A Suffering Church

Chris McDonnell Catholic Times  September 07 2018

Ireland is a very small country in a very big world, yet its significance in the life of the Christian Church has been immense. Its people have travelled the world, taking their faith with them, leaving a home where the Church occupied a central and formative influence not only in  the life of their town or village but in their national image.

That is why the damage caused by the crisis of abuse within the Irish Church has been immense; that is why the significance of the recent papal visit to this small island off the North-West coast of Europe is so profound.

The Press, and media generally,  analysed every utterance made by Francis during his short time on the island of Ireland. Criticism was made that, more than words, action was required. Remedies were sought that reinforced his words for the pain has been traumatic, not only for the numerous individuals who suffered abuse but for the wider Church who heard, with growing incredulity, the detail of what had taken place.

Once again, the Psalter offers an insight into the experience of our human condition. Psalm 55 has these prophetic  words that tell the story.

‘If this had been done by an enemy
I could bear his taunts
If a rival had risen against me
I could hide from him
But it is you, my own companion
My intimate friend
How close was the friendship between us
We walked together in harmony
In the house of God’

Expressed in  those few words is the core of our anguish, the attack on values and relationships from within. Those who were implicitly trusted broke that bond in a spectacular manner involving families and those most vulnerable, young children. In the words I wrote in this column a couple of weeks ago following the death of the US psychotherapist, Richard Sipe, ‘honesty comes at a price’.

The honesty that is now demanded comes not just with words, be they written or spoken but with actions that clearly demonstrate our intention to change. Well-chosen noise is not enough. That change must not only challenge the actions by individuals whose behaviour we abhor, but it must extend to the bringing to task those whose knew what was happening and who subsequently covered their tracks, in the mistaken belief that it was for the ‘good of the Church’.

The scale of this tragedy is not limited to one small patch of earth that happens to be the current focus of much attention, but is world-wide. Only three days before my recent article was published, the enormity of the crisis was exemplified with the publication of the huge Grand Jury report into the investigation of a number of dioceses in the state of Pennsylvania. In the same week we heard, in disturbing detail, of abuse at two Benedictine schools here in the UK, shaming the Christian Church.

I would suggest that in these early years of the 21stCentury we are facing a cataclysmic change that hasn’t been experienced since the years of the mid 16thCentury when reformation swept through the continent of Europe.

We are blessed with a Bishop in the See of Rome who not only recognises the seriousness of what is happening but is also willing to be active in healing open wounds. He is but one individual, albeit one vested with the dignity and responsibility of the Papacy. Others surround him whose instinct for self- preservation is both strong and effective.

The patience of the Church should recognise the enormous pressure that this man of advanced years faces and the anguish that is his burden. The process of house cleansing is not easy at the best of times; given the condition of a dysfunctional Church, the task facing Francis is daunting.

One of Tom Paxton’s songs has the lines‘Peace, peace will come, let it begin with me’. All of us have a part to play in this harrowing challenge, through our prayer, through our willingness to challenge the circumstances that have brought us to this sorry state, through our recognition that honesty comes at a price. We cannot avoid the downpour of critical comment that now surrounds us. It is only through our sincere and humble action that we can begin the re-establishment of the credibility of the Christian message.

It will demand a re-examination of structures and disciplines that may have led us down this broken path. Walking away solves nothing, giving up on the Church, walking away from the teaching of the good Lord, leaves behind only a broken story.

It is now our responsibility, all of us, to ensure that positive actions are taken to repair the challenge to faith.

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  1. Paddy Ferry says:

    Thank you Chris. That is an excellent reflection on the present appalling state of affairs.

    I have just finished watching Spotlight on BBC 2. I did initially see it in the cinema when it was first released. I remembered tonight how some on this site felt inclined to attempt to discredit what is an excellent film. After the events of the last month –Pennsylvania Grand Jury especially –the true extent of the cover up is now surely indisputable. Apparently, there are initiatives in six more states in the US to form grand juries to investigate in a similar way to Pennsylvania.

    I would also like to invite Fr. Finian to reflect on this passage from your article which I now share below.

    “We cannot avoid the downpour of critical comment that now surrounds us. It is only through our sincere and humble action that we can begin the re-establishment of the credibility of the Christian message.”

  2. Joe O'Leary says:

    Paddy, I would not be happy at all about these people out for their pound of flesh. The Philadelphia report was largely a rehash of old stories, with the most lurid ones 50 years old, and it found only 2 incidents of abuse since 2002. The States seeking to imitate this are perhaps urged on by well-heeled right-wing catholic or anti–catholic pressure groups such as Church Militant — Michael Voris is the new Pope: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EVLeZS_XHRg

    Meanwhile thousands of US teens languish in solitary confinement while their parents serve out prison sentences. They have no lobby to defend them, so let’s rehash the past again and again.

    Of course Voris and Viganò are no longer concerned with child abuse, which is a disappearing phenomenon in the clerical world. Their focus has shifted to sexually active gay priests — and they have a field day here, since priests combined a deep closeted silence with permissive personal mores in a way that left vulnerable lgbt young people in the lurch and themselves in deep hypocrisy. I think that Francis, despite his appalling comment about “psychiatry” on the plane back to Rome, is deeply conscious of this and wants to end the regime of clerical hypocrisy and also to make gays welcome in the church and in their families. But he has no group around him to help him with this, and often seems rather helpless in his well-meant gestures.

