Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Damian Thompson Hits One Outta The Park
As only the British can do
Benedict XVI and the child abuse crisis: the Telegraph's view
By Damian Thompson

The Daily Telegraph’s editorial verdict today on the Pope and the child abuse scandals haunting the Church makes uncomfortable reading for Catholics – and for those in the media who have lazily or maliciously attempted to place the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger at the centre of the cover-ups:

In his Easter address yesterday Pope Benedict XVI made no direct mention of the row that has engulfed the Catholic church over child abuse. In truth, we know what he thinks of the scandal from his pastoral letter to Irish Catholics a fortnight ago. In a heartfelt statement of contrition, Pope Benedict spoke of “the shame and remorse that we all feel” towards the victims of abuse at the hands of Catholic priests dating back decades: “You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry…your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated”.

The apology was sincere and absolutely merited by the monstrous nature of the betrayal. The Pope spoke from the heart because he has been prominent in the battle to expose abusers and those who have protected them. It is unfortunate that the Vatican has not been able to maintain that tone. On Good Friday the Pope’s personal preacher, Father Raniero Cantalamessa, likened the criticism being levelled at the Catholic Church over child abuse to the “collective violence suffered by the Jews”. He later apologised. Meanwhile, the dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, said during Easter Mass that the controversy amounted to “petty gossip”.

In is perhaps understandable for the Vatican to react so defensively but it is hardly productive. Closer to home, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, yesterday showed far greater sensitivity, talking of the church’s shame while “acknowledging our guilt and our need for forgiveness”. Repairing the damage caused by the child abuse scandal will be a long process but cannot even start until the Vatican demonstrates the same determination to root out abuse – and the same penitence – as Pope Benedict himself has shown.

I don’t think you can say fairer than that. My own thoughts:

1. The betrayal of the innocent by a small minority of Catholic priests and a much larger proportion of Catholic bishops and bureaucrats was truly monstrous. Pope Benedict XVI was right to acknowledge the Church’s deep shame. His predecessor should have done so.

2. Although the Pope may not have been vigilant enough when he was Archbishop of Munich, once he was in the Vatican he was disgusted to discover the scale of the crimes of predator priests – and fought a sometime lonely battle against complacent colleagues, from whom he eventually had to wrest authority to deal with canonical aspects of these cases in 2001. After that, their prosecution was speeded up. No wonder, since the Italian monsignori who previously dealt with them had spent most of the day plotting and stuffing their faces in their favourite trattorie.

3. Benedict XVI is still not well served by the people around him. Did no one bother to check what the papal preacher was going to say on the supremely sensitive subject of child abuse in his sermon to the Holy Father? Did no one think to suggest that, maybe, this might not be the moment to make misleading analogies with the persecution of Jews? And what more evidence do we need that Cardinal Angelo Sodano, one of the useless old guard, should be put out to pasture in a very obscure country diocese?

4. As the Telegraph says, it’s time for the Vatican to show the same “determination to root out abuse” that Benedict has manifested. For that to happen, the Pope must act ruthlessly, not least against Vatican officials. Anyone know the Latin for P45?
And just so you know "P45" is Brit slang for getting fired (from their tax code). Kinda like we in The States would say that someone has gotten their Pink Slip.


Blogger Joe (defend-us-in-battle.blogspot.com) said...

I know that you folks over here at TLCC are a little more critical of Pope John Paul II, than we are over at DUIB. Yet, I do sympathize with where you come from on many issues regarding his Papacy and what occurred in the Church, especially in America in relation to the Liturgy.

That being said, I wonder if he is deserved of less criticism in terms of his handling of the priestly abuse situations. As we know, Pope John Paul handled things quite differently than Benedict does, in terms of administrative functioning. I am not suggesting that it was impossible to do MORE, or even that more shouldn't have been done. I just think that there were a lot of cultural and adminstrative barriers that were still in place up and until almost the time of his death.

I do think that he (PJPII) was too weak on the American Cardinals and Bishops in terms of their handling of the initial crisis, but this goes back to my statement concerning how he operated administratively. You even attest to those around Benedict being poor in terms of how they handle it... wasn't the same true for John Paul?

We often view the Vatican as being all men of one mind, when we know they arent. We know that Bishops feud over things, why then not this too?

I might be looking back with too much fondness, but I think that JPII was a warrior against the abuse in many ways, I just dont think he had much help around him. JPII and Benedict were close, and I have a feeling that many of the moves that BXVI has made are reactions to the failings of the American and European Bishops during the 1990's: both liturgically and in relation to the abuse.

I know I have spoken in general terms, here, but it is mostly out of ignorance. I just seem to think that John Paul is used to often as the REASON or CAUSAL fact of the failings of the Church in recent decades, when in fact he might have been the glue that kept it from completely falling apart.

I don't deny that he had his shortcomings, and often did push ideas that were taken by progressives as mandates for some of the problems in the Church. But when you look at his writings, teachings, and implementations, it is hard to believe that the direction of the Church in many places was the one he desired.

I also see this being true as to the abuse crisis as well.

6:33 PM  
Blogger Vir Speluncae Catholicus said...

