Saturday, April 24, 2010

John Allen on Castrillon-Hoyos: An Inadvertent Foil to Vindicate Benedict

On Thursday, re: Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos’s latest incendiary remarks about his 2001 defense of a French bishop who refused to report a priest abusing minors to the authorities, I asked,

Or are we being played for fools by Vatican officials making such obtrusively crazy statements day after day?  Is this some kind of set-up that will be used to vindicate Benedict by demonstrating what he has been up against in trying to reform the Vatican's inner circles of governance?

And now I find that National Catholic Reporter’s Vaticanologist, John Allen, wrote Friday

In this case [i.e., in the case of his 2001 letter], however, Castrillón has inadvertently licensed the Vatican and church officials around the world to use him as a foil, effectively waiving a cardinal's traditional immunity from criticism.

From here on out, when spokespersons insist that Pope Benedict fought inside the Vatican for reform, the world will have a much clearer picture of what his opposition looked like. At stake wasn't just the question of cooperation with the police. Castrillón was part of a block of Vatican officials who thought the sex abuse crisis was fueled by media hysteria, that "zero tolerance" was an over-reaction, and that removing priests from ministry without lengthy and cumbersome canonical trails is a betrayal of the church's legal tradition.

So, it would appear that if John Allen is correct in his assessment here, the answer to my questions is, Yes and yes.  Yes, we’re being played for fools here.  And yes, what’s going on is some kind of set-up to make Benedict shine at Castrillon’s expense.

Allen, of course, sees all of this as “inadvertent,” and his analysis uses insider-outsider language to remind us that the vast majority of us aren’t privy, as he is, to the inner logic governing the Vatican’s mind and the inner workings of the Vatican’s vast mills, as they grind, grind towards justice.

In my simple outsider way, I suspect that there’s a simpler explanation for why Castrillon is now being permitted to act like a crazy loose cannon: he’s willingly sacrificing himself (and has been asked to do so) in a scheme to clean up Benedict’s image.

But as I pointed out yesterday, if Ratzinger/Benedict took part in the 2001 meeting of cardinals that prepared the letter praising Bishop Pican for thwarting justice, then how on earth can anyone now expect us to believe that in that very year, Ratzinger/Benedict was working implacably towards a reform of the structures designed to prevent precisely that kind of thwarting-justice behavior? 

Benedict is and has been part of the problem, not part of the solution.  And no amount of jousting and foiling and spin is going to hide that fact from those who have eyes to see.

It would be far better if the pope took his cue from Bishop Moriarty and admitted forthrightly that like almost every other Catholic pastoral leader in recent years, he has taken part in, reinforced, and promoted a clericalist mentality that is at the heart of the abuse crisis, and which encouraged behavior we now recognize as unchristian, lacking in compassion and humility.

And it would be better if Catholics trying to draw a magic circle around the papacy admitted that popes can be and do wrong, that popes are not divine, and that we’d be a healthier church if the papacy focused more on its quintessential function of serving the servants of Christ—not ruling them.