  3. Paddy Ferry says:

    Joe, I am in agreement, pretty much, with your 2nd and 3rd paragraphs. But, with regard to the 1st paragraph, I am absolutely baffled as to how you can continue in the same mindset as before, trying to defend the completely indefensible.

  4. Sean O'Conaill says:

    #2 References to ‘pounds of flesh’ in this context are entirely inappropriate. Did Joe O’Leary never log the fact that the child safeguarding regime now in place in Ireland and the US did not exist BEFORE the prevalence of the problem was revealed by victims, courts and media – beginning in 1994 but not reaching full pitch until 2002? Even so, even on this site there has been clerical denial that there was ever a cover up – as though never warning Catholic families that the problem existed – despite what was well known by bishops – was not exactly that.

    Had he watched ‘Spotlight’ he would also know that many other victims of abuse in the Boston archdiocese came forward in the WAKE of the Globe’s revelations in 2002. It has been SOLELY media exposure of the prevalence of the problem that has encouraged countless silent sufferers to come forward to receive the psychotherapeutic and other help they need. That alone will justify the Pennsylvania and other US state enquiries now predicted.

    And has he not logged the fact that as recently as August 16th, 2018 Ian Elliott, the main source of the original safeguarding expertise guiding Ireland’s NBSCCC, has stated his opinion that Catholic deference to clergy is still a major problem – based on his own recent international experience?

    Our own bishops’ reliance upon the same deference is exemplified by the continuing absence of of any member of the Catholic abuse survivor community (e.g. Marie Collins) on the board of the NBSCCC – as well as the fact that very few Irish lay Catholics have ever been offered the opportunity to discuss the whole complex of questions raised by this catastrophe in any Irish church forum.

    It is a salutary thought that no Irish Catholic adolescent today will remember what happened in Ireland when the storm first began to break in 1994, and then reached full force in 2002. Yet Irish clerical non-communication on this issue – an attitude that continues to rely on Irish lay deference – remains fully in force.

    ‘They have never explained why this happened!’ – this was said to me just a few months ago by a retired Catholic primary school principal. The pain caused by this embargo on frank, honest, discussion continues. Joe’s total lack of empathy with the perspective of so many Catholic families who have been struck by this lightning is further proof that too many clergy just don’t, and apparently won’t ever, get it.

    Anyone needing a compact survey of all of the shattering revelations that happened in the lifetime of parents and grandparents of today’s teenagers could find that in Aidan Hart’s useful summary at:


  5. Paddy Ferry says:

    ‘They have never explained why this happened!’

    Could I once again recommend Marie Keenan’s excellent book “Child Sexual Abuse & the Catholic Church. Gender, Power and Organisational Culture.”
    I could never understand why this happened until I read this book a few years ago. I agree Sean, people like Joe, for whatever reason, simply do not get it. And I am genuinely baffled by that.

  6. Frances Burke says:

    Thank you Sean for sharing that link to Aidan Hart’s article. I found it overwhelming reading. The magnitude of the problem and the Churchs long history of covering it up is laid bare for everyone to see.

    As today is World Suicide Prevention Day I would ask all to reach out to those who are struggling. A kind word can really do wonders for people who are finding life difficult. Just to be told that you are cared about can be life saving.

    The statistics show that sexual abuse victims/survivors are at a 10 times greater risk of taking their own life.

  7. Joe O'Leary says:

    Of course the earlier exposes led to the current regime, in place since 2002, which is why the Philly Grand Jury found nothing much to report since then. Now we are to have a whole spate of expensive inquiries that will probably confirm the same good outcome in other dioceses as well. Since, as I said, “The Philadelphia report was largely a rehash of old stories, with the most lurid ones 50 years old, and it found only 2 incidents of abuse since 2002” I don’t see what cathartic function it is supposed to be playing or where the clamor for more of the same is coming from.

    Yes of course, other victims came forward after 2002, to report abuse that had happened before that date; and they were handled correctly, because of the new regime in place, and actual new incidents occurring after 2002 seem to be virtually non-existent, to judge from the findings of the recent Grand Jury report.

    I think the promised new spate of inquiries has little clear purpose, and the agitation behind it needs some cool analysis.

    That media exposure played a reforming role in the past does not entail that rehashing of old stories ad nauseam is going to play such a role. It would be counterproductive. Meanwhile the actual current ongoing abuse of children goes unexamined.

    Sean calls for open discussion, as do I, but he reacts to my own honest contribution in a manner not calculated to open up discussion at all, with sweeping denunciations of an alleged “total lack of empathy” and so on. I’m afraid Sean would be a good bishop of the old school!

  8. Joe O'Leary says:

    My suspicion about the motives behind the promised new spate of inquiries is boosted by the news that STEVE BANNON is in on the act. Bannon told Reuters he was working on setting up an independent, non-partisan tribunal to investigate decades of scandals within the U.S. Church.

  9. Paddy Ferry says:

    Joe, I thought you should read this.

