Posts Tagged clericalism

Cardinal Law’s complex role in the contemporary history of clergy sexual abuse / National Catholic Reporter

Cardinal Bernard Law’s scandalous cover-up and resignation led to a phenomenon that was not expected nor clearly obvious at the time, but it was real. (National Catholic Reporter)

Public awareness of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy actually dates from 1984. It was triggered by the public exposure of widespread sexual violation of children by a single priest in the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana, and its systemic cover-up by the church’s leadership that lasted well over a decade.

Cardinal Bernard Law, who went from in 1974 being bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Missouri, to in 1984 being named archbishop of Boston, became the most powerful and influential Catholic bishop in the United States. This all came to a screeching halt in 2002. In one day Law became the face of hierarchical treachery and dishonesty when The Boston Globe revealed the systemic cover-up of widespread sexual abuse by Boston priests, most of it his doing. He remained the face of the hierarchy’s disgraceful attitude towards the violation of minors and the vulnerable. Even in death he remains the focal point of the anger and rage of countless victims of sexual abuse by clergy — certainly Boston victims, but also others worldwide.

Law’s role in the history of clergy abuse is more than the systemic cover-up in Boston. What is little known is the influential part he played in the early days when the extent and depravity of this evil was first exposed. In those very early days in 1984 and 1985, I believed that when the bishops realized the nature of sexual abuse and potential plague before them, they would lose no time in doing the right thing.

By Thomas P. Doyle, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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Australian bishop urges end to clericalism / National Catholic Reporter

“The sex abuse crisis was more than the evil acts of individuals. (Bishop Vincent Long) Van Nguyen said the culture of the church contributed to the crisis in Australia.” National Catholic Reporter

Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen of Parramatta, Australia, speaking to the National Council of Priests of Australia, urged an end to clericalism in the church and expressed hope that a newly revitalized Catholic clergy would emerge from the sex abuse crisis that has wracked the Catholic Church in Australia.

“He spoke Aug. 30 to the National Council of Priests in Australia, which reprinted his remarks in the December edition of The Swag, its quarterly magazine.

“Van Nguyen, 55, a Conventual Franciscan who became bishop of Parramatta last year, declared in a message to a Royal Commission investigating sex abuse in the Catholic Church that he himself had been abused by church members as an adult. He told the priests’ group that ‘we are in a big mess’ as priests ‘bear the brunt of public anger and distrust in the wake of the sexual abuse crisis. It is one of the hardest times to be a priest.’

“He suggested they look to the example of Pope Francis as a vision of priesthood based on a servant, not an authoritarian, model.”

By Peter Feuerherd, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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Seeking a path from Pell to a Plenary Council / Commonweal

“The hearings have laid bare the cultural factors that enabled the (clergy abuse) scandal to be so badly managed,” he (Francis Sullivan, head of the Truth, Justice, and Healing Council) told me. “They can be summarized as issues of power, privilege, and participation. Who controlled decision-making, who was involved in decision-making, and who benefited from the decisions taken. The lack of transparency and the entitlement attitudes that underpin clericalism were given a lot of ventilation.” (Commonweal)

Arriving in Sydney, Australia, this summer for a round of conferences sponsored by the Broken Bay Institute of the Australian Institute of Theological Education, I found a church confronting events likely to have a profound impact on its future: the Royal Commission’s completion of its work on an ‘institutional response to child sexual abuse’; the return of Cardinal George Pell from Rome to face charges on sexual abuse cases alleged to have taken place decades ago in the diocese of Ballarat; and the announcement of a Plenary Council for Australia set for 2020—the first since 1937.

“The three issues are interwoven. The Pell case frightens the institutional church for the ripple effects the trial might have on other investigations into clergy sexual abuse. It complicates the creative response of the Australian episcopate to the scandal: the creation of the Truth, Justice, and Healing Council launched shortly after the establishment of the Royal Commission and headed by Francis Sullivan, a lay Catholic who for fourteen years was chief executive of Catholic Health Australia. After the expected publication of the Royal Commission’s report at the end of this year, the Truth, Justice, and Healing Council will publish its own report. It will be interesting to see how the episcopate receives it. Created by the bishops, the council has nonetheless maintained an independent attitude; for example, it has refused the request of some bishops to cross-examine witnesses heard by the Royal Commission.

“Sullivan gave me his assessment of the impact of the Royal Commission hearings. ‘The hearings have laid bare the cultural factors that enabled the scandal to be so badly managed,’ he told me. ‘They can be summarized as issues of power, privilege, and participation. Who controlled decision-making, who was involved in decision-making, and who benefited from the decisions taken. The lack of transparency and the entitlement attitudes that underpin clericalism were given a lot of ventilation. This has opened public debate about the role of women, celibacy, seminary training, supervision of clerics, and the ethical use of church finances.’ The church, he added, has lost control of this public debate. ‘Its voice has been muted and compromised,’ he said. ‘Any semblance of a defensive tone is jumped on by critics and the majority of the leaders have been missing in action.'”