Well thought through and articulate posting.

Long story short, Pope JP II was more concerned with appeasing heretics and pagans than he was with defending Catholicism. Case in point - the recently reversed excommnication of the SSPX.

Yes, there were glimmers of hope during his pontificate, but I'm of the opinion that good intentions are worthless without concrete actions.

Pope B16 has quietly dumped more than a few JP2 appointments there in Rome. Needless to say, he's done more in a few short years to defend orthodox Catholicism than the 25 yrs of JP2.

JP2 was loved, grandfatherly, and widely ignored. But like I said, he was more worried about the French Bishops going wildcat than he was in disciplining them. (Yes, I'm giving a specific, but I'm sure you see what I'm saying as far as global implications.)

But in an odd sort of way, I don't "hate" JP2 as many have accused me in the past.

I realize that JP2 served a purpose. God knows what that purpose was. Kind of like the statement "No Jimmy Carter, no Ronald Reagan"... it is equally true that no JP2, no B16.

God knows what He's doing.

Anyhoo, thanks for the thought provoking post, Joe. Keep 'em coming!

6:51 PM  
Blogger Joe (defend-us-in-battle.blogspot.com) said...

I see where you are coming from. I do agree that he served his purpose. I think the Carter / Reagan comparison is a little off.

I think he did serve his purpose and his stance against Communism was a major part of his "role."

I do agree that he was ignored by many, and in a time prior to a 24hr news cycle, technology, twitter and blogs. It was easy to ignore the Pope especially over here in America. I dont want to take this post too far off course, so I will conclude.

I really appreciate this blog and aspire to have ours be like it "when we grow up" in the blogging world :)

I know that a lot of my admiration for Pope John Paul II is a sentimental sort as I feel I reverted to the faith because of him, am Polish, and saw him as a huge warrior against the communist bloc.

I think you summed it up best when you said: "God knows what He's doing."

7:03 PM  
Blogger Vir Speluncae Catholicus said...

Yep, Ronald Reagan was the muscle in the fall of the USSR, Pope John Paul was the soul.

PS, thanks for the kind words in regards to our blog!

7:46 PM  
Blogger Adeodatus49 said...

I had read once that JP-II was more afraid of schism, than heresy. Perhaps that's why heresy went on seemingly unpunished and uncorrected.

8:13 PM  
Blogger Helen said...

I thank John Paul II and Benedict XVI for "World Youth Day". Nothing's as brilliant as "getting them while they're young"!

11:33 PM  
Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

In my parish, St. John the Evangelist in Goshen, NY, the first major pedophile scandal materialized in the early nineties. The priest in question, "Father Ed" had been molesting boys in their early teens. To say that the parishioners were traumatized by this would be an understatement. They were devastated. Then something wondrous happened....

Father Ed was eventually replaced by Father Trevor Nichols. Father Trevor had been an Anglican in merrie old England when he converted to Catholicism. On becoming a Catholic was transferred to Saint John's - WITH HIS WIFE AND TWO DAUGHTERS! A married priest! WITH TWO KIDS!

You want to hear the punch line? Our little parish did not implode. The sun did not fall from the sky. Huge cracks did not appear in the earth's surface. In fact, it was nice having them. They were - and are to this day - deeply beloved by the people of St. John's.

Allowing priests to marry would transform the Catholic Church. Having a married priest and his lovely family in our midst certainly transformed the people of St. John's.


Tom Degan

7:07 AM  
Blogger Vir Speluncae Catholicus said...

Catholic priests can be married. And not only am I reff'ing to the provision for Anglicans. Keep in mind that those of the various Eastern Rites have had a married priesthood for the past 2,000 years. Even the Western Church had a married priesthood for the first millenium. It was and still is a matter of discip[line, not dogma.

But I digress, a married priesthood isn't the cure for pedophilia. Traditional, orthodox Catholicism is.

Prior to the wonderful "Spirit" of Vatican II, the overwhelming majority of priests were decent, hard-working men of God who were very sure of their heterosexuality, but chose a celibate lifestyle.

Here's the difference between then and now -- then, men w/ SSA were adamantly kept from the seminary. Now, they're given a wink and a nod... and admittance.

Homo in, homo out. It really is that simple.

1:39 PM  
Blogger Adeodatus49 said...

But I digress, a married priesthood isn't the cure for pedophilia. Traditional, orthodox Catholicism is.

Bingo, Cavey!

. . . and the majority of sexual abuse occurs in a family setting . . . in a marriage setting. The frequency of abuse of girls is higher in a family setting than outside it. The frequency of abuse of boys is higher outside the family than in the family. Nonetheless, abuse of boys in a family setting is not at all insignificant.

During the first Millennium, it was the custom for Roman rite married priests and their wives to profess a private vow of continence within marriage before the husband was ordained. This is not an unknown practice in Orthodoxy. For example, St. John of Kronstadt and his wife took such a vow. He was a very holy priest, something along the lines of an Orthodox St. John Marie Vianney. His parish was in Kronstadt, a sailor town in the Crimea full of bars and brothels.

10:41 PM  

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