Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Catholic Abuse Crisis: Updates to the Philadelphia and Irish Stories

Steve and I fly home today from our Minnesota trip.  If any readers are connected to me by Facebook, you'll have seen that I posted there yesterday, saying we were flying home last night.  That's an indicator of how tired we were after a long day's drive from Minneapolis to Grand Forks: by the end of the day, I was typing "tonight" when I meant "tomorrow."

Since my time to blog this morning is limited, and I suddenly see a spate of noteworthy articles at a number of sites on which I'd like to comment, this morning I'm going to provide links to several articles in the hope that readers will read the originals.  I don't have time to comment much on each article, but may return to some of them in the future.

First, in the area of the Catholic abuse crisis, a number of very fine statements have appeared in the past several days.  In the latest issue of Rolling Stone, Sabrina Rubin Erdely offers stunning commentary on the situation in Philadelphia, where Monsignor William Lynn, the point man who handled abuse cases (and their cover-up) for Cardinal Bevilacqua (and subsequently for Cardinal Rigali, is on trial for endangering the welfare of children.  As Eric Bugyis notes in a summary of Erdely's article at the Commonweal blog site, the spare, measured way in which she lists one damning fact after another from the abundant documentation of this cover-up reminds one of Hannah Arendt's assessment of the Eichmann trial: evil is banal.  It's unimaginative, arrogantly certain that it can always do its dirty work under the cover of darkness and will not be exposed.  And it's shockingly unable to recognize or understand the harm it has done, even when the damage has been uncovered and made visible by the light of day.

Important analysis of the situation in Irish Catholicism following this summer's Cloyne report is also coming out now that the Vatican has issued a response to the statement of the Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny following that report.  As Fergus Finlay notes in the Irish Examiner, the Vatican response is typically long on lawyerese and also typically very short on compassion.  After a perfunctory nod to the obligatory (and seemingly insincere) statements of sorrow for what has gone on in Ireland, the Vatican gets down to business and blasts Kenny in pages and pages of beside-the-point rebuttals of this and that, which never engage the main point.  With almost no mention at all of what one would expect from pastoral leaders of a Christian institution: compassion.

I'm not sure who authored this statement in the Herald, but it's a fine one, re: the Vatican response to Kenny.  The author notes that the Vatican has come all guns blazing for Kenny, but that Kenny nonetheless speaks for her or him.

And in the Irish Times, venerable Irish reporter Desmond Fisher, who covered the second Vatican Council as it unfolded, notes the serious challenge now faced by the Irish church following the latest round of revelations: as he points out, it's not the weak who are walking away now from the Catholic church in large numbers.  It's the strong.  The educated.  The committed and previously involved.

It's not culture Catholics for whom Mass attendance has long been obligatory because it's customary and expected by one's neighbors who are withdrawing their energies from the church and standing no the sidelines.  It's the folks who form the backbone of any healthy and well-functioning institution who are doing that--those who carry an institution's message effectively into the culture at large, those who most effectively assist in the institution's mission, etc.

And the Catholic church is, Fisher argues, in very serious trouble now as a result.

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