The Personalist Project

Accessed on September 27, 2023 - 1:38:18

Right handling of wrong

Katie van Schaijik, Jun 05, 2018

In an interview with Crux News, a Vatican expert on the problem of clerical sex abuse says about the horrible situation in Chile:

What we’ve seen in the Karadima case especially is a very moralistic approach, which bizarrely, is then combined with an absolutely immoral approach to people,” he said. “Some of those who purport to defend the Church and her doctrine behave in a blatantly contradictory way, thereby destroying the credibility of the Church.

I know exactly what he means. I've seen a lot of it: Religious leaders displaying a moralistic and pietistic rigidity in demanding adherence to the letter of the law combined with a habit of treating the actual, concrete persons in front of them horribly. I'm afraid it's what unbelievers see too. I'm afraid it accounts not only for the loss of credibility on the part of the Church, but for the loss of faith in countless souls. They're so scandalized by the contrast between preaching and practice among the religious elite that they begin to wonder whether the whole thing is a giant scam—a means of keeping elites in power and others in thrall. People are sick of being taken in. 

Fr. Hans Zollner, S.J. puts his finger on another part of the pattern I've seen in religious institutions I've been affiliated with, regarding all manner of abuses, not only sexual misconduct:

... the ability and willingness to act on allegations was limited, or very much hampered. The willingness to own the issue was very limited, and the tendency to cover up was very strong.

A lot of the covering up is done in the name of shielding a good work from vicious detractors and enemies of the Church. A lot is done in the name of "mercy" toward the perpetrators. "Forgiveness" gets preached in place of calls for justice. It's revolting, in more ways than one.

A heartfelt amen to this point too:

It’s in the best interests of the Church as an institution, a system, that we are transparent as possible. That will help us to be more credible. Paradoxically, admitting your mistakes makes you more authentic and credible than when you try to hide them. This is a logic that works in the era of social media even more than before, and it’s something we haven’t yet understood.

Another Crux article brings in other, related elements: [my bold] 

As Pope Francis comes to terms with the magnitude of the abuse crisis in Chile, which pivots not only on widespread sexual abuse but also abuses of conscience and power, he has repeatedly called on the Chilean Church to recover its “prophetic” identity - which, presumably, means it had that identity once and, somewhere along the way, lost it.

I have two points in response:

1) I'm really glad that "abuses of conscience and power" are also being named and addressed. 

2) I think the Pope is exactly right to say that the Church needs to recover its "prophetic identity", which I take to mean its role of channelling divine grace and power into human affairs. It's the opposite of the "maintenance Church" the Pope has repeatedly denounced.

3) None of this will happen unless and until we put an end to clericalism, by which I mean a habit of thinking of the Church as an institution run by bishops with priests as their administrative deputies, supported financially by the compliant laity.