By John Phillips in Rome - Independent - Sunday, 28 March 2010
As pilgrims, tourists and the faithful congregate in St Peter's Square today to collect olive branches during a solemn Palm Sunday Mass, an embattled Pope Benedict XVI is coming under mounting pressure to call an emergency synod of bishops from around the world to hammer out a new strategy to deal with the worsening child abuse scandal, Vatican sources say.
The Independent is also featuring another article today based on an NCR article from 2001. This one deals with the abuse of nuns by priests in Africa and elsewhere. It too, is worth a read because the abuse of nuns by male religious is another one of those closet doors the Vatican has done much to keep closed. It had too if it's campaign to isolate clerical abuse to gay priests in Anglo countries was to carry the day. I'm glad to see this article resurrected because full disclosure of priestly abuse is mandatory and it is hardly isolated to 'gay' priests in Anglo countries.
Should the Pope call for an emergency synod of the world's bishops, the good which might come out of such a gathering would depend on a number of factors. The first factor is if it would indeed by a full gathering or just a selection of hand picked representatives. The second issue is who would set the agenda and what would be it's scope. If it consisted solely of a Dallas type meeting it would accomplish nothing that couldn't be done in national synods. If, on the other hand, it was convened to take a serious look at the priesthood and reform of the clerical system, some good might come of all the misery of all the abuse victims.
If it is essentially called as some type of 'loyalty' test where the assembled bishops rubber stamp Vatican bureaucratic proposals it will be a disaster. If it does not include input from abuse victims, laity and women, it will amount to nothing more than a repudiation of the collegiality concepts laid out in the documents of Vatican II and not represent meaningful reform at all.
Should it be taken over by conservative elements and used to further their agenda of 'reforming the reform', it will be an unmitigated disaster and spell the end of Roman Catholicism as it's currently known.
The fact there are voices in the Vatican even calling for such a gathering is indicative of just how serious this issue has now become, and perhaps just how close the media is to uncovering some real truth. If it should happen that the code of silence which surrounds the culture of the Vatican itself is broken, the recent revelations will seem like the good old days.