Thursday, August 12, 2010

Digging the Hole Deeper

How could someone so smart be so stupid?!!?:
If Pope Benedict XVI is trying to dig the Catholic Church out of the sex abuse scandal, he only seems to be making the hole deeper.

That's the apparent consensus after it was reported that the pope has rejected the resignations of two bishops in Ireland who asked to quit last December after they were named in an independent report for their lack of diligence and action in the country's awful history of the sexual and physical abuse of children by priests.
Sure, they say they weren't implicated "directly"...but who cares? This looks so bad. No one has any right to be a bishop; you step down for the sake of the Church! Poor Diarmuid Martin, a good guy, tries to fix things, and the central bureaucrats in Rome frustrate his efforts to clean things up:
"The Vatican [was] not impressed with the way Diarmuid Martin went on PrimeTime [an Irish television news program] and called on other bishops to be accountable," Garry O'Sullivan, editor of the Irish Catholic newspaper in Dublin, told The Associated Press. "It's not the way business is done in Rome."

The Irish Catholic first obtained a copy of a letter Martin sent to priests, in which he said the Vatican decided that the bishops would remain in office but would be "assigned revised responsibilities within the diocese." Neither Archbishop Martin nor the auxiliaries would comment or detail what those new responsibilities would entail.

Other analysts suggested that behind the Vatican's rejection was the fear of a "domino effect" in which any bishop or cardinal implicated in the abuse crisis could be pushed to resign, which is a nightmare scenario to a tradition-minded pope like Benedict XVI.

"In other words, there may still be many Irish bishops with 'mishandling/bureaucratic,' sex abuse skeletons still in the cupboard who would also have to resign," Paddy Agnew wrote in The Irish Times.

That would be fine with sex abuse victims, who were outraged at the decision to reject the resignations.

"So much was expected of the pontiff, and so little was delivered," said John Kelly, leader of Survivors of Child Abuse, an Irish advocacy group. "The pope said that priests and bishops needed to surrender themselves to the demands of justice. Here were two of many who did surrender themselves -- and they've been refused," Kelly said. "That sends out a signal that there is to be no change, no closure for victims and no accountability."

Abuse survivor Marie Collins also said she was "at a loss" and "past being angry." The church was not "going to be accountable or take responsibility." She felt "people, survivors in particular, are also entitled to an explanation as to why Bishop Moriarty's resignation was accepted but Bishop Walsh's and Bishop Field's were not."

In the United States, SNAP, or The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, chastised Benedict for "rubbing more salt into the already deep and still fresh wounds of thousands of child sex abuse victims and millions of betrayed Catholics."

Media reaction was blistering as well.

Writing in The Herald of Ireland, Terry Prone accused the Vatican of "arrogance." He said the way the news was communicated was typical of the Vatican, and said that "somewhere along the line, the officer class in the Catholic Church decided they no longer needed to explain and persuade and motivate. They could just tell the faithful. Or not tell them, as in this case."

"Latest Papal diktat spells doom for people's church" ran the headline in John Cooney's column in the Irish Independent, while Kevin Clarke, writing on the blog of America magazine, a leading Catholic weekly in the United States, searched for an explanation.

"Could the Curia [the pope's advisors] truly be so oblivious to the anger and frustration of average Catholics worldwide trying to make sense of the church's response to years of sexual abuse by clergy on Catholic children?" Clarke asked. "It doesn't seem possible."

For many, it now seems more than possible, but highly probable.

There should be a domino effect! We need most or all of the bishops of the Western church to resign and be replaced by fresh blood to heal things. But, no, they cling to their positions. And, of course, Cardinal Brady is still in power...


Stephen said...

Before you hyperventilate, put every sentence from those news "reports" in bold, and play a game of dominoes by yourself, would you mind spelling out--in at least a little detail--what these two bishops are accused of?

The reports you linked to consist mostly of denunciations by news analysts and statements by advocacy groups. The only relevant facts that they mention are that there was abuse in orphanages in Dublin, that these bishops were priests in Dublin at the time that the abuse was going on, and that these two bishops were not accused of "lack of diligence." What does that mean?

Before we call for heads to roll, it would be nice to know exactly what the accusation is.

sortacatholic said...

Part of the many reasons I'm sorely tempted to leave Catholicism (for what? Hare Krishna? the local atheist platform? will think of something) is the Catholic integralist/liturgical fundamentalist defense of pervasive episcopal and papal corruption.

There's really no use in reporting constant revelations of episcopal wrongdoing. Most integralists will oppose episcopal reform as their immature "devout" lifestyle and myopic belief relies on a veneer of ecclesiastical stability. The integralist distortion of the philological and theological profundity of the ancient liturgy into a one-dimensional badge of so-called "orthodoxy and fidelity" demonstrates this fear. Everything that integralism touches degrades into a flimsy socio-religious-political fantasy that reflects a similar dystopic ekklesia.

Satirical websites such as _The Catholic Fascist_ are exploding the ridiculousness of these positions. The heart of the metastasis is not episcopal wrongdoing, but the clerics and laity that tacitly enable the cycle of corruption.

A Sinner said...