    TRENDING: Crisis in the Church
    Church must open a process of truthful remembering
    Sep 10, 2018
    by Alex Mikulich Accountability Opinion

    Recent revelations in Pennsylvania and Ireland of clerical child abuse and cover-up by the Catholic hierarchy expose grotesque patterns of sexual predation, deceit, and hypocrisy. This profound evil scandalizes, horrifies and traumatizes every member of the community of faith. Indeed, many good people of faith are abandoning an institution that they find painfully inhuman.

    There is, perhaps, no way for the hierarchical church to extricate itself from the moral and spiritual morass for which it alone is responsible. If the church seeks authentic repentance and repair, it must address the historical roots of the present crisis and open itself to a long-term process of truthful remembering that is oriented to the wisdom of the survivors of clerical sexual abuse.
    All kinds of crass finger pointing exacerbates open wounds and sows discord within the church, yet none of it will create the conditions of the possibility of the church recovering moral and spiritual credibility.
    Time is up on the church to clean itself. Self-reporting by the church has failed. Since The Boston Globe’s spotlight team opened the story of clerical sexual abuse in 2002, five attorneys general — in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Maine, Massachusetts, and most recently, New York — have used subpoena power to obtain church records on priests accused of sexual abuse. Investigations or inquiries are opening in Florida, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey and New Mexico, only after this latest round of increased scrutiny. If the church is truly committed to the common good, then the institution and its priests must face full accountability by state and federal prosecutors.
    Related: After bombshell Pennsylvania abuse report, other states launch investigations
    Understanding the historical roots of the present crisis is a prerequisite for full accountability. As Massimo Faggioli wisely instructs, the Second Vatican Council is not the culprit for the predicament the church finds itself in. The clerical abuse crisis is rooted in the Tridentine structures of the ecclesial hierarchy. Conversely, Faggioli argues, Vatican II, “committed to the priesthood of all believers” has yet to take deep root in the structures and culture of the church.
    I think the problem goes even deeper than the ecclesial structures created by Trent. The conditions that gave rise to the poisonous brew of power, patriarchy, clericalism, lack of accountability and secrecy are inextricably tied to the monarchical structure and colonialist culture of the church.
    Yet as a church we cannot unearth these deep roots of sinfulness unless the hierarchy chooses the “painful path of purification.” Going to the very depth of our faith, Catholic social teaching and Eucharistic practice recognize that truthful remembering is a condition of the possibility of authentic repentance and reconciliation.
    The church is in a profound moral, spiritual and pastoral bind. If the church maintains its silence in relationship to its enduring complicity in clerical sexual abuse, it denies God’s grace, hope and healing in the Eucharistic memory of Jesus Christ.

    On the other hand, if the church seeks holistic witness rooted in Eucharistic memory, it must recognize its own need for repentance for clerical sexual abuse. There is moral, spiritual and pastoral danger here, too. A public apology and invocation of God’s forgiveness may overreach by acting unilaterally under the erroneous assumption that it is an institution of singular moral credibility. While some individual bishops recognize the need for repentance, the institution seems irretrievably bent in on itself.
    In his magisterial study Ecclesial Repentance, Jeremy Bergen explains that truthful remembering is more than a mode of knowledge. Truthful remembering must become a practice, a way of life.
    Practicing truthful remembering means that the church must become accountable to the people of God. As Stephanie Ann Puen writes in the blog Daily Theology, the church has yet to develop an adequate organizational ethic of accountability and transparency.
    Puen argues that the church has overly relied upon a vertical model of accountability of the laity to priests, priests to bishops, bishops to cardinals, and cardinals to the pope. This model fails to provide accountability to the priesthood of believers and society. There are organizational models of how the church can develop structures of accountability and transparency.

    For example, the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse offers outstanding witness to the kind of listening the church has yet to take up to become accountable and transparent.
    Bergen is clear that full scrutiny of the church’s witness “cannot be done apart from the testimony of those who experience the distortion of that witness and its life-denying effects.”
    That means that the church cannot be in control of a listening process in terms of setting deadlines or determining outcomes. One-time expressions of sorrow and apology are wholly insufficient and may only be more damaging.
    Authentic listening demands a fundamental openness to hearing the pain, suffering, anger and cries for justice of people who have suffered the spiritual, psychic and physical wounds of clerical sexual abuse.
    A long-term, open-ended process of listening and truthful remembering is one way the church may begin to create conditions of the possibility of repentance and repairing the broken body of Christ.
    [Alex Mikulich is a Catholic social ethicist.]

  10. Chris McDonnell says:

    The Jesuit journal AMERICA reports today that

    The Council of Cardinal Advisors issued a statement on September 10 expressing their “full solidarity with Pope Francis in the face of what has happened in these last weeks”—namely the attack against him by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the former nuncio to the United States. They added that they were aware that the Holy See is preparing “the eventual and necessary clarifications” in response to the grave allegations Archbishop Viganò made in August.

    Archbishop Viganò had accused the pope of covering up the abuses committed by Archbishop Theodore McCarrick and of lifting the sanctions he believes Pope Benedict XVI imposed on the former Washington cardinal. He also accused many Vatican officials during the previous two pontificates of the same cover-up. The archbishop stunned the Catholic world by calling for Francis’ resignation.

    A confusion of agendas amid uncertainty of the people. There is an urgency in the air.

  11. Pádraig McCarthy says:

    It is good that we come to know the full story about sexual abuse, whether of children or of others, in the church. Christians acknowledge their sinfulness regularly. Even just one case of such abuse is abhorrent. We must certainly address all such abuse in the church.

