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Friday, March 26, 2010

Church Abuse Allegations Get More Complicated

Anyone with a passing interest in the Catholic Church sexual abuse crisis should read the following article that appeared recently in the New York Times...

...and in fact I'll take it one step further: I think every Catholic, practicing or not, should read it as well.

Now I know that some folks, such as my sometimes sparring partner Father David Bechtel, may in fact call this out as simply being more Catholic bashing by "a liberal, anti-Catholic media", and that's certainly their prerogative. I disagree with the "anti-Catholic" aspect of the sentiment, in that I think ALL MEDIA in this country loves nothing more than any story having to do with sex, the more tawdry the better. This is why we had a years worth of "all Lewinsky scandal, all the time" coverage in the late 90's. Oh, and wasn't Clinton a card-carrying liberal? Anyway I don't want to digress into that argument, but for those truly interested you can see a series of comments and counter-comments about this very same thing HERE.

Getting back to the main topic (I am easily distracted), I think this is important reading. In my all-be-it small mind, you can land on either one of two places after reading this:

Possibility 1 - They Knew
The current Pope was not only intimately familiar with the abuse of children allegations, but had a keen interest in keeping that information non-public via requiring a de-facto veil of secrecy around such allegations. He also directly participated in keeping allegations quiet:

"But Cardinal Bertone halted the process after
Father Murphy personally wrote to Cardinal Ratzinger protesting that he should not be put on trial because he had already repented and was in poor health and that the case was beyond the church’s own statute of limitations. "

Think about that for a second...repentance requires an acknowledgment of the sin. If (then) Cardinal Ratzinger halted the de-frocking process against Father Murphy, then that makes the current Pope complicit in putting the interests of a pedophile before that of basic justice. As noted in the story, the late Father Murphy is alleged to have abused approximately 200 children. Why should that man have been allowed to continue to call himself a Catholic Priest?

Possibility 2 - It's Just A Complicated Web of Coincidences & Misunderstandings
Look, in large bureaucracies, people misunderstand directives, letters don't get delivered, things get lost in the process. The Vatican has been trying to weigh it's obligations to both canon and civil/criminal law and protect the greater good that it does each and every day.

Maybe there are other alternatives at play here, but they are not all that apparent to me. What is apparent is that within the hierarchy, protecting the image and assets of the Church is at least as important as protecting children from sexual abuse. To me, that seems to be a reasonable conclusion. It's also tragically wrong, for by not putting the most vulnerable first (the children), the Church in fact has harmed its own image and put its own good work at risk. Put another way, by failing to act decisively in the face of credible allegations, the leaders of the Church are harming the institution they are so interested in protecting.

None of the above should be construed in any way as an anti-Catholic bias on my part. While I may not attend church on a very regular basis, the Church has been as essential a part of my life as, say, my ears have been. Some of what limited skills I possess when it comes to logic and reasoning were developed and coached while I attended a Catholic high school. Finally, I've met countless priests in my life, and while some were a tad bit difficult in their approach to things, the vast majority were (and are) incredibly dedicated human beings.


Crusader said...

Yes, Steve the Catholic Church appears to have not followed procedures of and within the church and certainly has put themselves above the law. I followed on your comments on the Apologist's site. He posted on Bridget Mary's site ... as if the RCWP movement has something to with the religious sexual abuse scandals, although they are pointing out a patriarchal leadership issue that has now spread across the globe.

Jesus and the Children must come first !
enjoyed you post.

Stephen Albert said...

Thank you Linda.

The whole mess is very, very sad and also so runs counter to my experience growing up as a Catholic. I was an Altar Server for something like 10 years, I received all of the applicable Sacraments, I even attended parochial high school. In all of those experiences not once did I...or anyone I knew (including my three brothers, all of whom served as well)...ever experience anything that remotely resembled misconduct. Clearly, it is a very small minority of religious that cause these problems, which makes it all the more strange that the Church hasn't more forcefully handled the situations in the past. That reminds me of the great dichotomy that exists in the Church: on one hand the goals of the Church are so Godly, yet on the other the execution is sometimes so humanly flawed.

For the record I do enjoy reading Bridget Mary's blog. What I see and read it the imagery or the so very familiar, yet at the same time it's so radically different as well. I think that's what drew me to the blog in the first place.

The Catholic Apologist said...

Hi Linda! Hi Sir Steve!

Hope all is well!