Thursday, September 26, 2013

Abuse Survivors Respond to Pope Francis's Interview and Pope Benedict's Claim That He Never Covered Up Abuse

Meanwhile, as Pope Francis's recent interview and what it portends for the direction of the Catholic church continues to be discussed, Kristine Ward of the National Survivor Advocates Coalition (NSAC) points out that what Francis didn't say also deserves notice. Nothing in his interview touches on the abuse crisis in the Catholic church, which is, as Kris notes, "the largest crisis in the Church since the Reformation."

Francis did speak, but glancingly, of "wounds" from which the Catholic church is suffering, Kris observes--and the fact that his language about the abuse crisis, to which the coded term "wounds" clearly refers, has to be encoded while he speaks bluntly about abortion, contraception, and homosexuality, speaks loudly and clearly about the way in which the church's top leaders too often continue approaching (or, better, failing to approach) this subject. As she points out, it's difficult for pastoral leaders to speak transparently about a crisis in whose mismanagement they themselves have long been "in too deep." 

And right on the heels of the interview, as she also notes, comes a denial from the previous pope, Benedict XVI, that he ever participated in covering up abuse. To which Barbara Blaine of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) replies, "We obviously and vehemently disagree." And to which Barbara Dorris of SNAP says, "He could not be more wrong."

Here's Andrew Sullivan on Benedict the "unrepentant": 

To give some obvious, glaring examples of his complicity: despite sitting on mounds of evidence of the crimes of Marcial Maciel for years, Benedict waited and waited to act, and refused to talk in public about the matter, while Maciel went on to rape even his own son; he also helped give refuge to Cardinal Law, one of the most heinous cover-up artists in the whole disgusting saga; he even personally ensured that the man who raped over 200 deaf boys at St John’s School for the Deaf, Father Murphy, was allowed to retire in peace in the “dignity” of his priesthood.  And yet Benedict is still capable of telling his interlocutor: "I never tried to cover up these things."

As Sullivan notes, Benedict's most egregious statement in his letter to Italian mathematician-philosopher Piergiorgio Odifreddi, from which his disclaimer about having participated in any cover-up of abuse in the Catholic church comes, is the following: 

That the power of evil penetrates to such a point in the interior world of the faith is, for us, a source of suffering.

To which Sullivan responds,

Notice who is suffering here. Not the children, but the Church. "We must accept that suffering," he goes on, in what can only be called obscene narcissism. Did the thousands of children who were raped in the past also have to "accept that suffering"? 

I conclude that until the "obscene narcissism" that is at the root of the abuse crisis, and which is fostered, cultivated, and implicitly defended by the clerical club that runs the Catholic church, is dealt with in the most direct and honest way possible, those mysterious "wounds" to which Pope Francis alludes won't begin to heal. This direct and honest confrontation of the obscene narcissism that is part and parcel of the clerical system also cannot be effectively addressed until the linked question of women's right to participate in clerical ministry is also directly and honestly addressed--and the clerical club expanded to include women.

Or perhaps the better metaphor is, Until the clerical club is deconstructed by the inclusion of women--another point about which I'll blog in a day or so, since very important critiques of Francis's interview are being offered by women in the past week or so, and they deserve serious attention.

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