Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A New Pope and a New Style: But on the Abuse Front . . . .

As April began, I wrote that I agree with Spanish Benedictine theologian Teresa Forcades that, while we welcome positive signs of change in the way Pope Francis is modeling papal ministry now, we must also wait and see how he will deal with the "basic questions." At the top of the list of those questions is the ongoing crisis in the Catholic church caused by abuse of minors by Catholic religious authority figures.

On that front, the article that Stacy Meichtry and José de Córdoba published in Wall Street Journal* on Sunday is not promising news. As Dennis Coday notes in a summary of this article in National Catholic Reporter yesterday, under the leadership of Cardinal Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) the Argentine conference of Catholic bishops missed a deadline for formulating and implementing guidelines to deal with abuse in the Catholic church in Argentina. The Argentine bishops' conference does not have a written plan for dealing with abuse.

As Barbara Blaine notes for SNAP, this revelation reinforces the growing sense, among many Catholics watching to see how the new pope will deal with the abuse crisis, that we may be in for the same old, same old behavior of obfuscation and image management with the new pope that we've had with other top Catholic leaders for far too long now:

On Friday, the pope said he wanted to “continue” the abuse practices of his predecessor. In a sad and ironic way, by refusing to even write an abuse policy, by saying one thing and doing another, Pope Francis is indeed following the pattern of his predecessor: talking the talk but not walking the walk.  . . .  
Catholics can feel good about the Pope’s apparently humble and likeable personality and his more down-to-earth demeanor and his professed concern for the poor. But everyone should realize that with the church’s on-going abuse and cover up crisis, he’s the "same old, same old."

And I fear that Barbara Blaine is right. If Pope Francis continues the obfuscation with enhanced image-management techniques focusing on a new papal style of humility and service to the poor, precisely what will that refreshing new style mean in the final analysis? To abuse survivors? To women? To gays and lesbians?

These are questions we'd be not only foolish, but remiss, to set aside as any of us applaud the new style. They're questions that I, for one, am very happy to see abuse survivors and those in solidarity with abuse survivors, and women theologians like Teresa Forcades and Ivone Gebara, continuing to ask as many others applaud Francis for other initial steps he has taken in his papacy.

*If you click on the link for this article, you may receive an error message. The url is correct, and when I google the article and access it by the very same link at Google, I come to the article. I have no idea why the error message is popping up for anyone who tries to access the WSJ article via the NCR one or via my own posting.

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