Irish abuse not typical - cardinal
PADDY AGNEW Irish Times 1/14/10 Rome
PADDY AGNEW Irish Times 1/14/10 Rome
The clerical sex abuse scandals in Ireland are not representative of the behaviour of the vast majority of priests in the Catholic Church, a senior Vatican figure has said.
Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy, said the abuse by priests in Ireland constituted “painful” and “criminal” behaviour.
However, in an interview yesterday in the Vatican daily, L’Osservatore Romano, he said it would be wrong to “make generalisations” as a result of the Irish experience.
The cardinal was asked if events “in certain parts of the world” did not suggest that something had “gone wrong” in relations between bishops and their priests.
“The painful Irish happenings – which by the way have seen some bishops assume their responsibilities and resign – simply do not relate to the entire episcopal ministry.“The bishops are good fathers for their priests,” he said.“Certainly, there are some unbecoming situations but they are very limited in number. Unfortunately, we are talking about situations linked to the human condition. And that’s what happened in Ireland. (They were also terrible fathers for their lay children. And that is the problem. Interesting that the 'soul' murder of thousands of children is now 'unbecoming'. Maybe it's the translation.)
“This is a very painful business which, it is true, hurts above all the victims but it also profoundly wounds the heart of the church. Once responsibility for so much evil has been objectively established, then we need to go all the way, handing the matter over to the state judicial authorities.” (Which does not include criminal conspiracy charges for bishops. This is not 'going all the way".)
L’Osservatore asked Cardinal Hummes if, in his view, the credibility of priests worldwide has been undermined by such scandals: “Unfortunately, in a society that has little inclination to dig deep in its search for the truth, [such scandals] damage the image of the priest. Above all because the media concentrate on these events rather than on all the good that is done by the vast majority of priests.
“It is undeniable that painful episodes have happened but we are talking about a limited number of cases which, according to the numbers, are proportionately modest.
“These are of course very serious, criminal happenings which the church can in no way tolerate. But let me repeat it, the vast majority of priests worldwide are decent people, committed to their ministry, ready to give their entire lives, often lose their lives, for the Gospel.” (Except it has for centuries until it was exposed by 'the media' concentrating on the truth.)
Appointed Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006, Cardinal Hummes is a Franciscan who himself was often considered a possible candidate for pope at the 2005 conclave which elected Benedict. He is known as a moderate on social justice issues.
Cardinal Hummes’s reference to Irish church scandals is further proof that, while the Vatican may well have kept a very low initial profile with regard to the fallout from the Murphy report, the matter of the Irish church, its scandals and its reorganisation is currently weighing heavily on Holy See minds.
Pope Benedict is to deal with all these matters in his forthcoming pastoral letter to the Irish faithful, expected on or before Ash Wednesday, February 17th.
It looks to me as if the Vatican strategy in dealing with abusive priests is to make the case it is primarily and Anglo/Irish problem. Cardinal Hummes is ignoring the entire problem as it exists in Hispanic countries, and of course, totally ignores the abuse of women. Abuse of women and girls is a global phenomenon. Well, so is pedophilia, but it's only been widely exposed in Anglo countries.
It will be most interesting to see if Legionare founder Marcial Maciel is treated as another statistical aberration, an aberration not indicative of pedophilia having spread outside the Irish/Anglo lavender mafia. I'll be interested in reading Pope Benedict's letter to the Irish just to see if he treats sexual abuse as the power issue it is, or if he maintains it's part of the homosexual disorder as the Vatican has in the past. Just guessing here, but since Hummes completely leaves out the abuse of women I suspect Benedict will not be treating the Irish situation as an issue of power. It will be an issue of sexual disorder, and ignore the whole power thing.
And speaking of power, there may be a very unwelcome lesson being driven home to the Vatican in the Irish response to abusive priests and all the hierarchical power dynamics that kept it going in secret for so long. That lesson is the clerical caste only has the power their people allow them to have and no more. There is nothing intrinsic in ordination that makes priests uniquely powerful without the consent of the laity. Once the laity wake up to this fact, all the clerical glitter and gold can't hide this truth.
The good priests that Cardinal Hummes reference know this fact. Their authority, as opposed to power, comes from their service and the authentic way they live the message they preach. Jesus knew something about real spiritual authority when He told His disciples they must be servants to the servants. They must go where the people are at. This is what He Himself lived after all. It's one reason He drug the disciples around for three years.
I'm sure if Jesus thought He could get His message across in a truly meaningful way by setting up His own statically positioned temple, He would have done just that. He would have used His power and majesty to force people to come to Him. If secular power was truly part of His spiritual authority He would have dressed the part like a temple priest. He would have buttressed that notion by insisting on worship. But He did none of those things, and when tempted with them He told Satan to go to hell. Literally.
Somewhere along the line the leadership of the Church decided Satan had a better idea about leadership, authentic spiritual authority, and power. The Irish, but especially the victims of this notion of spiritual power, are forcing a systemic re evaluation of what constitutes authentic authority. Should Benedict ignore this aspect of the abuse crisis with more rationalization, denial and scapegoating, he will send a very powerful message: that the Vatican prefers to preach Jesus's message of service, while living in and affirming Satan's notions of power.
Jesus determined in His temptation in the desert that basing spiritual authority on the foundation of secular expression of power is a seductive delusion, but no matter how seductive, it is still a delusion. Irish Catholics are demanding a reality check. They will not abide any more rationalizations in support of delusion. Archbishop Martin gets it. The question is, does the Vatican?