Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Initial Impressions of Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report: "They Hid It All"

I have not yet read the Pennsylvania grand jury report. I am reading news coverage now. Here are some initial top-of-the-head responses:

"All of [the victims] were brushed aside, in every part of the state, by church leaders who preferred to protect the abusers and their institutions above all," the report says. "Priests were raping little boys and girls and the men of God who were responsible not only did nothing: They hid it all." 
 ~ Pennsylvania Grand Jury via Philly.com 

Bishops and other leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania covered up child sexual abuse by hundreds of priests over a period of 70 years, persuading victims not to report the abuse and police officers not to investigate it, according to a report issued by a grand jury on Tuesday. 
The report, which says there were more than 1,000 identifiable victims and covered six of the state’s eight Catholic dioceses, is the broadest examination yet by a government agency in the United States of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. There have been ten previous reports by grand juries and attorneys general in the United States, according to the research and advocacy group BishopAccountability.org, but those examined single dioceses or counties. 
The report catalogs horrific instances of abuse, including a priest who raped a young girl in the hospital after she had her tonsils out, and another priest who was allowed to stay in ministry after impregnating a 17-year-old girl, forging a signature on a marriage certificate and then divorcing the girl. 
~ Laurie Goodstein
"Significantly, the report faulted Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the former longtime bishop of Pittsburgh who now leads the Washington archdiocese, for what it said was his part in the concealment of clergy sexual abuse. Wuerl, one of the highest-profile cardinals in the United States, released a statement Tuesday that said he had "acted with diligence, with concern for the victims and to prevent future acts of abuse."  
Mark Scolforo and Marc Levy

Cardinal Donald Wuerl turns out (unsurprisingly, in my view) to be at the center of the hierarchical cover-up in Pennsylvania. For those who want to contend that the Catholic church has gone to rack and ruin under Pope Francis, and who want to lay the abuse horrors at Francis' feet with claims that he's gay-tolerant, Wuerl's story is yet another inconvenient one. It's yet again part of a pattern that points to Francis' predecessors Saint John Paul the Great and Benedict XVI, who were anything but friends to gay folks, as deep roots of the problems that keep coming to light in the abuse horror show.

Who made Wuerl a bishop? The resolutely anti-gay pope Saint John Paul the Great did so. Who made Wuerl a cardinal? The resolutely anti-gay pope Benedict XVI did so.

Why did Wuerl's star rise in the U.S. hierarchy? Because he knifed the good archbishop of Seattle, who called for merciful treatment of gay people — Raymond Hunthausen — in the back to please Saint John Paul the Great and his right-hand man Ratzinger.

A valuable reminder from Ken Briggs in 2015 about why Saint John Paul the Great and his right-hand man Cardinal Ratzinger went after Hunthausen:

In his 1985 indictment of the Seattle archbishop, Ratzinger summed up accusations gathered in his investigation whose point man in the U.S. was Archbishop James Hickey of Washington, D.C. Among the charges: that Hunthausen had allowed divorced Catholics without annulments to take communion; gave lay people unauthorized influence in shaping programs as "a kind of voting process on doctrinal or moral teachings"; permitted intercommunion at weddings and funerals, calling it "clearly abusive"; and supported a homosexual group to meet in the cathedral, which risked ignoring the Magisterium's judgment that same-sex acts were "an intrinsic moral evil, intrinsically distorted and self-indulgent." In addition to welcoming the gay group to the cathedral, he'd stood up for homosexual dignity in the Seatte Gay News in 1977…. 
His stands sound a great deal like the kind that harmonize with the church Pope Francis inspires, one which forgives, treats those who fall outside strict doctrinal with tolerance and bestows mercy on those who might be considered unworthy under other regimes. Openness to homosexuals, broader welcome to communion, a greater, equal role for lay people, a witness to faith determined by compassion and attention to suffering rather than law and order: the overlap between Francis and Raymond would appear to be astounding (my bold-facing).

Yet a strong cadre of Catholics imagine that the kind of church the two popes prior to Francis promoted, and, in particular, the hateful homophobia of that church, is a solution to the abuse crisis and an antidote to McCarrick (who was made archbishop of Washington and then a cardinal by Saint John Paul the Great) and Wuerl (who was made a bishop by Saint John Paul the Great and a cardinal by Benedict XVI). 

Something's clearly not right with the gay-bashing solution and its appeal to return to the homophobic kind of church promoted by Saint John Paul the Great and Benedict XVI as a way to solve the abuse horrors in the Catholic church.

The graphic: a detail of Rogier van der Weyden's "Descent from the Cross," which is held by the Prado Museum; Google Earth has uploaded this detail to Wikimedia Commons for sharing online.

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