sign of love in the world.

          If those calling for that are pursuing some “other ends,” then so be it. It strikes me that those who try to derail the discussion of the church’s pastoral failure in this area are the ones pursuing the “other ends”–and those ends are surely not rooted in the gospels.

  11. Rick I think your bringing up the Nazi’s and their morals trials after the pubilication of Mit Brenner Sorge is an important point.

    The Nazis had a very good reason to attempt to destroy the moral standing of the Church because that was the only power the Church had left in which to sway opinion against the Nazis. Stalin’s quote about how many army divisions does the pope have had great bearing for the Nazis. Pius XII didn’t have any army divisions, but the papacy had made a very concerted effort beginning with Pio Nono to found their secular influence precisely in the moral sphere.

    When an insititution which claims it’s power to influence events is based on their witness to their moral authority, they damn well better be seen to live that morality. Why do you think that the Vatican is placing so much emphasis on personal piety when it comes to the canonization of Pius XII? Could it be because the public execution of his office left much to be desired in terms of demanding Catholic institutional leaders live Catholic notions of morality?

  12. When the Pope scolds the Bishops about covering up, I hope to God that he is facing a mirror with his eyes wide open!!!

    The leaders at the top set the tone of any organization or group! For over 20 years, Ratzinger was the #2 most powerful leader in the Church and knew the gist of everything that was going on at the headquarters, from all the reports sent in from around the world.

    Stop complaining about the sexual specks in the eyes of the laity until the beams in the eyes of the your clergy are removed!!!

    • Thanks for this – I’m sorry I have not responded earlier.

      You’re absolutely right, of course. Benedict himself has been central to the whole saga. His obsession with papal power and control (both in office himself, and while at the CDF), the insistence on a priesthood restricted to celibate men, the driving away of candidates who ahve openly faced and dealt with a “homosexual” orientation, have all reinforced the three key causes of the problem.

      More directly still, his reinforcement while at the CDF of a long standing insistence on secrecy in dealing with clerical sexual misconduct, and the complete non-coperation of the Papal Nuncio in Ireland, his own representative who is directly answerable to him, are exactly what the Murphy report was complaoing about: not just abuse, but the unending cover-ups which go with it: cover-ups that reached, and still reach, right into the heart of Benedict’s own fiefdom

  13. I find the arguments that it was “culturally normal at the time” and “the RCC was no worse than anyone else” truly extraordinary! Surely the whole point is that our religion should actually have an impact on us? If none of it makes us better in any way, not influencing our morality or actuions – then really what is the point?

    Given the church’s overwhelming addiction to secrecy (they forced the abused to sign vows of silence – I’m nearly vomiting at the thought of so much evil parading in the guise of moral probity, goodness and a cassock) I strongly believe that the 4% figure bandied around by the church for predatory priests is understated. But it’s not the point! Surely, they should do better?

    It wasn’t culturally normal at any time to allow celibate males to rape children. It was not culturally normal to facilitate that behaviour either. It might not have been culturally normal to have to talk about it – but then, it was presumably a pretty unprecedented scale of abuse going on so public debate was never likely – and the church used that to allow the clergy to carry on doing it. The hierarchy provably knew it was happening on a huge scale and facilitated its continuation.

    And the argument that this will hurt the church’s charitable arm is really the very worst argument I have ever heard here. What capacity does a chuch have for charity when it routinely protects child-rapists (starting at the very top) and silences its victims? Perhaps bankruptcy is exactly where the church needs to be right now?

    While those arguments continue, together with the defence, the cover ups, today’s Nuremburg defence from the Cardinal…the church is a criminal institution.

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