Pope's meeting just perpetuates the scandal
- From: Alan Ferris <hairy.ferrit@xxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Sun, 14 Feb 2010 09:32:54 +0000
Pope's meeting just perpetuates the scandal
Pope Benedict's meeting with our bishops is more about power than
justice, writes Colum Kenny
If only it really was hard to believe that Pope Benedict is about to
hold a closed meeting with the Irish diocesan bishops. Not just that.
Attending their meeting tomorrow and Tuesday in Rome will be one
bishop who has announced that he is stepping down following
publication of the Murphy Report into Child Sexual Abuse, and another
who is mired in controversy because he has not done so.
Why has Pope Benedict excluded survivors of abuse, as well as priests
and representatives of the Catholic laity, from this highly sensitive
two-day meeting with Irish Catholics? Why is he giving priority to
meeting the Irish hierarchy, a body that has clearly failed to tackle
the abuse scandal in a convincing manner?
Is Benedict being guided by his papal nuncio in Ireland, His
Excellency Most Reverend Dr Giuseppe Leanza? The nuncio did not
respond to Judge Yvonne Murphy when she was writing her official
report, or offer her all the help that he could have.
By meeting privately with the hierarchy, Pope Benedict is making a
statement about the Catholic Church as a whole. Even bishops involved
in controversy over their failure to do more to protect children are
being given his ear, when victims and lay Catholics are not. The
meeting is more about power than justice.
After Cardinal Bernard Law mishandled child sexual abuse in Boston and
stepped down, he was welcomed by the Vatican and given prominent
responsibilities in Rome. Now the Pope will meet men who failed to do
what they might have done to tackle abuse in Ireland. What is wrong at
And the problem is not just that Bishop Jim Moriarty and Bishop Martin
Drennan have access to closed meetings (Donal Murray and John Magee
will not be there). It is likely that if the Government asked Judge
Murphy to investigate other dioceses, even in the limited way that she
was able to investigate Dublin, there would be other Irish bishops
exposed who (in the words of Bishop Moriarty) "should have challenged
the prevailing culture" but did not do so when it came to the covering
up of sexual abuse.
How many, if any, clerics and prelates within the Vatican itself have
dark secrets when it comes to child sexual abuse? How many other
bishops or cardinals could withstand even the kind of selective
scrutiny that Judge Murphy was able to bring to bear on the handling
of child sexual abuse in just one Irish diocese?
It is past time for radical change in how the Catholic Church does
business. Pope, cardinals and bishops purport to serve the laity, who
stantly told that they are the Church as much as any priests or
bishops. That is a proposition, as Cardinal Desmond Connell might say,
in respect to which there must be mental reservations. It is, in other
words and as things stand, what many people might call a lie.
The Irish bishops have recently assembled in private a number of times
to discuss preparations for their meeting tomorrow with Pope Benedict.
At Maynooth on January 22 last, the Irish bishops issued a statement
that included some misleading sentences.
The bishops said, "Since the publication of the Murphy report, bishops
have been listening to the widespread and justifiable anger and
frustration from survivors, priests and laity across their dioceses.
Bishops recognise that, in the critical area of safeguarding children,
people want accountability and transparency in terms of policy and
They added, "Bishops also discussed preparations for Pope Benedict
XVI's address, by way of Pastoral Letter, to the faithful in Ireland,
and the follow-up listening and consultation process which will take
place with the lay faithful, clergy and Religious."
But there is no existing procedure whereby Irish bishops may "listen"
to representative laity across all parishes. So who has their ears?
They may mainly be hearing those lay people and priests whom they
consciously or subconsciously wish to hear.
Certainly, as they admit, "people want accountability and transparency
in terms of policy and procedures".
But this is not just in the critical area of safeguarding children. It
is also in many other areas of Church governance, and it is desired as
a matter of priority. By selectively acknowledging this desire only in
respect of abuse, where greater transparency has become necessary in
any event due to the Irish State's intervention, the bishops seem to
be engaged in a "damage limitation" exercise in respect to their
position of power within the Church.
Besides, listening and consultation with the laity ought not to take
place only as a "follow-up" to the Pope's address to Irish Catholics,
as the Irish bishops want, but ought as a matter of urgency to be
taking place before the Pope makes his mind up about what is required.
Those who have lost faith -- partly due to the crisis that has been
caused by the handling of the abuse scandal by the hierarchy and the
Vatican -- should also be heard and consulted.
By meeting the bishops first, and by giving them privileged access
over victims of abuse, Pope Benedict is perpetuating the abuse scandal
and the exercises of absolute power that were partly responsible for
At a time of growing economic and social anxiety, people need
intellectual and spiritual nourishment. The Catholic Church could be a
force for reform and renewal if it first showed itself capable of
handling the abuse scandal properly. But many people now perceive the
Catholic Church as far removed from their daily experiences and ways
of understanding the world. It will take radical change, and not mere
public relations exercises, to alter such perceptions.
The form of the Pope's meeting with Irish bishops this week suggests
that he is unaware of the depth and breadth of anger and alienation
caused by the abuse crisis within the Catholic Church. Either that, or
he does not want radical renewal.
( (T) )
( ) . ( )
"I always babble nonsense to people"
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