Saturday, September 18, 2010

More Apologies Which Don't Include Any Real Action

There comes a point when apologies have to be followed by meaningful restitution, otherwise you might just as well apologize to Satan.

At a Mass at Westminster Cathedral, Pope Benedict has just spoken these words in his homily -- some of the strongest yet expressed on clerical sex abuse.
Austen Ivereigh - America Magazine - 9/18/2010

“Here too I think of the immense suffering caused by the abuse of children, especially within the Church and by her ministers. Above all I express my deep sorrow to the innocent victims of these unspeakable crimes, along with my hope that the power of Christ’s grace, his sacrifice of reconciliation, will bring deep healing and peace to their lives. I also acknowledge, with you, the shame and the humiliation which all of us have suffered because of these sins; and I invite you to offer it to the Lord with trust that this chastisement will contribute to the healing of the victims, the purification of the Church and the renewal of the age-old commitment to the education and care of young people. I express my gratitude for the efforts being made to address this problem responsibly, and I ask all of you to show your concern for the victims and solidarity
with your priests.”


Pope Benedict also met with five victims at the Papal Nuncio's and Catholic officials in charge of Child Protection policies for the English Church.  While this was going on an estimated 20,000 protesters, twice the expected number, marched in protest over the Church's refusal to hold bishops accountable for their part in covering up the abuse scandal, gay rights, and absolutist positions on condoms, abortion, and birth control.
It surprises me not at all that Benedict would meet with victims precisely as the big demonstration rolled through London.  Coverage from the major Catholic publications has so far ignored the existence of the protest march in favor of covering Benedict's meeting with abuse victims.

John Allen did report the following:
Conservative politician and media personality Ann Widdecombe, a convert from Anglicanism to Catholicism, said the protesters were “melting away” as popular enthusiasm is growing. Yet Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, predicted that after Sunday “this trip will be completely forgotten,” because the vast majority of the British as “totally indifferent” to the pope’s presence and message."  I hate to be nit picky, but 20,000 people do not just melt away--but they can be officially ignored by a trad Anglican convert who has a reason to promote her own agenda.

This marks the fourth occasion Benedict has addressed the abuse crisis while on this trip.  In none of these statements is there the slightest indication he actually intends to do a thing about the hierarchical system or the members of that system that engaged in covering up the abuse and/or transferring pedophiles to other parishes.  Not surprising then that SNAP and other organizations dedicated to abuse victims are not impressed.  Very few people are fooled after two years of such apologies and no concrete actions to back up the words.  It is beyond obvious that Benedict has absolutely no intention of dealing with the hierarchy or the clerical system which produced and hid this entire mess.  He will not touch the 'perfect society' of the clerical caste, no matter how imperfect or down right evil it has proven itself to be.  The apologies sound hollow and repetitive because they are hollow and repetitive.

John Allen has at least got this part right: 

The box Benedict is in would appear to be this: If he stops talking about the crisis, he would likely be accused of ducking the question or artificially pretending that the problem is solved. If he keeps issuing roughly the same apology, he’ll aggravate his enemies and may frustrate a growing share of his allies.

That would seem to leave the pope with two options. Either he must figure out something new to say, or he has to supplement his words with actions – some new policy, some new spiritual initiative, or some new gesture of accountability, which would lend his words new significance.  (Policies which don't get at the core root problems in clericalism will not suffice, spiritual initiatives will not suffice, gestures thrown at accountability will not suffice, only serious reform will have any lasting significance.)

Otherwise, the risk is that something that was initially hailed as an important moment in solving the sexual abuse crisis could become, with time, another force keeping it alive."

Papal apologies work when they are backed by real change.  JPII demonstrated that on a number of occasions.  Benedict is demonstrating repeated apologies without change eventually get annoying to some and embarrassing to others.  As long as he will not consider holding bishops accountable and changing the hierarchical system itself,  he should either tell the truth about this, or just stay silent.  While he's at it, he could also ruminate on the fact that as long as the Church refuses to act on the evil in it's own clerical society, it has zero credibility pointing out the evils in other less 'perfect' societies.  As Benedict is so fond of pointing out, evil is not relative.


  1. Words do not magically change anything. Except maybe when one confesses and is pardoned. But since he won't allow any but priests to perform the sacraments... how's he gonna get his pardon from the people?

    Your title is something! Wow! Indeed, I suppose if you view an apology as sufficient, then it is like magic. Could be black magic, I don't know.

    By the way the 5 victims? Four were females. Only one was male. And if I am correct, way more males were abused... so what's that all about? He assumes women will be more docile?

    I also noticed in his motorcade videos how people were running along the sidewalk... filling in the empty spaces, so it wouldn't look so empty.

    Butterfly's comment on the queen's expression (last blog) said it all!

