Saturday, November 17, 2018

Commentary on U.S. Bishops' Meeting: "The Moral Credibility of Catholic Bishops in the United States Is in Tatters"

Barry Blitt's "Welcome to Congress" cover for New Yorker, 9 November 2018

Now if a knock-off cover could only be produced, showing all those whited-out men in suits as the Catholic bishops at their latest meeting….

My major takeaway from the recent USCCB meeting: the bishops convened it with a huge deficit of moral and pastoral authority, and they have even less moral and pastoral authority now that it's over. Something has finally given way within American Catholicism — a willingness to tolerate the vain show any longer, to make one more excuse for Father. There's no going back to the obediential culture the EWTN crowd wishes to cultivate — as long as the pope is not Francis. 

I frankly felt a thousand miles removed as I read commentary about the USCCB meeting. In many ways, I could not care less about anything the Catholic church is now discussing — and, above all, about the stale, incestuous, airless, parochial commentary of the mostly straight, mostly white, mostly male U.S. Catholic commentariat. Here's commentary I have found worth reading, however: 

The point beyond dispute is that we are at a moment in U.S. church history — and perhaps in the history of the global church — without precedent. This is not about debatable matters — celibacy or the filioque clause, or the primacy of Scripture or whether the Earth is the center of the universe or whether women should be allowed ordination or any of the hot button issues that have kept us roiling and at each others' throats these past decades. This, instead, is about a rot at the heart of the culture entrusted with leadership of the Catholic community. A rot so pervasive that it has touched every aspect of the community's life, disrupting all of the certainties and presumptions about who we are and who you are that helped hold this community together. 
Those who worked so ardently in the past to enable you — the faithful, so betrayed, who just couldn't believe you would engage in such a deliberate cover up; the likes of George Weigel and his blind, uncritical hagiography of Pope John Paul II; Dr. Mary Ann Glendon and the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus and their naive celebration and defense of Maciel; the rest of the chorus at First Things and like publications; the telling silence of so many other Catholic outlets; the absurdity of charlatan William Donohue and his silly "Catholic" League — they helped sustain your weak narrative as many of them denigrated those who raised the tough questions and pursued the truth. 
It's over. 
None of them any longer has a persuasive case to make. Some of them now try to blame the crisis on gay priests. You might be tempted to latch onto that diversion, but it will only prolong the already intolerably long agony.

On the other hand, some bishops, like Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix, continued to spout nonsense in blaming the abuse crisis on dissident theologians who objected to the church’s ban on artificial contraception. Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco called for a study of the relationship between homosexuality and sexual abuse. 
Bishops were the problem, not theologians and gays!

Father William Grimm, "The Catholic Church's one foundation":

The chorus lines of bishops in the United States, Europe, Australia and elsewhere all giving us the song and dance that they are horrified at what has happened, and that they will now work and are working at ensuring that such scandal shall never occur again only adds to my distaste. 
It is obvious that wherever such a charade is being perpetrated, it is prompted not by concern for what is right, but solely because the spotlights of the media and civil authority are forcing the bishops onto the stage. 
Their pious protestations that they have at last realized that they have failed Christ and the People of God and will henceforth be different are worthless. 
I, for one, cannot and will not believe any man with the title "bishop" again unless his life and actions provide evidence of his trustworthiness. The burden of proof rests now on that tribe.

Under siege by Catholics and the public, bishops are clearly alarmed that outside investigations will expose the magnitude of the clergy abuse problem in the Catholic church, as has been done in several countries including Australia, Ireland, and Germany. 
One hundred thirty U.S. bishops attending the conference this week in Baltimore, including President of the USCCB, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, are known to have covered up child sex crimes, over one third of the entire senior management of the U.S. Catholic Church. The USCCB is a corporation constituted under U.S. law. If one third of the senior management of a any other corporation, headquartered and operated by the head of a foreign state, had been proven to have worked together to cover up criminal behavior against children, one can be quite certain the Department of Justice and the Attorney General would be investigating and prosecuting under federal racketeering laws.

Bishops cannot police themselves. Their solution is that they must wait to have the Vatican police them, which they were supposed to be doing anyway. That solution has failed. Especially with the McCarrick case. Vatican officials worked with several American bishops in covering up for McCarrick. 
It's clear that justice for survivors of clergy sex abuse will not come from the USCCB or the Vatican. Survivors and the public, unable to trust the church that allowed the abuse to occur, must turn to the US Department of Justice and their State’s Attorney General to ensure that tomorrow’s Catholic children do not face a fate like ours.

Catholic bishops in the US began ceding their teaching authority to fringe groups decades ago. Now that the chickens have come home to roost, a pope has finally stepped in. ... 
The moral credibility of Catholic bishops in the United States is in tatters. Even the men who head the country's nearly 200 dioceses have admitted this. 
But don't be fooled into thinking that this deficit of trust happened all of a sudden. ... 
It is now clear that it [i.e., the decision to make EWTN their official mouthpiece] was the first step in ceding their teaching and moral authority to a sarcastic and biting nun who had made herself a watchdog of orthodoxy and routinely criticized Church leaders.whom she publicly judged as not quite Catholic enough. 

And then the latest on Cardinal Viganò, the great crusader for morality (as in, Let's blame and bash the gays as the definition of what morality is all about): turns out he appears to have been engaged in some unseemly bamboozling of his siblings even as he has been hotly crusading for "purification" of the church and against Pope Francis: see Carol Glatz, "Milan court rules against Archbishop Viganò in inheritance lawsuit."

And then there's Christopher Lamb's report "New book throws light on Viganò and McCarrick," from which I glean the following:

Andrea Tornielli and Gianni Valente's new forensic study of how McCarrick rose to power and of Viganò's repeated misrepresentation of the facts of this case — their book is entitled Il Giorno del Giudizio (The Day of Judgment) — puts a major new wrinkle into the attempt of Viganò and his crowd to pin responsibility for McCarrick on Pope Francis and his purported softness on the gays.

As they show, the Vatican knew by 1999 about McCarrick's abuse of seminarians — before St. John Paul the Great appointed him archbishop of D.C. Though Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, who was equivalent to the papal chief of staff at the time, opposed making McCarrick archbishop of D.C., the decision to give him this appointment was made "in the papal apartments" — by St. John Paul the Great alone in consultation with his closest aide Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz. John Paul was impressed by McCarrick and his moneymaking abilities.

As I say, these facts create a major wrinkle for the claim of Viganò and his crowd that Francis' softness on the gays is responsible for McCarrick and for the abuse mess. No pope in recent memory has been more brutal towards the LGBTQ community. It was under St. John Paul the Great and his orthodoxy watchdog Cardinal Ratzinger that gay human beings were officially defined as intrinsically disordered, and ministry groups reaching out to the LGBTQ community shoved from Catholic premises. The ugly, diversionary scapegoating of gay priests as responsible for the abuse mess began in the papacy of St. John Paul the Great …

Even as he was elevating McCarrick to high positions in the church, knowing McCarrick's record.

Thomas Doyle, the courageous priest who first warned Catholic officials of their looming scandal, told the terrible truth back in 2007 when he cautioned that "clergy sex abuse is a scourge that knows no bounds of theology, denomination or institutional structure." … 
What's needed is a full-scale national inquiry akin to the one that was done in Australia — an inquiry that focuses on all faith groups and that not only subpoenas documents but also hears extensive testimony.

Any "summit" that seeks to change how the church responds to sexual assault must first and foremost contend with the theology that created the culture of silence and negativity in the first place.

No comments: