Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster in today's edition of The Times:
What of the role of Pope Benedict? When he was in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith he led important changes made in church law: the inclusion in canon law of internet offences against children, the extension of child abuse offences to include the sexual abuse of all under 18, the case by case waiving of the statue of limitation and the establishment of a fast-track dismissal from the clerical state for offenders. He is not an idle observer. His actions speak as well as his words.
Every year since 2002 the Catholic Church in England and Wales has made public the exact number of allegations made within the Church, the number reported to the police, the action taken and the outcome. As far as I know, no other organisation in this country does this. It is not a cover-up; it is clear and total disclosure. The purpose of doing so is not to defend the Church. It is to make plain that in the Catholic Church in England and Wales there is no hiding place for those who seek to harm children. On this we are determined.
One more fact. In the past 40 years, less than half of 1 per cent of Catholic priests in England and Wales (0.4 per cent) have faced allegations of child abuse. Fewer have been found guilty. Do not misunderstand me. One is too many. One broken child is a tragedy and a disgrace. One case alone is enough to justify anger and outrage. The work of safeguarding, within any organisation and within our society as a whole, is demanding but absolutely necessary. The Catholic Church here is committed to safeguarding children and all vulnerable people.
Damian Thompson of The Telegraph comments. Thompson also commented earlier on the NYT story about Benedict and the Wisconsin situation.
On a related note, Mark Brumley, president of Ignatius Press, made the following comment in remarking on another post on this blog:
1. The mechanisms of dioceses are difficult for unsympathetic and uninformed people to follow and uninformed unsympathetic people don't usually take the time to get facts straight, even when the matter in question is a serious one. They just opine. And nowadays they opine in the mass media.
2. Years ago I made the argument (somewhere) that if the standard practices of the media were brought to bear on the history of any bishop in the Catholic Church, that bishop would inevitably be made to look as if he were at fault. So much of the media is simply either incompetent or wicked or both. There are simply too many things that happen in the inner workings of the Church that lend themselves to distortion and misunderstanding. What's more, even apart from ill will or incompetence, bishops and others make mistakes. Those mistakes will not be treated as honest errors by a hostile media but as part of a pattern of abuse or deception or a culture of oppression or whatever.
3. There are enough real cases of abuse and cover-up to undercut the credibility of other bishops, even when those other bishops made only honest mistakes or no mistakes at all. This is the unfortunate pattern of the evil bishops victimizing the good bishops by poisoning the well (as if it needed poisoning).
4. The more bishops fulfill their vocations and speak out, the more hostility they will bring on themselves. They cannot avoid this. There are opportunities, though, for bishops to reach many people in spite of the media. And of course even if no one listens bishops are still obliged to proclaim the truth.
There is nothing we can do to avoid the problems. Perhaps we can minimize them by being honest and prudent and willing to repent and willing to suffer. But we cannot avoid the attacks and distortions. Judgment begins in the household of God. Woe to you when all men speak well of you.
Meanwhile, John Allen, Jr., has written another piece on Benedict XVI, the scandals, and the media feeding frenzy, titled, "Keeping the record straight on Benedict and the crisis." A small snippet:
First, some media reports have suggested that then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger presided over the Vatican office with responsibility for the sex abuse crisis for almost a quarter-century, from 1981 until his election to the papacy in April 2005, and therefore that he's responsible for whatever the Vatican did or didn't do during that entire stretch of time. That's not correct.
In truth, Ratzinger did not have any direct responsibility for managing the overall Vatican response to the crisis until 2001, four years before he became pope.
Strange, isn't it, that while most MSM reporters would scoff at and mock belief in papal infallibility—something most of them couldn't correctly define if asked to—some of them seem to believe in papal omnipotence and omniscience, qualities apparently inherent in the genes of any man who would be pope from the time of his birth. (At this point, I expect to read an article in a major newspaper about how the eight-year-old Joseph Ratzinger had vivid and unsettling premonitions of future abuses committed by some priests, but failed to report them to directly to Pope Pius XI. Cowardly boy!) But, then, this has been in evidence before, when Cardinal Ratzinger was bashed for supposedly damning to hell every Catholic theologian in the world who uttered one dubious or ambiguous statement relating to Catholic doctrine. I suppose, however, it is easier to "report" on what Ratzinger allegedly did, may have done, or possibly didn't do prior to being elected pope then to, say, actually report on what Barack Obama really did and said prior to being a candidate for the presidency. (Ratzinger was vetted by the press for twenty-five years; we're still waiting for the vetting of Obama.)