  2. Colleen, excellent analysis. I'm reading this after posting about Allen's later article today re: the rally. He spectacularly (and deliberately) misses the point, it seems to me, when he tries to reduce the protests to atheists, secularists, and gay activists vs. Catholicism.

    The point is, many, many Catholics and people of faith from other church traditions were in those crowds protesting Benedict today.

    The dualism Allen has tried to demonstrate throughout his reporting on this papal visit is astonishing, and really calls NCR's credibility into question. It's Catholicism vs. the secular world, Catholicism vs. the gays, and so forth--entirely overlooking the fact that many Catholics do not stand with Benedict on the side of discrimination.

  3. I couldn't help but notice the same thing Bill. Allen never has mentioned any of the specific Catholic protest organizations. For him its seems those groups most especially don't exist. It's too bad someone can't come up with an estimate for the numbers of Catholics who were in that protest crowd.

    Speaking of protests, I imagine the fact the Glasgow crowd was barely 30% of the crowd JPII drew was a bit of a protest itself. I doubt that was all a reflection of the price of the 'suggested donation'.

    Allen has gone to great lengths to present a picture of Benedict against the secularist world, refusing to deal at all with the idea that Benedict's big battle is with Western progressive Catholics/Christianity. Secular relativism is a smoke screen.

    Rowan Williams probably knows this for sure as he got drilled by the Russian Orthodox last week. Given this Orthodox spanking, I imagine Benny's soft approach was welcome, but definitely not trusted.

  4. The mainstream media deserve criticism, too, not just in the issue of the Church's handling of the abuse crisis, but political corruption of any sort. They'll press mightily on how the Dems or GOP will clean up their miscreant members, but never ask, for instance, why both parties have effectively shut out other parties from challenging their hegemony.

    In other words, they don't challenge systemic problems. Same here. It's, "What are you going to do about pedophile priests" not "Is there something rotten in the system that has at least contributed to this scandal?"

  5. Coleen, I prepared this comment for the section below and when I got the too long warning, I decided to wait and see if it appeared eventually and it has not so since it is also relevant to the current discussion, I am placing it here now .

    Coleen, you may be correct about the Irish and Polish, but remember the recently ended(?) struggle between the greens and the orange. These two groups were so close in thought, so close in tradition and yet , they fought like envious twins. My sister has twin girls, beautiful kids, seniors in high school. Years ago when they were older toddlers, I witnessed a fight between them. They both wanted to hold moms hand and since mom had two hands, no problem, but they both wanted to hold the same hand, big problem. When intelligent people question authoritarian regimes, it provokes both conscious and unconscious envy.

    We see pure envy in the JP II-Razy regimes as so many great theologian brought the leadership to a murderous rage. Now the Holy Inquisition was over, so the theologians (scientists as well) could no longer be burned at the stake, so this envious leadership tried to murder their minds by calling them no longer catholic theologians, or not “real catholic scientists” and causing near complete loss of academic freedom in Catholic Institutions of higher learning by these attempts to murder off these men’s minds and carriers.

    The authoritarian mind set can not stand the idea that others might not exhibit blind faith to their every whim of “teaching.” What has recently happened is the burgeoning of the idea of infallibility. I the Pope, or We the Bishops have The Truth. They seem to want to kill prophetic ideas and even movements as whitenessed by there inquisition of the nuns.

    The current Pope should realize as an academic that this philosophy goes against the basics of what he leaned studying for his PhD. Why does he do it? Is he an intentional authoritarian that knows what he is doing is incorrect, or is he so overwhelmed by the power structure of the Vatican that he allows this quest for power to delude him into believing that he and only he and a few bishops are communicated to by the Holy Spirit. Continued next post.

  6. Is it delusion or pure evil that drives Benedict and drove JP II the great? It seems to be one or the other. If it is delusion, it seems to be fixed, and since he is not a schizophrenic, he could be reached only by more tolerance of other’s views that might allow himself to reconsider his MANY misconceptions. Another reason for his continued errors could stem from his unknowingly throwing out all the ethical ideas of truth and truthful research that he learned when studying for his PhD. Since by reason of that very education, he should understand that his authoritarian ideas are full of intolerance, and filled with misconceptions. Since he feels so powerful that he need not listen to authoritative moral theologians and authoritative scientists in the field, then he may be suffering from fixed delusions of grandeur (Obviously these delusions are helped by the a fearful curia that promotes them.)

    It may be one or the other- the personality of the severe sociopathic delusions of a characterlogical neophyte; or with all his facilities, he knows what he is doing and is purely evil. The difference between the two choices are narrow. Was Hitler purely evil or did he suffer from fixed delusions. Maybe a little of both. Although these men are no Hitlers, the outcome of there way of thinking leads to the authoritarianism of a Hitler or Stalin that may raise his ugly head back into society and again is promoted by a fearful Vatican.

