Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Great Refusal

Well, the Pope has issued his "strongly worded" letter to the Irish. And strongly worded is all it is. And not really even that.

A "visitation" is going to happen (but just like in America a few years earlier), Friday penances are to be offered for the intention of renewal for a year, and the priests are all going to go on some retreat. Big whoop, I bet they'll have lots of fun at their sleep-over.

But no bishops are being removed. No substantive changes are being made to the structure of the clergy. No word on all the other countries in the world. It all seems designed to smooth everything over and maintain the status quo as much as possible. Behind all the claims of strong emotion, it is essentially just a big "well, try to do better next time." Absolutely disgusting limp-wristed cowardice.

Once again, disappointed, but not surprised.

Are the Irish just going to take this? Are we just going to take this?

Where is the real outrage? Where are the good Catholics protesting outside their cathedrals? Oh, wait, they're busy defending the Pope.

What would Dante think of such cowardice and accompanying rank-closing and brown-nosing?

And I, who had my head with horror bound,
Said: "Master, what is this which now I hear?
What folk is this, which seems by pain so vanquished?"
And he to me: "This miserable mode
Maintain the melancholy souls of those
Who lived withouten infamy or praise.
Commingled are they with that caitiff choir
Of Angels, who have not rebellious been,
Nor faithful were to God, but were for self.
The heavens expelled them, not to be less fair;
Nor them the nethermore abyss receives,
For glory none the damned would have from them."
And I: "O Master, what so grievous is
To these, that maketh them lament so sore?"
He answered: "I will tell thee very briefly.
These have no longer any hope of death;
And this blind life of theirs is so debased,
They envious are of every other fate.
No fame of them the world permits to be;
Misericord and Justice both disdain them.
Let us not speak of them, but look, and pass."
And I, who looked again, beheld a banner,
Which, whirling round, ran on so rapidly,
That of all pause it seemed to me indignant;
And after it there came so long a train
Of people, that I ne'er would have believed
That ever Death so many had undone.
When some among them I had recognised,
I looked, and I beheld the shade of him
Who made through cowardice the great refusal.
Forthwith I comprehended, and was certain,
That this the sect was of the caitiff wretches
Hateful to God and to his enemies.
These miscreants, who never were alive,
Were naked, and were stung exceedingly
By gadflies and by hornets that were there.
These did their faces irrigate with blood,
Which, with their tears commingled, at their feet
By the disgusting worms was gathered up.
Inferno, Canto III
I hereby repent of any respect or affection I ever held for that man beyond that which is due to his Office in itself. If some policies, especially liturgical and ecumenical, have been beneficial, then I thank God alone for those, in spite of the frailty of the instrument.

And at this point, even if he does do something more substantive in the future, it will be clear that it is only because of public pressure, not his own leadership or sense of justice. I think this crisis is to teach Catholics how critical it is not to have faith in any fallen human being or human institution, but in God alone. Something Dante learned 700 years ago. To end the papolatry and institution-fetishism that has characterized Catholicism for much of the past century (and, frankly, for much longer than that).

Salva nos, Domine.


Anonymous said...

Didn't Pius XI have such abusive priests put to death?

A Sinner said...

I doubt that, considering that Pius XI reigned in the 20th century...

Unless the Italian State under Mussolini did so with the Pope's approval?

But I think you're probably thinking of another Pope.

However, any information you can find for that reference would be great.

Anonymous said...

I forget which Pius is was. And it might just be a rumor, and not in fact true. :/

Anyway. I read the letter. I think its good; its more than Pope John Paul II EVER did in this regard.

I wouldn't be mad with Benedict XVI about this. He's calm and patient by nature...He's not going to be brutal the first chance he gets; though his letter was strongly worded, IMO. It was a letter man. A letter. Did you expect it to be like something out of inspector gadget? Self-destructing action targeting the bishops? Get a grip.

At the same time, I agree with you that concrete actions need to be taken. Changes need to happen. But if those are in the works (and I suspect they are - the info just hasn't leaked yet), then we can expect only wise moves from this Pope.

I know you'll probably just think this is cute, and for you, seeing is believing...And I agree with you, really, I do...But Josef loves cats. So much so, I would say, he's begun to think and act like one. One of these days he's going to be pushed into a corner and hiss, and it won't be pretty.

Anonymous said...

And really, why are you hating on us when we try to defend the Pope? Is he truly GUILTY of ANYTHING? No! Of course not! We can't let our feeling bad about this situation get in the way of careful thought and prudent action. We have to clear the fog of media sensationalism (i.e. calling the pope out for support abuse) before we can say publicly "Yes, this is horrible and there will be change, trust us."

sortacatholic said...