By Massimo Faggioli, Commonweal — Read more …

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The clergy’s task is unfinished in confronting sex abuse / National Catholic Reporter

“The central question (still confronting Catholic Clergy: What caused us, members of the Catholic clergy culture, to arrive at the point where we could devise a rationale that allowed us to walk away from the incalculable suffering of the community’s children in order to protect those members of the clergy culture who caused the suffering?” (National Catholic Reporter)

The story of Marie Collins, an Irish victim of clergy sex abuse and a witness of unimpeachable integrity, is a dual tale of how far the church has come in acknowledging and handling the scandal and of how wholly and demonstrably incapable the Catholic clerical culture is of dealing with its own sin.

“Collins was one of two survivors of clergy sex abuse who were appointed in 2014 to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, an agency created by Pope Francis. She resigned the commission in March, providing NCR with a long explanatory statement.

“Her decision to leave was not lightly taken. She had rejected the logic of some critics early on that any cooperation with church efforts was selling out to an institution that had generally ignored or re-victimized the abused for decades. She had later defended the work of the commission when its only other victim member, Peter Saunders, openly criticized the group for the slow pace of reform.

“In March, however, three years after her appointment, she wrote: ‘I have come to the point where I can no longer be sustained by hope. As a survivor, I have watched events unfold with dismay.’

“Among the primary reasons for her despair, she listed ‘lack of resources, inadequate structures around support staff, slowness of forward movement and cultural resistance.’

“Those first three are easily remedied: more money, more staff, pick up the pace.

“The last one — ‘cultural resistance’ — is the impenetrable, if invisible, shield, a kind of carapace protecting the clergy culture. It prevents the disturbing, ugly reality of what experts have termed the ‘soul murder’ of children from penetrating the deepest levels of the clerical culture. The awareness inside the encasement can expand only so far before it runs into the resistance of rigid boundaries.”

By Tom Roberts, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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Editorial: On abuse, church has changed, but not enough / National Catholic Reporter

What continues to thwart the work of the church in finally putting this scandal behind us is that the hierarchy has yet to undertake the deep and likely painful examination of the role the all-male clerical culture of the church has played in this scandal. At its core, this scandal is not about sex, it is about how power and authority are wielded in the church. Until that changes, little else will.”

By National Catholic Reporter Editorial Staff — Read more …

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More power for Catholic bishops? Not so fast / Huffington Post

Could giving more autonomy to Catholic bishops make things worse for progressive Catholics? 

A lot has been written about Pope Francis’s goal of making the church more democratic, with less control by the Vatican and more power to individual bishops. In an ideal world, not only would the Vatican have less say in choosing bishops, but priests and laity would have a larger role in the selection of their leaders.

“However, unless the institutional church actually reaches that goal, and power truly devolves to the grassroots, giving more autonomy to Catholic bishops might make things worse, not better, at least for progressive Catholics.

“While Pope Francis’s appointments of often have elevated reformers to power, he cannot replace every powerful leader in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

“And the bishops now leading U.S. Catholics skew conservative. Indeed, in 2014, one bishop speaking on background confided that only about a third of American bishops were totally on board with Francis’s agenda, about a quarter were definitely against, and the rest were still figuring out where they stood. Not much appears to have changed in the intervening years.”

By Celia Wexler, Contributor, Huffington Post — Read more …

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Nor more audible gasps in church, please / National Catholic Reporter

“One cannot be ‘responsible’ for the ‘Church’s being and action,’ for example, if ignorant of basic facts about what’s going well or poorly … Who knows why such information was not shared more widely within that archdiocese over the decades …  No matter how well-meaning the motive, the lack of transparency with basic information smacks of what church leaders like the late Cardinal Francis George and Pope Francis have called an unhealthy ‘clericalism.'”

Recent events in the Hartford Archdiocese underscore our church’s profound challenges, yet also point the way to toward a better future. Archbishop Leonard Blair recently announced a sweeping and painful reorganization: consolidating 212 churches down into 126 …

“As part of that process, one parish’s congregants were briefed about the broader context. Since 1969, the number of Catholics in the archdiocese had declined by 69 percent; the number of priests had fallen by roughly two-thirds.

One parishioner told National Catholic Reporter that such statistics were greeted by an audible gasp in the church. ‘It’s an unbelievable attrition,’ the parishioner said, ‘It was a real shock.’ Her ‘shock’ points to a first step on the long path to a revitalized Catholic Church …

Consider that “audible gasp” as an indictment of sorts and a cry to do things differently from now on: parishioners should never be in a position to be shocked by news about the ongoing health of their own parishes and diocese.” (emphasis added)

By Chris Lowney, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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