    However, if we restrict our inquiries only to the Catholic church, we are in danger of seriously failing in our mission. This is not a way to let our church off the hook. It is to go beyond tunnel vision and be truly catholic.

    For example, not seeing the Pennsylvania report in context will lead to drawing unwarranted conclusions.

    1) The Pennsylvania report is from a Grand Jury. As your article says, it is about “alleged sexual abuse.” Yet it is publicised as if it is all proven fact, a verdict of a court. We must keep in mind the presumption of innocence unless and until proven guilty.
    2) It is commonly reported that there were allegations against over 300 priests. Of those listed in the report, the number is less than 300, and some are clearly identified as not ordained priests.
    3) The context is important. Of all the priests against whom allegations were brought, what percentage do they represent of the total number of those who served in the six dioceses over the period 1940 to 2010? How does this relate to the percentage of those in the general population against whom allegations are made?
    4) How are the allegations spread chronologically over the decades? Is there evidence of change, improvement or otherwise, over time?
    5) How can any justice system, state or church, deal with a case such as the Martin J (or F) Fleming case on page 840 of the Pennsylvania report? He was born in 1869; is alleged to have abused in 1940; died in 1950; and the allegation was not lodged until 2006.
    6) In the manner of the handling by church authorities of allegations of abuse by clergy, how does this relate to the development of knowledge and understanding of abuse over the period, and to the development of understanding of the effects of abuse on those who were abused? What was the psychiatric, psychological, social and legal understanding of abuse in those times? What was the relevant legislation in various locations?
    7) How does the handling by church authorities of allegations of abuse compare with handling of allegations by other institutions: state and non-state institutions, other churches, education, voluntary associations, sports organizations, etc?
    8) How does the quality of record-keeping of cases of abuse in the Catholic church compare with record-keeping in other institutions?
    9) Does the organisation and structure of the Catholic church facilitate such investigation, compared with other institutions?
    10) If there were investigations of abuse undertaken into one sports organisation – for example, basketball – and not into other such organisations, would this be seen as equitable? If there were investigations undertaken exclusively into the matter in another religious institution – say the Baptist churches or the Episcopal churches, but not into the Catholic church, it is likely there would be an outcry about discrimination and injustice. Why is it that when no similar investigation is undertaken into any institution except the Catholic church, there seems to be little or no such objection raised?
    11) When the investigation is undertaken only into the Catholic Church, this immediately generates a perception that it is an exclusively Catholic phenomenon, whereas we know that sexual abuse of children or older people is found throughout society, and that abuse in the Catholic church constitutes only a small percentage of the overall problem within families and in other circumstances.
    12) By an exclusive focus on investigating the Catholic church, we neglect the vast majority of the abuse that takes place. This is an injustice to all others who experience such abuse.

    This perhaps helps outline the failing in society to undertake a comprehensive study.
    It also raises the question of the motivations of investigations into the Catholic church while neglecting so much else.
    I want the full story to be known – not just one small part of it, however disturbing.

  12. Joe O'Leary says:

    Thanks for your rational intervention, Padraig. Your piece on abortion will appear in the Japan Mission Journal on Friday, Here is my editorial:

    Pope Francis has been fiercely resisted by a certain faction in the Church ever since his election to the papacy five years ago, much as President Obama was by Republicans in the USA. Their latest ‘attempted coup,’ as Massimo Faggioli calls it, centers on a letter from Msgr Viganò, former nuncio to the USA, timed to be published at the very moment when the Pope was bravely facing up to the abuse scandals in Ireland. His Irish visit was dominated by this issue, from his first penitential remarks in response to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, through his sermon at Knock and the penitential liturgy in the Phoenix Park, to the painful and frank encounter with actual victims, one of whom spoke of it as an experience that restored her faith and that she would never forget. The Irish media rightly put a one-day embargo on news about Msgr Viganò’s mischievous letter, out of courtesy to the papal guest.

    Francis said on the plane back to Rome that he would trust reporters with examining Viganò’s claims, and indeed they are wilting in the light of journalistic day. The central claim that Francis lifted sanctions imposed by Benedict XVI on now-disgraced Cardinal McCarrick is flimsy, since McCarrick remained publicly on good terms with Benedict XVI to the end of his pontificate, and Viganò himself gave a fawning address in McCarrick’s honor in May 2012. That in itself makes Francis’s alleged trust in McCarrick less blamable. Using the heated language of the right-wing Catholic media, Viganò subscribes to all their theories of gay-liberal conspiracies. Aware that most of his many targets were originally appointed by John Paul II and Benedict XVI, he is not averse to throwing mud in their direction as well.

    Meanwhile the anti-Francis base have launched slogans such as ‘Francis Must Resign’ or ‘Francis is a Heretic,’ which have the same impact as the Trump base slogans, ‘Obama is a Muslim’ or ‘Lock Her Up.’ The machine of vituperation thus put in motion is self-sustaining and may well undercut Pope Francis just as Obama and Hillary were successfully undercut. Worse, there is a threat of schism, which as the Huguenot theologian Jurieu warned long ago is ‘for a Christian the greatest of tragedies and the greatest of crimes.’

