Friday, February 21, 2014

End-of-Week News Roundup: From L.A. to Twin Cities to Japan, Virginia, and Rome--Where's the Pope and the Hope He's Said to Represent?

As I read about the plans of Newark Archbishop John Myers to add yet more swank to an already swanky retirement house, I can't avoid, of course, thinking about Francis, the pope. The pope of hope. 

The pope who is supposed to be giving me and other Catholics so much hope. I wonder where Francis is as Myers builds (and bashes gay folks to deflect attention from his penchant for luxury and apparent lack of concern about children thrown together with priests who are known dangers to them).

Today's New York Times editorial about the $740 million that the Los Angeles archdiocese alone has paid in abuse claims in the past decade ("with the spiritual toll far from tallied," the editorial notes) zeroes in on Francis, too. Where's Francis?

And where's the hope so many of us felt we were being promised when he was made pope? Here's the Times on these matters:

The misconduct of numerous diocesan leaders wielding near total power in the abuse scandal must be confronted in Rome and remedied. Evading this will dim the great hopes for the church that Pope Francis has stirred.

And from Newark to the Twin Cities: John Myers is not the only U.S. bishop with a strong tendency to play ugly gay-bashing games as his mishandling of abuse cases comes to light: as Casey Michel writes for The New Civil Rights Movement, it's interesting to see Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul-Minneapolis called to testify about the cover-up of abuse cases in his archdiocese--about which he's been almost totally silent--when he's been so very vocal about the danger he imagines gay folks pose:

Not only will the forthcoming testimony provide legal means to examine the decades of cover-up, but it will force Nienstedt to speak on an issue that, unlike LGBT rights, he has remained resoundingly silent on recently.

And there's this: as Madeleine Baran reports for Minnesota National Public Radio, the list of priests in the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese credibly accused of abuse of minors that the archdiocese has just released is nowhere near complete:

The list of 33 was incomplete. An MPR News investigation has found the actual number was more than double the archdiocese's official count. The priests served in nearly every parish in the archdiocese.

And why should this incomplete disclosure of names concern lay Catholics and the public at large? Baran quotes Jennifer Haselberger, the former chancellor for canonical affairs in the archdiocese, who resigned last year after blowing the whistle on the cover-up of abuse cases:

Haselberger said the lack of an accurate list made it impossible to track accused priests or understand the scope of the problem. "We can't function as a church if our desire is always to protect ourselves from civil liability," she said.

And then on to Japan, where the Catholic bishops of that nation have just released their report in preparation for the upcoming synod on the family: as Joshua McElwee writes* for National Catholic Reporter,

In a sometimes pointed 15-page report issued in preparation for an October meeting of the world's bishops, known as a synod, the Japanese state the church "often falls short" by "presenting a high threshold for entry and lacking hospitality and practical kindness." 

And then there are the conservative Catholic candidates for office in various places in the U.S. who are, as Patricia Miller points out at Religion Dispatches, now taking heat from some of their Catholic co-religionists because they aren't conservative enough on issues like contraception. Miller looks at what's happening to Barbara Comstock in Virginia as she runs for a Congressional seat, and as the state Republican party in its Catholic incarnation is having trouble "threading the needle on crazy."

Though Comstock is solidly anti-abortion, last year she joined with other GOP delegates in Virginia to support the availability of oral contraceptives over the counter for women 18 years and older. As a result, she's now under fire from the right-wing website Lifesite News, as Catholic hard right-winger Austin Ruse tries to convince his fellow Catholics in Virginia that going totally bonkers over contraception may not be the best way to woo moderates to the Grand Old Party:

Even someone as far right as Ruse, who's no stranger to crazy, grasps that attacking Comstock on birth control will destroy her ability to court moderates, but it just goes to show that when you court crazy for long enough, it’s hard to put it back in the box.

And, finally, from Virginia to Rome: here's Father Tom Reese on the tragedy of Pope Emeritus Benedict's very mixed legacy for the Catholic church:

The tragedy of Ratzinger was that he related to other theologians not as colleagues and peers but as graduate students to be corrected or junior faculty to be denied promotion. He was chairman of the department, and his views would prevail. 
The result was devastating for the intellectual life of the church.

Father Reese is correct about this. 

* I'm grateful to Terry Weldon at Queering the Church for posting about this NCR article.

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