|Archbishop Neinstedt gives the camera his best "I would never tell a lie" expression.|
I just finished reading Jennifer Hasselberger's deposition released by Jeff Anderson and Associates. The deposition was given for a civil suit against the Archdiocese of Minneapolis/St Paul and involves child sexual abuse by a priest known to have serious sexual issues, but was never the less, appointed pastor of the parish at which the abuse cited in this civil law suit occurred. Jennifer writes this at the very beginning of her deposition:
1. The statements made herein, unless stated otherwise, are only to be considered as reflective of the situation and circumstances of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. These statements should not be understood to be representative of the practices of other Catholic dioceses in the United States, of the universal Catholic Church,or of the Holy See.
I'd love to believe the circumstances cited in her deposition were exclusive to the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, but after doing decades of research, I can no longer find it in my Catholic soul to believe the situations and attitudes she describes are unique to this Archdiocese. They are not the exception to the rule. They are the actual observed practice, and this in spite of all the recent rules written specifically to look as if these practices are no longer the rule. The real rule in operation, as Jennifer shows beyond a doubt, is now as it always has been: the welfare of the offending priest before any thought of any justice for a victim.
I also know there really are dioceses where the unwritten rule does not hold sway, but these are the exceptions. The exception is not the level of duplicity and corruption in the Archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis. The only exception here is that a highly placed Archdiocesan individual refused to play the clerical game, and unsurprisingly she just happened to be a lay woman. As for religious women and lay men? They were complicit at least to the extent that information stayed in house that belonged in the hands of police.
I don't know how many times I have written, here and in comments elsewhere, that the corruption and abuses will not stop until Catholics are released from the conditioning that God desires a magical celibate male priest as essential to the sacramental functions in the Church. The abuses of our clergy, both sexual and financial, will never end as long as all the power is in the hands of the very men who are causing all the problems. Pope Francis will not solve any of these issues by leaving the current theology of the priesthood as is. He has done nothing that demonstrates to me he has any desire to change one aspect of this theology. Even if it is eventually decided to let married men in the priesthood, that does not change a thing about the exclusive power held by the priesthood.
I guess I would be more inclined to have some hope if our priests actually demonstrated some spiritual ability beyond that ascribed to them in Catholic ritual and the catechism, but those priests are so few as to be insignificant. In the meantime, actions like those described in Jennifer Hasselberger's deposition only serve to demonstrate our current priesthood relies on the power laity give to them and not on any power exclusively theirs that they have taught us God gives them. I wish the average rank and file would think about this the next time they drop cash in the collection basket.