Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Francis's Oblique Comments Today on Abuse Crisis: Open Mouth, Insert Foot — Taking Us Back to Square One

As Jerry Slevin says in a comment here earlier today, Dennis Coday has some pointed things to say after Pope Francis's address to the bishops when they and he gathered for a prayer service in D.C.'s Cathedral of St. Matthew. In that gathering, Francis told the U.S. bishops, 

I am also conscious of the courage with which you have faced difficult moments in the recent history of the Church in this country without fear of self-criticism and at the cost of mortification and great sacrifice. Nor have you been afraid to divest whatever is unessential in order to regain the authority and trust which is demanded of ministers of Christ and rightly expected by the faithful. I realize how much the pain of recent years has weighed upon you and I have supported your generous commitment to bring healing to victims – in the knowledge that in healing we too are healed – and to work to ensure that such crimes will never be repeated.

As Dennis Coday says in response, the oblique reference to the clergy sexual abuse crisis here is more than a foot-in-mouth remark: it's one that brings the entire discussion of the abuse crisis in the U.S. back to square one, suggesting that Pope Francis doesn't get it, hasn't gotten it, doesn't intend to get it:

Praising the bishops for the courage they have shown before acknowledging the pain of the victims, will undoubtedly raise the charges of "he just doesn’t get it." 
Since his election as pope, NCR has both challenged Francis to do more for the sex abuse crisis and encouraged the moves he has made. But the message he delivered today puts him back to square one.

Immediately after Francis made these lamentable remarks, SNAP emailed to its supporters the following statement by Barbara Dorris:

We're sad that Francis claims US bishops have shown "courage" in the abuse crisis. Almost without exception, they have shown cowardice and callousness and continue to do so now. They offer excuses, exploit legal technicalities and hide behind expensive lawyers and public relations professionals, hardly the marks of courage. 
We're also sad that Francis can't bring himself to call this crisis what it is - not "difficult moments in recent history," but the contiuning cover up of clergy child sex crimes by almsot the entire church hierarchy.

This was followed by a media release by SNAP, in which Barbara Blaine states,

In a speech today to U.S. bishops, according to ABC News, Francis "does not specifically reference the pedophilia that has rocked the Roman Catholic Church." 
He does, however, speak of some alleged "great sacrifice" made by bishops because of the abuse and cover up crisis. 
What sacrifice? What bishops takes fewer vacations, drives a smaller car, does his own laundry or has been passed over for promotion because he’s shielding predators and endangering kids? None. 
Only four US bishops (out of hundreds) have resigned because they hide and enabled horrific crimes, but only after staying in power for years and only after massive public, police, prosecutor and parishioner outrage. (Law, Finn, Piche and Neinstedt) . . . 
His remarks today confirm what we’ve long said and suspected: this pope, like his predecessors, is doing and will do little if anything to bring real reform to this continuing crisis. Those who care about kids must focus on secular authorities, not church figures (however popular they may be).

The reason Francis doesn't get it, can't get it, doesn't intend to get it, is that, in order to do so, he'd have to open the entire clerical system up to critical inspection as the very heart, the ground, of the abuse crisis. He'd have to open the governance system, the clerical system, of the church to critical inspection — primarily by the laity, who bear the brunt of the injustice built into the Roman Catholic system of governance, which accords no governing power at all to any lay person, but reserves such power solely to the ordained.

And he does not intend to do that, as his remarks about religious freedom, which parrot the party line of the USCCB, at the White House earlier today suggest. What the U.S. bishops are fighting tooth and nail for, and what Francis is signaling he backs with the remarks about religious freedom, is their right not to be accountable and transparent, when the laity — and the laws of the land — challenge them to demonstrate accountability and transparency. They are fighting tooth and nail for their unilateral right to hire and fire at will in Catholic institutions and call this religious freedom. They're fighting tooth and nail for their unilateral right in Catholic institutions to refuse to obey the law of the land about providing contraceptive coverage to women employees.

Francis is enmeshed in a system that cripples him and the entire church, and makes his otherwise powerful words about those on the margins of society, about immigrants, and about climate change, sound tinny, indeed, to those of us who have any knowledge at all of the abuse situation in the Catholic church, and its roots in the clerical system around which, as pope, he continues to draw a protective veil — to his discredit. It needs to be dismantled from top to bottom if the abuse crisis is ever going to be resolved.

(My apologies that I am slow these days to acknowledge your very welcome comments here. I continue to deal with the pain — now in the blessed recovery period — from my root canal yesterday, and am letting myself take things easy, with Steve's Nurse Ratched encouragement. And so I'm slow to thank you for your many good comments. I do appreciate all the good wishes about the root canal.)

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