Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Vatican has helped to spawn global scourge of sex abuse

Independent.ie
John Cooney: Vatican has helped to spawn global scourge of sex abuse
By John Cooney
Wednesday February 17 2010

Rome is proud of its claim to be the "Eternal City". For 2,000 years it has claimed to be the moral arbiter of world affairs. Over the centuries, it has always managed to weather the storms of heresy, Reformation, the disunity of Christendom and secularist attacks from ungodly governments and literary critics.

Rome too, has also survived scandals arising from bad popes, who have been worldly, corrupt and sexually lecherous, even siring offspring from illegitimate carnal relations with women.

However, the crisis of child clerical sexual abuse is threatening to pose the biggest challenge ever to the Vatican's moral authority.

Yet, the late Pope John Paul II, ably and zealously aided by his then head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Joseph Ratzinger, was more concerned with removing dissident theologians from being recognised as orthodox Catholic scholars than with defrocking paedophile priests and ensuring full cooperation with the civic authority.

Rather than let the state authorities know of such foul deeds of errant clerics, the Vatican itself, its representatives in the national churches and the religious orders stealthily avoided being made accountable for the crimes of abusive priests and nuns in courts of law.

If the church was not too busy switching paedophile priests from parish to parish undetected by the unsuspecting faithful, it reserved chastisement for its worst child molesters in secret church tribunals held in Latin behind closed doors.

Today, as Pope Benedict XVI, the former Joseph Ratzinger, now finds himself having to recognise that the abuse issue is not just an American, an Anglo-Saxon or an Irish problem. It is patently an international problem which the Vatican has centrally helped to spawn by its long tradition of hushing up clerical sexual scandals and of putting its own prestige above the welfare of the millions of children whose unformed minds they seek to control through indoctrination in church-run schools.

Although Pope Benedict has adopted a zero-tolerance approach to "the filth" in the church, and has met victims on his travels, he turned the focus of the Irish bishops to the more general crisis of faith affecting the church, which he linked to the lack of respect for the human person.

Bishop of Meath Michael Smith placed this in the context of the ultra-conservative Pope's conviction that the teachings of the second Vatican Council were misinterpreted by liberal theologians and a la carte Catholics, resulting in a lack of moral values.

This was underlined by Pope Benedict's claim that "the weakening of faith (in Ireland) has been a significant contributing factor in the phenomenon of the sexual abuse of minors", a remark that has been greeted with outrage and insult by victims of abuse.

Although Cardinal Sean Brady, along with Bishops Joseph Duffy, Dennis Brennan and Brendan Kelly and Smith, all testified that they were aware of the hurt, anger and bewilderment felt by the Catholic faithful to the abuses and the systematic cover-ups, they also said that they have been humbled "to hang-in" by devout lay people who believe that Jesus Christ will be with his church to the end of time.

No doubt, this is the stoic response of many Irish souls, but the young and alienated women have given up on the church, the middle-aged have lost all faith in the clerical church becoming a People's Church, and even the elderly are refusing to go to Mass and are abandoning the faith of their fathers and mothers.

Does Pope Benedict and the bishops not yet understand that it is the abusive priests and the cover-ups that have weakened people's faith and trust in their church leaders?

If this thesis forms the core of the papal pastoral Lenten promised before Easter Sunday, it will be Pope Benedict who will be responsible for a further steep decline of Catholic faith in Ireland.

Furthermore, the Pope's call for "a deeper theological reflection" on the whole abuse issue is geared at rigid imposition of his narrow theological outlook in the academic preparation both of candidates for the priesthood and the religious life and of those already ordained and professed.

Not surprisingly, the present head of the eternal church realises that the current painful situation will not be resolved quickly, and he has expressed the hope that the Rome summit will help "to unify the bishops and enable them to speak with one voice" -- his voice.

It was instructive to hear Cardinal Brady say that there was no disunity among the bishops in making child protection their priority, and that the tensions did not refer to public rows between Archbishop Diarmuid Martin and Bishop Martin Drennan over accountability.

The cardinal revealed that there were tensions over whether penitential services should be held in Lough Derg or at the Marian Shrine of Knock. Such a display of sackcloth and ashes by the bishops does not impress victims and survivors who would rather be invited to the Vatican to tell their stories directly to Pope Benedict.

The Pope and the bishops have missed a golden opportunity to bring the victims and survivors to the Eternal City.

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