Friday, May 7, 2010

Confess your sins, amend your life and do penance

I find myself corresponding with a member of Episcopal USA. In the course of our E-mails, I referred to the Roman Church as the Catholic Church. He wrote back insisting that the Episcopal Church IS Catholic. I meant no offense, after all use of that term in contemporary American society is generally understood as a reference to the Roman Catholic Church. It is both theologically and historically accurate to understand that the Orthodox and Anglican (Episcopalian) Churches are part of the Great Universal (Catholic) Church. That Church broke into diverse parts after the Great Schism of 1054 and the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century.

Given the monstrous scandals now exploding internationally involving the Roman Catholic Church and the popular understanding of the term “Catholic” as meaning the Roman Catholic Church, I am amazed that Episcopalians, or any other Christians for that matter, would want to associate with that term. The British publication “The Tablet” (full story) reports the following:

The crisis threatens to reach catastrophic proportions. A staggering 6.25 million German Catholics, that is a quarter of the German Church, are expected to leave the Church this year because of the scandal, according to a poll in the [ITAL]Frankfurter Rundschau[UNITAL] daily.

Sensing the horrific fallout for the Cover-Up Scandal Cardinal Leveda has called for a new apologetic for the faith. He has stressed that such an apologetic must be sacramental.

A sacrament communicates something intangible (i.e. “grace” a sharing in the life of God) to the senses. The sacrament of baptism uses the tangible substance water, to communicate a cleansing. The life giving powers of waters communicate the new life of faith, a renewal in God’s love & life, etc. The problem with an apologetic for the (Roman) Catholic Church is precisely that the Institutional Church, rather than communicating intangible grace to the senses, acts as an obstacle to that communication.

The truth is that the hierarchy of the (Roman) Catholic Church has been involved in a Cover-Up of the violation of innocent children by a small percentage of priests. This is so much the case that the role of the bishops is even mentioned in a syllabus by the John Jay School of Law. The following is reprinted from a course syllabus


Pedophile Priests and Negligent Oversight: What institutional factors in the Catholic Church helped hundreds of other pedophile priests carry on with their depredations, in many cases despite repeat offenses and the awareness of clerical peers about what they were up to? What parallels can you draw between problem cops (or problem employees in any profession) who remain “bulletproof” for years and the problem priests in this case who seemed equally invulnerable for so long?

Video: Hand of God. (

The Cover-Up discussed is not only an obstruction of justice, a crime in itself and a further psychological/emotional wounding of the victims and their families/loved ones. The Cover-Up is as great as the crime of the pedophile priests, because it facilitated new acts of pedophilia, new crimes, and created new victims. All of this would have been avoided if bishops (and the pope) had acted responsibly. This did not require some extraordinary knowledge or wisdom, simply common sense. If an innocent child has been violated and harmed by an adult, you remove that adult from any position where he/she could harm any other children. That means that you 1) inform the judicial/police authorities of the crime and let them adjudicate the matter; and 2) remove the priest/bishop from public ministry. It really is that simple.

Why the hierarchy did not do this is almost as disturbing as their failure to act. They wanted to protect the reputation of the institutional Church and its material assets. Ironically, their actions have seriously wounded what they so desperately tried to protect. Before any new Apologetic work can be written, the hierarchy (and the Institutional Church that they control) needs to take its own age-old advice. Confess your sins, amend your life and do penance (an attempt to offer satisfaction to the aggrieved).


Sebastian said...

Your comments are true. The scandal is not primarily a scandal about the relatively few priests who abused youths. The scandal is about the large percentage of bishops who were morally complicit in these crimes, and about their failure to take responsibility for their actions even when caught red handed.

Heads should be rolling. Unfortunately, the hierarchy seems incapable of policing itself, and immune to policing by others. There are few options available to Catholic lay people, and fewer still available to Catholic priests and religious order members.

It is a hell of a situation. Literally, a hell of a situation.

Mareczku said...

This is an excellent article. I agree with Sebastian here. What you said is quite true. The biggest part of the scandal is the cover up that led to many more victims. Too bad that the children weren't protected as much as the bishops are.

Fr Craig said...

GF - I'm an Episcopal priest who follows your blog regularly. Part of the reason we promote our catholicity is to make it easier for disaffected RC's to swim the Tiber! I don't 'poach', but we've absorbed several formerly RC families that came to us this past couple of years. It is a great comfort to them to find out that we use the same creed, do liturgy, etc. I have long thought that the RC church is patently idolatrous - it worships the Church, and it is berzerk over 'life' issues. Having said that, I still have huge respect for the Mother Church, and especially it's social ministries. But it seems to me that your are correct - those guys in purple up in Rome are more concerned with power than people... Bless you for your work -

Марко Фризия said...

As an Episcopalian Catholic I still feel solidarity with other catholics. The good still, I believe, outweighs the bad.

Joseph said...

Thanks for your post and for posting the link to the Frontline documentary. Completely unsurprising to see that the same people who are involved in the sex scandal are also involved in parish closings. Strangely, I sense so little outrage in the US Church today about any of these things. For the most part, it seems like business as usual. It makes me angry and reminds me of the adage, "We're part of the problem if we're not part of the solution."