Yesterday the Vatican presented to the world a three-year plan for holding Holy Meetings (Synods). The topic of the Holy Meetings? Holy Meetings.
A well-meaning Parish-Council chairman once asked me if we could hold a few council meetings–not about building plans or language barriers between parishioners, but about “the role of the Parish Council.” I replied, “Okay. But I would prefer that you beat me with rods. The ‘role’ of the Parish Council is to discuss actual problems with me.”
If Geoffrey Chaucer remained on earth with us, he could produce a fitting memorial to the three-year Vatican Synod on Synodality. It might include: “Roman Monsignor with an Outdated Laptop Tale,” and “Chancery Steubenville Grad Loses His Mind Tale,” and “Nun in a Pantsuit Tale.”
Seriously, though, I would like to propose an actual topic for universal discussion in our Church, during this “synodal journey.” I thank Mr. Chris O’Leary for giving me the idea, which he broached in one of his podcasts.
Chris has broken new ground in understanding the Catholic sex-abuse cover-up. He has uncovered evidence of a pattern that no one, to my knowledge, had identified before.
By studying priest-assignment records, Chris figured out that his parish was a “holding-tank” for criminal sex-abuser priests. The Archbishop of St. Louis regularly assigned such priests as parochial vicars there, one after another, for a quarter-century.
Certainly not to protect children. Chris himself was abused by one of those parochial vicars–with the knowledge of then rectory-resident Father Timothy Dolan, now Cardinal-Archbishop of New York.
Chris speculates that the diocese used the parish as a holding-tank in order to protect the criminals from prosecution. The parish lies in a suburb that likely had policemen and judges who would not have prosecuted clergymen, or even arrested them, during the period that Chris has studied, the second half of the last century.
Chris raises the question: Was this a national, or even international, practice? Finding jurisdictions where sex-abuse arrests and prosecutions of priests wouldn’t happen, then assigning the criminals there?
We do not know. Hence, my proposal…
Adolf Hitler presided over a criminal national government. The Nazis ruled Germany for over a decade, and they systematically violated the most-sacred laws that govern human society, the fundamental rules that protect the innocent and the weak from arbitrary violence. The Nazis did this without having to face justice, because they were in charge of all the nation’s institutions.
After the Allies finally defeated Hitler, the occupying powers faced the task of “denazifying” Germany. The Allies attempted to put on trial the Nazis who had abused their power of office during Hitler’s regime. And denazification also involved weeding-out from any position of authority anyone associated with the Nazi criminal enterprise.
The success of denazification is a matter of historical debate, but that’s not my point here.
The term that the United Nations now uses for this type of effort is: transitional justice. Recognize and account for the abuses of a criminal regime. Establish a means to keep the offenders out of power. Re-build a government based on human rights and genuine legal principles. Root out the corrosive ideology that justified the crimes of the old regime.
Don’t we need just such a process of “transitional justice” in our Church?
The Pennsylvania Grand-Jury Report of August, 2018, gave us a model of the kind of investigation we need, in every diocese, in every country in the world. We are, in fact, dealing with a kind of Holocaust. The Catholic sex-abuse crisis has cost thousands of lives, and God only knows how many souls.
And, as the Vatican’s McCarrick Report demonstrates–by its total absence of any accountability for any living prelate–the false governing ideology endures. Cover up. Cover it all up, in the name of preserving the irrational prerogatives claimed by the hierarchy: government by absolute, unchecked power.
In the Pennsylvania counties covered by the 2018 report, the grand jury uncovered a tip of a Greenland-sized iceberg.
In our diocese, the crimes and cover-ups remain hidden. One of our priests became the first bishop of Memphis, Tennessee. He was a criminal sex abuser. To this day, his victims live in the shadows. No one has been held accountable for helping the malefactor avoid justice under law. Bishop Knestout commissioned a secret “reconciliation” program which has successfully swept the whole business under the rug.
Instead of holding Holy Meetings about Holy Meetings, why not use this three-year process to discuss this problem and try to deal with it? To face the fact that our Church needs a “transitional justice” program? To conquer the culture of secrecy, weed-out cover-uppers, and re-establish the rule of law in our community?