10Sep Erring Shepherds

It has pained me greatly to write this article. I deeply love the Catholic Church – which has an unconditionally loving, merciful and triune God at its centre.  I have great respect and love for Pope Francis and have worked closely throughout my life with many dedicated, hard working and deeply spiritual priests.

But something is deeply wrong within the Catholic Church as is revealed in the short history below of clerical and institutional abuse. The Church has lost much of its moral leadership around the world, particularly among younger Catholics in the northern hemisphere.

The problem, as clearly and frequently identified by Pope Francis, is a pervasive and toxic culture of clericalism throughout the Catholic hierarchy. Within clericalism I would include the related problems of the sexual abuse of children by a small minority of clergy, unaccountable power, careerism, imposed celibacy and a major lack of effective involvement of lay men and women at all levels within the Church.

Lay people must be given back effective ownership of their Church, in which they will work, in word and action and partnership with clergy, guided by the Holy Spirit and a deep knowledge of Sacred Scripture and strengthened divine Eucharist – to help bring about on earth God’s Kingdom of unconditional love and mercy for all human kind and all of nature. Let us have a Church of mercy which is “a field hospital after battle” for the wounded, as Pope Francis has said.

“The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds. … And you have to start from the ground up.”  (Published interview with Pope Francis by Antonio Spadaro, S.J. )

For many hundreds of years clerical sex abuse and the breaking of the priestly vow of celibacy (a separate though linked issue through shared guilt) were rarely talked about or discussed within the home or Church as a whole. Any raising of the subject, especially by those outside the Church, was quickly classified as anti-Catholicism, so no change within the Church was considered necessary. Then,  around 1985 in the USA, allegations concerning the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests began to arise in various countries and to be reported in national media around the world. The actions of some Religious Orders of nuns have also come under public scrutiny and condemnation.

At first, condemnation was mostly made only of the priests concerned. Recently however, the finger of blame has been pointed at bishops and superiors of religious orders and societies of priests for their covering up of the abuse. In some cases we now learn that a very small number of the latter were themselves involved in sexual abuse. There are so many common threads running through all of this that I think it is now time to admit that blame for what has happened over many hundreds of years goes all the way up to the Vatican and papacy.

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In 2002 a film, ‘The Magdalene Sisters’, described in graphic detail the awful suffering and humiliations inflicted on four young women ‘imprisoned’ in a Dublin Magdalene laundry from 1964 to 1968. A survivor of the laundry who saw the film said her personal experience of incarceration in that laundry had been a thousand times worse than that depicted in the movie. The Vatican condemned the film as sensational anti-clericalism. The best that can be said of the depicted laundry is that it was perhaps typical of the culture of its time; the worst that can be said is that the physical, emotional and spiritual suffering had been inflicted by Catholic nuns whose religious calling and ethos should have enabled them to known better and act differently, as should that of the Catholic hierarchy under whom they worked.

The first such laundries for prostitutes, later to include unmarried mothers, females guilty of petty crimes or suffering mental problem, and even female orphans, had been set up in Ireland by the Protestant Church of Ireland in 1765 and in Belfast in 1839, along with one run by the Presbyterian Church. They were also set up throughout the UK and in many other countries. In Ireland the Catholic Church and its Religious Orders of nuns soon got involved. Several Orders of nuns established many such institutions throughout Ireland, each one financially supported by government, perhaps because income from the laundries exceeded that spent on housing and feeding the inmates and their babies, thus providing valuable income for the particular orders of nuns. Many of these laundries had in excess of 200 women at any one time.

The capacity of the Magdalen Laundry at High Park varied over time, but did not exceed 250. For instance, the occupancy was 218 in 1922; 210 in 1932, 215 in 1942 and 200 in 1952.The Laundry ceased operations in 1991.” (Report of the Irish Inter-Departmental Committee to establish the facts of State involvement with the Magdalen Laundries 2011, chaired by Senator Martin McAleese into 10 of these Magdalene laundries run by the Catholic Church).

