As I just noted at the end of my last posting, this past weekend, Bob Simon interviewed Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin about the challenges facing the Catholic church in Ireland as a result of the clerical sexual abuse crisis and its pastoral mishandling in recent years. A transcript of the program, with a link to a video of the program, is here.
I highly recommend this program. Here are points that struck me (and this is by no means intended as an exhaustive summary of the program):
1. Diarmuid Martin comes across as a human being. And that's a shock these days, for many of us watching members of our Catholic hierarchy on television screens.
Would that we had a thousand more Diarmuid Martins in the Catholic church right now. And how shameful it is that Rome has slapped his hands repeatedly for speaking the truth from his heart--as he notes has been his intent when Simon asks why he has spoken out.
2. At one point in the program, Simon notes that in some Irish parishes, Sunday Mass attendance has fallen from some 90% to 2% after the revelations of the abuse crisis and its cover-up in recent years.
Hearing that, I thought with no little fury about the rabble-rousing (and highly partisan) speech the highest Catholic prelate in my land, His Eminence Timothy M. Cardinal Dolan, recently gave, in which he continues to press the claim that the Catholic church in the U.S. is under attack by the Obama administration.
What I want to say to His Eminence and all Their Eminences in response is this: the greatest attack on the Catholic church at this point in time--far and away the greatest attack--is coming internally. From you. From the leaders of the Catholic church. From Your Eminence Timothy M. Cardinal Dolan.
Whose partisan political rabble rousing is designed to draw attention away from the abysmal pastoral mishandling of abuse cases in American Catholicism, as the rottenness that has eaten away inside the Philadelphia archdiocese for years is finally being exposed to the public, and as the bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph faces criminal charges for placing children in danger by shielding a priest known to be preying on children.
With such leaders and with the damage they themselves are doing to the Catholic church--weekly Mass attendance dropping from 90% to 2%--we don't need to invent chimerical enemies of the church on the outside to explain how we're under attack. The problems are right in the bosom of the church.
Mirror, meet His Eminence Timothy M. Cardinal Dolan, please.
3. I was deeply moved by Diarmuid Martin's statement that the sexual abuse of children by priests is about both sexual molestation and power. The abuse hurts, shatters souls in large part because the priests engaging in this abuse seek ownership and control of young, developing human beings.
The Catholic church is seriously conflicted, in its soul, not only around issues of sexuality, but also around issues of power and control. And until we address the latter issues far more honestly than we've done up to now, we won't begin to address the former ones with any grace or effectiveness, either.
4. When Simon asks Martin how he deals with those who come to tell him their stories of abuse by priests, Martin says the following: They come to me as adults and not children. But I try to imagine them as they were at the time they suffered abuse. I try to picture them as 8-year olds.
And then he speaks of touring a Catholic school and asking to see a class of 8-year olds. And he breaks into tears.
And I freely admit, I cried along with him.