Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Abuse Crisis and the Church's Empty Tomb: Statements by Anne Barrett Doyle and Peter Isely

On this Holy Saturday, a statement by Anne Barrett Doyle of Bishop Accountability to add to the ones about the revolt in the Chilean church over the episcopal appointment of Juan Barros that I cited on Thursday: 

A Vatican spokesperson's dismissive statement today defending Pope Francis's appointment of Chilean bishop Juan de la Cruz Barros Madrid deepens the crisis of credibility that the pope is facing. What's at stake here is nothing less than papal accountability. Francis has pledged to discipline bishops who fail to protect children, and the Chilean public, along with members of his own abuse commission, are determined to hold him to his promise. 
Today's statement is a disingenuous attempt to shift blame for this decision from the pope to the Congregation for Bishops. Pope Francis made the appointment and must own it. He should begin by explaining his deliberate choice to ignore multiple victims' testimony that Barros witnessed their sexual abuse by Karadima. Concepción archbishop Fernando Chomalí Garib, who discussed Barros with Francis in person last month, told the New York Times that the pope knew about these serious allegations. "The pope told me he had analyzed the situation in detail and found no reason” to rescind the appointment, Chomalí Garib said. 
This response evokes not the compassion and honesty of Pope Francis but the coldness and dismissiveness of Cardinal Bergoglio. As Buenos Aires archbishop, he ignored repeated requests by anguished victims for intervention in their cases. While his colleagues in the US and Europe issued apologies, implemented reforms, and met with victims, he stayed largely silent on the issue of clergy sex abuse, except to issue an implausible denial that he had ever handled an abusive priest. His only known action was to commission a behind-the-scenes report to Argentine Supreme Court judges that impugned the credibility of victims of a criminally convicted priest – an action eerily consistent with the disregard the Pope has shown survivors’ witness in the Barros/Karadima case. 
To regain public trust in his reforms, Pope Francis must explain why he chose Barros despite the victims' testimony, and he must immediately rescind the appointment. Barros must be suspended from ministry while his alleged wrongdoing is investigated.

And here's Peter Isely of SNAP Wisconsin commenting on Facebook:  

I guess the tomb really is empty. It wasn't that long ago that the Milwaukee Cathedral was standing room only on Palm Sunday. But you can sure see the impact of five years of bankruptcy, financial fraud, and tens of millions of dollars spent on fighting survivors in this embarrassing news footage from FOX 6 on Palm Sunday. Looks like a few more tumbled in after the opening bell, but not many. Some years ago, [Cardinal Timothy] Dolan [former archbishop of Milwaukee and then head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops] stopped publishing archdiocesan yearly church attendance figures because the numbers were plummeting under our "rock star" archbishop and the facts contradicted the myth that he was bringing Catholics back to the pews or rounding up new ones (and having a rock star Pope hasn't reversed any of this either). Probably the single most significant indicator of the health and future of any organization is the percentage of members who identify themselves as strongly committed to its mission and practice. The Pew Research Center on Religion and Public Life has been tracking this number in the Catholic Church for almost four decades. That percentage is now the lowest it has ever been, with about only a quarter of Catholics considering themselves having a “strong” Catholic identity, down some 15 percentage points since the sexual abuse crisis began emerging into public awareness.  
Interestingly, Protestant religious identity strength has been concomitantly rising, with over half (or double the Catholic figure) saying they have a strong religious identity. Maybe the weakness of Catholic identity helps explain why the church hierarchy has been so successful at keeping many of the key elements of the sexual abuse cover up in tact: Catholics simply don’t care enough about their church (as an organization at least) to hold their leaders accountable. In Mark’s Gospel, which has no actual resurrection account, when Mary and Mary Magdalene come to the tomb there is a young man who comically chides them about who they are looking for because the tomb is obviously empty? Maybe those are some of the same questions that need to be asked at the Cathedral over the next few days.

(I'm grateful to Jerry Slevin for pointing me to Anne Barrett Doyle's statement in a comment here.) 

The graphic, Ghislaine Howard's painting of the empty tomb, is from her website.

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