Monsignor Harry J. Byrne, JCD * * * Comment/

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Location: 3103 Arlington Avenue,, Bronx, NY 10463, United States

March 27, 2010


Some years ago, a small group of us, skiing at Hunter Mountain, included my fifteen year old niece. As she stood with three others, awaiting the oncoming chairlift, one of the attendants touched her firmly and improperly. She quickly jumped aside and, with a shout, stumbled back on her skis and sought an official. She, the official, and the chairlift attendant grouped together in animated conversation. The attendant was taken into the office, paid what he was owed, escorted to the gate and told never to return.

I was on the board of Camp Wabanake, run by Ralph Hittman, a dear friend. At a time when my nation-wide Church was undergoing the abuse crisis, I was chatting with him. "Ralph, you must have experienced this abuse problem with councillors at your Camp. How did you deal with it?" "Harry, once I knew that the allegation was sound, I called the councillor over. 'Here's five bucks. One of the staff will take you down to the bus stop. Get the hell out of here!'"

Wabanake and Hunter Mountain exist in a social culture that does not tolerate sexual abuse. What in heaven's name has happened to our Church? We tolerate what a ski resort or a summer camp would not. What is the mind set that has brought us to this? Our nation, Ireland, and now Germany and Europe continue to make the front pages with the same stories. On March 20, 2010, Benedict XVI directed a letter to the people of Ireland that was long on words of apology but short on specifics. He regretted that some in authority had made mistakes in judgments but he held no person accountable. The Murphy report by an Irish government commission had named the specific bishops responsible for the coverups. Four resigned because of their complicity.

Benedict's letter charged that a weakening of faith, neglect of devotional life, and misinterpretation of Vatican II documents played a part in the crisis. He aluded to mistakes and misjudgments by church authorities that had been made and urged "decisive action" in following canon law and cooperation with the civil authorities. But he gave no explanation as to why the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith and the Papal Nuncio had never replied to letters from the Murphy Commission or why the nuncio refused to meet with a parliamentary committee. He concluded by calling for "concrete initiatives": offering Friday penances for a year beginning at Easter, fasting, acts of mercy, scripture reading, and prayer for the growth of the Irish church. Sure, we need all this. But in this real world, we need expert personnel management. We do not have it! Commentators in the Irish press were quick to point out that Benedict made no call for accountability - the key to acceptable personnel management. Unlike the Murphy Commission which had named bishops guilty of coverups, Benedict named none, even making no mention of the four bishops, who had resigned because of their complicity. Nor did he mention that he had accepted only one of the four resignations.

Prior to Benedict's letter and as all the Irish bishops were about to travel to Rome to meet the pope, Dublin's archbishop, Diarmuid Martin had suggested resignation by those bishops who felt "in their conscience" that they should do so. After the bishops returned, commentators reported that Martin was a changed man, no longer with talk of resignations. There was a general feeling that the pope had closed the door on such talk and his letter showed that he had no initiatives in mind to alter church structure or its prevailing culture in any significant way.

As new abuse crises arise in Europe and with the horrifying story and testimony of victims in the St. John's School for the Deaf in St. Francis, Wisconsin, the faithful can only be angry at what has become of their Church and seek how they can participate in establishing the oversight to rid us of this sickening corruption. What is the next step?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

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March 31, 2010 at 6:12 AM  
Blogger carol byrne said...

What can be done?

* Challenge prevailing culture

* Enforce Canon 1395

* Publicize enforcement

April 5, 2010 at 11:59 AM  
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April 6, 2010 at 8:43 PM  
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April 11, 2010 at 7:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am tired of you deleting my comments. If I could figure out how to stop following your blog I would.

May 13, 2010 at 8:24 PM  

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