As the Magdalene laundries expanded in number, so did the violence and abuse against the female inmates. This was done under the guise of being penance for their sins. Prayers, silence, poor and inadequate food, fear, guilt, shame, breast binding and beatings, coupled with long hours of back-breaking work in the laundries and daily cleaning of the attached convents, were the order of the day. No wages were paid and locked doors prevented escape, in spite of only a few having ever been tried and found guilty of an offence by a properly constituted civil court. The Irish police returned all caught escapees to their original laundry.

The inmates included female orphans, mentally disturbed women and girls who had been made pregnant by rape and incest. Many were referred to the laundries by Catholic parents, to hide the shame of a pregnant unmarried daughter, and by local Catholic priests. Some women spent the rest of their lives incarcerated in these institutions, having no family or a family willing to arrange for their release. Babies were regularly removed forcibly from their mothers and sold to rich American childless couples. The last Irish Magdalene laundry closed in Waterford in 1996. It has been estimated that 30,000 women were forcibly placed in these laundries in the 19th and 20th centuries. (Fintan O’Toole, The Observer, 16 Feb. 2003) Many lives were totally ruined by the degrading and humiliating experience – physically, emotionally and spiritually – of their time in a Magdalene Laundry.

The ‘Justice for Magdalenes Research Group’ found that there are at least 1,663 women from the Magdalene laundries buried in cemeteries around Ireland – many of whom are buried in unmarked graves. In 1993 a mass grave of 133 corpses – 22 being added to that number later – was discovered in the grounds of a former laundry owned and run by the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity. This led to media revelations about the operations of the secretive Catholic institutions of Magdalene laundries in Ireland.

In June 2011 the Irish government set up a committee to establish state involvement in the Magdalene laundries (‘Report of the Irish Inter-Departmental Committee to establish the facts of State involvement with the Magdalen Laundries 2011’, chaired by Senator Martin McAleese) into 10 of these Magdalene laundries run by the Catholic Church. Their report in 2013 found that there had been ‘significant’ state collusion, verbal abuse but, surprisingly and strongly contradicted by former female inmates, no regular physical or sexual abuse. A belated, formal state apology was issued in February 2013 by the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) and a £50 million compensation scheme for survivors was set up by the Irish Government. The various Religious Orders of Catholic nuns who had been in charge of the Magdalene Laundries in Ireland refused to contribute to the Irish government’s compensation fund for survivors, estimated in 2014 to be around 600 women.

In 2002 the ‘Spotlight’ team of reporters for the Boston Globe newspaper in American claimed to have uncovered the widespread sexual abuse of children by some local Catholic clergy and that these offending priests, once found out, were then systematically moved between parishes, without the receiving parish priest being informed about the reason for their move. One priest was alleged to have abused around 130 children over decades while being thus moved between parishes. Complaining parents whose children had been violated were paid by the local Archbishop to remain silent about what had happened and to not report the incidents to anyone.

In 2003 the New York Times reported that “Boston (diocese) paid $85 million to settle 550 lawsuits from people who said they were abused by priests. According to the National Catholic Reporter (May 31 2018) the sex abuse crisis has now cost the US Catholic Church more than $3 billion dollars since the mid 1980s and Boston diocese $150.5 million dollars. Many American dioceses have applied for bankruptcy, some, it is said, to avoid further payments to abused claimants.

The film that tells the story of the Boston Globe’s investigation of Boston Archdiocese

Widespread public outcry forced Cardinal Bernard Law, responsible for that diocesan policy of moving erring priests around and paying parents to bind them to secrecy, to offer his resignation to the Vatican. This was accepted towards the end of 2002. Two years later, to the shock and horror of many people, particularly the parents of children abused by Catholic priests, Pope St. John Paul 11 appointed Cardinal Law as Archpriest of the Roman Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. This gave Cardinal Law a comfortable and well-paid living and access to all that was going on in the Vatican and Rome.

In 2015 the story of the Boston Globe’s revelations about sexual abuse by local Catholic clergy and its cover-up by the hierarchy was told in the award-winning film “Spotlight”. It was regarded as a great success and quickly went global.

