Thursday, June 13
The blind are leading the blind in Dallas. The church leaders, whose mental and moral habits led to the crisis, now assure everyone that they can solve it. Do habits die so quickly?
The Dallas Morning News reports that the vast majority of bishops played musical chairs with molesters. But Wilton D. Gregory, the head of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said on Thursday that his colleagues feel misunderstood.
After Gregory commiserated with the bishops' about their hurt feelings, he offered some patronizing remarks to the media about their sometimes "distorted" and "hysterical" coverage of the American Church:
....These poor-us remarks reveal that the American bishops are still in Clintonian mode: Even as they bite their lower lips for the cameras, they mumble about their good deeds and mistreatment at the hands of a "hysterical" media.
A: The body of bishops do not yet have the authority to establish particular law for the US. They need permission of the Holy See to do that. Our commitment to act corporally is present in the body of the bishops now. We see what happens when you have policies that are not binding.
That's it - press conference over.
A: There have been modifications, but I can't give you specifics because there are going to be more amendments made tonight....There is a document that has reached a certain level of finality now, but it won't be the document the bishops have once all the amendments are in.
A: In my comments, I invited victims to come forward. I invited priests and bishops who had unreported incidents to come forward. I didn't make any promises.
Q: Could you elaborate any more on the sense of this afternoon's meeting on what to do with priests who have committed past actions of abuse?
A: We never got to those specific examples. When we do it will be in the open session.
Bishops were moved by victims' testimony. What stood out was the breaking of the bond of trust. We relived the crime of robbery - the robbery of childhood and innocence.
We pledge to remove the secrecy that caused this. What you should us today was the model for healing: open, honest and forthright action. THe bishops intend to deliver on that pledge.
Question: from SF Chronicle: How does the pledge to remove secrecy jive with this afternoon's closed session?
Answer: None really. Said the session tomorrow will be open. Said it was prudent to meet in a closed executive session.
Question: from USA Today: Can you describe the tone of this afternoon's session?
A: Bishops spoke frankly about their anger, their fears, their disappointments. We asked each other some very candid, direct quesitons. I think we were quite honest with each other.
Meanwhile, to occupy reporters' time, the USCCB has helpfully staged a series of briefings on the issue of sexual abuse.
But wait! There's something wrong here.
If the selection of "experts" to conduct these briefings is any indication, the USCCB is very far from a real resolution of the scandal. The assembled media are hearing from the directors of treatment centers which have treated priest-pedophiles--and in many cases delivered them back to their dioceses, still dangerous. True, it was the bishops' decision to put these priests back into parish assignments. But the therapists-- to put it mildly-- were not successful in their treatment.
We could state the issue a bit more emphatically. One of today's experts is Father Stephen Rosetti, the head of the St. Luke Institute in Maryland-- which is now under investigation by state authorities. Another is Father Canice Connors, who-- incredibly-- once announced that there was no particular need to worry about the spiritual life of Father John Geoghan, despite his admission of raping children.
There's more where that came from. Go check it out.
The last talk of the public session this morning was from a psychologist who works with sexual abuse victims. Her talk was quite long, but necessary, for the bishops (and all of us) need to understand the range of aftgeraffects of abuse - even of "only" one incident.
A couple of points she made struck me. First, she made the nifty point that since the Church has made it clear that general absolution is not permitted for ordinary usage, and not sufficient, neither are general apologies. What victims need and deserve is one-on-one meetings with perpetrators (if they so desire) and with enabling bishops.
Secondly, she called on the consciences of all - not just clerics, but parish housekeepers, secretaries, parishioners...anyone involved in church ministry or connected to it who has picked up questionable vibes about an adults' relationship with children and youth to no longer keep silent. An excellent point.
What was most striking to me from this morning session was the absence of Christ. You would think that this was a gathering of the leaders of any and all institutions dealing with this problem. There was no sense that these men have been called by Christ to shepherd and that they are accountable to Him for their failures. Apologies to victims is necessary and fundamental, but underlying it all is penance before God.
In her talk, Steinfels, in reciting her script, talked about bishops who made bad decisions because they thought they were accountable only to "God and themselves."
Take the first person out of that equation, and you've got it. If any of these people truly believed they were accountable to God - the true God, rather than the god of their wish-fulfillment and rationalizations, not for a moment would they have done what they did.
The notorious St.Sebastian's site, of course. The irony, of course, is this:
Two orthodox priests were recently removed from their churches for not performing background checks on nuns and church employees as part of the diocese's new sex-abuse-prevention plan.
She began by quoting from de Lubac, The Splendor of the Church.
Some boring stuff.
But then - she asks - the level of trusts in bishop was already low. Why?
An interesting and valid point, even if you disagree with other things she's said. The illuminating moment for the laity has been the dawning realization and horror, quite frankly, that when faced with the quesion of what, substantively, can we do about this - the answer is nothing. Except hold your money, and that's depressing.
She also said there's a sense of double standards. Laity are held to one standard, ordained to another. Talk about justice in the greater world, then practice injustice within your own institution (a point with which I would agree - although she's probably talking about ordination of women. I'm thinking of the abysmal pay of most Catholic school teachers, their lack of rights, the hard opposition of many bishops to any kind of unionization of Church employees in schools and hospitals.)
There are differences between various groups of Catholics in the solutions they suggest. They all agree, however, that they can't trust bishops. And what about the bishops? Do they trust the laity? She says no. If the laity were trusted, why is there so little institutionalized role for them? We can restore trust in church leadership if church leadership starts to trust the laity. We can no longer indulge in the slothful habit of postponing the Church we need. We need to breathe new life into the project of Church renewal.....she closes with de Lubac.
