Saturday, May 31, 2014

About This Upcoming Meeting With Clerical Abuse Survivors

SNAP will continue to be needed as long as enablers in the clergy keep their frocks....and their futile strategy to keep the laity as religiously immature as they were at ten.

I took a break, again, because I had to put a huge amount of energy into my real job.  After four weeks of top of the heap stress, there was a huge turn around and it now looks as if things are going uphill in a big way.  I wish I could say the same for the clerical abuse crisis.

There were a lot of Catholic stories in the past month I could have written about and didn't.  It wasn't because I wasn't interested or they weren't important.  Many of them were important.  Many of them revolved around the Vatican and the CDF and the Vatican and the IOR and everywhere and always, Pope Francis.  However one story kept changing spots and that story is still the most important story hanging over the Church:  the clerical abuse crisis.  I have lately been thinking this story won't go away because the Vatican is terrified of it's real solution and that solution is completely revamping the theology of the priesthood.

I have spent the last day or so commenting on the National Catholic Reporter article written by Margaret Gail Frawley-O'Dea.  She states in this article that she views SNAP as counterproductive in regards to the upcoming meeting Pope Francis announced on the plane as he was flying back from a highly successful trip in the Middle East.  This was a trip in which he garnered great international press coverage for the Vatican and himself.  His sudden turn around on meeting with abuse survivors struck me as an attempt to hide a change of tactics behind the fog of universal positive press coverage.  As usual the Vatican's chief spokesman Fr Frederico Lombardi restated things the very next day.  There will be a meeting between the Pope and survivors from around the globe but not in the next week.  Maybe in a couple of months.  At this time there are no American survivors invited and no date set.  Cardinal O'Malley will work out the details.

SNAP took an assertive and somewhat cynical approach to this meeting with the Pope.  After all this is the same Pope who after the first less than positive meeting with the UN more or less stated that no other institution had done nearly so much as the Catholic Church on this issue, so why all the finger pointing?  But now, after a second less than positive take down by the UN, a meeting in which the Vatican claimed it had no jurisdiction over any clergy outside the Vatican City States,  the same Pope wants to meet with survivors and celebrate his daily Mass with them and claims that the impotent Vatican is never the less investigating three bishops for something related to abuse.  Most Vatican observers think these three bishops are involved with clerical abuse themselves, and include the Polish diplomat Jozef Wesolowski, Scotland's Cardinal Keith O'Brien, and Chile's Cristian Molina....none of whom committed clerical abuse in the confines of the Vatican City States.

It would have really been healing for some survivors if the name Bishop Robert Finn had been mentioned because it is very often the betrayal from the people and institutions who should have cared and did just the opposite that causes the most long term damage in survivors.  I think this message is not getting out in any way that people are getting their heads around.  Frawley-O'Dea's article did not help one little bit in helping the rank and file understand this fact.  Every time a bishops acts as callously and deceitful as has Milwaukee's Listecki, or Minneapolis's Neinstedt, or Kansas City's Finn it destroys the kind of relational trust survivors need to forgive the enablers.  It's one thing to forgive the 'sick' puppy who raped you,  it's another entirely to forgive the supposedly healthy adults who wouldn't believe you and wouldn't act to stop the abuse.

So I think SNAP is dead on with their cynicism about this upcoming meeting and right to caution survivors about the damage this meeting could do in the long term.  There is one thing about Francis that truly has bothered me and unfortunately he keeps doing nothing but furthering my angst.  He seems bent on keeping the laity religiously infantilized and dependent on the clergy.  Allowing married clergy does nothing about the religiosity, much of it surrounding the priesthood, that keeps laity infantilized.  Fixing the IOR does nothing about this, and his continual references about the devil and Holy Mother Church only serves to reinforce the infantilization.  And I can't even let myself get started on the CDF.

Sometimes I think the only really adult voices in the Church come from victims organizations like SNAP, the victims themselves and their few supporters.  Unfortunately that doesn't say much for meaningful reform in the Church.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Cardinal O'Malley Talks About Bishop Accountability....And The Deep Denial Of Some Of Them

A photo from back in the day when their friendship hadn't gotten quite as complicated as it is now and will be in the future if Cardinal O'Malley pushes the issues of clerical abuse victims.

We have the first general reports about the just recently concluded meeting of Pope Francis's clerical abuse commission.  Boston's Cardinal O'Malley gave a press conference which also included abuse victim Marie Collins.  The AP report included more back ground story about the commission than actual news from the press conference.  The following is an excerpt which includes statements from the press conference dealing with the bishop accountability issue:
......Briefing reporters Saturday, Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the archbishop of Boston, said current church laws could hold bishops accountable if they fail to do their jobs to protect children. But he said those laws hadn't been sufficient to date and new protocols were needed.

"Obviously our concern is to make sure that there are clear and effective protocols to deal with the situations where superiors of the church have not fulfilled their obligations to protect children," O'Malley said. That could include an effort toward creating an "open process" that "would hold people accountable for their responsibility to protect children...." (I'd love to know more about this 'open process'.)

.....Marie Collins, a committee member and Irish survivor of sexual abuse, said she came away from the inaugural meeting of the commission "hopeful" primarily because the issue of accountability was addressed straight on.

"I know there are many survivors around the world who are hoping, and have great expectations of this commission," Collins said. "And what I can say so far is you can't make concrete promises. But as a survivor myself, I am hopeful that we are going to achieve what is hoped for. It's very, very important."

The AP article is upbeat and sounds pretty hopeful for the Church to finally have some accountability for bishops who failed miserably in protecting children.  The coverage from Religion News Service covered a different issue and does not come across quite so hopeful as both Cardinal O'Malley and Marie Collins have strong statements about curial denial of the extent of the problem.

