Monday, July 23, 2012

Whosa Culpa?

The topic of the sex abuse scandal now has come up over at the “Called to Communion” website, and I’ve been asked if I’ve read a particular papal “apology” document. In what follows, I’d like to compare the Pope’s “apology”, with certain actions that Penn State has undertaken in commissioning the “Freeh Report”, and also, share something of what a Philadelphia Grand Jury has concluded regarding the cover-up of the abuse in the Archdiocese of that city.

* * *

Christopher Lake (#570)

You [John Bugay] said:

In #564, replying to Bryan’s words about the sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church, you write:

You are a much bigger man than any of the bishops I am aware of in your church. Would that some pope or bishops would say “Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa”.

In light of these earnest and sincere thoughts from you, which I value and take very seriously, I am curious as to whether you have you read the full text of this [apology from Pope Benedict] (i.e. not as it has been quoted in small excerpts by the media)?

Christopher, honestly, yes, I have read this pope’s “apology”, and to the depths of my heart, I am not only unimpressed by it, but the way I am moved by this is far, far worse. Consider where the concern is being focused here:

1. Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Church in Ireland, it is with great concern that I write to you as Pastor of the universal Church. Like yourselves, I have been deeply disturbed by the information which has come to light regarding the abuse of children and vulnerable young people by members of the Church in Ireland, particularly by priests and religious. I can only share in the dismay and the sense of betrayal that so many of you have experienced on learning of these sinful and criminal acts and the way Church authorities in Ireland dealt with them.

He is very vague about what the “criminal acts” are, and that the way that the “Church authorities in Ireland dealt with them” is somehow excluded from the “criminal acts”. Keep in mind what they are saying about Paterno now, as an enabler, and the former President of Penn State.

I recently invited the Irish bishops to a meeting here in Rome to give an account of their handling of these matters … as they offered an analysis of mistakes made and lessons learned,

No mea culpa here. It’s all so very vague. When you “go to confession”, don’t you have to provide a very detailed accounting of your mortal sins?

2. For my part, considering the gravity of these offences, and the often inadequate response to them on the part of the ecclesiastical authorities in your country, I have decided to write this Pastoral Letter to express my closeness to you and to propose a path of healing, renewal and reparation.

No mea culpa here.

At the same time, I must also express my conviction that, in order to recover from this grievous wound, the Church in Ireland must first acknowledge before the Lord and before others the serious sins committed against defenceless children. Such an acknowledgement, accompanied by sincere sorrow for the damage caused to these victims and their families, must lead to a concerted effort to ensure the protection of children from similar crimes in the future.

Oh, the poor “Church”, so grievously wounded! What about the poor children? I could point to articles where “the poor Church’s” lawyers have played legal hardball in the US with victim advocacy groups.

3. Historically, the Catholics of Ireland etc., etc., etc.

4. In recent decades, however, the Church in your country has had to confront new and serious challenges to the faith …

Oh, the poor “Church” …

6. To the victims of abuse and their families … You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry.

Look at how magnanimous I am with my own apologies. Compare that apology with this statement from one Penn State trustee said:

"We are accountable for what's happened here. Our administrative leadership also failed... People who were in a position to protect children and confront a predator" did not do so, Mr. Frazier said. "We are deeply ashamed."

The Penn State trustees backed up this apology with a genuine, in-depth investigation, which they paid for and publicized, in as quick a way as they could possibly do it. This investigation was paid for and made public, in a very quick way, by these Trustees. It all took less than a year. They are showing their accountability in the form of very swift action to make certain that absolutely everybody knows, in the clearest possible way, what went on, and who was accountable for it. It was “a scathing report that excoriated top Pennsylvania State University officials”. It was made very, very public.

Consider that Pope Benedict is apologizing in 2010 for a situation that had been occurring since the 1980’s, and consider also, the stonewalling by Roman Catholic officials that just one investigation by a Philadelphia Grand Jury has encountered, also in the state of Pennsylvania:

The behavior of Archdiocese officials was perhaps not as lurid as that of the individual priest sex abusers. But in its callous, calculating manner, the Archdiocese's "handling" of the abuse scandal was at least as immoral as the abuse itself. The evidence before us established that Archdiocese officials at the highest levels received reports of abuse; that they chose not to conduct any meaningful investigation of those reports; that they left dangerous priests in place or transferred them to different parishes as a means of concealment; that they never alerted parents of the dangers posed by these offenders (who typically went out of their way to be friendly and helpful, especially with children); that they intimidated and retaliated against victims and witnesses who came forward about abuse; that they manipulated "treatment" efforts in order to create a false impression of action; and that they did many of these things in a conscious effort simply to avoid civil liability….

But the biggest crime of all is this: it worked. The abuser priests, by choosing children as targets and trafficking on their trust, were able to prevent or delay reports of their sexual assaults, to the point where applicable statutes of limitations expired. And Archdiocese officials, by burying those reports they did receive and covering up the conduct, similarly managed to outlast any statutes of limitation. As a result, these priests and officials will necessarily escape criminal prosecution…

In short, as abuse reports grew, the Archdiocese chose to call in the lawyers rather than confront the abusers. (excerpt from the PHILADELPHIA GRAND JURY I, 2003-2005, Report issued Sept. 15, 2005

Do you see the contrast between how Penn State handled this, and how the Archdiocese of Philadelphia handled this? Similar crimes, committed over the same time period, in a very close geographic area, and two things occur to me here: First, the absolute difference in the two responses, and second, how simply “out-of-touch” (to give it a charitable “interpretation”) Pope Benedict is with the actual situation with respect to these investigations.