(me now) Typical Commonweal stuff. Mind you, I like Commonweal a whole lot more than I like America, and I don't like America at all. All in all, the usual stuff - more lay councils, filled with people hand-picked by bishops or those who stand to applaud their pederast priests.
Arroyo's going a little ballistic now, and he's right. I thought Appleby was fine and Steinfels fufilled her scripted role, but he's wondering, and so am I, what kind of tone would other voices bring to this gathering? Neuhaus, Novak, Glendon, ...and I would add Groeschel. Just imagine if Groeschel was up there, in his beard and habit, glasses on the end of his nose, letting the bishops have it. That would be worth watching.
Scott Appleby of Notre Dame is speaking now. Here's what he's saying:
The media's focus on the scandal shows that American society expects more of the Catholic Church.
"We" created the scandal. How can that be? Surely the laity is innocent. Of course they are. Many are victims - direct victims and indirect victims
Cause? Lack of accountability on the part of the bishops. The lack of accountability was fostered by a closed clerical culture that isolates some priests. It is wrong, however, to generalize. Many bishops are blameless and have acted honorably. Other bishops have behave atrociously, marked by arrogance and a lack of repentance.
What's at stake? The viability of the Church's moral and pastoral mission in the US. The reputation of the priesthood. The moral and pastoral credibility of the bishops.
The laity must also be open to frank talk from the bishops about our failures. In the same spirit, bishops should be open to frank talk from the laity. Points out that the major scandal is the behavior of some bishops.
An account of the failures of the bishops.
What are your priests saying? Not much. They are reeling.
Apologies will not be heard until the protection of predator priests is named, not as a mistake, but as a sin.
All Catholics on all sides are in agreement: it's caused by a failure of fidelity, fostered by arrogance and the sin of clericalism.
Where is the path out of this disaster? I will not presume to suggest how you should vote on specific elements. Three general pleas:
First, The crisis is primarily a moral crisis, as well as a pastoral and institutional crisis. Loss of competence in the moral area puts the Church in a difficult position vis a vis all other areas. Recommends a report by Malloy, president of Notre Dame.
The Church must understand itself as a national body and act accordingly. Not a Gallican model, but....a sense of the interrelatedness of dioceses. It may be helpful to explain the relationship between the Vatican, the NCCB, and canon and civil law in this case. Are you trusted by the Vatican? It seems incredible to the outsider that you would veer one millimeter from orthodoxy. To the extent policy, formulate the best policies without anticipating how the Vatican will respond. Let Rome be Rome.
Then calls for collegiality, shared authority with the laity.
In conclusion: the crisis cannot be understood apart from its setting in a range of problems: the alienation of the hierarchy from ordinary lay women and men. Trust the laity, appropriately share authority with them, open financial matters and be open in dealing with problems with them.
Bunch o' bishops standing in a hotel room with their little prayer leaflets, offering opening prayer. Sitting behind long tables. Wouldn't it be a different atmosphere if these gentlemen were at a monastery instead?
Now Bishop Gregory is introducing new bishops and guests.
From a news conference last nigh, just rebroadcast on EWTN:
A reporter from the Village Voice asking Myers and Galante about canon law and ordination of homosexuals:
Myers: Canon Law does not say that they are prohibited from the priesthood.
Galante: (I'm paraphrasing) To deal with the question, you have to start with a man as a sexual being. To pronounce homosexuality as a disorder does not pronounce a moral judgment on a person as a person. But what the Church says is that in the Latin Church, over a long period of history, is that we prefer to ordain to the priesthood men who have the gift of celibacy. That's the only qualification. Whatever the orientation. Every man is a sexual being. Every man must have an integration between his emotional life and his sexuality. He must be able to relate to himself to God and to others. To understand celibacy you must understand that is a gift. (He referred to Matthew 19)....explains the gift of celibacy is that it fills one's life with a fervor for the kingdom, so that there is no sense that "something is missing." I live a life of simplicity and humility, not entitlement...a problem has been people thinking that if I can't get married, I must make up for it in other parts of my life. When you understand celibacy in that sense, there is no differentiation in orientation.
(It's me now) I was impressed with Galante's discussion of celibacy (he said he wrote his dissertation on the subject), and he makes it clear that its nature, much misunderstood by even its defenders - if a man "yearns" for marriage or in any way consistently desires it, repressing that desire is fruitless and harmful. That desire for marriage is a good thing, and a clear sign that he is not being called to celibacy.
Mr. Butler, president of Foundations and Donors, the network of foundations that give to Catholic causes, believes that church officials did not give donors the respect they deserved. "Major donors are depressed, shocked, demoralized, and it's reducing their giving," he said.
The bishops could prevent this, he said, if they hired an auditor to provide a public summary of all money paid to sexual abuse victims in the last three decades. This, Mr. Butler said, would be a first step toward preventing bishops from "using money to silence people."
Ms. John, the president of the Milwaukee foundation, said she was "devastated" to learn last month that the archdiocese there hid a $450,000 payment in 1998 to a man who had accused Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland of sexually abusing him more than two decades ago.
The archdiocese's financial statement for that year, though it was audited and included details of relatively minor expenses, made no mention of the payment.
After a series of meetings with victims of sexual abuse by priests, the bishops said their views would be taken into account as church leaders worked through the night to update their Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.
"The charter as it now stands has an element of accountability in it but what we heard this afternoon is that that element should be strengthened," said Archbishop Harry Flynn of St. Paul-Minneapolis, who chaired the committee charged with drafting the policy.
"My committee will be meeting through the night in order to look at recommendations that have come in and see what we can do with them before tomorrow," he told reporters.
Flynn said the committee received 107 pages of suggested changes to the draft, which is only seven pages long. "There will be substantial modifications to the charter as we released it last week," he said.
All the American cardinals were invited to be present. Only four came.
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