Friday, October 21, 2011

Fr. Anthony Ruff, Accidental Activist: Catholic System Not Set Up to Tell the Truth

And talking about speaking truth to power (I'm piggybacking here on what I just said about the attempt of beltway pundits to make Mitt Romney's religious beliefs a non-issue as we vet him as a candidate): how about this powerful observation from Fr. Anthony Ruff, in Jamie Manson's recent article about him at National Catholic Reporter:

Our system is not set up to tell the truth. It is not possible for those doing the work to say to those in charge "this isn't working."

Ruff is speaking about his experience as a member of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL), which was charged to make revisions in the Catholic liturgy, and from which he resigned when he saw that the Vatican intended to ignore ICEL's work and recommendations after it created a secretive watchdog group, Vox Clara, to oversee ICEL and report directly to Rome.

Ruff maintains that many bishops are intently concerned about the cumbersome nature of the new liturgical revisions, about the non-transparent, non-collaborative, non-accountable, and secretive way in which the revisions took place and were handed down to local churches, and about the marginalization of bishops and bishops' conferences in this process.

But they will not speak up.  Because our system is not set up to tell the truth.

And I'd maintain that this is one of the biggest roots of all of the abuse crisis in the Catholic church.  There is no intent to speak truths we all know about our system: that it is highly dysfunctional; that Rome has sucked up the rights, privileges, and vitality of local churches in a centralizing process which is crippling the church and destroying its effectiveness in communicating the gospel to the world.  And that the clerical system is premised on the dangerous notion that the ordained have a special ontological status which places them above lay Catholics, and which becomes a recipe for abuse.

As yet another New York Times editorial reminds the American public today (this one is about Bishop Finn in Kansas City), the current leaders of the Catholic church have a colossal problem with accountability.  That problem stems from a belief embedded in the clerical system that the ordained do not have to be accountable to anyone except members of their own club.

And, increasingly, that belief will continue to be put to the test in judicial hearings in various places in the world, because the more the public learns about what has gone on behind the scenes with the abuse situation in the Catholic church, the more obvious it is that someone has to hold these men accountable.  When they don't hold themselves accountable.  And when they have crafted a system that is not set up to tell the truth, which is causing serious harm to innocent minors.

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