In October 2002, Irish television’s programme Prime Time broadcast a special report entitled Cardinal Secrets containing accounts of children abused by Catholic priests serving in the Archdiocese of Dublin, where complaints over decades had been made to diocesan bishops and police but had been ignored by both.

In 2004 came the first detailed report of an American legal investigation into the issue. “The “nature and scope of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests and deacons in the United States 1950 – 2002” stated that around 4% of all US Catholic priests had been the subject of allegations of child sexual abuse.

In 2009 the Irish Government published The Ryan Report, chaired by Justice Seán Ryan, which had investigated the treatment of thousands of children since 1936 placed in Irish residential institutions, including industrial schools, reformatories and orphanages. These were controlled by various Catholic religious orders and congregations, although funded and supervised by the Irish Department of Education. The Ryan Commission took evidence from 1090 men and women who reported being abused as children in these institutions. Excessive physical punishments and prolonged sexual abuse were revealed, in addition to Church and State authorities refusing to intervene effectively or to report what was happening to the police. The failure of both State and Church to protect the vulnerable children placed in their care was appalling and the extent and severity of neglect and abuse criminal. Many witnesses to the Commission spoke of ruined lives.

In 2009, a few months after the Ryan Report, the Irish Government published The Murphy Report. This Commission had been set up in 2004 and was mostly chaired by Judge Yvonne Murphy. Its remit had been to investigate how Irish Catholic and state authorities had dealt with reported cases of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in the Catholic archdiocese of Dublin during the period 1975 – 2004.  (Report by Commission of Investigation into Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin). Their original representative sample of 46 priests accused of sexually abusing 320 children later expanded to 102 priests. “One of those priests admitted to the Commission of sexually abusing over 100 children, while another accepted that he had abused on a fortnightly basis during the currency of his ministry which lasted over 25 years.” (Official Report) The Commission found that seventy complaints had been lodged against these two priests but no effective action had been taken by their bishop. One of the damning conclusions of the Murphy Report states that “The Dublin Archdiocese’s pre-occupation in the dealing with cases of child sexual abuse, at least until the mid 1990s, were the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the Church and the preservation of its assets.” It was as if the sexual abuse of young children was of no consequence to Dublin’s Catholic hierarchy during the years being investigated. As to Dublin priests not involved in this sordid and widespread scandal, the Commission said that “The vast majority simply chose to turn a blind eye.” The Commission also reported that the Vatican had refused to co-operate with their enquiry.

The Vatican’s refusal to co-operate was based on Church Canon Law, even in its more recent revised form; Article 25 of Pope John Paul II’s The Norms of the Motu Proprio, Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutelaof 2001, giving the Vatican Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith responsibility to deal with and judge a series of particularly serious crimes within the ambit of canon law.  Article 30 of its revision by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010 imposes what is considered as ‘the pontifical secret’ on all allegations and proceedings relating to child sexual abuse by clerics. It does this by stating that the results of a diocesan investigation and trial into serious immoral conduct by a priest should be sent to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; no mention is made of the results, where guilt has been determined, being passed to the police. That omission speaks volumes.

The above Norms of the Moto Proprio of 2001 states “In tribunals established by Ordinaries of Hierarchs, for the cases of the more grave delicts reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the functions of judge, promoter of justice, notary and legal representative could be validly performed only by priests. Furthermore, upon completion of the trial in the tribunal in any manner, the acts of the case were to be transmitted ex officio, as soon as possible, to the Congregation”(for the Doctrine of the Faith). Pope Francis has never spoken publically about that Motu Proprio or seemingly sought to have it revised.

Around 2011 a Tuam amateur historian, Catherine Corless, began researching a former Catholic Mother and Baby Home (St. Mary’s) in Tuam (Co. Galway) for unmarried mothers, run between 1925 and 1961 by the Bon Secours Order of nuns. The building had formerly been a workhouse, built in 1840. Her locally published research article in 2012 aroused little interest. However, in 2014 the Irish Mail on Sunday carried a front page spread detailing the research by Corless. It quickly went viral.

