Let me take you into a situation that illustrates the church institution's instinctive reaction to cover-up scandal. It was a workshop in 2000 for new Jesuit superiors. The presenter, a former provincial, was discussing the circumstances when a superior could break the bond of confidentiality between himself and the men he was in charge of. He said something could be shared with the provincial "If it was a matter of danger for the individual or to others."
Examining the Crisis
The Roman Curia is the Vatican bureaucracy. Most people know little about the men who run the curia. But press coverage of the clergy abuse crisis is closing in on cardinals whose blunders in the clergy abuse crisis have begun to draw criticism from other Princes of the Church.
As words fire back and forth in the press, the wall of secrecy that traditionally surrounds the curia is showing cracks.
Miters somewhat askew, the recent queue of bishops from Ireland to Germany, and beyond stepping forward to offer apologies for sexual abuse by their priests is unprecedented for the European Catholic church.
Even as the apologies pile up and policies for dealing with abuse allegations are tightened and meetings with victims are promised, something remains amiss that takes the heart out of the bishops' mea culpa.
Lisbon, Portugal -- Not long ago, there was a brief flurry of speculation in the Italian media hinting that Benedict XVI was insulated from the full gravity of the sexual abuse crisis swirling around his papacy. Reports suggested the pope was getting only a carefully redacted daily press digest, producing a skewed impression of global discussion – and in particular, perhaps, shielding the pope from grasping the negative fallout of the “blame the messenger” commentary from some senior Vatican aides.
Tuesday morning, however, Benedict XVI seemed to show that he gets it just fine.
Examining the Crisis
Jesuit Fr. James Martin suggests on the Huffington Post that the church’s hierarchy, from the pope on down, largely has failed to perform penance for its role in the relentlessly ongoing sexual abuse crisis. This omission is a grave deviation from the church’s own paradigm of penitence and restoration -- the sacrament of reconciliation -- which requires the penitent to make reparation to those harmed and to the larger community. The steadfast refusal to welcome the hope accompanying shame may be at work in this pastoral absence.
The institutional Roman Catholic church can attack every newspaper in every country in the world but that will not change the fact that as an institution it has participated in an extremely well documented, egregious pattern of enabling and covering up for the sexual abuse of thousands of innocent children the world over during almost an entire century.
The sex abuse crisis is not fundamentally about sex. The phrase is a convenient tag that has been applied to a deeper, ongoing problem that, at its core, has to do with power and authority and how it is used in the church.
Sexual behavior has a long and well-documented history. Even the current problem of sexual abuse of minors is neither new nor limited to clerics. It is a practice that crosses ethnic, cultural, religious and economic strata and custom. Incest (familial contact) is the most common. However, the sexual abuse of minors by declared celibate clerics poses special issues. There are three factors that draw special attention to the sexual practices of Roman Catholic clerics today.
A homily for the Third Sunday of Easter
The gospel reading [for April 18] is a double-header. We get two stories in one. Both stories are about the apostle Peter, and they take up most of Chapter 21 of the Gospel of John.
Scholars tell us that Chapter 21 was added to the Gospel, which originally ended with Chapter 20, and that this “postscript” material probably dates around 60 years after the death of Jesus. These added stories must have been very important to the early Christian community. The question becomes: Why did the Johannine community feel the need to add these stories to the Gospel?
The latest Vatican attempt at damage control and image recovery is really an example of history revision. The Vatican has posted to its Web site a short explanation of the 2001 motu proprio, Sacramentorum sancitatis tutela. This decree was not hidden in official secrecy and is fairly well-known throughout the world. The short article provided a summary of the main action steps for cases of sexual abuse of minors by clerics. That offered nothing new. A real surprise, though, is found in one sentence: “Civil law concerning reporting of crimes to the appropriate authorities should always be followed.”