Many western tourists to P'yongyang (North Korea) only see the grand monuments to the Kim cults and the retro Stalinist grand halls. Nevermind the empty hotels or the 'apartment blocks' without light or running water. Similarly, many Catholics today have only seen one cultivated facet of the modern Papacy. We've been carefully guided by well-manicured images of traveling popes. Pope John Paul II broke the PR barrier. JP II's visits cultivated a pseudo-personal connection with individual Catholics. JP II's media prowess has backfired: now, people expect transparency where none ever existed. The monarchy is as strong as ever, yet people expect a parlimentarian Pope. JP II's 'administration' actively covered up abuse incidences. The public Papacy initiated by JP II reflected little on private policy. P'yongyang looks great from the sky. It is clearly a Potemkin village from street level. The modern Papacy is transparent until the Popemobile leaves town.

The Papacy has lost power every time the it has confronted external pressure for reform. The Reformation transitioned Europe from feudalism to the concept of state churches and the rise of the nation-state. Italian unification brought about the dissolution of the Papal States. Paul VI rejected all temporal power. What's next? A constitutional monarchy? Those who are trying to sandbag the reputation of the Pope and his Curia are afraid of further erosion of the levee of papal power. I can't blame them. No one knows what lies ahead for an institutional church that has betrayed so many of its flock.

A Sinner said...

I'm sorry, but "calm and patient by nature" DOESNT CUT IT when CHILDREN have been MOLESTED by the priests charged with their salvation.

There is no time for indecisiveness, inaction, or perceived hesitation or delay. People need to be reassured with sweeping and dramatic gestures. The Irish, it is being said, were not impressed with this letter, and neither was I.

There is a time for meekness, and there is a time to drive the money-changers out of the Temple with whips.

Not knowing the difference, never having the latter a grave character-flaw. As Aquinas explains, lack of anger can be a vice too:

If CHILDREN SEXUALLY MOLESTED BY CLERGY isnt a situation calling for heads to roll, then nothing is.

Nixon had to resign after Watergate, as far as I can tell this situation is similar. The Pope may not have been involved in the initial crimes, or even their initial cover-up, but there was grave negligence, promotion of policies of secrecy, culpable naivitee, and more concern with saving face than taking responsibility. When something happens on your watch, people expect you to take the fall.

The fact that there have been all sorts of protests and outrage and political careers on the line over the mere question of health-care...but child abuse in the Church is being treated just like some internal bureaucratic sick and twisted.

And people wont stand for it.

sortacatholic said...

The Watergate comparison is apt so far as the coverup resemblances. I'd like to think that Pope Benedict is cleaner than Tricky Dicky. He is, after all, still our Holy Father. Nixon was a paranoid lunatic whose only word was g--damn or similar.

Still, who in the curia or consistory possesses the moral credibility to turn the Barque around? Your guess is as good as mine. The next conclave will focus on whose hands are most clean, rather than whose hands are spotless.

A part of me does not want Pope Benedict to resign. A papal resignation at this time would throw the current battle between conservative, traditional, and progressive forces into hyperspeed. Trads would find their liturgical restoration halted, neglected, or even reversed. Cons would fear the end of papal monarchical powers. Progressive types would exalt. They'd find later that an emergency conclave would only elect another pope and not bring about local lay governance or other pet reforms. All sides will be disappointed. The reform of the moral life of the Church will not proceed.

A Sinner said...

For selfish liturgical reasons I don't want him to resign either, really.

But if he wants what is best for the Church, then he should at least do a serious purging of the college of bishops, kick Cardinal Law out of his cushy position (it's never too late), and start an investigation in lifting mandatory celibacy and opening the atmosphere of the seminaries.

Unless he does serious reform like that, he's doing more harm than good by just sitting around, biding his time, maintaining the status quo.

Who knows, his "easter surprise" is still in the works. Maybe it will be something big. Or maybe it will just be the release of the second installment of "Jesus of Nazareth"

Anonymous said...

What is this Easter Surprise you speak of? Is there talk about some surprise that I missed? Ooooo, this is like being a kid again!


A Sinner said...

Ah, I discuss that in my latest post.

Kelly said...

Damian Thompson at the Telegraph has an interesting piece in which he notes:

When he was the Vatican's chief doctrinal enforcer, Cardinal Ratzinger defended and enforced this legitimate secrecy. In 2001, he demanded to be sent bishops' files on accused clergy, because he did not believe the cases were being handled with sufficient rigour. He cited a 1962 document which stressed the need for confidentiality. But – and this point is crucial – Ratzinger used his new jurisdiction to act far more harshly against sex abusers than had their useless local bishops.

Read the whole thing at:

The guy who really was asleep at the switch was JPII.

A Sinner said...

We'll see. A lot of abusers are still priests or were never turned over to the authorities.