    Amid this turbulence, Pope Francis himself shows a deep serenity, rooted in his Jesuit formation. He fulfills as well as any previous pope the Petrine mission of being ‘father and teacher of all Christians’ (Vatican I, Pastor aeternus). His very mode of existence, a constant enactment of love of God and love of neighbor, makes him a walking gospel for many people, who are encouraged and edified by him. It would be a shame if the church and the world were prematurely robbed of such an inspiring leader because of the noisy attacks of a cabal.

  13. Frances Burke says:

    There is no doubt that the conservative wing in the Catholic Church are using the current scandals to undermine the popes plans for reform. Blaming the abuse of children on gay priests is a complete deflection from the truth and I wonder why gay priests are being scapegoated. Is it because the conservatives wish to exclude the gay community from full participation in the Church or are they just looking for an easy target to pin it on? Either way they are completely wrong in their assessment and are inflaming hatred of the gay community.

    Reform of the C9 group in Rome in the coming days will also change the dynamic at the top table. It looks like 3 Cardinals will be leaving, citing reasons of age (apparently there will be no mention of financial or sexual abuse scandals). Cardinal Errazuirz is not coming to the C9 meeting so he is probably one of those leaving. It is also predicted that Cardinal Pell will be leaving. An opportunity now exists to bring in new blood who are not afraid of making tough decisions.

    In America, the clergy have accepted that that there will be multiple investigations by the civil authorities into their cover up of abuse. This of course will have a huge financial cost and Steve Bannon (a guy we could be hearing a lot more from) reckons it will bankrupt a lot of parishes. Josh Shapiro, who’s office was responsible for compiling the recent Pennsylvania Report on Child Abuse pointedly stated on American TV that there are thousands of documents in Church properties that contain all the details of abuse carried out by its members. The dog in the street now knows all this evidence exists.

    The Pope has used the word ‘Caca’ to describe those who abuse children. I would agree with him on that. They have definitely landed him in it. Right now he desperately needs to find strong and truthful people to surround himself with so that he can continue with his reforming plans.

  14. Joe O'Leary says:

    Those who blame the child abuse scandal on homosexuality scoff at the Jay Report and Thomas Plante. In the link given by Frances above we read:

    ‘Most of the clerical sexual abuse perpetrators have been “situational generalists,” a term used throughout extensive John Jay College of Criminal Justice summary reports, the most recent in 2011, to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

    ‘Generalists do not have a specific sexual preference for youth, but instead “turn to children as a sort of substitute” due to psychological and emotional difficulties in bonding with peers, Plante observed.

    ‘Such individuals – who often exhibit issues with substance abuse and impulse control – “can’t develop successful, negotiated, intimate relationships with adults,” said Plante, who recently served as vice chair of the USCCB’s National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Youth.

    ‘Since generalist offenders seek readily available victims, boys have historically – though by no means exclusively – been a target for many clerical abusers.

    ‘“Priests for the most part had access to boys, and trust with boys, much more so than girls,” said Plante, noting that this proximity has led to the erroneous correlation between homosexuality and clerical abuse.’

    I must admit that I find this unconvincing, and when I hear Cardinal Cupich taking refuge behind it I find his performance pathetic.

    That priests would act out sexually with boys rather than adults is certainly a matter of situation and of affective maturity — though sometimes it may be the result of ephebophile fixation (inability to be attracted to any older males). Eugen Drewermann in Kleriker [French translation, Les fonctionnaires de Dieu; no English translation] even says that the image of the priesthood fixated in the minds of seminarians at the time they were altar boys would conduce to choice of boys as object of desire.

    But the idea that a priest would pursue say, a 14 year old boy instead of a 14 year old girl merely as a matter of opportunity ridiculously plays down the reality of sexual orientation. It is said that true pedophiles, who are attracted to much younger children, sometimes are gender-blind, but whether that’s the case or not it doesn’t apply to “ephebophiles”.

    I would admit that most of the abuse of minors in the 1980s to 1980s could be explicable by five simple factors:

    1. a huge movement of gay liberation which encouraged gay men to explore their sexuality and act out sexually

    2. a huge exodus of heterosexual men from the priesthood, leaving a gay majority

    3. an outburst of gay sexual activity among the gay clergy under the influence of 1

    4. lack of heavy proscription of sexual interaction with minors both in society at large, in the gay world, and then in the clerical world (or equivalently, a situation in what all gay sex was an imprisonable offence, so that the age-factor was blurred in a general criminalization, and gay men acting out with teens might think “I might as well be hanged for a lamb as for a sheep”).

    5. opportunity and immaturity (rather than actual ephebophile fixation) conducing to gay priests acting out with teenagers rather than adults

    Factors 4 and 5 have been completely reversed now, which is why abuse of minors among gay clergy has dried up and the target of suspicion has moved to inappropriate relationships with adult seminarians or parishioners.

    Why did only 20% of abuse involve girls?

    1. Because the proportion of heterosexual men in the clergy is low — 40% let’s say.
    2. Because heterosexual men were socialized into relationships with adults and homosexual men were not
    3. Because sexual involvement between men and young girls has always been surrounded with grave opprobrium because of the risk of pregnancy and of ruining a girl’s reputation and marriage prospects (whereas “corruption of boys” was not viewed with the same gravity).

