Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Pope’s apology offers little hope for a real change

Benedict XVI issued an apology to the people of Ireland on Saturday. Reaction to his letter has come from both Ireland other countries.

From Ireland, these statements:

The letter also remained tightly focused on Ireland — to the dismay of many victims’ groups around the world — even as the crisis has widened to include Catholics in Austria, the Netherlands and Germany.

“I find that deceitful because we know that this is a global and systemic problem in the global church,” said Colm O’Gorman, the co-founder of a victims’ group who said he was sexually abused by a priest as a teenager in Ireland in the early ’80s. “It’s all about protecting the institution and, above all, its wealth.”

“The greatest contribution the pope could have made was to stop the abuse of victims, and he’s not even done that,” he added.

While many Irish Catholics were hoping for concrete measures after the government reports that criticized Vatican norms for dealing with the abuse, Benedict instead offered a prescription for how to renew their faith. He urged all Irish clergy to go on a spiritual retreat and suggested that dioceses set aside special chapels where Catholics could pray for “healing and renewal.”

“There’s a strong tendency to approach this as a problem of faith, when it is a problem of church management and a lack of accountability,” said Terrence McKiernan, founder and president of BishopAccountability.org, which tracks church records on abuse cases.

From Germany, this reaction The New York Times reports on March 23, 2010


Conservative Catholic bishops go further, saying that the sexual abuse committed by their priests is a general social problem, traceable not to the church but to the sexualization of society, to the zeitgeist, to the sins of the 1968 generation. The truth, they suggest, was that the evil had struck in all sectors of society. Others have warned of the dangers of a witch hunt, and some have even highlighted a new form of political correctness.

But the figures available so far show that the problem is especially severe in the Catholic Church. Alois Glück, president of the Central Committee of German Catholics, has urged consideration of the “church-specific conditions that favor sexual abuse,” which many have taken as a call for the church to reconsider the matter of its priests’ celibacy.

This is yet another difference between the Irish and American scandals and our own. Ireland and America are deeply religious places; if priestly celibacy is not as well understood there as it once was, it is nevertheless respected.

Germany is not only a secular country, but a sexually liberated one as well. Many Germans find the Vatican’s demand of priestly celibacy completely alien, and we recognize it as a historical, rather than holy, tradition, going back to a decree by Pope Benedict VIII in 1022. Indeed, in a poll conducted last week, 87 percent of Germans said that celibacy is no longer appropriate.

It’s not hard, then, for us to draw the conclusion — fair or not — that the church’s problems are rooted in celibacy. Much more so than in the United States, the German debate is about the fundamental structure of the Catholic church: Must a person be chaste to exercise the office of a priest? Does this condition not attract sexually disturbed and pedophiliac men, who count on cover and understanding in the bosom of the church?

How Benedict handles the issue in the coming weeks will determine not only how well the German church endures, but whether it can survive in its current form at all. None of the victims has yet sought reparations, but sooner or later, the church will have to offer compensation. The American church has paid $2 billion to abuse victims since 1992; can the German church afford the same?

Peter Schneider is the author of “Eduard’s Homecoming.” This essay was translated by John Cullen from the German.

The very sad tragedy here is the countless lives that have been damaged, or in some cases destroyed. This evil was visited on innocent children by those entrusted with their care. The fact that the scope of this outrage is international suggests that there are systemic issues that need to be reviewed and changed.

Some of these issues include:

· Mandatory celibacy for priestly ordination.

· Firm standards and accountability in personnel matters.

· Accountability of bishops and religious superiors.

· A voice for laity in diocesan governance and personnel decisions.

The pope’s decision to limit his focus to Ireland is the first clue that his reaction is more about containment than about authentic reform. Adding insult to injury, the pope goes on to encourage the laity to perform acts of piety/penance. Ask pedophiles to voluntarily turn themselves in and assumes an understanding/conciliatory tone towards the bishops/superiors who had knowledge of these pedophiles.

When Benedict XVI was elected pope in 2005 he said he wanted a “smaller and purer church.” His reaction in Ireland will most probably ensure the former, but not the latter. Benedict also set as a goal of his pontificate the re-evangelization of Europe. Judging from these reactions five years later, it seems he is leading us in the opposite direction.


Jackie said...

Fr. Geoff, You shine the light of truth on so many problems that the Church has. You are my hero for not being afraid to put yourself out in front to expose these things that need change.
To quote St Augustine:
Hope has two daughters. They are Anger and Courage: anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.
Keep up the good work and know that you are always in my prayers.

Mareczku said...

A lot of these comments are right on target. The Pope's apology was a start but there needs to be more apologizing for what those in positions of power did. I was stuck by the one line about encouraging the laity to perform acts of penance. That was interesting. Perhaps the bishops need to do penance even more. The question remains, "Must a person be chaste in order to exercise the office of a priest?" While I think that most priests are faithful to their vows of celibacy, a large percentage are not. And I doubt that most physically healthy younger priests are actually chaste. Being physically chaste and pure is not a state that describes hardly any physically healthy male human beings.

Mareczku said...

This is excellent. Thank you for sharing it.

rayan said...

Need a Eastern byzantine rite and charismatic church under one roof that is open to same sex amrriage here in Quebec as a reformed liberal
cathloic and eastern rite independant.

rajan said...

need a reformed catholic and eastern rite byzantine catholic church that is here in quebec Canada. Aliberla that welcomes gay/lesbian marriage!

FDeF said...

I wonder if the pedophile tendencies of some catholic clergy are not in fact related primarily to the recruitment of preadolescent and adolescent boys into the priesthood rather than to the imposition of celibacy. Both are factors, but the "arrested psychosocial development" of some individuals may contribute to their later abusive and predatory behaviors. It would also be relevant to know how many of the abusers were themselves abused. Serious research here can help provide a more sane and reasonable future direction. That is, if the catholic priesthood even survives this era.

redtown said...

Did you see the latest outrage by the Roman bishops?

In retaliation for a Maine homeless agency's support for gay civil rights, the bishops have slashed $40,000 of funding to the homeless.

Story: http://www.pressherald.com/news/diocese-penalizes-homeless-aid-group_2010-03-23.html

Catholics for Marriage Equality is asking for donations to the homeless agency to make up this loss of funding.


The Roman Bishops are the modern Pharisees whom Jesus constantly criticized for their self-righteousness, their presumptions of infallible "Truth", their inability to think outside-the-box of tradition and legalism, and their dearth of spirituality and compassion.

Their obsessive homophobia was already unhealthy, but now it’s become cold and ruthless.