Wednesday, July 13, 2011
When will it end? A judicial report into the handling of priestly sex abuse cases in the Irish Diocese of Cloyne, published this week, has once again revealed a Church leadership more interested in self-preservation than justice. This is the fourth report on sex abuse scandals in Ireland in the recent past.
According to the report, Bishop Magee, himself guilty of inappropriate advances on a young parishioner, disregarded the 1996 guidelines on dealing with sex abuse allegations, and did so with the full support of the Vatican. He also lied to government officials about the extent of abuse in the diocese.
These are not decades old allegations. All of the abuse happened after 1996, and the cover up continued until as recently as 2009.
Although Magee is assigned primary responsibility for the failure to deal with the allegations, the report also notes that the Vatican was “entirely unhelpful” to Bishops who did wish to implement them.
Apparently, dithering over implementing the guidelines had to do with questions of canon law. Rome fiddled while Ireland burned.
Unbelievably, not only did the Vatican refuse to help implement the guidelines, but once the story of the abuses broke, the Magisterium debated at length whether or not the clearly culpable Magee should keep his post. In the end he was removed from governance but allowed to keep the title of bishop. (Contrast this to the quick firing of Bishop Morris of Australia for the so much more serious ‘crime’ of suggesting that the Church open discussions on the ordination of women).
Not surprisingly, Frances Fitzgerald, the Irish Minister for Children commented that the Vatican’s “sole concern was the protection of the institution – not the children”. (Donadio and Kulish, “Irish Report Finds Abuse Persisting in the Catholic Church” New York Times, Wednesday, July 13 2011).
It is clear, absolutely clear, that those in power in my Church, the Catholic Church, are more interested in preserving the ragged remains of what they perceive as the prestige of their position, than breathing the spirit of life and love into the world.
While the church of the community continues to value humility, charity, justice, compassion and hope, the Church of the Rock (and a hard cold lifeless rock it is) navel-gazes and holds the world at bay. No child, no woman, no lay person can clamber on the slippery boulder from which the Vatican pronounces and denounces.
But here’s the thing. If God truly is a living God, if there truly is such a thing as the Holy Spirit, if truth does prevail in the end, then the Vatican should be careful. Rocks weigh a person down, and cause one to stumble and fall. Eventually they erode, collapse and roll away. Nothing eternal is made of stone. Remember the stone in front of the tomb? It moved, displaced by the power of the Holy spirit.
Lay Catholics need to speak up and be a voice for compassion, stability, honesty and truth. The Spirit given to all people, to all the world, has to be allowed to advocate for truth and change within the Catholic Church. If we don’t want to be complicit in the abuse of minors and the exclusion of women and married people, then we need to speak the words in our hearts. We need to call for reform and conversion within the cold stone walls of the Vatican.
In the end, breath, spirit, faith, hope and love, these intangible senses of the divine, carry forward and last beyond today, beyond the world, beyond all time. And that to me, is Church enough.
For more information on the Irish report go to http://ncronline.org/news/accountability/irish-report-reveals-abuse-bishops-mismanagement