We Catholics generally want to believe that our hierarchy possesses the skills necessary to respond to crises. We want to think that the meetings they have, and the documents they produce, will “move things forward.” We foot-soldiers for the kingdom of God want to find something that justifies optimism about the institution.
But we must recognize these emotions for what they are: Pointless and distracting fantasies.
In a month, the leaders of the bishops’ conferences of the world will meet in Rome. A kind of mini-three-day ‘Vatican III.’
Why? Ostensibly to address the sex-abuse crisis.
Reason #1 Why We Can Hope for Nothing Good
The Vatican itself remains hopelessly mired in at least one major sex-abuse cover-up. To be sure, other corners of the globe may know of others. In our little mid-Atlantic corner, we know of this big one:
Theodore McCarrick sexually abused seminarians during the 1980’s. At least two of his victims notified neighboring bishops, during the 90’s and early 2000’s. The Vatican knew of the accusations.
The two currently living popes, multiple living Cardinals, former and current heads of Roman dicasteries–all have participated, and continue to participate, in the cover-up of Theodore McCarrick’s sexual abuse of seminarians.
None of the churchmen who know the truth about this have reckoned with it at all, except anonymously. (The one exception, of course: Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò.)
The facts are indisputable; none of the churchmen involved in the cover-up have ever disputed them. But no one has acknowledged anything. That’s what you call an on-going sex-abuse cover-up. Involving the former and current popes.
To be sure, the McCarrick case is not the only one that fits into this category. It just happens to be the one that your humble servant knows and understands well enough to write about.
The very villain of this on-going cover-up, Theodore McCarrick, personally presided over the USCCB Cover-up of 2002. Which the organizers of next month’s Vatican meeting have the self-serving audacity to envision as a kind of model.
The Church in the USA accomplished a “breakthrough” in child protection with the Dallas Charter of 2002. Let’s break that down…
i. Education in chastity and in recognizing potential abusers
(I’m going to have to write a book on this. But, for now, let’s say:) We know that sexual abuse is sexual abuse because we know what chastity is. When you don’t know what chastity is, sexual abuse seems like just another form of interpersonal relations.
Because Christ is chaste, and because He gives the gift of true happiness in chastity to the beloved children of His heavenly Father, we can recognize sexual abuse for the heinous crime that it is.
Teaching this pertains to the perpetual duty of Christ’s Church. Experienced counselors can help in this educational effort. To some extent, lay experts have helped to supply the grave deficiencies in education of this kind, which bishops and clergy have failed to offer. And continue to fail to offer. The Dallas Charter has, to some extent, facilitated this education.
ii. Preventing convicted felons from working or volunteering in Catholic institutions
The Dallas-Charter rules about fingerprinting and background checks probably have prevented some potential predators from gaining access to our young people. Praise God for that.
iii. The idea that our young people are “safer” now, thanks to our bishops and what they did in 2002
No honest professional who has interacted with sex-abuse survivors would ever claim to know this. We cannot honestly maintain that we have had fewer instances of sexual abuse during the past sixteen years than we had before.
Minors rarely report sexual abuse. It takes many years even to begin to find the courage. We won’t know whether the Dallas Charter has led to a reduction in sex-abuse cases until 2045.
Cardinal Cupich and the reigning church mafia loudly insist that Dallas 2002 made children safer. Guess what? That self-serving insistence itself deters victims from coming forward. It’s the same episcopal reaction as before, just under a new guise.
Keep your mouth shut, because what you have to say makes us look bad.
That’s what sex-abuse victims got from bishops in the 1980’s, in the 1990’s, in the 2000’s, in the 2010’s, and now.
2002 was a cover-up of the real scandal. The real scandal was, and is: Our bishops did not have, and do not have, the kind of moral compass that any normal Catholic parent has.
Cardinal Cupich writes:
“Here in the Archdiocese of Chicago, we report all allegations of sexual abuse of minors to civil authorities, offer support to all who make allegations through our Victim Assistance Ministry, remove archdiocesan clergy from ministry permanently if an allegation of abuse of minors is substantiated and publicize the names of those with substantiated allegations against them.”
What’s missing? The fundamental duty of the bishop: To reckon fully with the truth and see to it that malefactors receive an appropriate punishment. The Cardinal’s litany of swell accomplishments misses the most-important one of all: Finding, and clearly declaring, the truth.
The Attorney General of Illinois pointed out recently that the Dallas-Charter norms do not have adequate clarity and specificity. Over and over again, knowledgeable investigators have pointed out that bishops must formulate clearly–in concrete cases–the precise violations of chastity that have occurred. That’s how justice gets done.
But, of course, that involves hearing a victim’s entire story yourself, rather than shuttling the victim off to some “Victims’ Assistance Ministry” who likely will not even answer the phone.
So, speaking of justice being done:
Apparently the pope and bishops gathered in Rome next month will celebrate a “penitential liturgy.”
With the Holy See itself still implicated in the McCarrick Cover-up, not to mention other similar cover-ups, the liturgical expression of penance at St. Peter’s will ring hollow. The sound of the pope’s and bishops’ crocodile tears will bounce off the inside of Michelangelo’s dome.
If they really want to move God to pity, all the prelates of this mini-sex-abuse Vatican III should kneel at St. Peter’s tomb and cry out as follows:
Lord, we have failed you and your people! Forgive us for presuming to shepherd and govern, when we obviously do not know how!
We will stop talking about policies. We will stop engaging in endless paper-pushing exercises, aimed only at repeating moral truths that are obvious to every mature human being who has ever lived.
Instead, we will make a thorough account of all our own scandalous failures as shepherds. Then we will establish a procedure for choosing our successors by lot.
By this random-selection process, please choose better men than ourselves to take our places, Lord!
Once the lots are chosen, we will ordain our successors as necessary, and then we ourselves will retire to live in quite prayer and penance until Judgment Day.