Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Pope's Problems - with UPDATE

People - friends, family members - have been emailing articles this week about the problems that have arisen these past couple of weeks for the Catholic church and for Pope Benedict XVI in particular. They include actual admissions of responsibility (!) by some of the hierarchy in Ireland; a revelation of truth about the way the office of the current pope - then known as Cardinal Ratzinger - encouraged the cover-up of priest abuse at a school in Wisconsin for the deaf; and more revelations about an abusive priest in Germany back when Benedict was Ratzinger and the Archibishop of the area.

Not only are the articles out there - I get sent about a link a day from various people - but there is a sense of renewed outrage and disgust by Catholics themselves, it seems. This is just my impression. But it seems to me that Catholics are angry at the church for these truths as they unfold.

Me? My surprise is not at the stories themselves. It is at the apparent shock of others that these stories exist.

Here's the deal. Back in 2002, when Boston erupted, the Catholic church's hierarchy put bandaids on anything that moved. They didn't replace bishops - they promoted them (like they did with Cardinal Law). There was no house cleaning - there was just a new version of covering things up. So how in the heck can I be surprised by specific evidence that the current pope - who has been part of this hierarchy for decades - would somehow not get caught up in revelations about pre-2002 cover-up efforts? Of course he played a role in it. How could he not have played a role? As it says in that last article I linked above, about what the current pope did (or did not do) as an archbishop in Germany:

The case is alarming, wrote the German newspaper Die Zeit last week, not “because Ratzinger was guilty of an exceptional offense.”

“It is the other way around: It is significant because the archbishop acted as probably most other dignitaries in those years,” it wrote. “In 1980 Joseph Ratzinger was part of the problem that preoccupies him today.”

My friends and I have been wondering how the pope would react to this new criticism. We all found out today, when he condemned the "petty gossip" surrounding all the above. Too clever by half, I think. Indeed, here is the summary of his sins in the "gossip" article:

The then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was the archbishop of Munich when a priest was allowed to resume pastoral work with children even while receiving therapy for paedophilia. He was subsequently convicted of abusing minors. In addition, a case has come to light in which Ratzinger's deputy at the Vatican doctrinal office told Wisconsin bishops to quash a church trial for a priest alleged to have abused up to 200 deaf boys.

The Vatican insists the pope was unaware of the Munich priest's move to the pastoral job and has defended its handling of the Wisconsin case.

Doesn't that make it "gossip" with a record?

For me, the phenomenon is not that the pope looks complicit. For me, the phenomenon is that people are surprised. I always wondered how people (Catholics in particular) could have any reaction to the priest abuse crisis that was less than outrage. Now though, maybe I get it - it must be because they didn't really believe the whole Church could possibly be involved. It must be a few bad apples, not the entire Church (is what people must have thought) - it must be a coincidence that all the U.S. bishops sent their pedophile priests to the same retreat center in New Mexico.... Etc. Etc.

So, good. Be outraged now. Feel the betrayal now. Stretch into its parameters, and beyond. Better late than never. Just - don't think the hierarchy didn't know. They had to know. How could they not have known?

(and so I wonder as I sit on this beautiful Sunday morning, and listen to "Kyrie/Alleluia" music, and hope that this time, this time, the clear voice of Grace can be heard above the din...)

UPDATE: So things continue to unravel for the Pope. Here is an article about how his CDF office let flounder an investigation into a very scary priest in AZ - with the striking sentence that "The church considers cases of abuse in confessionals more serious than other molestations because they also defile the sacrament of penance." (!!) And here is a New York Times article on how a senior Vatican priest on Good Friday compared these new questions surrounding the church with the persecution of the Jews, and how pretty much everyone was astounded at the comparison. (I mean, seriously? Seriously?). He has since apologized for the comparison. Really, it cannot be done. This is not a witch hunt. As discussed in the New York Times article, it is a series of questions of who did what, who knew what, and when did they know it, and will they be held accountable for it. Period.

And then now, on Easter, as the church leaders rally around the Pope, one has to reiterate the theme of "gossip" and then start talking about the persecution that Jesus went through. Really, shouldn't they stay more grounded than that? Until the words "gossip" and "persecution" are taken out of their responses, the Church will not be able to regain any semblance of authority here, imo. And yes, there are words today, on Easter, of repentance and apology too. They are also a part of this truth.

1 comment:

Ivan said...

Hey Beth, This is all bummer stuff. I know that the Wisconsin priest passed away a bit ago so he cannot be tried but I do not understand why would there still not be criminal proceedings for church officials being accessories to those crimes. I know that the civil side like you were involved in has had incredible impacts in causing this to end but I still view the bishops et al who moved these guys around to be criminals. Oh well... Cheers, Ivan