Thursday, July 21, 2011

Irish Prime Minister Responds to Cloyne Report: Vatican's Culture of Dysfunction, Disconnection, Elitism, and Narcissism

Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday spoke to Parliament about the Cloyne report.  Kenny said that, after the Ryan and Murphy reports, one would have thought Ireland is unshockable, when it comes to questions of the abuse of children.  However: 

But Cloyne has proved to be of a different order.

Because for the first time in Ireland, a report into child sexual abuse exposes an attempt by the Holy See, to frustrate an inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic – as little as three years ago, not three decades ago.

And in doing so, the Cloyne report excavates the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism – the narcissism – that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day. The rape and torture of children were downplayed or “managed” to uphold instead, the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and “reputation”.

Far from listening to evidence of humiliation and betrayal with St Benedict’s “ear of the heart”, the Vatican’s reaction was to parse and analyse it with the gimlet eye of a canon lawyer. This calculated, withering position being the polar opposite of the radicalism, humility and compassion upon which the Roman Church was founded.

The radicalism, humility and compassion which are the very essence of its foundation and purpose.

The behaviour being a case of Roma locuta est: causa finita est. 

Except in this instance, nothing could be further from the truth.

And Enda Kenny's stunning conclusion, taking the words of Pope Benedict and using them to pinpoint precisely the shocking, unsavory finding that lies at the dark heart of the Cloyne report: namely, that the Vatican has sought to undermine the operation of laws protecting children within a democratic nation, because it regards itself and the clerical elite of its church as above civil law and sees civil laws designed to protect children as an intrusion on the church's power and authority:

Cardinal Josef Ratzinger [the current Pope Benedict] said: “Standards of conduct appropriate to civil society or the workings of a democracy cannot be purely and simply applied to the church.”

As the Holy See prepares its considered response to the Cloyne report, as Taoiseach, I am making it absolutely clear, that when it comes to the protection of the children of this State, the standards of conduct which the church deems appropriate to itself, cannot and will not, be applied to the workings of democracy and civil society in this republic.

Not purely, or simply or otherwise.

Children . . . First.

While millions of faithful Catholics, Kenny and a majority of the Irish people included, approach the abuse crisis as first and foremost a question about how to keep children from harm's way, the Vatican--the pastoral leaders of the Catholic church--over and over again approach it as a power struggle.  As yet another struggle that is primarily about asserting clerical authority, clerical prerogative, clerical power and privilege.

At all cost.

While people of sound conscience around the world respond to the abuse crisis by thinking, Children first, the pastoral leaders of a Christian church have responded and continue to respond to it by asserting, Our power and privilege first.  

And it has proven profoundly dismaying to many Catholics and many people of good will who once regarded the Catholic church as an instrument for good in the world to see that this "calculated, withering," anti-gospel and uncompassionate attitude dominates the thinking of the leadership of the Catholic church at this moment in history. 

The church's big boys may still find it possible to sit around and blithely swap sports talk as they strut and preen in their mutual-admiration all-male fan club.  For many other Catholics in the world, who don't live inside that tiny narcissistic and elitist society, something other than boys'-club swagger is necessary now, if our church is to have any future at all.

I am moved by Mr. Kenny's willingness to tell truth so forcefully here.  As he says in his parliamentary remarks, it is not easy for a practicing Catholic such as himself to have to face these truths, let alone say them to the nation he leads.

But, Children first.  And when the leaders of our church refuse to see and act on this principle, the gospel-based principles that inspire our concern to defend children, the principles the church has transmitted to us, will propel us to seek recourse in civil law, anywhere we can, to hold the leaders of our church accountable.  And to demand that, if they refuse to become credible signs of the gospel in church and society, at the very least, they stop putting children in harm's way.

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