Sunday, March 22, 2015

Jerry Slevin on Chilean Catholic Revolt and Need for a New Ecumenical Council

Yesterday, Rolando mentioned in a comment here that he misses hearing from Jerry Slevin. I told Rolando that I suspect he's far from the only reader of this blog who watches for an opportunity to read anything Jerry writes, and I reminded him that Jerry posts continuously at his Christian Catholicism site. Here's the opening section of a posting Jerry has just made there about the revolt of Catholics in Chile after Pope Francis appointed Juan Barros, who has been accused of helping other priests cover up abuse of children, the new bishop of Osnoro:

Pope Francis is publicly and disappointingly increasing the gap between his noble words and his less noble deeds. As he faced a major Catholic revolt in Chile over his inexplicable appointment of a bishop allegedly linked to the abuse scandal there, he and his staff carefully avoided publicly acknowledging the Chilean revolt, a major turning point. Instead, in another subject changing whirlwind trip, to Naples this time, the pope pontificated on the usual “safer suspects” like the Mafia, immigration, gossip and poor workers. His compliant media entourage avoided pressing the Chilean revolt subject with the pope and his media machine. 
Francis’ opportunistic “media groupies” may love him, but Latino parents seem to have reached their limit. Chilean parents understand, better apparently than the celibate Vatican and some of the seemingly clueless childless among the media, Nelson Mandela’s reported wise words, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way it treats its children.” 
As the scandal cover-up revelations evidently contributed to the ex-Pope’s hasty exit, Pope Francis is facing, badly, his own out of control abuse scandal crisis recently. It is becoming increasingly clear that neither any pope nor any limited group of bishops can cure a Catholic Church suffering seriously from pervasive sexual abuse scandals. The pope should follow Good Pope John’s experienced and wise lead and convene a general ecumenical council as promptly as practicable. No pope alone, even an infallible one, can repair the continuing damage, especially a pope whose record as cardinal and pope on holding priests and bishops accountable on credible claims of sex abuse and related cover-ups is as questionable as Pope Francis’ record appears to be. 
An online video of the unprecedented Chilean protest shows the Catholic crowd throwing objects at Bishop Barros, pushing and shoving him and other bishops (some visibly frightened), and trying to stop him from entering St. Matthew’s Cathedral, despite strong security measures. See the extraordinary pictures here, Pubimetro, and the remarkable video of outraged Catholics here, YouTube.

The video at the head of the posting is the You Tube video to which Jerry's link above points, uploaded by a user named soyosorno. What strikes me about the video: all those hierarchical figures and priests, all those men, marching with stolid determination through crowds shouting at them, in some cases, engaging them, even pulling on their sleeves, asking that they stop the charade.

That they stop and listen.

They do not intend to stop. They do not intend to listen. They intend to carry out their program, no matter what. No matter what the people of God, who are obviously . . . well, energized here . . . say to them. No matter how many members of the people of God, who constitute the church, ask them to engage in respectful, meaningful conversation with us.

It's their church. That's the message I hear loudly and clearly here. And it's a message that, as Jerry Slevin rightly says, the pope himself is giving the church, no matter what his rhetoric may suggest otherwise. As Pascal Bonnefoy reports for New York Times yesterday, 3,000 people, including members of the Chilean Congress, gathered outside the cathedral as Barros was consecrated, and asked that he refrain from permitting himself to be made bishop. Bonnefoy notes that among the many Catholics who wrote the Vatican and asked Francis not to make this appointment were more than 30 priests and deacons of the diocese, to whom Francis refused to listen.

Bonnefoy quotes Juan Carlos Cruz, who says that he was sexually abused as a boy by Father Fernando Karima, a Santiago priest whom the Vatican found guilty of abusing minors in 2011, and whose abuse Barros is accused of helping to cover up:

We are used to the blows by the Chilean Catholic hierarchy, but it’s especially hurtful when the slap in the face comes from Pope Francis himself. We hoped he was different.

According to the BBC, more than 1,000 people wrote Pope Francis and asked that he not appoint Barros a bishop. As the conservative Catholic commentator (and opponent of marriage equality) Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry notes today, approvingly, Francis is a master at providing "strategic," "multilayered" soundbites, which appear to say several things at once. Which appear simultaneously to say both yes and no, a technique that the headline for Gobry's article characterizes as "doublespeak" . . . .

A "canny" and "clever" strategy, according to Gobry, one reflecting Jesus's own parabolic strategy: until, I would want to say in response, the question becomes whether to listen to thousands of Catholics at the local level as they ask that a man who has, they have sound reason to think, helped shelter a fellow priest sexually abusing children, not be made a bishop.

Then, the doublespeak becomes critically apparent. And the refusal to listen to or to engage the people of God in dialogue. A refusal that is at the very heart of the abuse crisis, which is all about the constant, continued assertion of the clerical elite running the church that it's their church and they are not obliged to listen. An Ur-act of abuse, as it were, on the part of the church's clerical elite, from which all the rest of the abuse follows . . . .

A side note in conclusion: just last week, in Peru, one of Chile's neighboring countries with which it shares a border, another Catholic bishop, Luis Armando Bambarén Gastelumendi, the emeritus archbishop of the diocese of Chimbote, said the following of Peruvian Congressman Carlos Bruce, who is openly gay and had introduced a bill for recognition of civil unions in Peru :

Congressman Carlos Bruce is making a fool of himself with all of this, appearing – excuse me for the term – like a faggot in the middle of everything. He himself has said he is gay. Gay is not the Peruvian word, the word is faggot.*

So much for those nice Franciscan words about gay people and not judging them.

*I'm grateful to Peter Montgomery at Religion Dispatches for this report and link.

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