Friday, April 23, 2010

End of Week News Roundup: Catholic Crisis Continues to Spread

Well, there’s still that Castrillon Hoyos story about which I blogged last night hanging out there.  And it will be interesting to see if mainstream media outlets (other than AP and FOX) pick it up and run with it.

In my view, this story deserves far more attention than it has gotten so far, for the following reason.  In his RCN radio interview, Castrillon Hoyos states that the present pope, then Cardinal Ratzinger, took part in the meeting of cardinals in 2001 which prepared the letter (later approved by Pope John Paul II) praising Bishop Pierre Pican for shielding a priest abusing minors from legal authorities.  The AP article goes so far as to say that Ratzinger was “involved” in the decision to praise Pican for not disclosing information about a priest’s criminal activities to civil authorities.

Yet it was in this same year, 2001, that Ratzinger centralized the handling of all cases of abuse from around the world in his office at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith—a move, we’ve been given to understand and are still being told by his defenders, that was all about cleaning things up in the church.  About assuring direct, immediate action from the Vatican for each abuse case that reached the CDF desk.

Castrillon Hoyos’s information suggests to me a conclusion precisely opposite to the preceding conclusion that Ratzinger’s centralization of all reporting about abuse in his office was about cleaning things up.  Castrillon Hoyos’s statement that Ratzinger was involved in the 2001 decision to praise Pican for shielding a priest from the authorities suggests to me that the centralization of these cases in the Vatican CDF office was all about covering them up—not about resolving the problem by handling each case immediately with direct action.

In other words, what Castrillon Hoyos says confirms—for me, at least—the correctness of Hans Küng’s assertion that “the worldwide system of covering up cases of sexual crimes committed by clerics was engineered by the Roman Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Cardinal Ratzinger (1981-2005).”

Meanwhile, for those who want more background on Castrillon Hoyos (and isn’t that cappa magna grand in the picture of him I posted last evening?), I highly recommend Jason Berry’s latest at National Catholic Reporter.  Berry shows Castrillon Hoyos’s direct involvement in covering up an abuse situation in the diocese of Tucson, Arizona, against the wishes of Tucson bishop Manuel Moreno.

The documents Berry has diligently compiled for this story makes you wonder why the Vatican, which has clearly been calling all the shots in these cases for some time now regardless of what local bishops want to do in the cases, now seeks to exonerate itself of blame and shift blame to bishops—who have had little or no power to act as they see fit for the good of their local church in these cases.  You can’t centralize and control without bearing responsibility when the centralization and control turn out to have been an unwise and even pathological move.

For incisive analysis of what Ratzinger’s centralization of abuse reporting in the CDF has meant concretely for bishops dealing with abuse cases, which suggests that the Vatican is now trying to revise history by claiming it has consistently encouraged bishops from 2001 forward to report these cases to civil authorities, see Fr. Tom Doyle’s latest article at NCR, “Revising History Vatican Style.”

Marcial Maciel of the Legionaries of Christ also continues to be in the news in the past week.  You know that the abuse story is going mainstream when the Maciel story, with all its gruesome revelations about the use of dirty money to influence Vatican actions about abuse cases reaches NPR—and even that bastion of the establishment, the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

And on the ongoing fallout in Europe, as figures of Catholics officially leaving the church in one country after another spike, see this article yesterday in Austrian Independent (H/t Clerical Whispers), which states that in the first three months of 2010, more than 30,000 Austrians have resigned from the Catholic church.  If the trend continues throughout 2010, the Austrian church will lose 70,000-80,000 adherents this year.

And as all this happens, another bishop—this time the Bishop of Bruges, Roger Vangheluwe—resigned this morning after having admitted abuse of a young man prior to his becoming a bishop. 

And, as I noted last evening and Mary Ann Sorrentino also writes today at Salon, we are just beginning to see the cresting of a wave of reports from developing areas like Africa and India, many of them centered on abuse of female minors and women by Catholic clerics in those areas of the world.

Clearly, we’ve got a huge problem on our hands.  And it is going to take many voices to address it, if it’s to be resolved effectively.   Michael Sean Winters bridles at Tim Ferhnolz’s recent characterization of him in Newsweek as a member of the “mushy middle” in his handling of the abuse crisis. 

But Fernholz is absolutely on target with that characterization.  Through it all, Winters continues to praise Benedict as if he is part of the solution and not part of the problem, to slam those who suggest that “the patriarchy” may need to be addressed critically if we’re to resolve the abuse problem effectively, and to attack the New York Times as the enemy of the church, for daring to air Catholics’ dirty laundry in its coverage of the abuse crisis.

Winters’s defense of himself vs. Fernholz demonstrates how little the centrist gatekeepers in the American Catholic conversation are getting what is happening now.  A tectonic shift is underway in the American Catholic conversation right now.

Those brother and sister Catholics whom Winters has ignored, treated as invisible, ruled out of the conversation up to now—including most politically and theologically progressive Catholics, women, gays and lesbians, and, most significantly, survivors of abuse—are now rightly insisting on having a voice in the conversation from which we have long been excluded by the centrist gatekeepers.

We’re insisting that the church be what it claims to be, and what these gatekeepers claim they’re defending as they exclude huge swatches of the American Catholic population: catholic.  Inclusive.  Representative of the wide diversity of American Catholicism, and not merely of the bishops and the beltway pundits to whom the centrist gatekeepers listen exclusively.

This crisis won’t be resolved until the conversation is opened.  Because what is happening in our church affects all of us.   Not just the (male) bishops and the (overwhelmingly male) beltway pundits.  And we all have valuable perspectives to bring to a conversation that needs to be authentically catholic, if the Catholic church is to find healing.  Because it’s the narrowness of the (overwhelmingly male and privileged) conversation up to now that has produced the crisis we’re in.