holy week?

Posted on Sunday 28 March 2010

With Scrutiny, Vatican Faces Test of ‘Moral Credibility’
New York Times

March 27, 2010

ROME — As Pope Benedict XVI faces growing pressure to address his role in the handling of sexual abuse cases over the years, the Vatican acknowledged on Saturday that its ability to handle the crisis was a crucial test of its “moral credibility.” In a note read on Vatican radio on Saturday, the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, spoke about the recent news media coverage of a widening abuse scandal in Europe, including recent revelations in The New York Times. “The nature of the question is such as to attract the attention of the media, and the way in which the church deals with it is crucial for her moral credibility,” Father Lombardi said…

In a harsh editorial on Friday, The National Catholic Reporter, an American Catholic publication, called on Benedict to “directly answer questions, in a credible forum” about his role “in the mismanagement of the clergy sex abuse crisis”… “No longer can the Vatican simply issue papal messages — subject to nearly infinite interpretations and highly nuanced constructions — that are passively ‘received’ by the faithful,” the editorial said. “No longer can secondary Vatican officials, those who serve the pope, issue statements and expect them to be accepted at face value.” It concluded by saying: “We now face the largest institutional crisis in centuries, possibly in church history. How this crisis is handled by Benedict, what he says and does, how he responds and what remedies he seeks, will likely determine the future health of our church for decades, if not centuries, to come. “It is time, past time really, for direct answers to difficult questions,” the editorial added. “It is time to tell the truth”.

In his note on Saturday, a day before the start of Holy Week leading up to Easter, one of the most sacred weeks in the Catholic calendar, Father Lombardi pointed to the “extraordinary preventative efforts being undertaken” with training courses for youth and clergy after the application of the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” issued by the Catholic Church in the United States. He added that accusations of abuse fell 30 percent over the last year and said most reported cases were more than 30 years old. “The authority of the pope and the intense and coherent commitment of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith have not been weakened,” Father Lombardi said. “Rather, they have been confirmed in their support and guidance to bishops to combat and root out the blight of abuse wherever it happens”…
A Papal Conversion
New York Times [op-ed]

March 27, 2010

For example, considerable skepticism surrounds the Vatican’s insistence that in 1980 the pope, then Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger of Munich, was unaware of a decision to transfer a known pedophile priest to his diocese and give him duties in a parish. In some ways, the question of what he knew at the time is almost secondary, since it happened on his watch and ultimately he has to bear the responsibility. However, all the criticism is obscuring something equally important: For anyone who knows the Vatican’s history on this issue, Benedict XVI isn’t just part of the problem. He’s also a major chapter in the solution.

… In 2001, however, Pope John Paul II assigned responsibility to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s all-important doctrinal office, which was headed by Joseph Ratzinger, then a cardinal. As a result, bishops were required to send their case files to Cardinal Ratzinger’s office. By all accounts, he studied them with care, making him one of the few churchmen anywhere in the world to have read the documentation on virtually every Catholic priest accused of sexual abuse. The experience gave him a familiarity with the pervasiveness of the problem that virtually no other figure in the Catholic Church can claim. And driven by that encounter with what he would later refer to as “filth” in the church, Cardinal Ratzinger seems to have undergone a transformation. From that point forward, he and his staff were determined to get something done.

One crucial issue Cardinal Ratzinger had to resolve was how to handle the church’s internal disciplinary procedures for abusive priests. Early on, reformers worried that Rome would insist on full trials in church courts before a priest could be removed from ministry or defrocked. Those trials were widely seen as slow, cumbersome and uncertain, yet many in the Vatican thought they were needed to protect the due process rights of the accused. In the end, Cardinal Ratzinger and his team approved direct administrative action in roughly 60 percent of the cases. Having sorted through the evidence, they concluded that in most cases swift action was more important than preserving the church’s legal formalities…

After being elected pope, Benedict made the abuse cases a priority. One of his first acts was to discipline two high-profile clerics against whom sex abuse allegations had been hanging around for decades, but had previously been protected at the highest levels. He is also the first pope ever to meet with victims of abuse, which he did in the United States and Australia in 2008. He spoke openly about the crisis some five times during his 2008 visit to the United States. And he became the first pope to devote an entire document to the sex-abuse crisis, his pastoral letter to Ireland…
In treating people who were sexually abused as children, there’s one wish that emerges in almost every case, a fantasy of a confrontation – not a confrontation with the perpetrator, but a confrontation with the "silent witness." The "silent witness" is the person in their life who "knew" but did nothing, or the person in their life who "should have known" and did nothing, or the forces that gave them an unprotected life. Such confrontations sometimes occur, but they rarely offer the anticipated relief. The reason is something deeper in the mind, the repairative fantasy of almost every abused child. The only solution  would be that the abuse never happened in the first place. That’s the only thing that would ever make things right. Revenge, retribution, reforms are nice for the people who come in the future, but not the victims of the past.

What’s happening here isn’t really about the Catholic Church. It’s about what happened to those children. And it’s about our awareness that something really bad happened in that Church, something that went on for a very long time, and nobody did anything about it. The Church speaks incessantly about forgiveness through confession followed by genuine remorse and acts of contrition – not a bad policy. But, as these articles point out, that’s not what the Church itself is doing.

We are entering Holy Week, the celebration of Christ’s crucifixion – an act of contrition for "the sins of the world." But what we’re going to read about during Holy Week this year are the sins of the Church, and their defenses against these obviously true accusations.

It is irrelevant that an old retired, non-christian, psychiatrist says these things. What would be relevant would be for the Pope to be saying them himself.
    March 29, 2010 | 1:06 AM

    […] Admittedly, there’s nothing right for the Pope or Catholic Church to do at this point [holy week?]. But I’m surprised at these comments – "the petty gossip of dominant opinion" […]

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