Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Pope's investigation

Pope Benedict XVI on Monday appointed nine prelates, including the archbishops of Boston and New York, to investigate child abuse in Ireland's Catholic institutions. (Full story)

What’s wrong with that?

The scope of the investigation, for starters, is what is wrong here. It is limited to the Catholic Church in Ireland. The Cover-Up Scandal has plagued the Catholic Church in the United States of America, Ireland, Germany, Austria, Italy, Chile, Brazil, etc. Limiting an “investigation” only to Ireland implies that this is a problem only in that local church. It most certainly is not.

Secondly, who/what is being investigated and specifically why? Pedophilia, like murder and rape will always occur, despite law enforcement’s and legislators’ best efforts to stop these horrible crimes. Civil governments can implement intelligent laws and police procedures in an honest attempt to protect innocent people. The hierarchy may implement pro-active policies and re-write Canon (church) law, they may mandate cooperation with civil authorities, but this would need to occur on a universal (international) level. It is not.

Who could possibly object to such an investigation?

As the article clearly states:

But U.S. victims of clerical abuse were not impressed by Benedict's selections, saying some of the bishops themselves had "troubling" records on confronting abuse.

"We must look outside a largely complicit church hierarchy for real solutions to this devastating ongoing crisis," said Barbara Dorris, outreach director for the U.S. victims' group Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests.

"For an apostolic visitation to have any chance of success, the participating bishops cannot be guilty of the same offenses they are investigating," said BishopAccountability.org, which conducts research into the abuse crisis.

The problem here is not only pedophilia, it is the Cover-Up of pedophile priests and religious by their superiors (i.e. the hierarchy). Asking the hierarchy to self-investigate this Cover-Up, at the very least calls into question the legitimacy of the investigation and its findings. At worst, it invalidates them. Investigators would have to include lay persons (Catholic and non-Catholic). Preferably with backgrounds in psychology and law.

Sadly, this investigation strikes me as an exercise in containment and public relations damage control. The widespread international nature of the Cover-Up scandal indicates a systemic problem within the universal church and not merely a problem with the church in Ireland. Such an international systemic problem would require a reform of the whole church. The scope of this investigation will not be able to address the needs of the universal church, or reform it to help it heal from this systemic problem.

When I was in seminary, a professor told our class a joke about the anti-Christ. A Dominican Friar approached the pope and said “Holy Father, the anti-Christ is alive and here in Rome!” The pope paused and asked “How old is he?” Three years old, responded the friar. The pope thought for a moment and said “Leave it to my successor.” Benedict knows that systemic reform is the effective cure to the Cover-Up scandal and the mentality which facilitated it. However, such reform would compromise the hierarchy’s power, specifically its autonomy from lay oversight. This “investigation” is a way of appearing to act, while not acting at all.


Joseph said...

Here here!

Odd how Ratzinger and the CEO of British Petroleum have so much in common these days. They're both trying to cover up massive spills. Their logic is corporate. Their methods are lying, denying, and stultifying. Up until now, the Obama administration seems to have been protecting both these culprits. Sad to think that faith and business have each turned so oily. When the money changers and priests look so much alike in the Temple, it's time to drive them out.

Terence Weldon said...

Spot on. The problem with this investigation is identical to the fundamental problem it is supposedly dealing with: the total inability of the Church to operate outside its own insular terms of reference.

Actions that are criminal in secular law should be investigated by secular authorities: in Ireland, the Nuncio refused to co-operate with the state. I understand that in Scotland, the bishops are likewise refusing to co-operate with what was intended as a tri-partite investigation by church, state, and victims.

There is also a need for an internal investigation of the systemic problems giving rise to enabling conditions, but this needs to be tackled at a global level. Further, when a major part of the problem is the emphasis on excessive centralized power and control, investigations imposed from above are hardly the most appropriate.

Ultimately, we cannot expect real reform until we see a comprehensive overhaul of the entire, pathological structure, forced from below.

Mareczku said...

I think they need women involved in this visitation also. How about having women with backgrounds in psychology to also give their input here. Does anyone know if any women are involved in these investigations?