Stephen, I think you miss the whole point, which I express early in the post: it doesn't matter if these men are "innocent" or not.

What matters is that Catholics PERCEIVE the episcopate to be corrupt (especially in Ireland) and so the continued ministry of these two men (however innocent they may be) is a scandal to the faithful.

Especially when they already resigned and thus, however justifiably, associated themselves in the mind of the public with the old bad generation of leaders. And now it looks like they are being reinstated! It looks really bad.

The fact that this has caused outrage is enough to prove it was a bad idea. No one has a right to remain in power as a bishop. If their continued presence merely angers the faithful and makes spreading the Gospel message less effective...then they should resign. Even if it is only a question of appearances. Sometimes you have to take one for the team.

They should gladly step down (and they did, though maybe not gladly) just to give the Church in Ireland a "fresh start."

If a company starts failing, often head executives will resign or be kicked out even if it isn't their "fault"...because public perception is important to the effectiveness of organizations, and if they perceive that a previous group of leaders were not effective at stopping the problems, they will be called to accountability.

And these men werent effective. Whatever they may or may not have done positively...they certainly didn't do anything or speak out to STOP it.

Stephen said...


Excuse me, but what exactly are you trying to say? I'm not sure whether you're accusing me of "distorting the philological and theological profundity of the ancient liturgy," or what. Please show me where I mentioned the liturgy.

If you're saying that I'd be willing to defend a guilty bishop to the hilt, you're wrong. Again, there's nothing in my comment above that would indicate that I hold such an "integralist" view.

I'm just asking for some clarification on the charges being brought against these two bishops.

A Sinner said...

Who said there were "charges"?? These men weren't REMOVED, rather they RESIGNED. And for that, there doesn't have to be a reason.

However, the reason they felt pressured to resign is because they were mentioned in the report as having inadequately pursued some allegations. Nothing big, really, but Archbishop Martin felt it would help give the Church a clean slate.

And why not? It's not an injustice to take something that's a privilege in the first place. Especially when you agree to resign.

The Pope's actions say, "We're not going to have a massive personnel overhaul, we're going to stay the course and maintain the status quo as much as possible"

Stephen said...


There is plenty of scandal in the Church in Ireland, and those bishops responsible for causing scandal should go. But, I disagree with your idea that these bishops should resign simply because their continued presence might appear scandalous to some. This smacks a little too much of a lynch mob for my taste. We shouldn't give in to the mob's demands if its demands are not reasonable. It's not unreasonable to demand that the faithful attempt to look at these individual cases with some degree of level-headedness.

In this case the mob's demands may be reasonable. I simply haven't seen anything that would make me believe that.

Stephen said...


It appears that we posted at the same time.

Perhaps I am too legalistic and I'm acting like a criminal defense lawyer. I plead guilty--my education and work experience would explain my approach.

I am aware that we're not talking about criminal or canonical charges. What I am talking about--and I admit I was unclear--is the "court of public opinion."

A Sinner said...

The Church is never going to be effective in the modern world if they cling to the idea that the episcopate is a right. Bishops should serve for as long as their serving benefits the Church. If it hurts the Church, then they should graciously step down. The lynch mob in this case is entirely right. The bishops we have are largely party men and incompetent, even if not directly involved in the abuse or cover-up. Wanting a fresh start personnel-wise is not an unreasonable demand. Maybe you can argue that they shouldnt have been pressured to resign in the first place...but rejecting resignations already made?! That's a really stupid move.

sortacatholic said...


My post happened to fall below yours. The post has nothing to do with your post.

I intended to point out that integralists are the best defenders of a liturgy and ecclesiology that they do not and care not to understand.

Stephen said...


Understood. Sorry for a bit of an overreaction on my part.

Stephen said...


A couple things.

There's an interesting post at First Things about the problem with comparing bishops to CEO's. (I'm not endorsing it one way or the other, just pointing it out.)

Second, on the question of when to resign an office: Have you ever read Anthony Trollope's The Warden. The cause of public scandal isn't exactly the same in the novel--it has to do with a clergyman holding a sinecure--but it does raise interesting questions about scandal, the press, and reform in the (Anglican) church. And if you want more clerical satire, the sequel is excellent: Barchester Towers.

A Sinner said...

Stephen, I think the Vatican lost any credibility when it comes to the "diocesan clergy as a family; you can't just fire family members for bad performance" idea when they have for some time, in fact, been "promoting" bishops from diocese to diocese for performance reasons.

And even just the fact that bishops can retire at a certain age, or that there are titular bishops and emeritus and coadjutor bishops. If they want to return to an "organic" marital episcopate like that, they can't pick and choose when to apply the idea.

The only thing I think that principle should stop anymore is bishops holding more than one diocese. Otherwise, they SHOULD be treated as CEOs or coaches. Otherwise, mediocrity will reign.

Stephen said...

According to this news article, there is--surprise, surprise--more to the story than what was originally printed in the papers. The question now becomes whether Archbishop Martin was looking for a scapegoat in the case of these two bishops.

Also, I agree that the Church should not pick and choose how to apply these competing ecclesiastical doctrines, theories of leadership (whatever you want to call them).