Friday, March 8, 2019

The Pell Case, the Continuing Vast Gulf Between What Francis Says re: Abuse and What Really Happens, and the Anger of Catholic People

Another set of items that have gotten my attention lately, with a theme binding them together:

And yet there is something troubling about the one-sidedness of the defence of Cardinal Pell by Catholic commentators; for while we have heard the Cardinal's angry denials in a police interview, and while so many words have been written in criticism of the verdict by influential friends and supporters, there is one voice that has not been heard: that of his accuser. The criticisms of the verdict are implicitly denunciations of this man as well as of the anonymous jury members who took so long to consider the evidence before handing down their verdict. ... 
Why do I speak up for him? Because the Christian faith requires me to treat everyone as equal in God's eyes, whether they are princes of the Church or anonymously ordinary. Because I know how hard it is for victims of sexual crimes to get through the multiple stages of the criminal trial process. Because I know the different ways in which, through intensive and lengthy cross-examination, defence counsel seeks to undermine the victim's credibility. Because in nearly twenty-five years of engagement with the issue of child sexual abuse in church communities, I know how often men like this complainant have not been listened to. And because I recall how often I have heard from senior Catholic leaders that the scurrilous accusations being made by victims are an attack on the Church; or that complainants are just making up claims in order to get compensation. 
And in the chorus of criticism about the conviction of Cardinal Pell, there is an echo again of those voices of denial by senior religious leaders, which has led the Catholic Church to the crisis it finds itself in today. It is a crisis from which the Catholic Church may never fully recover.

Francis sees cosmic battles happening all over the face of the earth and now he has made the sex abuse crisis into a metaphysical battle between Satan and the church. In his concluding speech, he mentioned Satan twice and evil 13 times. The word clericalism was uttered once. … 
The truth is there are some very sick men in the priesthood that need very serious help and there are some men in the priesthood who are so psychosexually immature or damaged that they have no place in ministry. And the closed, secretive, all-male power structure of the church protected these men and gravely exacerbated the situation. 
Satan did not swoop in and use these men as his tools to destroy the church. These men destroyed it all by themselves by enforcing a warped view of sexuality, making the preservation of their patriarchal rule their first priority and trading in cover-ups, lies and institutional blackmail.

Richard Scorer via Harriet Sherwood, "Cardinal declined to meet abuse victim before Vatican summit":

There continues to be a vast gulf between what the pope says about these issues and what really happens.

Pell's ecclesiastical trajectory was supported by a small but powerful coterie of reactionary Catholics. They spotted him early on as a culture warrior and were shrewd enough to use their Roman connections to promote his career.

For now, I want to reflect on a piece in Eureka Street, no doubt a long time in the drafting, in which the Jesuit priest and lawyer Fr Frank Brennan responds to news of the conviction. I’m told the piece has been circulated to every family with a child enrolled at a Catholic school, indicating that it represents the views of the archdiocese.

In my view, the defensive reaction of some Catholics, especially in the clerical sector of the church, to Cardinal Pell's conviction vastly overestimates people's willingness to listen to this kind of special pleading any longer, especially from Catholic clerics. I wonder what these folks have learned from the abuse horror show that has gone on for almost two decades now. Little to nothing, it appears to me.

All the ranting about self-righteous anti-Catholic mobs out to get Pell and the church is misplaced, given what we've learned from the relentless torrent of abuse revelations for years now. Chastened religious leaders who had really learned from these revelations about how deep the corruption goes in the Catholic institution would be inclined to silence now, not taking out the cudgels and swotting away defensively on Pell's behalf.

The question that should concern those who have an investment in the future of the Catholic church: how to deal with the very understandable rage and disgust of all the lay Catholics who feel their church has betrayed them? How to regain any scraps of moral credibility for their church and its teaching, given what the whole world now knows about the "inside" of the Catholic church?

Those are the questions that need to be occupying the minds of Catholic leaders now, if they really care about the future of their institution and its moral credibility — not whether Cardinal Pell wore all-enswathing liturgical garments on a given day in the past.

(A note of thanks to MarkWilliam, who noted a slip of tongue I have corrected in the text above: I had typed "underestimates" where I needed to say "overestimates.")

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