Pope Francis Writes...

So there has been a long pause since the Pennsylvania revelations where the Vatican has been utterly silent. So long in fact that everyone seemed to be asking why the Pope was ignoring it. As Cardinal Burke made clear in the interview I posted here, the only person responsible for the Bishops is the Holy Father. It is within his jurisdiction alone to deal with this issue. Why no comment?

Consider for a moment the enormity of the damage done by the homosexual priest/bishop cabal then ask yourself, how can uprooting it NOT be the Pope’s top pastoral priority right now? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out the most obvious fallout from clergy abuse and for those of us involved with the work of evangelisation it is doubly difficult, so much so that I find it impossible to imagine why this is not the absolute priority for every bishop in the world today. Put bluntly, if we do not succeed in rooting out this evil from the Church, the work of evangelisation cannot begin, it will be like a child strangled at birth! In fact, I am reminded of the image of the woman and the dragon from Revelation 12:
The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born.
Abuse ruins lives. It causes Massive suffering of abuse victims to the point where some even cannot face living with the reality any longer and take their own lives. But it also has enormous fallout for families and communities which can be completely  destroyed. It causes many lay people to simply leave the Church, unable to process how an institution which claims to be "holy" can be an institution where such horrors take place, let alone are condoned and covered up! (If you fall into this camp I implore you to read this wonderful ecclesiologically rich post on the abuse crisis from Dr. Joseph Shaw). In the context of this specific series of revelations, I have encountered lay people already who have decided the Catholic Church cannot be the Barque of Peter.
A further repercussion is that men and women abandon any idea they may have of a religious vocation. Why would you want to give your life to a vocation where there are people doing things like this in direct contradiction to the truth and beauty you have fallen in love with? Why would you want to be involved with an organisation where your reputation is going to be tainted permanently by this stigma? These priestly abusers are like the Orcs in The Silmarillion;
"and thus did Melkor breed the hideous race of the Orcs in envy and mockery of the Elves, of whom they were afterwards the bitterest foes."
One of the most painful repercussions for me is the damage done to the Church’s public witness and credibility. I have already seen friends and acquaintances on social media attacking the Church - the abuse crisis means that the Church has no moral credibility and no public voice. For many it is a proof that the morality preached by the Church is impossible or corrupt or hypocritical instead of beautiful and empowering and freeing. Again, it makes the work of evangelists so much harder, it puts up a barrier that needs to be addressed before any of the work of evangelisation can potentially have any sort of effect because it is an immediate reason not to listen to someone who wants to tell you the great story of Jesus Christ. I have experienced this first hand with one of my most beloved and dear family members in Ireland who just would not hear anything I had to say about my passion and excitement for the faith because of abuse. He could not get past the evil of abuse perpetrated by priests: priests who his behind the Catholic Church. And then there are the billions of dollars paid out in settlements — money the Church can’t use for evangelisation or charitable works.

Now the pope has written an open letter to all Catholics on abuse. He says some important things in this letter: he is trying to move our response to sexual infidelity and abuse from management, which is necessary but not sufficient, to a conversion and renewal of clerical culture. And that can only be accomplished by recognising both particular sins and sinful structures, being contrite for them and doing penance. In response, Bishop Egan of Portsmouth Diocese has written to the Holy Father suggesting an extraordinary synod on the life and ministry of the clergy.

I really do think conversion, penance, justice and forgiveness are really important and relevant themes we need in the wake of these revelations, but it also seems pretty obvious what he did not say. He certainly dodged the question of the degree to which homosexuality is a part of the problem and this is unsurprising as much of his approach to this issue seems to be strangely accommodating. Pope Francis says “When one is harmed, all are harmed”. But one type of harm more than any other (I would argue) saps the life of the Church and it is the commission and cover-up of homosexual acts by priests and bishops. It must be dealt with drastically. It may seem that this generous approach to more problematic moral positions is somewhat of a leit motif for Francis' papacy, he certainly isn't as gentle with "rigid pelagians" and he has harsh words for many others.The pope also appears to be parroting Cardinal Cupich and blaming "clericalism" for the sex abuse crisis. This is interesting. Could this be a way of directing the blame away from homosexual clergy and towards the "rigid" Catholics he expends so much energy attacking?
I noted with interest how Papal Tailgaters are lauding the move to send Archbishop Scicluna to the U.S. to sort this mess out. Austen Ivereigh for example, thinks Chile is the model:
But in Chile, the crisis was covered up for years, the Pope mocked the victims while ignoring their pleas. In fact, it took a near riot before Francis took it seriously, and in the end just one bishop lost his job. Doesn't seem like best practice really does it?

Chris Altieri offered a really scathing appraisal of the Pope's letter.
From start to finish, his latest “Letter to the People of God” is full of language we have seen before, or minor variations on themes that have become clichés – little more than what folks in the trade call “boilerplate”.
It is devoid of practical considerations regarding the reform of clerical leadership worldwide, which many within and without the Church now universally recognise as necessary and urgent.
The letter is, in a word, inadequate: like the statement from USCCB president Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, an exercise in misdirection, blame-shifting, and obfuscation.
One of the main criticisms I have seen widely discussed is that rather than focusing the blame and responsibility for these terrible, sacrilegious and disgusting acts of abuse with the abusers and facilitators (i.e. those that cover up the abuse) the Holy Father suggests we all need to repent of these sins. As Altieri sums up:
If Pope Francis is reticent to share the power of governance necessary to address the crisis and repair the Church — as he appears to be, given his unwillingness thus far even to disclose his mind in these regards beyond platitudinous generalities — he is nevertheless quite willing to share the blame with the whole body of the faithful.


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