In 1975, fourteen years after the Home closed, two local boys playing in a field at the rear of the former Home had uncovered a hole covered with cement slabs which, to their horror, contained many skeletons. They reported this to the local priest but the only action taken was to celebrate Mass at the site and recover the hole. Corless spoke to many local people who knew of the grave, as did, she claimed, the police and local council. She got no help for her research from statutory agencies or from the Bon Secours Order. The latter claimed they no longer had files or information on the Home. Corless claims to have been asked by local people “What are you doing? It’s a long time ago. If there’s bodies there just leave them.”

Through her own painstaking and meticulous research at the Galway Registry Office over a number of years and at her own expense (€3,184) through a large number of records of death (there was only one burial certificate), Corless uncovered an unusually high number of deaths of pre- and post-birth babies and young children up to 3 years old, 796 to be exact, at the Tuam Home. Her original article in 2012 (‘The Home’ in the ‘Journal of the Old Tuam Society’), which had aroused little local interest, also claimed an unusually high number of deaths of young mothers and that most, including the babies, had been buried in an unmarked and unregistered grave at the Home.

Using a site map from 1890 Corless claimed the site of the mass grave was the same location as that of a former, large septic tank (“a large vault with 20 chambers”), a claim later verified by an official Commission of Investigation in December 2017. However that Commission did not claim to have evidence that this structure had ever been used as a septic tank. The scientific use of carbon dating clearly showed that that the human remains in the former septic tank dated from the time when the Bon Secours nuns ran the Tuam mother and Baby Home.

The headquarters of the Bon Secours Order in Cork contacted Corless to tell her that the claims in her research were untrue and had upset older nuns in the Order. In 2012 the Irish Health Service Executive reported concerns that up to 1,000 had been sent, without their mothers’ permission, from the Tuam Mother and Baby Home to be adopted illegally in the United States. Various claims have been made about the nuns having received large sums of money for this cruel export of babies.

In 2015 the Irish government, concerned about the many reports in the media about the unregistered mass grave at Tuam, set up the ‘Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and certain related matters’, to be chaired by Judge Yvonne Murphy. Its remit was to investigate the Bon Secours Home in Tuam and a further thirteen other such Mother and Baby Homes. It is due to report in February 2019.

In March 2017 seventy year old Marie Collins, an Irish national and herself a severely traumatised victim of clerical abuse as a child of 13 while a patient in a Catholic hospital, resigned from the recently established Pontifical Council for the Protection of Minors. This had been set up by Pope Francis in 2014. Marie Collins said in an article for the National Catholic Reporter that her resignation was because of continued inactivity and refusal to co-operate with the commission by a small number of Vatican departments. She wrote of “shameful resistance”. The final straw for her was the refusal of an un-named Vatican department (likely to be the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the department with the main responsibility for dealing with reports to the Vatican of abuse by clergy) to comply with one of the new commission’s recommendations. That recommendation was a basic and simple protocol, based on good manners and sound practise, requesting that all correspondence from victims sexually abused by clergy should receive a response.
She wrote; “It is a reflection of how this whole abuse crisis in the church has been handled: with fine words in public and contrary actions behind closed doors.” Marie said that Curial officials also blocked the attempts by the new Pontifical Council to set up a tribunal of accountability of bishops who had failed to protect children. Marie Collins praised the work of Pope Francis and the Cardinal chairperson of the new Pontifical Council. However it is sad to note that Marie Collins also said she had never had the opportunity to speak to Pope Francis during her three year tenure and had never been contacted by him since her resignation to learn of her reasons for resigning. I would have thought this a fairly fundamental and important thing to do. One wonders if Pope Francis did so when he met her recently in Dublin, along with 7 other victims of clerical and institutional abuse.

Marie Collins in August 2018 accepted an invitation from Pope Francis to meet him in Rome in mid-September, hoping he would clarify for her the Vatican process whereby Catholic bishops are judged for their adherence to rules governing the disciplining of priests accused of child sexual abuse. This follows a report that on his flight back to Rome from Dublin, Pope Francis had commented, rather unkindly and undiplomatically I think, that he thought Marie Collins to be “fixated” on the necessity for a central Vatican tribunal to judge bishops alleged to be covering up cases of clerical child sex abuse. (Refer to a previous post and comments for further information about this invitation to Marie Collins by Pope Francis.)

