Two snapshots this morning that speak volumes about why the abuse scandal has proven so intractable in the Catholic church--and why we remain so far still from addressing it effectively:
In the PBS "Frontline" series "Secrets of the Vatican" (the show itself aired last night; PBS now has a series of articles connected to the show online), Robert Mickens notes that not one of recent popes--not John Paul II, Benedict, or Francis--has gotten in front of the issue. They've all had to be dragged to deal with it.
And then there's this about Benedict, in particular:
One of the things that always struck me as odd was the first reaction that Benedict XVI had toward child abuse, at least the first public reaction, and this happened with the case of the Irish bishops when that big scandal hit, the statement came out, and the pope’s first reaction was he was horrified that a priest could do something like this.
That’s interesting. He wasn’t horrified that a kid was abused. … Why is it horrifying that a priest could do something like that? A priest can do all kinds of things, but it gives a light into the man’s mind that … that was the most horrifying thing for him. …
And at Raw Story, Travis Gettys reports on the attempt of officials of the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese to blame a mother for . . . well, I suppose, for allowing? . . . the molestation of her sons by Father Curtis Wehmeyer, who's now in prison for his crimes. Gettys notes that Archbishop John Nienstedt has never met with this mother or her family, but he did discuss the situation with a group of priests last December, noting that his vicar general Father Peter Laird had had to resign after Wehmeyer's abuse of the boys became public knowledge.
And then Nienstedt stated:
I think the person who’s been hurt the worst in this is Father Laird.
Mickens on Benedict: He wasn’t horrified that a kid was abused. He was horrified that a priest could do something like this.
Nienstedt on the abuse of two boys by a priest under his charge: I think the person who’s been hurt the worst in this is Father Laird.
As I say, these two snapshots of the abuse crisis in the Catholic church speak volumes to me about why the crisis has proven so intractable--and what is fundamentally and deeply wrong in the attitude of the shepherds of the church, as they face this crisis. Priests evidently count, to the shepherds.
Children clearly do not.