.......“Many don’t see it as a problem of the universal church,” said O’Malley who heads the Vatican’s new commission for the protection of minors.

In many people’s minds it is an American problem, an Irish problem or a German problem,” he said. “The church has to face it is everywhere in the world. There is so much denial. The church has to respond to make the church safe for children.....”

........ Collins, who was sexually abused by a priest at age 13, said she, too, had been “shocked” by the denial she had witnessed among some Catholic bishops about the extent of clerical sexual abuse.
“…They truly believed it only happened in certain countries,” she said.

This commission has some serious work to do, especially if it has to mount a 'lets' face some truth' campaign for bishops who are in total denial about the extent of clerical abuse.  No,  it is not an Anglo/German problem.  It is a systemic problem with in the global clergy.  Just because there is still a deafening silence from some parts of the globe doesn't mean there was and is no abuse.  Given the human rights abuses against women and children in these still silent areas, it is a sure bet that there is clerical abuse.  One can double down on that bet when the clergy in these areas are trained by the same system that produced abusers in the older Anglo/European Church.  

Clerical abuse is part of the clerical tradition because, and here comes the accountability issue, the clerical caste is way way more important to the Institutional Roman Catholic Church than it's laity.  This is why the laity and our children always come last when it comes to accountability.  We don't count in the sacramental scheme in which Grace, the fuel to propel us to heaven, is a virtual monopoly of the priesthood. It is on this system that the Church is now founded.  Priests count. Laity pay.

Maybe it's time the laity got out of their own denial about this fact of traditional Catholic ecclesiology because this power differential is exactly the reason all the abuses are possible.  In that sense this commission may have another 'let's face some truth' campaign, and this one, aimed at laity, will be much harder to manage if the whole idea of this commission is to keep the current clerical system in tact. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

St John Paul II: The Pope Of The Family.....Really?

St JPII will be looking down from heaven on the Synod on the says Pope Francis.

While I can't say that I was overwhelmed with last Sunday's dual canonization, I can say one remark from Pope Francis surprised me.  It was about JPII and how he was the Pope of the Family.  I was not quite sure how this particular designation was merited, but then found out it was merited because that's what St JPII himself wanted to be remembered as, and if there's one thing I know about JPII, he got what he wanted.  Pope Francis obliged.  He stated so in his short homily as excerpted below from the Tablet article:

In his own service to the People of God, John Paul II was the pope of the family. He himself once said that he wanted to be remembered as the pope of the family. I am particularly happy to point this out as we are in the process of journeying with families towards the Synod on the family. It is surely a journey which, from his place in heaven, he guides and sustains.

I am not particularly happy that Francis felt the need to point this out.  JPII is not my idea of a man who understood the contemporary family even though he was raised in a one parent family.  He always appeared to me as a man who understood the importance of maintaining the traditional idea of family because it was useful in a geopolitical sense.  The traditional family model underscored male authority, kept women open to pregnancy after pregnancy, was the backbone of the Church itself, and was the established form of enculturating children in their proper gender roles. I have always seen Theology of the Body as more of a social political treatise than a theological work, but then I've always thought JPII was far more interested in playing in the geopolitical field than the spiritual field. He was good at the geopolitical thing and not so good at the spiritual thing.  How he suddenly becomes good at the family thing is too typical of his papacy.  "I say I it is, therefore it is".

However, if one accepts the geopolitical bent of JPII's papacy, and also accepts that Pope Francis, as a JPII appointee, was a willing player in these geopolitical games, then it makes sense that Francis inform us all that JPII might now be the spiritual driving force behind the Synod on the family.  That does not bode well for the transparency and dialogue needed for this synod.  I can easily imagine JPII's Theology of the Body will be quoted endlessly, neck and neck with the soon to be beatified Paul VI's Humanae Vitae.  There will be rejoicing in fascist family circles and groans from Catholic families who don't qualify either economically or in their actual makeup as a proper fascist Catholic family.  And as Bill Lyndsey musingly points out, gays as parts of heterosexual families or as parents with their own families, need not worry about being counted as families or members of families since the 'family' has been the flag behind which a great deal of anti gay crusading has been done by the Catholic powers that be that know everything there is to know about families.  (I'm practicing really long sentences so I can be a translator of liturgical Latin.)

I should also point out that with in this past year, gay marriage has also become an excuse for Roman Catholic agitation about the 'war on gender identity'.  This is especially prevalent guessed it, Poland.  Which I am led to believe is not just gay men acting feminine (clerical men are immune to this charge), but women taking birth control pills while acting as if they have an intrinsic equality with men.

This naming JPII the 'Pope of the Family and Patron Saint of the Synod on the family' is just one more red flag amongst many when it comes to this upcoming Synod.  I figured things weren't going as planned when all of sudden bishops conferences like England's, which had been transparent and seriously attempting to get lay input, suddenly clammed up about the results of their efforts.  The dust up between Cardinal Kasper and his cardinal detractors over different approaches to divorce, the sudden need of the CDF's Cardinal Muller to issue a thirty some page defense of Catholic marriage law, and the total silence from the Vatican on the inhumane laws targeting gays in Uganda and Nigeria, are just some of the red flags that lead me to believe this upcoming synod will not be a spectacular pastoral success.  I see another potential Humanae Vitae written all over it.  Should that come to pass, it will be another nail in the future of Roman Catholicism in the developed world and would very shortly be mirrored in the developing world.  One need only look at the failure of the Bishops Conference of the Phillipines who lost a 15 year battle against reproductive rights for Philippine women and their families.   My advice to those who will be attending this synod is not to look to JPII for inspiration the Catholic family, but to the lay women of the Philippines because it there the future of the Catholic family resides.