In 2013-2017 the Australian government set up a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Again, the problem was uncovered not just of the widespread sexual abuse of children by mainly Catholic religious Brothers but also of a cover-up at all levels of the Australian Catholic hierarchy by moving these offenders between parishes and Catholic institutions and paying parents to ensure their silence. The Royal Commission into ‘Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse’  established that some 4,444 claimants alleged incidents of child sexual abuse in 4,756 reported claims to Catholic Church authorities  and at least 1,880 suspected abusers from 1980 to 2015. The Commission also found that in 75 Australian archdioceses and dioceses approximately 7% of priests who worked in Australia between 1950 and 2009 were accused, but may never have been proved in a civil court, to have sexually abused children.

In June 2017 Cardinal Pell, former Archbishop of Sydney and Melbourne and recently appointed by Pope Francis to reform the Vatican City’s finances, was investigated about multiple accusations of sexual misconduct with minors. Following a four-week committal hearing many of the charges were dismissed but it ruled that the Cardinal will stand trial on at least three different complaints.

In July 27, 2018 Pope Francis accepted the resignation from the College of Cardinals of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. This followed a series of allegations of sexual misconduct (sexually interfering with seminarians, priests, young boys and others) that had been made against him. Pope Francis ordered him to observe “a life of prayer and penance in seclusion.” In August 25, 2018 Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, former apostolic nuncio (Vatican ambassador) to the United States, released an 11-page document describing a series of prior warnings to the Vatican regarding McCarrick’s immoral behaviour. Archbishop Viganò stated that Montalvo, then Papal Nuncio to the United States, had informed the Vatican in 2000 of McCarrick’s “gravely immoral behaviour with seminarians and priests” and that he himself had done the same in 2013. Pope Francis now stands accused of being aware, since 2013, of Cardinal McCarrick’s long-term immoral behaviour and doing nothing about until last month. In fact, it is reported that Pope Francis previously removed the ignored restrictions imposed on McCarrick by Pope Benedict. Pope Benedict XVI had previously imposed sanctions on Cardinal McCarrick (no public celebration of Mass, no attendance at public meetings, no giving of lectures, no travel etc.) but seems to have ignored McCarrick’s non-observance of most of them. It is reported that McCarrick was often seen in and around the Vatican, at major religious events in Rome and had even concelebrated Mass with Pope Benedict during the time of restriction. It has to be noted that the former papal nuncio, Archbishop Carlo Viganò has himself been accused, while an apostolic nuncio to American, of quashing an investigation by two auxiliary bishops of Minneapolis into the behaviour of Archbishop Nienstedt in sexually interfering with seminarians and covering up sexual abuse. The situation is complex and is still one of claim and counter claim by the many clerics, Vatican officials and legal people now involved. It is also complicated by accusations that Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò may have a hidden agenda to embarrass Pope Francis, belonging as Viganò does to a very conservative and anti-Pope Francis wing of the U.S. Catholic hierarchy – a sadly unedifying and fragmenting situation for the Catholic Church now to be in. Pope Francis has refused to comment on the case.

In July 2018 Fr. Óscar Muñoz, the former chancellor of the Archdiocese of Santiago was placed under arrest. He was charged with abusing seven children since 2002. Father Muñoz, had admitted his guilt to church officials in one case in January but remained in post. He was in charge of maintaining diocesan archives of clerical-abuse investigations and took testimony from victims in other cases. Chile’s national prosecutor’s office announced in July that it was investigating 36 accusations of sexual abuse by clergy and church employees. It also summoned Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati to defend himself against accusations of his alleged cover-up of these sex crimes. In at least five cases, Catholic Church leaders are suspected of having concealed crimes of sexual abuse by clergy or obstructed the course of justice by refusing to hand over the appropriate files. Recently, all Chilean bishops offered Pope Francis their resignation, in light of the Bishop Juan Barros affair, a situation when Barros was appointed bishop by Pope Francis while being accused of concealing the crimes of Fr. Fernando Karadima whom the local Church found guilty of paedophilia in 2011. Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Barros.

