Saturday, March 20, 2010

Pope Benedict Releases his Letter to the Catholic Church in Ireland Addressing the Sexual Abuse Scandal and Prescribes a Path of Repentance(?)

     Pope Benedict XVI released his pastoral letter concerning sexual abuse and cover up perpetrated by clergy to the Irish bishops this morning.  It is being read at all masses throughout Ireland this weekend, all seven pages:  seven pages of responsibility taking, admitting that the Vatican was wrong; admitting that he, Himself, made errors in dealing secretly with sexual abuse and shuffling perpetrators away to new parishes where they could abuse again instead of turning everything over to the civil authorities; apologizing for the bullying of victims that came forward; relinquishing the gag orders that the church forced upon victims; and begging forgiveness for all the scapegoating of priests, seminaries, victims, and homosexuals that the church authority has committed in the past. 

     In the end, Pope Benedict announced that he understands that the only way for the church to regain any credibility of authority in the world is to admit everything and that in order to do this, he will step down from the papacy as a sign that the church, at its head, is ready to effect change.  Pope Benedict said that Christ himself witnessed for the forgiveness of sins by making himself vulnerable on the cross, and that while he, Himself, is no sinless Christ because of his own grave errors in handling sexual abuse cases, he, Himself, will take the fall and turn the church over to a new generation of bishops and priests, who were not involved in the scandalous and self-serving cover-up. 

     The world reacted in shock to the announcement, but afterword, a new sense of awe and even respect blossomed for the pope.  "Perhaps the witness of Jesus Christ does mean something in the Vatican and in the Roman Catholic Church," Sinead O'Connor, a victim of sexual abuse in Ireland, responded.

     OK, this is not what happened.

     In reality, Hypocrite Benedict XVI took no responsibility upon himself, nor did he place any on the Vatican and the church's policies.  He did apologize to victims for the grievous sins of the priests and religious that abused, but stopped short of apologizing for the bishops' crime of covering it all up.  Instead, he cracked his ecclesial ruler across the hands of the Irish bishops and blasted them for their grave errors and issued a Vatican-run investigation into the Irish handing of abuse cases. 

     No resignations of any bishops involved in the cover-up and mishandling of abuse cases were demanded.  In fact, Hypocrite Ben has denied the resignation requests of three bishops, saying that "the church's leadership had already begun to remedy past mistakes."  The entire seven-page letter can be read here

     NBC reports:
     Pope Benedict XVI rebuked Irish bishops Saturday for "grave errors of judgment" in handling priest sex abuse cases and ordered an investigation into the Irish church. But he laid no blame for the problem on the Vatican's policies of keeping such cases secret.
    In a letter to the Irish faithful read across Europe amid a growing, multination abuse scandal, the pope apologized to victims but doled out no specific punishments to bishops blamed by Irish government-ordered investigations for having covered up abuse of thousands of Irish children from the 1930s to the 1990s.
    "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," Benedict wrote.
    "Nevertheless, it must be admitted that grave errors of judgment were made and failures of leadership occurred. And this has seriously undermined your credibility and effectiveness."
     I don't think that Hypocrite Benedict has any room to speak of other bishops' credibility and effectiveness in dealing with sexual abuse of minors, especially after last week's revelations of abuse in his former diocese in Germany while he was a bishop.  Also, he wrote and released the 2001 Vatican letter that instructed bishops "to report all cases of abuse to his office and keep the church investigations secret under threat of excommunication."  Of course, the Vatican now claims that this letter didn't mean bishops weren't supposed to report abuse to the civil authorities, but in praxis this is how underling bishops "widely understood" Ratzinger's instructions.  With these black marks on his authority in dealing with sexual abuse, how can Pope Ben speak with any authority about the shame and sin of others' participation in the sexual abuse scandal?

     Who is to blame?  How to recover?  Here is a portion of Ben's prescription from the letter:
    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 defenseless children.
    Such an acknowledgment, 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.
     The Church in Ireland?  What about the church in Rome?  Where is the Vatican's acknowledgment and sincere sorrow for the damage it caused? 

