Fearing The Faithful: Catholic Sex Abuse Summit Is Rorschach Test For Pope

Tracy Downey

I'm just a simple story maker longing to make the world a better place, while butterflies dance inside my head.

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27 Responses

  1. They have failed every single test they have ever had to take. It is impossible to imagine them ever getting it right.Report

  2. I am, as an interested outsider, fascinated to see the Roman church working so hard to self-immolate. It has driven my niece to swim the channel to Canterbury. I suspect that a lot of liberal Catholics will do the same, while Evangelical churches will merrily poach from the conservative wing.Report

  3. Marchmaine says:

    I’m genuinely unsure what we are Rorschaching here… but two things.

    One, we can’t talk about the February summit as some sort of significant Papal undertaking without accounting for the 2013 Papal Commission on Sexual Abuse that has mostly fallen apart; perhaps most pathetically with Cardinal Sean O’Malley deferring on letters sent to him on the McCarrick affair because they didn’t involve Children.

    Again, I’m not sure what that Rorschachs as, but I’m also not sure what you’re reporting on… unless its just to let us know there’s another committee getting together to “Start” the journey… again… But, the Pope also wants us to downplay what it is we’re doing

    There are certainly things afoot, and factions at play… but the article doesn’t come close to touching on them.

    And second, can you help me understand this paragraph?

    In hopes of restoring faith with the laity, critics outside and inside the church are press-ganging Francis to ratify Vatican III, so that the church, at last, ends clergy abuse secrecy, and ushers in a new era of change. Francis’ credence for the third Vatican counsel means, “The time has come to abandon all intolerance. We must recognize that religious truth evolves and changes.” Francis asserts, “Truth is not absolute or set in stone.”

    Among my pet peeves are internet articles that use links to bolster claims that are contravened by the link… to whit, the CWR article’s very next sentence is “I first heard of this satirical piece, published on the Diversity Chronicle site (which carries this descriptive/disclaimer: “The original content on this blog is largely satirical”), about two weeks ago. A friend forwarded me the link, and explained that several of his non-Catholic friends and co-workers were touting it as real “news”

    Divsersity Chronical original satirical article. Are you doubling down on the satire ironically? I’m genuinely confused.Report

    • Pinky in reply to Marchmaine says:

      “…Cardinal Sean O’Malley deferring on letters sent to him on the McCarrick affair because they didn’t involve Children.”

      This is where a lot of people get confused. Is the issue sexual impropriety in general, sexual abuse of minors, or covering up sexual abuse of minors? This seems to be an example of the first. This article seems to toggle back and forth between the second and third. For example, the PA investigation, IIRC, found only three suspected abusers active since the reforms of the early 2000’s. Now, that’s not to say that abuse has stopped since then – people typically take years to come forward. And I personally want to punch myself for typing “only three”. But there’s very little to indicate an ongoing pattern of abuse and cover-up rather than an ongoing lack of accountability for those who did cover things up.Report

      • Marchmaine in reply to Pinky says:

        That’s right; the dawning understanding among the laity that clerical sexual incontinence is widespread (much more so than we thought), includes the hierarchy, is quite possibly tolerated, and maybe even encouraged… that is the post-2002 revelation.Report

    • Re: 2013 Papal Commission on Sexual Abuse, of course we can. The commission failed to address that the hierarchy concealed abuse within the clergy-primarily Donald Wuerl, and McCarrick. You cannot have a commission without detailing that those in charge absolve themselves or their “brothers” by leaving it to Francis to ask for their resignation.

      Second: aside from your personal feelings, there’s this article from 2013

      And here is this one from just a week ago. Which, I agree.

      No satire, just serious discussion. Thank you for your comments.:)Report

  4. Dark Matter says:

    I’m not sure they’re in enough pain yet to really reform. The core issues aren’t just that priests-are-human-and-ergo-sexual-creations, but also due process.

    Due process is the opposite of everything they believe in and have built for the last 2000 years. You have due process because people (specifically including priests) are failable (i.e. can’t be trusted), prone to weaponize everything they can get their hands on, the leadership became leadership by wanting power and doing good things for the institution, and various people inside the institution will want to cover for their allies.

    Accepting civil due process would mean subordinating themselves and god to the civil authorities because the church and god can’t deal with this correctly. It’d also be giving up huge amounts of intuitional and personal power.Report

    • @dark-matter There’s also the matter of civil due process being absolutely terrible at taking abuse seriously, as evidenced by its response whenever accusations were made during the last hundred-ish years.Report

      • Dark Matter in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

        My general impression is the civil system wants to deal with this better. It certainly has people whose full time jobs are to deal with this.

