Saturday, July 23, 2011

Ireland Is Getting The Real Picture Behind The Vatican's Insistence On The 'Pastoral' Autonomy Of Catholic Bishops

Pictures like the make one wonder where the safety of kids stack up vs Vatican wealth.

 Tom Doyle has another hard hitting article in the NCR on the recent speech of Enda Kenny in the Irish Dael.  The following is the last part of Doyle's essay:

.....The Vatican and various elements of the hierarchy have flooded the Catholic world with countless words, all very carefully nuanced and wordsmithed, to express their regret and to their promise to change. Mr. Kenny no doubt was as fed up with the meaninglessness of words without relevant action as the people of Ireland and every other country plagued by clergy abuse. He by-passed the seemingly endless and often convoluted rhetoric of the Vatican by getting right to the heart of the matter, the culture of arrogant neglect of children and some of key underlying causes. One target is clericalism, the virus that continues to corrupt the church to the point that the People of God are buried in anachronistic monarchism.

This groundbreaking address buries the destructive myth that the institutional Catholic church with its monarchical governing structure is some sort of superior or exalted political entity with self-created rights to subvert the civic order of any society that calls it to accountability for the behavior of its privileged class.  (The bigger problem for the Church is that this crisis has pretty much put to bed the idea it's any kind of exalted spiritual entity--at least in it's supposedly Holy Spirit inspired ruling class.)

Charlie Flanagan, chairman of Fine Gael, the single largest party in Ireland and lead party in the ruling coalition, framed this in a stark and eye-opening way in his call for the expulsion of the Papal Nuncio: "If any foreign government conspired with Irish citizens to break the law here, their ambassadors would be expelled."
The Taoiseach repeated this sentiment by reminding the Irish lawmakers and indeed everyone that Ireland is not Rome. (This statement is not far fetched.  It is exactly what happened in Ireland and many other nations.)

"Nor is it an industrial-school or Magdalene Ireland where the swish of a soutane smothered conscience and humanity and the swing of a thurible ruled the Irish Catholic world. This is the Republic of Ireland 2011. A Republic of laws, of rights and responsibilities…of proper civic order…where the delinquency and arrogance of a particular version…of a particular kind of morality…will no longer be tolerated or ignored."
This is much more than a stirring address to the Irish parliament. It is the voice of a long awaited and sorely needed liberation from the chains of a clericalist control that sacrificed the very ones Jesus spoke out so passionately in defense of. This liberation is essential not only in Ireland but in any state or country where the Catholic church hopes to regain its relevance not as a gilded institution but as a Christian way of life. One can only hope that this momentous breakthrough and long-awaited challenge will be taken up in every other country where children have been violated by the Catholic clergy or religious.

The only fitting conclusion is with Mr. Kenny's own words:

"I am making absolutely clear, that when it comes to the protection of the children of this state, the standards of conduct which the church deems appropriate to itself, cannot and will not be applied to the workings of democracy and civil society in this republic. Not purely, or simply or otherwise. CHILDREN … FIRST.


As Tom Doyle points out in his article, Enda Kenny has laid down a manifesto about how secular governments should approach Roman Catholicism.  Not as some higher authority accountable only to it's own internal rules and unique view of moraliy, but as just one more member of a shared society under the same rules and regulations which apply to any other member of that society.  It will be interesting to see if, in fact, the Papal Nuncio is expelled, because Charlie Flannagan is also right in his observation that no other foreign government would be allowed to conspire with citizens to circumvent internal laws.  The Holy See certainly doesn't silently tolerate the influence of other governments in what it sees as it's own internal prerogatives.

This Irish stance, although made in response to the abuse crisis, could potentially effect the Church in other ways, in other countries.  Here in the US, the hierarchical church seems addicted to conspiring with political and financial individuals and corporations to remake the US into an image more to it's liking.  And they are free from the taxes which constrain the amount of money the rest of us have available to present a different message.  I don't think for a minute this preferred message has much to do with what Jesus taught as His WayI happen to think it has more to do with protecting Church assets which are tied up with the financial and corporate interests of a completely different way.  The US Catholic Church has to have virtually a trillion dollars in collective assets as either hard property or hidden ownership stakes in US international corporations and banks.  

That's only in the US.  In Europe, it has to be more because the Church has had 1200 years of sitting in the driver's seat in European economic expansion and colonial imperialism.  I suspect the reason the Vatican is stressing the independence of dioceses has nothing to do with the sacrosanct authority of a bishop in his diocese, but to maintain the fiction that Rome is virtually bankrupt and to isolate financial losses.  I've thought this way for quite some time.  So I did not find it particularly shocking that Archbishop ChaputAccording to the AP:

"The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has fired its top financial officer as authorities investigate what happened to an unknown amount of missing church funds. (other articles say hundreds of thousands of dollars.)

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Anita Guzzardi was escorted from the church offices on July 14. Diocese spokeswoman Donna Farrell says that was a day after city prosecutors informed church officials about an investigation into the missing funds....

I almost feel sorry for AB Chaput, but I am seriously wondering how Cardinal Rigali managed to mismanage so many aspect of his patrimony.  I guess it's possible when you aren't accountable to anyone for your 'management'.  Philadelphia is the perfect storm of what happens when the Vatican demands uniformity in belief while simultaneously insisting on the legal decentralization of financial and diocesan governance issues.   It allows the Vatican to insist on personal loyalty through doctrinal obedience while avoiding any appearance of controlling the financial assets.  It gives the Vatican the appearance of non interference in the internal policies of a given country while exerting huge financial and political influence via 'independent' bishops.  It's a neat system.  Anyone who thinks 'mother church' can not change except in terms of centuries is naive.  "Mother Church" has accomplished much of this change in wealthier democracies in the last century.

Since Benedict's elevation to the Papacy I have appreciated much of what he has written, but paid for more attention to what he has done.  I have come to the conclusion he is using his writing to mask his actions.  He has no intention of giving up any of the behind the scenes power the Vatican really wields.  He will do nothing to change this neat little system where the seeming independence of bishops exists to protect Catholic material assets and has very little to do with shepherding it's human assets.  A situation Bishop Morris probably understands to well.....oh yea, and AB Chaput was involved in that little mess as well.  What a coincidence.



  1. Strong words from the Irish, but entirely appropriate. Personally, I think they need to go even further than expelling the nuncio: I suggest it is time for the Irish, and all other governments, to stop collaborating that the Vatican is a sovereign state, with all the privileges that implies.

    The record shows that they are quick to seize on the rights of sovereignty, buy slow to act on the responsibilities.

  2. Well said, Terry! I am not counting on the American hierarchy to get with the program. They have shown all too well that they just don't get it. Neither does Austen Ivereigh in his posting on the America Magazine blog. Ivereigh can't get past the anticlericalism, but it's a natural reaction to the clericalism we've received.

  3. The Irish Taoiseach accuses the Cloyne Diocese of not practicing the mandatory reporting of recent Vatican norms. But the Irish Government has refused to enact any such norms itself, and will not enact them this time either, for good reason. The Vatican, which accepted the resignation of Bp Magee a while back, is not to blame for Bp Magee's refusal to follow those norms. Msgr O'Callaghan was forced to choose between the "pound of flesh" approach of the norms and the "quality of mercy" approach of the Gospels in at least some of the cases he is accused of having mishandled. This is clear when one considers the peculiar nature of these cases:

  4. How does anyone really know whether or not Anita Guzzardi is guilty of the crime or if she is being set up? I wonder.


  5. As Deep Throat reminded us: Follow the money.