    I don’t of course offer a complete explanation, but I think such factors as these should be frankly addressed. The John Jay/Plante line that “this has nothing to do with homosexuality” is a construct that seems remote from ordinary experience.

    One Vatican reaction to the abuse scandal was the attempt to block gays from entering seminary. This met remarkable resistance from bishops and seminary directors worldwide. Voris et al. want it brought back NOT in order to end clerical child abuse, since clerical child abuse has in fact ended, but in order to smash what they see as a “Lavender Mafia” running the church. They also think that gays in seminaries will invariably act out sexually, creating a climate that scandalizes and scares away heterosexual candidates.

    (More broadly they detest the perception that the clergy are now a gay profession (recalling Donald Cozzens’ observation in The Changing Face of the Priesthood (2000), that John Paul II’s legacy to the church is a gay clergy), even if celibate. More broadly still they detest the gay-friendly attitude voiced by Fr James Martin SJ and by Pope Francis, whom they attack with homophobic slurs.)

    I agree with Mary McAleese that seminaries should be more and not less gay-friendly, and that Pope Francis has been inconsistent in some of the language he has used here. The clergy cannot be welcoming to lgbt faithful if they are closeted and self-hating themselves.

    If gay clergy are celibate models of chaste same-sex friendship, well and good. But if they are gay men struggling to live out their sexuality maturely, “who am I to judge?” A purge of sexually open gay clergy would send a starkly negative message to all gays.

    Celibacy itself seems to be in a somewhat wobbly condition, though James Martin reports otherwise.

    Gay men are attracted to ministry in all denominations and are often very good ministers. This is also the case in the RCC. But if a predominantly gay clergy is seen as undesirable and unbalanced, the obvious solutions lie close to hand: ordain married men, and ordain women. These steps are prescribed in any case by extreme pastoral need in many countries. (The solution of importing priests from Asia, African, Latin America, and Eastern Europe could be problematic, though it has at last the merit of incressing awareness that we belong to a World Church.)

  15. Eddie Finnegan says:

    I agree, Frances@16, that this is great news. This may finally, after more than fifty years of their existence, force national or regional Bishops’ Conferences around the world to become what the Second Vatican Council, Paul VI and John Paul II confirmed them to be – a valid component of the magisterium when meeting with full consensus or at least a two-thirds majority of agreement. Calling all the Conference presidents to Rome on this important issue should signal to every bishop that ‘what happens in his diocese does not stay in his diocese.’

    Back about six weeks ago, 30th July under ‘What would you like to say to Francis about the Church?’, you wrote in the wake of the McCarrick revelations: “I believe that what we are hearing and seeing now is the tip of the iceberg. I think thousands of victims / survivors will come forward knowing that they are not alone. The media will keep shining a light on this issue and, given the far-reaching tentacles of the Church, there will be survivors from across the globe. I shudder to think what will emerge from developing countries.”

    Keep shuddering, Frances and Francis! I think, too, that we ain’t seen nothing yet and that our, sometimes, near-obsessive concentration on the pursuit of somewhat historical cases from the days of a dominant and domineering clericalism here in “these islands”, so to speak, distracts us and perhaps even the Pope from shining strong searchlights on the regions of ‘the new churches’ or recent ‘mission territory’ which are now seen as the hope of the Church but where the old domineering clericalism is alive and well and just come into its own in recent decades. The abuse may differ in kind and in the category of victims from what we have become accustomed to. Look out, for example, for more schoolgirl abuse from both pastors and teachers in many African church-connected schools and parishes where celibacy rules are observed in a fairly relative fashion. Similarly, maybe, in the Philippines especially for children whose migrant mothers are working abroad for years on end. Note, I’m not over-worried here about the bending of celibacy rules in themselves – more the reality of spiritual abuse and abuse by authority figures where children or young people are more vulnerable through poverty or need for advancement, and where the prevailing culture lacks critical support for the more vulnerable.

  16. Joe O'Leary says:

    Note that Francis’s new initiative concerns “sexual abuse” of a #metoo kind, and that there is no mention of “child.”

  17. Pádraig McCarthy says:

    The Scally report on the Cervical Check service could perhaps be seen as showing up the medical profession’s mode of clericalism.
    It focuses, naturally, on how women are treated by some medical professionals. It is not only women who experience that; men too can find the same, but we have no study of the situation in the overall health services.

    The Scally report suggests that more male medical professionals are responsible. We would need to know whether this is because male medical professionals outnumber females in this area of medicine, or whether males are more prone to act in this way.

    A situation where an organisation “can be allowed to impede the speaking of truth to patients in relation to their healthcare is totally unacceptable.” Where the truth is bad news, it is difficult to see such failures as anything other than cover-up.

  18. Paddy Ferry says:

    Eddie@ 17, I was surprised to read that JPII was a supporter of the idea of national and regional bishops’ conferences being a valid component of the magisterium. Paul VI certainly but JPII ! He certainly dismantled the European Council of Episcopal Conferences –I think that is what it was called –which was co-chaired by Basil Hume and Cardinal Martini and which had its headquarters in Geneva, I think. Not only did he remove its two co-chairs but he also moved its HQ to Rome and appointed one of his more compliant sidekicks, Cardinal Ruini, as its new chair so it lost all independence. I hope I am remembering all this correctly. We should never forget how awful that whole era was for our church and the damage that was done.
    Martini, I have always thought, was the best pope we never had. Even at the conclave that elected Ratzinger I was still pinning my hopes on Cardinal Martini even though we knew he was not in the best of health. I remember quizzing Keith O’Brien as to whom he voted for. He didn’t tell me but he did say that Cardinal Martini looked really unwell and that is why, he thought, there was really no chance of his election. (I have actually held a papal conclave voting paper in my hand… couldn’t use it to vote though, sadly !!)
    I hope future revelations don’t confirm your suspicions expressed in the latter half of your comment. However, at this stage, I suppose we should be prepared for anything.
    Anyway, its good to have your contributions again on this site, Eddie, as they are always excellent, interesting and informative.