In August 2018 a Pennsylvania Grand Jury 884-page 2-year report alleged 300 priests in six Pennsylvania dioceses had abused more than 1,000 children over 70 years which had been systematically covered up by local bishops. Among its many findings it alleged a ring of predatory priests had manufactured child pornography on diocese property and used whips, violence and sadism on their victims. That same group of priests gave boys their favoured gold cross necklaces, which, the report states, “were a signal to other predators that the children….were optimal targets for further victimization.” One priest, it alleged, abused five sisters in a single family despite prior abuse reports about him that were never acted on. Another priest confessed to raping at least 15 boys, some as young as 7. A bishop later said that the latter priest was “a person of candour and sincerity” and complimented him “for the progress he has made” in controlling his “addiction”. The report stated that abuse complaints were kept in the church’s so-called ‘secret archive’. It also stated that Catholic Church officials had worked to hide incidents and had failed to discipline priest or to report the allegation to law enforcement agencies. Cardinal Donald Wuerl, a former long-time bishop of Pittsburgh, was faulted for his role in allegedly concealing sexual abuse of children by his priests. The high-profile archbishop of Washington released a statement, according to the Associated Press, saying that Cardinal Wuerl had “acted with diligence, with concern for the victims and to prevent future acts of abuse.”

 

This is a truly shocking list of sexual abuse by priests and Catholic institutions and of the refusal by the Catholic hierarchy at all levels in the Church, including the superiors of religious orders and societies right up to the Vatican and Papacy, to report any of it to the police. Instead they kept it secret, paid out large sums of money to parents and others to ensure it was kept secret,  and moved the offending priests between parishes whenever parents or others complained. That is a damning indictment of the Catholic hierarchy in many parts of the world and of the Vatican. One wonders what else has been kept secret from Catholic laity and general public.

The above account deals only with matters concerning Ireland, Australia, America and Chile but the problem is most likely world-wide within the universal Catholic Church. Other areas, particularly African dioceses, have yet to reveal the existence of this problem within their midst. Their usually rather conservative hierarchies are no doubt reluctant to do so in order to protect themselves from what they see as having happened in other parts of the world where the problem has become public. Since an undisclosed number of sexually abusive priests were sent to work in Africa and South America in order to export the problem away from their home dioceses in Europe and America, it is most likely that they brought their sexually abusive behaviour with them.

We can no longer pretend that this problem of sexually abusive priests, small in terms of the total priesthood as it might be, remains only at the lowest level of priesthood or even at the level of bishops and both male and female heads of religious orders and societies. Nor can we any longer pretend it is only a recent problem of the last 40 or 50 years. I would surmise that the problem, and its cover-up by the Catholic hierarchy and religious superiors right up to the Vatican and papacy, has gone on for many hundreds of years. It has been too widespread to have been merely a local problem in a few countries. Apologies, however sincere, are no longer enough. Nor are structures that are aimed at the present and future protection of children, vitally important as they are, but fail to tackle deeper questions as to the cause of what happened in the past and more recent times. What is now needed is a root and branch reform of the priesthood (including compulsory celibacy), hierarchy, Vatican and governance of the Catholic Church at all levels to ensure that the root causes of the problem are identified and tackled effectively and openly.

“The church also needs a blue-ribbon international group of experts charged with investigating, across a range of disciplines, the clergy culture, how it developed to this stage and what changes are necessary. This has to be an exhaustive study of the growth of the culture, of seminaries and formation programs, and all of the encrustations and presumptions of privilege and power that have accrued over centuries.” (National Catholic Reporter; Editorial of August 30th, 2018.)

The boil must be lanced effectively! Accountability must also be open and spread throughout the whole Church at all levels, from parish to the Vatican. The hierarchy must not be judge and jury of illegal behaviour by clerics at any level within the Catholic Church. Only then can Catholics be confident that the sexual abuse of children and vulnerable people and its subsequent cover-up, can never arise again in the numbers and geographical spread of the past and present priesthood.