     So what is the cause of the sexual abuse?  Ben points fingers at secularization (repeatedly) and the liberal interpretations of Vatican II and, in this context, states:
    Certainly, among the contributing factors we can include: inadequate procedures for determining the suitability of candidates for the priesthood and the religious life; insufficient human, moral, intellectual and spiritual formation in seminaries and novitiates; a tendency in society to favor the clergy and other authority figures; and a misplaced concern for the reputation of the Church and the avoidance of scandal, resulting in failure to apply existing canonical penalties and to safeguard the dignity of every person.
     From what I heard, about what happened in U.S. seminaries in preparation for the Vatican's investigation after the 2002 scandal broke out here, is that seminaries reverted to smells and bells in an attempt to look more conservative.  Seminarians went further into the closet in dealing with their sexuality because they were afraid of speaking honestly about anything that rang of homosexuality or bisexuality for fear of being kicked out of the seminaries.  After all, the Vatican's response was to issue a letter saying that gays could not be admitted to the seminaries.  From all that I heard, the church recreated the system of silence, fear, and compartmentalization in the seminaries that formed the majority of the priests who were guilty of abuse in the United States in the twentieth century.

     Hypocrite Ben goes on in his letter by addressing different groups individually.  After this he prescribes some "concrete initiatives to address the situation."  These include:
     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.

  • An apostolic visitation (Vatican investigation) into certain dioceses, seminaries, and religious congregations in Ireland.

  • A nationwide mission to be held for all bishops, priest, and religious. (Forget about the victims.)

  • An increase in intercessory prayer to St. John Vianney, the patron saint of priests, so that "the whole Church in Ireland grow in appreciation for the great gift of the priestly ministry."   It was John Vianney who said: "The priest holds the key to the treasures of heaven: it is he who opens the door: he is the steward of the good Lord; the administrator of his goods." (Didn't some of the abusive priests use that as a line to get into kids' pants?  "Jesus wants me to do it."  "I did it to bring that child closer to God.")
     That's the official plan: prayer, penance, fasting, eucharistic adoration, and renewed appreciation for the holy role of priests.  That will fix it all and wipe away all the scandal.  Ben is diluted and out of touch.

     When it comes to a specific plan of action in dealing with the interior working of preventing, reporting, and holding clerics accountable for abuse, Ben offered only this:
    While no effort should be spared in improving and updating existing procedures, I am encouraged by the fact that the current safeguarding practices adopted by local Churches are being seen, in some parts of the world, as a model for other institutions to follow.
     This seems quite a contradiction after he blasted the local church in Ireland at the beginning of the letter for their mishandling of sexual abuse allegations.  In the end, Pope Ben and the Vatican took no responsibility for the abuse and cover-up, but blamed the local church.  Then, the Vatican offered no solution at the institutional and procedural level for dealing with future cases of abuse, but told the Irish to look to other local churches for their role models.  Is it just me, or is Ben's logic here completely flawed?

     As, you might guess, the victims of abuse in Ireland are not pleased with Pope Ben's letter and his solution to pray-away the scandal.  The Washington Post reports:
    Irish victims of clerical child sexual abuse are deeply disappointed by Pope Benedict's letter of apology as it fails to address the role of senior church leaders, a group representing victims said on Saturday.
    "My first response was deep disappointment in the letter," said Maeve Lewis, executive director of victims group One in Four. "We feel the letter falls far short of addressing the concerns of the victims," Lewis told Reuters.
    She said the pope's letter focused too narrowly on lower-rank Irish priests without recognizing the responsibility of the Vatican and senior Irish clerics for protecting offenders and dealing with victims.
    "There is nothing in this letter to suggest that any new vision of leadership in the Catholic church exists," Lewis said.    
     Lewis continued:
    "Victims were hoping for an acknowledgment of the scurrilous ways in which they have been treated as they attempted to bring their experiences of abuse to the attention of the church authorities.
    "Pope Benedict has passed up a glorious opportunity to address the core issue in the clerical sexual abuse scandal: the deliberate policy of the Catholic church at the highest levels to protect sex offenders, thereby endangering children."
    Lewis also accused the Pope of dodging Vatican responsibility for failing to tackle child abuse.  "If the church cannot acknowledge this fundamental truth, it is still in denial," she added.
     Lewis is correct in many of her points.  There is no new vision of leadership in the Catholic church.  That died with John XXIII.  Since then, the pendulum has been pulled farther and farther into the old ways.  Hypocrite Benedict has no vision for a progressive, honest church.  He can't even acknowledge his own mistakes in the sexual abuse crisis.  Denial is his mighty fortress and his rock. 
     The pope's opportunity has been squandered, just like the innocence of the children abused and the of the hope of the adults that came forward only to be silenced and bullied by the church.  The bullying continues. 

     It's time for the people in the pews to quit being silent and passive co-conspirators in these abuse cases and to stand up for justice, truth, and accountability.  The Jesus of scripture would be flipping money tables, snapping a whip, and taking names.  It's time for the golden calf of the Vatican to be ground into powder and fed to its silent worshipers.

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