Of course, every pope of the past fifty years has been overtly attacked and made out to be some sort of Vatican villain, medieval-loving moron, or clueless celibate. The one possible exception was Pope John XXIII, who was portrayed more as a lovable simpleton and whose actual statements on significant issues have been either conveniently ignored or skewed. Pius XII has been portrayed as "Hitler's pope" and an anti-semite. Paul VI was demonized for having the temerity to uphold the Church's teachings on marriage, love, sexuality, and contraceptives. John Paul II was often attacked for his fight against communism, upholding and reiterating Church teaching on priestly ordination, defending authentic marriage, and critiquing materialism, secularism, and relativism. Benedict has been portrayed as Islamophobic, homophobic, disrespectful of Judaism, afraid of modernity, and allegedly covering up for child-molesting priests. Come to think of it, aren't the popes also responsible for causing cancer, breaking up the Beatles, and messing with the formula for Coke?
Polemics against popes are hardly new. And it's not news that popes are sinners; Jack Chick and Co. might think Catholics believe the pope can't sin, but it's difficult to find Catholics (even poorly catechized ones) who would uphold belief in papal impeccability. But the popes of the past few decades have had to deal with some powerful factors unique to the modern world, notably radical advances in communications, the advent of modern media, the modern liberal state, secularism, diet soda, and a host of related matters. Toss in the upheaval of the 1960s in the West, the Second Vatican Council, the fall of communism, the rise of radical Islam, and Twitter, and it is indeed a complex and challenging world.
But, even as clueless and historically tone-deaf Huff-and-Puff ranters declare, "The Catholic Church is collapsing into a state of moral bankruptcy," the Church is purified, cleansed, and disciplined by the One who founded her. The Church, as Chesterton pointed out in The Everlasting Man, has "died" many times over. And yet lives. Walker Percy wrote, in a wonderful essay, "Why Are You a Catholic?", that when he was asked to explain his decision to be a Catholic (having been an avowed atheist as a young man), "I usually reply, 'What else is there?'" He then wrote:
Judaism is offensive because it claims that God entered into a covenant with a single tribe, with it and no other. Christianity is doubly offensive because it claims not only this but also that God became one man, He and no other. One cannot imagine any statement more offensive to the present-day scientific set of mind.
Or scientistic set of mind. (Here is more on Percy and scientism.) The world is indeed right to condemn the sins of Catholics. But the world isn't satisfied with condemning the sins of Catholics (especially since it has such an uneasy relationship with the notion of objective sin and is quite selective in whose sins it condemns), but wishes to simply destroy the Catholic Church. The world cannot stand the scandal of particularity, the scandal of the Incarnation, the scandal of Jesus Christ:
If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. (Jn. 15:18-20)
As Mark rightly states, "Judgment begins in the household of God. Woe to you when all men speak
well of you." Sin within the household of God must continually be confronted, identified, condemned. This has been a deadly serious challenge throughout the history of the Church. Note carefully the words of St. Paul, writing to the Christians in Corinth: "Come to your right mind, and sin no more. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame." (1 Cor. 15:34). And to Titus: "As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear" (Tit. 5:20). And St. James wrote, "Whoever knows what is right to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin" (Jam. 4:17). And the Apostle John, in his first epistle, declared, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 Jn. 1:8).
Jesus said, "For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners" (Matt. 9:13). The Church is full of sinners. And the Church must accept whatever means by which the Lord disciplines his sons (cf., Deut. 8:5; Heb. 12:1-13). But the Church does not have to quietly accept slander, false accusations, and irresponsible attacks; she has a right and a responsibility to soberly distinguish between truth and falsehood, to carefully separate fact and fiction, and to act accordingly.
Come to your right mind, and sin no more. Good words to reflect on as Lent draws to a close and the great feast of Easter approaches.