Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Saving The Head At The Expense Of The Body Is A Losing Healing Strategy

Muzzling Martin was sole outcome of summit
By John Cooney-Irish Indenpendent- Monday, February 22-2010

A WORTHY dirge was penned by the writer Aubrey de Vere to Owen Roe O'Donnell about the failure of the earls in Kilkenny's Council Hall before their vanquished flight to the continent.
It can be paraphrased in verse about the reining in of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin by Pope Benedict, the curial cardinals and his 23 fellow bishops at last week's Rome summit:

"Pope, Cardinals and bishops, ye talked and talked/In the Vatican's Salla Bologna, such a grand hall;/But this man whose game ya balked/Was the one man 'mong you all!'

The lamentable end to the two-day Rome talks was crystallised on Friday by Maeve Lewis, director of the One in Four abuse victims' support group. She expressed acute disappointment that Archbishop Martin could not say why their concerns, conveyed in an open letter to Pope Benedict, had not been addressed.

Archbishop Martin could not give a straight answer as to why the pope had not accepted unequivocal responsibility for the clerical abuse and cover-up by church authorities detailed in the Murphy report -- nor sought the resignation of Martin Drennan as Bishop of Galway .

It suggests he has been muzzled by the former head of the Vatican's inquisition. The one united voice -- in which the former Joseph Ratzinger ordered the Irish bishops to intone after the Roman summit -- is his own.

It was not by chance that one of the curial cardinals present at the meetings was a legal expert. It was his job to ensure that the Good Shepherd's published text did not contain anything that would subject the Holy See as a sovereign state to legal challenge from abuse victims. (This is most certainly the over riding reason for the Vatican's silence concerning it's own culpability.)

Any admission of the Vatican's culpability in its directives to bishops of reporting abuse complaints would intensify pressure for accountability from the elderly German pope.

Little wonder that victims' groups said Archbishop Martin returned from Rome not as strong in the Irish hierarchy as he was before and that abuse victim Andrew Madden described him as a changed man. (Chastened is probably more accurate. Perhaps he was told to shut up or he would be assigned a Vatican watch dog ala Archbishop Hunthausen.)

A stoic archbishop of Dublin told the abuse survivors that he would be "more optimistic" about the eventual outcome of the "process" of the Irish church's response to the abuse scandals. The next step will see publication in a few weeks' time of Pope Benedict's Lenten letter to the Catholics of Ireland.

But the prominent victims of clerical abuse in the Dublin archdiocese have no expectation whatsoever from this letter. Except for the additional acceptance by the Irish church of mandatory reporting to the gardai and HSE of complaints, the pope will mainly rehash the press release issued last Tuesday.

Archbishop Martin was not underestimating when he warned, before the publication of the Murphy Report, that its findings "would shock us all".

Three months on we have Bishop Drennan openly blaming Archbishop Martin for propelling the resignations of Bishop Donal Murray and Dublin auxiliary, Eamonn Walsh. Now there is talk of the pope declining the resignations of Bishops Walsh and Ray Field. But Bishop Jim Moriarty will step down at Easter.

Over the weekend the Irish bishops proclaimed the coming of the papal letter to the faithful. Yet only Archbishop Martin has offered the wise counsel that the letter may not be exactly what people are expecting.

Archbishop Martin is isolated, but remains the only bishop in real dialogue with victims. However, that dialogue is now firmly within the parameters prescribed by the Pope and "the Episcopal Gang of 24".


As long as this current Pope lives, Catholics can forget any meaningful admission of culpability by the Vatican when it comes to the systemic policy of covering up sexually abusing priests. Catholics can forget about the Vatican City States ever turning over the approximately two dozen abusers that currently live with in it's walls and are avoiding extradition to other countries. Catholics can forget about experiencing an authority structure which cares about them more than it cares about it's own survival and it's desperate attempts to avoid legal accountability for it's own criminal decisions.

Irish, American, Australian, Canadian, and now German abuse victims know first hand how much they really count to the Vatican. They count only as much as they are perceived to be a threat to the Vatican. Victims can take heart in the fact they must count a lot because the Vatican is bending over backwards to avoid dealing with them on it's own behalf. Can't take a chance on criminal prosecutions and law suits. Can't take a chance on any meaningful real life accountability. Can't admit any mistakes. Mistakes are only made by national episcopacies, not the Vatican. Apparently we are supposed to ignore the fact the national episcopacies all made the exact same criminal mistakes. The Church is only universal when it serves the Vatican's interests. Otherwise it's each episcopate for itself--especially when it comes to legal accountability.

