Tuesday, January 23, 2018

It's the Clericalism, Stupid: Valuable Commentary on How Pope Francis' Approach to the Abuse Situation Is Undermining His Papacy

These are some valuable things I've read in the past few days about Pope Francis' atrocious comments regarding the Bishop Barros story in Chile, and his subsequent attempt to walk back those comments. As survivors like Joelle Casteix, Marie Collins, and Skip Shea point out, the men in Rome — including Francis — don't get it, and don't intend to get it. It's the clericalism. It always has been the clericalism. Clericalism is and always has been at the very root of the abuse crisis.

And they cannot and will not address the clericalism, since they are inside its sphere and benefit from it. To address it would mean deconstructing the source of their unmerited power and privilege, their "calling" to lord it over the rest of the people of God. This is not something they intend to do. Here's my smattering of commentary to offer you:

New York Times editorial statement

For all his professions of horror at the revelations about predatory priests whose activities were covered up by the hierarchy — and for all his other admirably enlightened and pastoral actions — it seems the pope has yet to fully appreciate that the abuse of minors is not simply a matter of a few deviant priests protected by overzealous prelates but of his church’s acceptance of a horrible violation of a most sacred trust: that of a devout and questioning youth and a spiritual guide. 
Acknowledging and regretting the damage is not enough. If the Catholic Church is ever to lift the deep stain of child sex abuse, the pope must take every opportunity to reject not only clear violations but also the slightest appearance of tolerance for such behavior. 
He missed that opportunity by attending the funeral last month for Cardinal Bernard Law, the powerful former archbishop of Boston who resigned after revelations that he protected abusive priests for years and became, in effect, the image of a hierarchy that concealed and thereby enabled sexual abuse. He missed it in the failure of the Vatican so far to appoint a new Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors after the commissioners’ terms expired in December. 
And Pope Francis missed it again in Chile.

Dianne Williamson, Telegram (Worcester, Massachusetts): 

Skip Shea of Uxbridge, who was sexually abused in the 1970s, was never fooled. 
"I'm not surprised," Shea told me Friday, of the pope's comments. "I'm just surprised that people are discouraged or shocked. This has been his pattern. He says good things but his actions never follow his words. As a survivor, I’ve seen that nothing has changed." . . . 
The pope is on point when he uses the word "calumny" to describe this debacle. But it's the victims who have been slandered, yet again, by a hierarchy that continues to defend its power and dismiss those who threaten it.

Marie Collins, by way of Jason Horowitz, New York Times

"There was great hope that this pope understood — he 'got it' — but if that were true we would not have his words today," said Marie Collins, a survivor of abuse who last year resigned in frustration from the pope's Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. 
"Anyone who was still clinging to the hope there would be real change in the church to the issue of abuse and this change would be led by Pope Francis will have lost that hope today," Ms. Collins said.

Joelle Casteix by way of Evan Derkacz at Religion Dispatches

Nothing is going to change. They have no intention of changing. It's all window dressing. It's up to Catholics to speak with their wallets if they want to take back their church and for survivors to change the law in order to get justice and accountability.

And Joelle Casteix for SNAP: 

Barros's only defense is Pope Francis.  
It is as if Pope Francis took a trip to Chile, apologized for abuse, prayed for healing, asked for forgiveness, and then got on his plane and said, "Just kidding."

Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times

Despite his apology aboard the papal plane, Francis still insisted that there was not sufficient "evidence" — he used the more legalistic term this time — to condemn Barros or remove him from his post as bishop of Osorno 
"I can't condemn him because I don't have evidence," Francis told reporters on the papal plane. "But I'm also convinced that he's innocent." 
The pope thus implied that the victims who have accused Barros have not convinced Francis that the bishop was involved in a whitewash of sexual misconduct. 
Francis still insists he does not have sufficient "evidence" to remove Barros from his bishop's seat. 
What on earth would be sufficient evidence, given Barros' close ties to Karadima and the findings of both courts and the Vatican that Karadima abused minors? 
Is Francis saying that all the victims who have come forward to say that Barros knew about Karadima and covered for him are lying? 
Francis is doing irreparable harm to his papacy by his intransigence about these issues — and by the belligerent rhetoric he keeps using when he's pushed on them.

I also recommend this valuable thread at the Catholica site taking a very close look at what Francis said to journalists on the flight from Chile from Peru that has produced this firestorm. The focus on Francis' understanding of what it means to be absolutely certain a prelate is guilty of covering up crimes of sexual abuse, and how that prelate is to be handled while allegations about his participation in a cover-up are pending, is especially illuminating.

(Thanks to MarkWilliam for pointing out that Francis' return flight was from Peru, to which he went after he was in Chile.) 

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