I say again, as I said in my opening paragraph; lay people must be given back effective ownership of their Church. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and with a deep knowledge and understanding of Sacred Scripture, strengthened by divine Eucharist to a deeper union with Christ Jesus, and in close partnership with the clergy, they will preach, in word and action as disciples of Jesus, about God’s Kingdom of unconditional love, mercy and justice for all humankind, especially the poor and marginalised and all of nature.

The above information shows clearly the Catholic hierarchy’s unwillingness to reform itself. Silence and cover-up by bishops, cardinals, Papal Nuncios and Vatican must stop. Pressure to ‘reveal all’ has had to come from public exposures in the mass media and from civic legal processes. Catholic laity must now develop an ever-maturing faith and take responsibility for their Church. This will include the Catholic Church’s willingness to provide the unsettling and prophetic self-criticism which prevents that which is present in all organisations i.e. service to others changing into self-service and self-glorification, which seeks to protect itself whether right or wrong and at whatever the cost. Only when the above fundamental reforms are put into effect throughout the Church and at all levels within the Church, will many of those priests and lay people who now feel ashamed of being Catholic, or letting it be known that they are Catholic or priests, recapture their former joy, hope and fulfilment in membership of that divinely instituted, and fully human, Catholic Church.

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On 7th September 2018 the National Catholic Reporterrevealed that New York and New Mexico and four other US states were initiating investigations into Catholic Church handling of clerical sex abuse allegations.  In the wake of the Pennsylvania revelations of July 2018 the New York Times reported that ‘Attorneys general across the United States are taking a newly aggressive stance in investigating sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy.’

 

3 Responses

  1. Joe O'Leary

    “We can no longer pretend that this problem of sexually abusive priests, small in terms of the total priesthood as it might be, remains only at the lowest level of priesthood or even at the level of bishops and both male and female heads of religious orders and societies. Nor can we any longer pretend it is only a recent problem of the last 40 or 50 years.”

    No recognition at all of the huge and effective effort that the church has made to put an end to chlld abuse?

    Instead we are supposed to worry that “the problem, and its cover-up by the Catholic hierarchy and religious superiors right up to the Vatican and papacy, has gone on for many hundreds of years.”

    And “the problem” is now so globally defined that pretty much everything and anything nuns or priests have done can be called an abuse.

    “It has been too widespread to have been merely a local problem in a few countries” — again if child abuse is what “it” is, surely there should be some recognition that it is a phenomenon that has been wiped out for about twenty years, and abuse of single mothers in Catholic institutions has been wiped out for the last sixty years.

    “Apologies, however sincere, are no longer enough. Nor are structures that are aimed at the present and future protection of children, vitally important as they are, but fail to tackle deeper questions as to the cause of what happened in the past and more recent times.”

    There is already a vast literature on this. Study of such documents as the Ryan Report, the Murphy Report, and the McAleese Report will allows the causes to be discerned. The there are the studies of Richard Sipe, Eugen Drewermann, Ronald Cozzens and countless others.

    What is now needed is a root and branch reform of the priesthood (including compulsory celibacy), hierarchy, Vatican and governance of the Catholic Church at all levels to ensure that the root causes of the problem are identified and tackled effectively and openly.

    “The church also needs a blue-ribbon international group of experts charged with investigating, across a range of disciplines, the clergy culture, how it developed to this stage and what changes are necessary. This has to be an exhaustive study of the growth of the culture, of seminaries and formation programs, and all of the encrustations and presumptions of privilege and power that have accrued over centuries.” (National Catholic Reporter; Editorial of August 30th, 2018.)

    This may refer to the US clerical culture, but I don’s see much “privilege and power” in the Irish clergy today.

    “The boil must be lanced effectively!”

    Again, what boil exactly?

    I think what people get most excited about now is clerical sexuality rather than an clericalist structures or abuse of children.

    The “boil” that many want to scratch is the perceived “gaying” of the clerical profession, noted by Sipe, Cozzens, etc.

    Well, the ordination of married men (proposed by Paul VI in 1971 and turned down by the Synod) and of women (on which John Paul II shut the door) would “lance this boil” quite effectively.

