Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Chicago Priests Challenging Cardinal George Receive Support

I'm seeing in today's news that the outspoken criticisms by some Catholic pastors in Chicago of their archbishop, Cardinal Francis George, about which I blogged yesterday, are receiving international attention through the SNAP network.  SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests).  SNAP is calling on the batch of new monsignors recently named by Cardinal George to renounce this "honor," and to focus on protecting children from clerical sexual assault instead of seeking status and glory in the clerical system. 

The SNAP network is also speaking out in support of Chicago priests who are challenging Cardinal George's decision to revive (and extend) the custom of awarding the honorific title of monsignor (literally, "my lord") to a hand-picked group of clergy.  SNAP held a rally outside Chicago's Holy Name cathedral yesterday afternoon to distribute leaflets publicizing its stance re: George's decision.

I also noted yesterday that Fr. Larry McNally of Ascension parish in Oak Park had recently apologized to his parishioners for the church hierarchy's abuse of women.  And now I'm reading today that his parishioners have sent a petition to Cardinal George expressing solidarity with Fr. McNally and "with Catholics who continue to seek equality and respect for American women religious, for those who practice women's ministries and those who support women and married men who are called to ordination."

And, referring to the recent Vatican document that ranks ordaining a woman on par with clerical pedophilia, the petition states,

Furthermore, we take great offense that good faith struggles for gender equality could be misunderstood as a sacrilege and placed on a par with the sexual abuse of children.

Fr. McNally delivered his parishioners' petition to Cardinal George as George set off for a visit to the Vatican.  As I noted yesterday, George's decision to revive the honorific title of monsignor, which is given to "good" priests and withheld from "bad" ones to keep outspoken priests in their place, has implications for the entire U.S. Catholic church, since George is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

It would make a world of difference in the Catholic church if more "ordinary" pastors of "ordinary" layfolks spoke out like this.  It takes courage to speak out, though.  The ecclesiastical penalties for doing so can be steep, and punishment can be swift and ruthless.  When good priests do blow the whistle on a corrupt system that designates a batch of new little lords in a diocese, while abusive priests go unpunished and protected, it is extremely important for their parishioners to support them--as the parishioners of Fr. McNally's parish are doing.

It's the laity who are footing the bill, after all, for nonsense like naming 40 new little lords in the Chicago archdiocese, while Rome fiddles and the church burns.

The graphic is Colombian artist Fernando Botero's 1996 "The Bishop in the Woods."

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