Do you see what the contrast is here?

Back to Papa Benedict’s “apology”:

It is understandable that you find it hard to forgive or be reconciled with the Church. In her name, I openly express the shame and remorse that we all feel.

But, while I acknowledge “you are victims”, this is all so very vague … “some bad thing has happened to you” … somehow, somewhere, but there is no sense of accountability, just a very vague sense that “we all feel so bad about this”.

I humbly ask you to consider what I have said. I pray that, by drawing nearer to Christ and by participating in the life of his Church – a Church purified by penance and renewed in pastoral charity …

Again, consider that Jerry Sandusky is not being “purified by penance” but is actually serving time in jail. Consider that Mgr William Lynn is serving time in jail. But there were hundreds of bishops who did what Lynn did. There were thousands of priests who did what Sandusky did. How many of them have seen actual jail time? Consider what just one grand jury in Philadelphia has had to go through …

7. To priests and religious who have abused children

You betrayed the trust that was placed in you by innocent young people and their parents, and you must answer for it before Almighty God and before properly constituted tribunals….

Yes, we see how they have handled “properly constituted tribunals….”. Thank God for the justice of Almighty God, eh?

I urge you to examine your conscience, take responsibility for the sins you have committed, and humbly express your sorrow. Sincere repentance opens the door to God’s forgiveness and the grace of true amendment. By offering prayers and penances for those you have wronged, you should seek to atone personally for your actions. Christ’s redeeming sacrifice has the power to forgive even the gravest of sins, and to bring forth good from even the most terrible evil. At the same time, God’s justice summons us to give an account of our actions and to conceal nothing. Openly acknowledge your guilt, submit yourselves to the demands of justice, but do not despair of God’s mercy.

After the horses are out of the barn, he says this. Where was Papa Benedict when the Philadelphia grand jury was in session?

11. To my brother bishops

It cannot be denied that some of you and your predecessors failed, at times grievously, to apply the long-established norms of canon law to the crime of child abuse. Serious mistakes were made in responding to allegations. I recognize how difficult it was to grasp the extent and complexity of the problem, to obtain reliable information and to make the right decisions in the light of conflicting expert advice. Nevertheless, it must be admitted that grave errors of judgement were made and failures of leadership occurred. All this has seriously undermined your credibility and effectiveness.

You poor, poor bishops, having to go through this. Again, consider what the Freeh report said about Joe Paterno and the Penn State executive leadership.

in the words of Saint Augustine, you are a bishop; yet with them you are called to be a follower of Christ (cf. Sermon 340, 1). I therefore exhort you to renew your sense of accountability before God, to grow in solidarity with your people and to deepen your pastoral concern for all the members of your flock.

Really, many of you have escaped jail time, so put on your game faces, get out there, and be infallible some more. Oh, and, think about calling off the lawyers.

14. I now wish to propose to you some concrete initiatives to address the situation.

At the conclusion of my meeting with the Irish bishops, I asked that Lent this year be set aside as a time to pray for an outpouring of God’s mercy and the Holy Spirit’s gifts of holiness and strength upon the Church in your country. I now invite all of you to devote your Friday penances, for a period of one year, between now and Easter 2011, to this intention. I ask you to offer up your fasting, your prayer, your reading of Scripture and your works of mercy in order to obtain the grace of healing and renewal for the Church in Ireland. I encourage you to discover anew the sacrament of Reconciliation and to avail yourselves more frequently of the transforming power of its grace.

Particular attention should also be given to Eucharistic adoration, and in every diocese there should be churches or chapels specifically devoted to this purpose. I ask parishes, seminaries, religious houses and monasteries to organize periods of Eucharistic adoration, so that all have an opportunity to take part. Through intense prayer before the real presence of the Lord, you can make reparation for the sins of abuse that have done so much harm, at the same time imploring the grace of renewed strength and a deeper sense of mission on the part of all bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful.

I am confident that this programme will lead to a rebirth of the Church in Ireland in the fullness of God’s own truth, for it is the truth that sets us free (cf. Jn 8:32).

Compare that response with Micah 6:

“With what shall I come before the Lord,
and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”

He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?

Papa Benedict concludes:

I wish to conclude this Letter with a special Prayer for the Church in Ireland, which I send to you with the care of a father for his children and with the affection of a fellow Christian, scandalized and hurt by what has occurred in our beloved Church. As you make use of this prayer in your families, parishes and communities, may the Blessed Virgin Mary protect and guide each of you

Imagine with me now, the cumulative weight of all the victims of abuse letting out a collective sigh of relief, they really do have “the care of a father for his children”. Maybe the lawyers will be called off some time soon, and all of the fine, devoted Roman Catholics who feel so bad about this church abuse scandal can now get on with their lives, satisfied that “the Church” has apologized in earnest, and can, well, go on infallibly proposing the “formal proximate object of their faith” because we know, “the gates of Hell shall not prevail” against this holy Church.

Forgive me, all, for being so cynical, but really, what other “rationally unassailable” response to this can there be?

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