I feel very badly for Archbishop Martin. I saw him as the one bishop who understood the real danger inherent in this crisis might be in setting up a war between the laity and lower clergy with the hierarchy. He really did his best to attempt to get the Irish hierarchy on the same page as the Irish laity. He was succeeding, but it looks as if the Vatican determined in advance that the price of his success was too high for the Vatican to pay--especially over a dieing church in Ireland. Better to heed the advice of Vatican attorneys and stay silent while keeping Vatican eyes focused on the South, on the Philippines, on any place in which the constant use of the sexual morality card still had some authority.

I suspect Archbishop Martin spends some of his time staring at walls, reflecting on where he personally moves from where he's currently positioned. Does he squander his moral authority with the Irish Church in favor of protecting the German pope or does he follow his heart. If he follows his heart he keeps his soul and his moral authority. If he follows the Vatican line he puts another nail in the coffin of Jesus's church in the West. I bet recently his eyes have tracked towards Germany. Will a German bishop take a principled stand or will the Pope's country of origin fall in line, repeating a past German mistake?

There is a kind of karmic dogma which says that those things in your past that you refuse to heal will keep repeating until you finally deal with them and heal them. These situations aren't always about one's own transgressions. Very frequently they are about situations in which one was victimized and just couldn't deal with the situation at the time. Some psychologists think this kind of mechanism is operating in abuse victims who become predators themselves or continue to experience victimhood in other aspects of their lives. Other psychologists would see this as learned behavior, and others as maladaptive neural entrainment.

Sometimes this process gets played out on a very big stage. Institutional Roman Catholicism is currently experiencing this 'karmic' play on a global stage. The strategy of protecting the clergy at the expense of the victims is not a healing strategy. Moving the nexus point up the food chain to protecting the Vatican at the expense of national churches is not a healing strategy. A physician does not keep cutting off various parts of the body strictly to save the head.

Unfortunately Benedict is not a physician nor a healer--not for the church and not for himself. This karmic cycle is going to keep repeating until the lesson is learned and the healing happens. If the Vatican is incapable of learning the lesson it may be that the various national churches cut off the head. And maybe that's the ultimate lesson we all need to learn: the Vatican is not, in fact, the head of the Catholic Church, Jesus is.


  1. Someone I met recently, who is currently studying for an MA in Religious Education, concluded that Catholicism is getting too difficult to explain to anyone, that parsing what's going on, using my own terminology, "ties one's neurons in knots." He too is strongly pulled to Orthodoxy. Why? Because he can explain it easily. It's not riddled with problems which no one will admit.

    In the RC Church, you have a coterie of old maids bent on closeting all problems under their control, but castigating everyone else who might do so.

    Ultimately, more and more sane Catholics will, as I have, consider that all their efforts to promote change yield no more than diminishing returns. But for whatever reason, God guides some to remain and others to leave.

    Peace be with you - in the struggle!

  2. This business of the Pope writing a letter to the people of Ireland and the abuse victims is really a dead "head" with no heart slamming the door to reconciliation and healing for the entire Church and the abuse victims. It is something the Pope will write for all the world to see the faux love the Pope really has for the People of God.

    If the Pope were sincere and honest he would not be harboring pedophiles, who for all anyone knows are still gaining access to children and molesting them. I am so outraged by this!!!!!

    I can't scream it loud enough how angry I am at this insanity in the Church. Colleen, you're right about the karma and it will come back to bite them!!! It will not be pleasant at all for anyone lame enough to continue to harbor pedophiles and play pretend we didn't know anything about it for all of these years!!!

  3. This is an excellent article. I hope that Archbishop Martin can continue to try to aid the victims and stand up to those who are more interested in themselves.

    I don't understand about the Vatican harboring pedophiles. Are they really doing this? Why? What is the story here?

  4. Very good, powerful statement, Colleen: when money and power are in the driver's seat, pastoral considerations go out the window.

    And so does the Lord.

  5. ## I feel sick :(

  6. ## Why is it too much for the Pope to say sorry, and to make reparation ?

    *We* have to.

    Captain Kirk - takes responsibilty for everything done by members of his crew; many episodes of "Star Trek" emphasise his duty to do so.

    The Successor of Peter, Servant of the servants of God, etc., etc., who has by Divine Right "supreme, full, and immediate jurisdiction" over each and every one of the faithful upon earth (see Vatican I for the details) - takes no responsibility. That is amoral & unChristian.

  7. Rat, Benedict was enculturated during the period of German Nazi fascism. The rank and file German did not take any responsibility for German war crimes either. Obedience to authority was a higher virtue than moral accountability or personal responsibility.