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

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

June 18, 2010


Benedict XVI celebrated Mass in St. Peter's Square with some 15,000 priests on June 11, the closing day of The Year of the Priest. He asked for forgiveness from God and from victims of priestly abuse. He pledged that "everything possible" would be done to prevent this abuse from happening again. But "everything possible" contains not one concrete action step. At the heart of the crisis is accountability. When things go wrong,the person accountable must be treated in a way that gives notice to all of dire consequences to follow.

Benedict has done nothing to establish accountability. Bishops remain in place even though they failed to comply with Canon 1395, calling for punishment of an abusing cleric. Benedict in his pastoral of March 20, 2010 to the Irish people expressed his "great concern" about what happened. But he did not announce a Church process for assessing responsibility and accountability of the Irish cardinals, bishops, and priests, who had been named for their mishandling of abuse allegations.

In the US, disclosure of abuse by priests and its concealment by bishops came from the media, district attorneys, and trial lawyers, but not from church authorities. And those bishops, publicly named, were never held accountable. None resigned, except
Cardinal Bernard Law,poster boy for reassigning abuser priests and driven from Boston by his priests and people. John Paul II, in probably the most egregious gaffe in papal governance and public relations in modern times, welcomed Cardinal Law to Rome, as he fled his own country to evade a subpoena. Law was made rector of a prestigious Roman church with a six-figure income and a position on the Commission charged with nominating bishops! He had been rewarded, not made accountable! Even more astounding,JPII comes off as perceiving Cardinal Law as not having done anything to be held accountable for! This pope was overwhelmed in a culture of clericalism in which pope or bishop could do no wrong! No wonder there is a crisis!This pope simply did not understand that for sex abuse, someone must be held accountable.

A bishop, who knowingly reassigned an abusing priest, should be punished under Canon 1389, which penalizes misuse of authority that injures anyone, certainly children. But if the pope doesn't bring charges, what then? A brilliant light in the gloom of today's Irish church has been Dublin's Archbishop Diarmuid Martin. An Irish government Commission, last November, named five bishops as culpable in handling abuse cases. Martin, pleading fraternal correction, asked the five to resign. Four did so. Martin publicly declared that if he knew a bishop who was guilty of cover ups, he would request that the pope remove him!

Similarly, Bishop Walter Mixa of Augsburg resigned last April after admitting that he had beaten boys in his earlier years. But it appears that two prominent archbishops had prevailed on Benedict to remove Mixa, noting allegations that he did more with the boys than beat them. An example of fraternal correction by bishops!

Our own bishops' National Review Board, in its report of February 27, 2004, made these comments: *"The exercise of authority without accountability is not servant-leadership; it is tyranny."
*"Bishops should be more willing to engage in fraternal correction and should appeal to the Vatican if a particular bishop appears unable or unwilling to act in the best interests of the entire Church."

Do we have here a short-cut to action via fraternal correction, bypassing the ponderous, creaking machinery that purports to be a judicial system? If so, the Church will be well served. Rome is too understaffed and too far away geographically and ideologically to complete proceedings while all the principals are still living. Local bishops are on the scene. The ball is in their court. Archbishop Martin and the two German archbishops, acting as leaders, seized the opportunity to help the Church. Did any of the US bishops fraternally correct Cardinal Law? Or advise the pope against giving him the red carpet treatment? If they have stepped in anywhere or will in the future,it should be publicly reported as an accepted method of intervention. But it must be thoroughly transparent, to prevent its becoming another symbol of the "old boys" club.

Fraternal correction comes from Matthew:18, 15-18. Jesus is the source of this powerful instrument. Can we do better than this?


Blogger 佳皓 said...


June 19, 2010 at 7:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


June 24, 2010 at 4:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


June 27, 2010 at 8:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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July 1, 2010 at 4:31 AM  

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