    “Accountability must also be open and spread throughout the whole Church at all levels, from parish to the Vatican. The hierarchy must not be judge and jury of illegal behaviour by clerics at any level within the Catholic Church.”

    No, the police should. And are.

    “I say again, as I said in my opening paragraph; lay people must be given back effective ownership of their Church. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and with a deep knowledge and understanding of Sacred Scripture, strengthened by divine Eucharist to a deeper union with Christ Jesus, and in close partnership with the clergy, they will preach, in word and action as disciples of Jesus, about God’s Kingdom of unconditional love, mercy and justice for all humankind, especially the poor and marginalised and all of nature.”

    Seeing the role of the laity in the Anglican Church here in Tokyo, I agree with this (despite the old complaint that Protestantism clericalizes its laity). In the election of the new archbishop of Tokyo lay and clerical representatives of every parish gathered to vote. A two thirds majority from both the clerical and the lay representatives was required. After 12 ballots (in which no candidate was eliminated; every ballot began from scratch as in a papal conclave) the new bishop was named, assured of the support of at least two thirds of his clergy and of his lay flock.

    “The church is not a democracy” — how often did we hear that as the ultimate conversation-stopper! But Anglicans, who are so close to the RCC, have shown how naturally democratic procedures can become essential to church life and how wholesome their effect are.

  2. Sean O'Conaill

    “There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.” (Lord Acton 1887)

    https://history.hanover.edu/courses/excerpts/165acton.html

    Note that Acton wrote this in the same letter that averred that ‘power corrupts’.

    Meaning obviously that it is a serious error to suppose that ordination makes the ordained person morally superior or inerrant, surely Acton’s pinpoint definition of this ‘heresy’ now needs to be expressed not only in a verbal teaching but in a canonical and structural renewal of the church?

    Charles Scicluna, the pope’s point man in his change of mind about Bishop Barros, told media in 2012 that he strongly believed that bishops should be accountable not only to the Lord but to their people.

    https://www.ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/vatican-abuse-summit-bishops-must-be-held-accountable

    I see no other way of ending clericalism, because clericalism is precisely the ‘heresy’ that Acton identified, and is deeply embedded in the culture and structures of the church.

    I see no other way of ending the tide of Catholic scandal either. It is not any measure that bishops themselves have undertaken that has so reduced the rate of clerical abuse, and hopefully ended ‘cover ups’ also – but the ever present reality of media vigilance *outside* the church.

    The protocol that still guides lay-clergy interaction in Ireland is that ‘manners’ require lay deference to the priest’s right to ‘manage’ that interaction. My take is that on both sides now there is increasing discomfort with this ‘way of going’. We are all waiting to see a style of Irish church leadership guided always by humility and mutual respect.

    We are poised in disarray between a model of church that has effectively collapsed, and a very different model that struggles to emerge.

  3. Kevin Walters

    Sean @ 2
    “We are poised in disarray between a model of church that has effectively collapsed, and a very different model that struggles to emerge”.

    We will always have to have pastors but the problem of deference that is embedded within clericalism emanates from an abuse of this teaching given by Jesus Christ.

    “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth your father, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted”

    ‘Jesus appears to be conveying that His disciples do to take honour to themselves, which did not belong to them; nor even choose to be called by such names, as would lead people to entertain too high an opinion of them, and take off of their dependence on God the Father, and Himself, as these titles the Scribes and Pharisees loved to be called by, rather look to the mandate given at the last super, to those who would lead in His name’

    From a post made by another poster sometime ago on this site.
    “For Jesus, the title of Father is so unique, profound, and intimate that it really ought not to be used for anyone else. Why do we still allow it?”

    I have tried to avoided the use of calling priests father for some considerable time now and use the term ‘Pastor’ wherever possible, as the use father to any other than to our true ‘Father’ and Creator is offensive to Him, as it undermines the Inviolate Word (Will) of God given to us within the Gospels causing (through double talk) confusion amongst the laity and nonbelievers while at the same time it belittles the teachings of Jesus Christ before all of mankind.

    kevin your brother
    In Christ

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