  19. Joe O'Leary says:

    The whittling away of the theological status of episcopal conferences right through John Paul II’s pontificate has a kind of blueprint in Joseph Ratzinger’s 1982 book, Theologische Prinzipienlehre [Principles of Catholic Theology,1987]. It is dismal reading and unveils a full-length portrait of the conservative theologian that he had become.

    Massimo Faggioli wrote on this in the Japan Mission Journal in 2004:
    Available here as PDF document
    Read here

  20. Phil Greene says:

    Paddy @21
    “Anyway, its good to have your contributions again on this site, Eddie, as they are always excellent, interesting and informative.”

    Totally agree .. thank you Eddie.

    “I’m not over-worried here about the bending of celibacy rules in themselves – more the reality of spiritual abuse and abuse by authority figures where children or young people are more vulnerable through poverty or need for advancement, and where the prevailing culture lacks critical support for the more vulnerable”
    A priest from abroad recently told me that he could not understand why we lay people in Ireland should concern ourselves with matters that happen abroad.. (i was asking him how Catholics in NY felt in light of the McCarrick revelations and cover-up). He genuinely thought it had nothing to do with us and was upset at the media for publicising these reports.. He apologised for the Church… but apologies are not necessary to me on a personal level.. tangible change is necessary.., action is necessary…we have along way to go…

  21. Eddie Finnegan says:

    No, Paddy, I don’t think JPII dumped Basil Hume or Carlo Martini from the CCEE Presidency and Camillo Ruini never got near the CCEE. Hume was President for 7 years (’79-86) followed by Martini (’86-93). The Hq continued to be in St Gallen though CCEE meetings vary their venue – one just completed this week in Poznan, Poland. Presidential terms seem now to be of 5 years with possibility of a second term – such as Erdo of Hungary served up to 2016.

    On Pope John Paul II’s clarification of what is or isn’t an Episcopal Conference, among other points, see his Apostolic Letter/Motu Proprio “Apostolos Suos” of 21st May 1998: w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/motu_proprio/documents/hf_jp-ii_motu-proprio_22071998_apostolos-suos.html

    While Chapter III deals with ‘Conferences of Bishops’ specifically, a close reading of the Introduction and Chs I-II is needed to follow his argument leading to his theological position on the magisterium of bishops and of episcopal conferences’ unanimous or substantial majority decisions. It covers individual bishops in relation to the Pope, to the College of Bishops, to their Episcopal Conference, and to other geographic or territorial Conferences of Presidents/representatives of national episcopal conferences.

    In Ch.II ##12-13, he clarifies that ‘geographical or territorial groupings’ (such, I imagine, as CCEE and COMECE in pan-Europe and the EU respectively, and similar groupings in the Americas, Africa, Asia, Oceania) lack the collegiality of an Episcopal Conference.

    ##14-24 of Ch.III are most relevant, but #22 plus its ‘Complementary Norms’ 1-4 in Ch.IV are key to the unanimous consensus or substantial majority (2/3) vote of a Conference of Bishops (Episcopal Conference) as expression of “that authentic magisterium of their own bishops”. Decisions lacking at least that ‘substantial majority’ will not gain a ‘recognitio’ from Rome.

    I am sure, Paddy, that JPII’s “Apostolos Suos”, in relation to expression of magisterium by, say Ireland’s, Scotland’s or England & Wales’ Bishops’ Conferences, is in fact a theological advance upon Paul VI’s 1966 ‘Ecclesiae Sanctae’#41 implementation norms of Vatican II’s ‘Christus Dominus’ Ch.III,#38.

    But we need more incisive minds than mine to get across all this!

  22. Paddy Ferry says:

    I stand corrected Eddie. Thank you.

  23. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Paddy, Joe, Phil @21,22,23 –
    As I said just above @24, “We need more incisive minds than mine to get across all this!” Thanks to Joe and Massimo Faggioli for providing those levels of incisiveness and the texts to go with those explorations. Much food for thought – but over to you Papa Francisco. Recall the bishops to the spirit of those who rejected that post-1985 Synod for 1988 instrumentum laboris so firmly – though they failed to tackle the Ratzinger-Wojtyla axis as they should.

  24. Frances Burke says:

    Eddie @17 and Joe @18
    At the February gathering of Bishops it is intended to address the abuse of power in ALL of its formations. This is very welcome as we know that power in the wrong hands can be very corrupting and lead to all sorts of destruction
    Phil @23
    ‘Head in the sand’ is a phrase that comes to mind when reading about that priest. Like yourself I’m sick and tired of hearing apologies. When is there going to be some concrete action to ensure that abuse of power in all its forms will be confronted and removed from those who abuse it? It’s appalling that we have now reached the point where the voice of the Church in the USA, which once was a champion for the protection of the most vulnerable, is no longer able to open its mouth.

