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

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July 16, 2010


Yesterday, July 15, the Vatican did not help its already damaged reputation, when it declared a new set of rules dealing with both abusing priests and ordained women in the same document, suggesting, by juxtaposition, that both groups are involved with equally "grave" offenses. This Vatican document with its bizarre twinning of ordained pedofiles and ordained women shows a stupidity and absence of sound moral judgment probably unequalled in church history. To equate as "grave crimes" pedofilia and ordination of women has caused a great negative outcry from fair-minded men and women and an abundance of sharp criticism in op-eds, editorials, and letters to the editor. The ordination of women is a mere blip on the church radar screen. There are no victims; priests' abuse of children appears as a raging hurricane, leaving untold thousands of children psychologically and spiritually wounded. Have the curia people, who publicly juxtaposed these issues, lost all sense of moral judgment and personal embarrasment as they appear in public as though everything is just fine? It is not the emperor who has lost his clothes!

The new document deals with statutes of limitation, administrative processes, and canonical trials relative to priests; it says nothing whatever about those bishops, who quietly reassigned miscreants and thereby exponentially multiplied the number of victims. In the US, not one cover-up bishop has ever been arraigned before church authorities for his part in the scandal. On the contrary, Cardinal Bernard Law, poster boy for cover-ups and driven from Boston by his priests and people, was welcomed to Rome by JPII and given rectorship of a prominent church, significant curial posts, and a six figure income. The armor of clericalism shielded him from any accountability just as this present Vatican document continues to shield all bishops from any accountability. Our bishops' own National Review Board has tellingly declared, "The exercise of authority without accountability is not servant-leadership; it is tyranny".

This document also provides, that regarding the delicts mentioned, cardinals and bishops are to be judged, by mandate of the Pope, by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. But no item of a bishop's possible delinquent behavior, it's punishment, or any process for judgment is indicated, despite the long history of bishops secretly reassigning pedophiles "to avoid scandal". They have no warrant for the immunity they incredibly possess from harsh judgment and punishment. When reports of two government commissions revealed the extent of abuse by priests in Ireland, Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, apparently aware of the immunity of his fellow bishops, announced a policy of "fraternal correction". He called on five bishops to resign because of their complicity in reassignments of pedofiles. Four did resign. Later Martin emerged from a meeting in Rome with B16 in what the press characterized as a "chastened mood". Did the pope tell him that calls for resignations could only come from the pope? And in the present document, judgment of bishops is put in the hands of the CDF. A further example of the pope maintaining the immunity of bishops? And his own tight control?

This document shows the clericalism that is at the heart of our church's problem. The official church doesn't see women as equal to men! Remember JPII when he refused to acknowledge the existence of Sister Theresa Kane when she addressed him. And now putting ordained women in the same bag as ordained pedofiles! And bishops in their bullet-proof vests from which the bullets of genuine criticism and accusations bounce away, unnoticed! This is the clericalism that must be driven away by the forces of truth and justice! In the meantime, we Catholics are embarrassed at the ineptitude and ignorance of the real world displayed by our supposed leaders.

July 12, 2010


It was a bad news week for the Church we love according to the July 9th issue of the NCR."Papacy under Siege" was the lede for the story of the Belgian police raid on an archbishop's palace. The Vatican protested loudly. But Belgian police knew that the Church had never voluntarily surrendered records about the sexual abuse phenomenon. Disclosure in the US was forced by the "Boston Globe"; in Ireland, by two governmental commissions; in Germany, by the Suddendeuche Zeitung. Belgian officials decided to checkmate Church authorities and secure the records that might speak of crime.

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious supported the Obama health legislation while the bishops' opposed it. Cardinal George declared that the bishops had the prerogatives to teach and take positions on such legislation. He said it was a matter of church governance. The LCWR disagreed.

NCR editors included material on the Vatican investigation of women religious as to doctrinal matters and their way of life. The women religious regarded it as an affront, having had no participation in its planning and having been told they cannot see the final report, leaving them unable to voice any rebuttal.

An article describes the secrecy that keeps victims of abuse and the accused from knowing what was carried out. Delay in the Catholic court system is characteristic.

John Allen writes about discord between Vatican cardinals - Sodano and Schoenborn and the shakeup in curia leadership, which "completes the ascent of the pontiff's personal friends and theological proteges to the Vatican's top positions".

Most disconcerting to this blogger's mind is Allen's report on Benedict's "new liturgical movement" bent on "recovering elements of the liturgical tradition that he believes were too hastily set aside after Vatican II". I am of the view that JPII was and B16 is determined to substitute their own personal views in place of the determinations arrived at by the world's bishops under different popes. Nothing can be done about this distancing from collegiality.

John Thavis writes about the pope discoursing informally about celibacy. At a time when mandatory celibacy is being seriously questioned in terms of a more mature sexuality of the priest, its possible relation to priestly abuse, and the deterrent effect on priestly vocations, it seems to me thoroughly unpersuasive to argue, as the pope does, that "celibacy was a way for the priest to become more united with Christ and His mission in anticipation of the world of the resurrection". The pope and this type of mind will never move to optional celibacy. Very simply, it is a matter of control. Celibacy controls a priest's private, public, and social life, his residence, his income, his retirement. The clerical mind of the pope will never loosen this grip on control. But others pay the price, priests living with women out of social, psychological, and physical pressure, especially in developing countries. A Bishop Antonio Capdevila in a diocese of Honduras, with whom I spent several weeks, told me that he had thirty-four priests living out in mountainous areas. All save one were living with women. And he pointed out how these unions generally began in a very Christian manner. The priest, filled with ideals and conviction, lives alone in the mountains. He becomes sick. A woman comes in to care for him. End of celibacy!

Should a loving Church have concern for the conflicted and tortuous consciences of the couple? Or, as the priest lives in a poor rural area and struggles with many problems, will he be energized by the pope's challenge to "the anticipation of the world of the resurrection"? The pope lives with abstract concepts and the sanitized derivatives deduced from them. The priest lives out in the mountains amid muddy roads, precipitous cliffs, and simple folk who don't dress up for dinner. Logical deductive thinking will never pull the priest's car out of the ditch.

More bad news! Germans officially register with a governmental agency, naming the church of their choice. A portion of their income is allocated as a tax to their church. On formally leaving that church, the tax allocation ceases. In 2009, 125,585 left the Catholic church, up from 121,155 in 2008. The lowest number of departures - 84,389 - occurred in 2006. The sex abuse scandal is generally thought to have caused the increase.

Finally, the ethics committee of St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix of which Mercy Sister Margaret McBride was a member, permitted an abortion, which was deemed necessary to save the life of the mother. Without it, both mother and fetus would die and her other four children would be left without a mother. When Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmstead heard of the abortion, he declared McBride excommunicated. A torrent of criticism ensued. It seemed clear that the abortion was permissible and Olmstead's declared excommunication quite erroneous. In addition, the writer pointed out that when bishops declare Catholics excommunicated, they presume that these individuals had deliberately violated their consciences. St. Thomas Aquinas has declared that one must follow conscience, even when erroneous.

These are some of NCR's thoughts for the week. Each constitutes rich material for thought and spirited discussion.