    Which ever is the case just as in the struggle between the orange and the green Irish, it leads to blood shed. There is a modern day example when this did not happen and that was the ending of the Soviet Union. The generals were ordered by the leader of the Communist party who overthrew Brezhnev to fire on the demonstrations of the Russian people. The soldiers and most of the leaders refused to carry out this massacre and the Soviet Union ended. Can we hope for such a wonderful, if unlikely, outcome in our Church? Or will these men continue to cast the world into religious based violence? Time will tell and our grandchildren will be the ones to realize the answers. dennis

  7. Wonderful second comment, Dennis. Not that the first was lacking. But I'm most interested in the second. And what intrigues me is not just the character disorder and/or delusional mind of the pope/group think here, but the other side of the relationship, the people in the pews and so on. What concerns me most is how this authoritarianism is linked to dependent personalities, lapping up what they desperately need - which is "certainty". Now that is worrying because regardless of how few these adherents may be, a certainty of one's "certainty" - authorized from above - is what prompts mob behavior or even single-minded extraction of revenge. Writ small, we see trolls. Writ large, we might see fanatics striving to get control even of civil institutions. Like the Supreme Court. Or the presidency. The direct route to power lies at the top. The papacy - in Vatican City. And the presidency in DC. We have already seen one proof that the Supreme Court can act to place someone at the top of the executive branch. Too many of the Justices are now Catholic. I say too many in terms of Vatican efforts, through the Opus, to control the US from the top. Certainly we know of only 3 Justices who are highly likely to be directly influenced by the Opus. To what extent the others will be conscripted... we can only pray that the Holy Spirit is protecting us. For we may never know.

    I'm concerned about the electorate that laps up what the Vatican dishes out. I'm concerned about repub leaders who seem ever willing to be swayed in Vatican directions. But what's easiest for the Vatican but to directly own those at the very top? So character disorders/evil hearts in US politics are what worry me most!

  8. TheraP

    You've got it.. Another religious totalitarianism similar to the Nazi. dennis

  9. The only real action or mission that I can see that the Pope and the Vatican have 'accomplished' for their agenda of handling or controlling or manipulating the electorate in recent years is Tony Blair's and Newt Gingrich's "conversion" to Catholicism.

    Obviously there has been swaying going on via religion through politics or politics via religion, at the highest levels, and it has caused new divisions as well as new alliances for Protestants as well as Catholics in the US and Great Britain.

    word verif: tator

  10. TheraP, my comment was in relation to yours and dennis'... "But what's easiest for the Vatican but to directly own those at the very top? "

    Also include the Supreme Court to my comment. I wonder who else they "own" in Great Britain or Ireland?

  11. The Vatican sees the sex scandals in the Church as probably collateral damage. It's done and too bad for the suffering and loss might be their attitude about it. The Vatican seems only interested in their interest, which has nothing to do with Faith.

    It was most interesting to watch the Pope enter into Westminster Hall and to hear him speak. It was difficult to understand all that he said there since he has such a thick German accent and he tends to talk fast. I did hear him mention St. Thomas More. I don't recall hearing him even say the name Jesus at all. I did hear "public square" a familiar buzz word for the right wing.

  12. This is a good discussion, with a lot of fascinating points.

    Dennis, I met Bernadette Devlin back about thirty years ago, and she maintained the battle between the orange and the green was entirely economic. She saw "The Troubles" more in terms of the Black struggle for equality in the States, than as a sectarian battle per se. Since the Catholic hierarchy were actually part of the 'haves' they did their utmost to keep selling out the 'have nots', which just happened to be their flock. The Irish abuse crisis in this sense, is just part of the same dynamic. It had to be kept secret so that the social position and power of the hierarchy was not threatened. Such a hit to their prestige would have seriously impacted their status as accepted power brokers amongst the ruling classes.

    And the Irish hierarchy and religious orders had control of the schools and that is a very powerful social conditioning tool.

  13. Speaking of education as a conditioning too, TheraP I read your post on Strauss and it is very powerful, especially when you supplement it with some of the links in the comments. When I was reading it I thought about Benedict's group of theological students who meet yearly at Castel Gandolfo and how many of those theologians have prominent voices in current Catholic theology. Perhaps Benedict is quite familiar with Strauss.

  14. Good point about collateral damage Butterfly. That would explain a lot about the lack of meaningful reform in the hierarchy.

    TheraP as to your question about why some in the pews lap up all the Vatican says, I think it has to do with what people actually have a relationship with in a religious/spiritual sense. You can have an ongoing challenging relationship with God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, or the ubiquitous spirit of Vatican II. Or you can have a relationship with the text of the Bible, magesterial doctrine, or as the reformers would have us do, with the documents of Vatican II.

    It is much easier on all kinds of levels to relate to never changing concrete books and documents, than it is to beings and energies and mystical promptings and other human persons---none of which conveniently stay put and collect dust. Trust for some people equals the amount of dust the book has collected.