  25. Chris McDonnell says:

    I have appreciated the careful and considered responses to my original posting. They show how the crisis that is currently affecting the Church has hurt, and is continuing to hurt, so many.

    The comment in my text that

    “I would suggest that in these early years of the 21stCentury we are facing a cataclysmic change that hasn’t been experienced since the years of the mid 16thCentury when reformation swept through the continent of Europe”

    was by no means an exaggeration.

    Much depends on the outcome from gathering of presidents of bishops’ conferences in Rome next year, summoned by Francis to account on this issue.

    It is important that pressure continues for radical reform while there is still some chance of real achievement in restoring the damaged face of Christ in our Church.

  26. Phil Greene says:

    To Frances @ 27
    Yes I agree with your comment Frances about “head in the sand”.
    I drew strength though from the fact that we did have a conversation..
    it started out with a priest feeling as if he had all the answers (Media, State) and ended with a man finding some of those answers wanting.. he listened.
    And I hoped he understood a little more about the plight of the card-carrying Catholic these days.
    As for me , I wondered more and more if the institution actually thinks of itself as already healed and that the Media is the first problem (continually highlighting old cases etc. !) followed by the State (in every country) getting off too lightly.. I can only pray this is not the case.
    The party line is being challenged by its leader .. deference will hopefully be replaced by mutual respect for one another, by both clergy and lay alike.

  27. Joe O'Leary says:

    The institution may be fully healed of the plague of clerical abuse of minors; but there is a residual sense of crisis.

    Failing faith and zeal all round in one aspect of the crisis. The most intense zeal comes from the right wing, but it is often misguided and divisive.

    Another aspect is the dysfunctionality of the clergy, who have not encouraged lay involvement. Ordaining married men and women may come about from sheer necessity, but it does not guarantee that an unimaginative clerical routine will not continue, with only cosmetic alteration.

    Yet there are plenty of resources for renewing church life and re-injecting it with joy. Open discussion in which Christians come to know one another as living, thinking beings; study of Scripture, theology, and traditions of spirituality, including dialogue with other religions; social engagement, in which the issues that many feel passionate about, from poverty, to the environment, to human rights, can be pursued not just politically but with the wisdom of the Gospel.

    Above all the liturgy needs to be released from its bonds, and we should look to the other Christian churches for inspiration on how this can be accomplished.

  28. Mary Vallely says:

    Chris talks about positive actions and I like Joe’s ideas for “renewing church life and re-injecting it with joy”, an emotion, sadly, not exuded much in our liturgies. Have we forgotten the joy of the Gospel?
    Joe’s other suggestions for open discussions, social engagement and learning from other denominations on how to worship and express that joy are worth pursuing.
    I was just rereading part of a sermon given by Fr Gerard Moloney in 2013. He won’t mind me reposting part of it. It’s about the Church that we want.
    This is Gerry’s vision of church and his hope for it. He asks a question at the end and it would do us no harm at all if we were to reflect on that question and perhaps seek to remember the joy and hope of possibility.
    Nil desperandum. ?

    “I believe in a church inspired by the teachings of the second Vatican Council, and not the old style, neo-triumphalist model of church that some now want to restore.

    I believe in a humble church – that is acutely conscious of its faults and weaknesses, that engages in a common quest for truth in dialogue with people of all religions and none, and that doesn’t see secularism as an enemy against which it must stand as the perfect society in opposition.

    I believe in a Spirit-filled church – that recognises that the Holy Spirit speaks through all the people of God by virtue of our common baptism and not only through the magisterium or the Roman curia.

    I believe in a welcoming church – that in its language and actions treats all-comers with sensitivity and compassion, irrespective of background, or circumstance or sexual orientation.

    I believe in an inclusive church – that uses the gifts and talents of all to build up its life and ministry, and that recognises that any organisation without women at its centre is dysfunctional and lacks credibility.

    I believe in a listening church – that doesn’t insist it has all the answers, especially to the complicated moral and ethical questions of today, but that is prepared to learn from the world of science and biology and the social sciences so as to better respond to the signs of the times.

    I believe in an open church – where theological discussion is encouraged, and the free exchange of ideas is regarded by those in authority not as a threat, or as disobedience, or as being “confusing to the faithful,” but as a sign of a vibrant community of faith in which the Spirit freely moves.

    I believe in a partnership church – that recognises the priesthood of all the baptised and that renounces clericalism as a deadly disease that damages the work of building up the people of God.

    I believe in a transparent church – that eschews secrecy, that treats its members with respect, and that never operates through bullying, or silencings or unsigned letters handed down from on high.

    I believe in a servant church – in which every member of whatever rank is at the service of others, never abusing their authority or treating others arrogantly, or having a fixation with status or office or titles or dress.

    I believe in a marginal church – that upholds all people’s dignity at every stage of life, that identifies especially with the poor, and feels most at home alongside the voiceless, the alienated, the powerless, the hurt and the abused.

    This is the kind of church I believe in; a model of church that in many ways through so many people already exists. People at all levels of the church, from the centre out, just need to work a little harder at making it real.

    What is your vision? What church do you long to see?”

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