Sunday, July 18, 2010

All we're really looking for is a mea culpa from the church

Darrell Ehrlick: All we're really looking for is a mea culpa from the church | Posted: Sunday, July 18, 2010 12:25 am

..The president of the Catholic Defense League has asked me to share some news with you, via a Vatican attorney.

Dick Houck, the aforementioned president, said the Daily News editorial board got its shot at commenting on the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to not hear an argument that would have held the Holy See in Rome blameless for a priest in a case involving sexual abuse of a child.

Jeffrey Lena, a lawyer for the Vatican, apparently is on a tour of Catholic media, trying to set right the "misinterpretations of the case in the secular media," according to

Lena told that organization: "Responsibility for damages for that suffering, which justly should be paid, falls upon the religious order which supervised him, controlled his activities, and transferred him (the Order of the Servants of Mary) - not on the Holy See."

So there's the rest of the story, Mr. Houck.

Quite frankly, if this is the rest of the story, I'd rather it not be told publicly.

It's not very compelling, if you ask me.

Let's see if I - a lapsed Protestant - can get my Wesleyan-warped brain around the gist of what Lena's saying.

A Roman Catholic priest is not a Roman Catholic priest unless the Holy See wants him to be.

There was an ancient Roman saying: All roads lead to Rome.

In this case, namely that of a Catholic priest, don't all roads eventually lead back to Rome? Isn't that the point of the Roman Catholic church? Something about being in communion with Rome?

Now that the Holy See could be on the hook - directly responsible for this unspeakably awful case - it appears to try to shift blame to a religious order. Ahem, a Roman Catholic religious order.

And just who does that order take orders from?

Again, all roads seem to be pointing to Rome.

The problem with the church's official defense is that it seems to want to have it both ways. In matters of polity, property and power, the church and one man, Benedict, rule supreme.

In matters of lawsuits, it defers to religious orders.

But with the power Rome has comes a great responsibility that includes shepherding not only the faithful but those whom the church has entrusted with power through the rite of ordination. In other words, the priests.

The church has also deftly played the part of martyr, a sin which might end up being tantamount to some of the atrocities of these sexual abuse scandals.

The church, through its official media and mouthpieces like Houck, would have the faithful believe it's under siege from a hostile secular media, literally hellbent on selling the story.

They want some whose faith has been rocked by the scandals to believe they're nothing more than a victim of the manipulative and overheated media.

But that's to forget the faces behind the lawsuits.

The real story - and what's most at risk of getting lost - is that no small handful of people have been molested by priests only to have their pain multiplied by a church that hasn't been big on mea culpas of any sort.

I'd suggest journalists are at their best, performing a near holy duty, when they check the power of the powerful.

Lena's words, anemic as they may be in meaning, provide a good distraction from the fact his employer is accused of being a party to abusing a child and then covering it up.

Houck is right. There may be a rest of the story. But considering what we've heard so far, does anyone really want to hear more? Is Lena's response supposed to instill confidence in the faithful?

And how can you separate Rome from Roman Catholicism?

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