        The church still wants to have its own system separate from that. The Priests should be in charge of dealing with this, which instantly means extremely serious conflicts of interest and lack of skill. The Church and it’s interests wouldn’t just have a seat at the table, it’d be the primary consideration. This is the same problem Universities have when the U administration has to deal with this issue.

        I don’t see much difference between the Church wanting to do it’s own thing and the Church wanting the entire problem to just go away because it’s not a serious issue to them.Report

    • Agreed, which is why critics of the church want Vatican III to implement those changes to due process. Only way it can be done is through the ecumenical council. The last time was 1959 when Pope John XXIII implemented the council to end Catholic anti-Semitism. In regards to clergy abuse within the hierarchy, Francis uses similar context In his letter to the U.S. Conference of Bishops at their retreat in Chicago. I think the parallels between Francis and Blessed John XXIII are striking.Report

  5. Slade the Leveller says:

    Though it doesn’t solve the problem that’s been festering, for years I’ve been saying the Catholic Church needs to start allowing ordination of women and married men. The priesthood has been seen for years as a haven for men with such inclinations, and increasing the ranks as suggested will allow the Church to me more selective about who it ordains.

    This problem is of a piece with campus rapes. Why are these institutions allowed to handle accusations of crimes internally? Are there not mandatory reporter laws that cover this sort of stuff?Report

    • Catholic theology presents serious barriers to ordaining women. The church could, however, start ordaining married men without a theological hiccup. This is essentially a matter of financial policy, with the decision having been made going on a millennium back. That being said, this would require some serious rethinking of finances. The entire system is set up on the assumption that the clergy have no offspring (or at least, as the old joke goes, none to speak of).Report

      • Marchmaine in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

        There’s been a soft undercurrent suggesting that perhaps ordaining older men (post-50) would provide a transitory compromise. I can’t say that it is a groundswell, but my wife brought it up unbidden just last week. Pope Francis is not onboard at this time… except to alleviate extreme priest shortages in *very* far away places. Presumably places further away than far, far away. But not, so far, as a remdedial step for priestly incontinence. Coming from the Eastern Church, I don’t have the same ‘fear’ of a married clergy as most of my Western compatriots, so I’m of the opinion that some married clergy will enter the ranks over the next 100 years.

        {I personally suspect that BXVI thought the Ordinariate would accomplish this – and more – but that baby seems to have gone missing in a perhaps fatal way}Report

        • Regarding the Ordinariate, that was an interesting failed attempt at poaching. While there has long been a trickle of Anglicans swimming the Tiber, it always received more attention than merited by its size. There are two obstacles to its growing larger.

          One is that, in the American context, Episcopalian parishes have a lot of freedom within certain limits. Leaving the Episcopal church is beyond those limits, and given that the diocese usually holds the deed to the real property, any parish that tries to leave will learn a lesson in real estate law that they won’t like. But short of that, if the parish is financially sound the diocese doesn’t have a lot of leverage over it. This is pretty much entirely unlike how the Roman Catholic church is organized (and why the two differ greatly, even though the organizational structures look almost identical on paper). So any Episcopal priest contemplating converting to Catholicism is contemplating putting himself under much stricter discipline. The appeal of this turns out not to be widespread.

          The second is that the conservative Anglicans are mostly upset over culture war sexuality issues: priests and bishops who are insufficiently hetero and/or have too many X chromosomes. Now look at the most Roman-like wing of the Anglican church, the “Anglo-Catholics” a/k/a the Oxford movement. This is not the wing leaving the Episcopal church over culture war issues. Why not? Ever been to an Anglo-Catholic service? I commend it. It is absolutely fabulous ecclesiastical theater. Anti-gay culture war fights do not resonate with this group.Report

        • Slade the Leveller in reply to Marchmaine says:

          …so I’m of the opinion that some married clergy will enter the ranks over the next 100 years.

          Does the Church have that long? https://news.gallup.com/poll/232226/church-attendance-among-catholics-resumes-downward-slide.aspx

          Also, I’ve read of some married Episcopal priests converting to Catholicism and remaining in the priesthood. Here’s an article about one: https://www.uscatholic.org/church/2012/06/how-i-met-your-father-married-episcopalians-becoming-catholic-priests.

