Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bernie Law Honored Again, and Benedict's Market Value Continues to Plummet

Pope Benedict and Cardinal Bernard Law, Vatican, June 2006

As I noted recently, following his 80th birthday, the infamous Cardinal Bernard Law, who resigned in disgrace as archbishop of the Boston archdiocese after it became public knowledge that he had shielded and moved about notorious clerical serial abusers of children, submitted his resignation as archpriest of the basilica of St. Mary Minor in Rome.  And Pope Benedict accepted the resignation.

Some folks took this to mean that the Vatican is finally catching on to the recognition that morals-devoid ecclesial wheeler-dealers like Law give the church an exceedingly bad name, when they resign from one position in disgrace only to be rewarded with another cushy position (e.g., that of archpriest of St. Mary Minor) following their resignation.  Others also thought that the papal acceptance of Law's resignation means he's now stripped of his bishop-making powers in Rome, though I continue to read statements to the contrary.

Whatever Law's current status, it's exceptionally troubling to read now that he's just been chosen to represent the Vatican at an important event in Syracuse, Sicily.  As Joelle Casteix indicates at the SNAP website, 

There are thousands and thousands of high ranking Catholic officials Pope Benedict could have tapped for this honor. But he, or his top advisors, deliberately picked a prelate who they know ignored, concealed and enabled dozens and dozens of child molesting clerics to sexually assault thousands of kids. (Reminder: the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office revealed that 250 priests and church workers in the Boston area stood accused of sexual assault of minors in a scandal “so massive and prolonged that it borders on the unbelievable.”. 
This is no aberration. Vatican officials have made similarly hurtful choices time and time again. Earlier this year, for instance, they tapped embattled Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali for a similar honor. They also promoted a Philadelphia bishop, Joseph Cistone, to head his own diocese in Michigan despite his having been criticized in a grand jury report for mishandling clergy sex cases.

The point of such honors, of course, is to remind the faithful that church officials of who has power and who doesn't.  It's to remind us lay Catholics that we need not get uppity or jubilant when it appears that an oily, immoral ecclesial powerbroker finally ends his career in unambiguous disgrace.  Because if we do get uppity and jubilant, those with all the power in their hands will find some way to remind us yet again of our absolute nothingness and their absolute right to allocate honors and privileges as they see fit.

What the Vatican keeps doing is unequivocally a slap in the face to all victims of clerical sexual abuse and those who stand in solidarity with them.  It's, as well, a slap in the face to all Catholics around the world who would hope for better from our church leaders--for responsible, morally sensitive pastoral leadership that operates transparently and with accountability.  And for pastoral leadership attuned to the insights and discernment of the people of God, arising out of their graced experience.

Perhaps it's the Vatican's (and Benedict's) refusal to get the picture--to fathom the increasing revulsion many lay Catholics feel at these callous, empty, imperialistic gestures designed to remind us of our nothingness and of the greatness that is Rome--which accounts for Pope Benedict's plummeting market value.  As Ariana Gomez Ligon reports today for AP, there is, to say the least, a dearth of enthusiasm in Mexico as preparations begin for Benedict's visit to that country this coming Easter time.*

Gomez Ligon quotes a Mexico City seller of church gewgaws, Jorge Sanchez, who admits that he doesn't have any Benedict wares to hawk for the papal visit, since, 

That Holiness is not very commercial.

Meaning, Benedict doesn't have any market value, when it comes to the gaudy ecclesial gewgaw trade. And I wonder, I just keep wondering, if the behavior the Vatican keeps exhibiting in giving continued honors to the likes of Law, and in delivering continued slaps to the faces of survivors of clerical abuse and to lay Catholics in general, might have anything to do with that dwindling market value of the current pope.

*I'm indebted to Dennis Coday and his "Morning Briefing" column at National Catholic Reporter for this link.

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