          Ironically, he left the C of E for conservative reasons (objection to ordination of women and gays), only to enter the Catholic priesthood in the most liberal of ways.Report

          • Marchmaine in reply to Slade the Leveller says:

            Does the Church have that long?

            Regarding married clergy, yes again… the Western Church already has married clergy… the entire Ukrainian Catholic Church, for example… plus the Ordinariate I mentioned above, and all miscellany of converted former clergy. There’s no doctrinal requirement for a celibate clergy… it was an act of prudence to cleanse and purify the dissolution of the clergy in the 12th century. If we need to return to a married clergy to cleanse and purify the dissolution of the clergy in the 21st century, we could do by Papal decree. No council required, but likely a council would be called to express unity in changing a 1,000 year old practice.

            I’ll also note that support for/against a married clergy isn’t a liberal/conservative divide… I think there’s a liberal/conservative divide on *what* a married clergy would *do* for the Church (somewhat unknowable) or *how* a married clergy would come to be (i.e. simply ordaining existing deacons vs. a new training path in addition to being a deacon, etc.) or *why* we should have a married clergy. But those are more divisions over what the priesthood is in general, what we might characterize as open (easy) vs. controlled (difficult) paths to the priesthood.

            So, to clarify, when I say we’ll have “some married clergy” I mean regularized paths for Secular Clergy in the Western Church as a whole.Report

      • Slade the Leveller in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

        Catholic theology presents serious barriers to ordaining women.

        Time for Francis to write a decree and fall back on infallibility if called into question. I’m sure he could whip up something, backed by scripture, that would pass the smell test.

        His papacy, of course, would be remembered mostly for the ensuing schism.

        Honestly, is there any other solution for the American Catholic church than the death penalty?Report

        • Pinky in reply to Slade the Leveller says:

          An argument, maybe, but definitely not one that passes the smell test.

          There are, roughly speaking, two kinds of infallibility, one that relies on the ordinary magisterium and one that relies on the extraordinary magisterium. The former is the principle that something has been taught at all times and everywhere, and thus carries certainty. The latter involves a specific invocation of papal authority (sometimes in accord with an ecumenical council, but not always). Francis and previous popes have said that the male priesthood is a universal constant. For Francis to take it back, he’d have to say that they cited the ordinary magisterium but without invoking the extraordinary magisterium. By so doing, he’d be calling into question every statement ever made by a pope in an ordinary capacity. Of course, if he did this without invoking infallibility, the statement would be self-negating.Report

          • Slade the Leveller in reply to Pinky says:

            Hoist on his own petard!Report

          • The road I see open to the church is the marginalization of the priesthood from daily parish life. The ratio of priests to laity is already fantastically low compared with Protestant churches. A lot of daily functions are performed by lay staff that in a Protestant church would be done by clergy. Add in deacons, who typically are those middle aged married men that aren’t getting ordained as priests, and the question is what do they actually need priests for? The answer is sacramental functions, but the priest doesn’t always need to be physically present. The eucharistic elements can be pre-consecrated and distributed without the priest present. So you could in principle have a circuit riding priest, popping in occasionally to impress the faithful and consecrate the elements.

            I foresee this developing gradually in response to necessity. The time will come when there are two parishes and only one priest available, then one priest for three parishes, etc.Report

  6. Pinky says:

    “the not-so-saintly-Blessed John Paul II”

    Can a person be a saint and a screw-up? I personally was against the quick canonization of John Paul because I think there’s a tendency to see the canonization of a pope as a full endorsement of his pontificate. But that tendency is unfounded. I still object to the way that some people refer to him as “John Paul the Great”, because I think you need historical perspective to make that kind of judgment. I’m not sure how original his Theology of the Body was, and I don’t think that what replaced Soviet communism is particularly praiseworthy.

    As for Benedict, this article completely misreads his pontificate. He personally drove Maciel and probably McCarrick out of the leadership. He defrocked hundreds of priests. He couldn’t have ordered Cardinal Law back to the US to stand trial, because there were never any charges filed. The article implies that the Irish cracked down on Benedict, but it was more like Benedict cracked down on the Irish.Report

    • Can a person be a saint and a screw-up?

      Being a Lutheran, I can’t speak to Catholic theology of the saints. But the Lutheran view of things is summed up in a pithy Latin phrase: Simul Justus et PeccatorReport

      • Pinky in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

        That’s my point – at least it used to be, but I guess I deleted the punch line from my comment. The original article calls John Paul not-so-saintly, but doesn’t defend that position except by criticizing his pontificate. That’s not a fair criterion.Report