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

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

May 4, 2011


Alan Greenspan, former head of the Federal Reserve Bank, was opposed to government regulation of business, believing that the free market would itself self-correct its problems. The financial collapse in 2008 and continuing on proved him wrong. It was caused by many factors, chief among them, Greenspan's fixed idea that regulation was a bad policy. Regulation should be treated as a no-no, "Don't even think about it!" A fixed idea to be honored above all was at the heart of the problem.

Church authorities, Popes and bishops, have a fixed idea about the Church. It is almost divine, incapable of doing anything wrong. It is to be honored and preferred ahead of everything else. Priests are abusing children and bringing dishonor on the Church. Oh, no! That can't be. Anti-Catholicism is behind this talk. Lawyers are drumming up such cases to make money. This abuse simply doesn't really exist. Popes and bishops tried for a long time to deny or cover up what, to them, was unthinkable. They put concern for the Church (and self-concern) ahead of everything, even the innocence of children.

But it was not unthinkable. It took the press, trial lawyers, district attorneys, and grand juries to show the brutal reality. But, even then, some would hold on to that image of Church. Cardinal Bevilaqua could still hold it after the 2005 Philadelphia grand jury findings and keep miscreants in ministry. And Cardinal Rigali, after the 2011 grand jury report, announced, "There are now no abusers in ministry." A week later, Rigali was forced to remove abusers still in ministry!

Pope John Paul held on to his fixed idea. When Cardinal Bernard Law, poster boy for reassigning abusers, was driven from Boston by his priests and people and, perhaps, to avoid a subpoena, JPII made him Archpriest of a prestigious church in Rome with a six-figure income and retained him in vetting candidates for appointments as bishops! Cardinal Bevilaqua and Pope John Paul II still "didn't get it", still maintained the fixed idea "Put the Church ahead of everything, including innocent children and, now more recently, ahead of falsely accused priests".

And now, Cardinal Rigali, under fire from press and the public for his mismanagement, was appointed on April 18 by Benedict XVI to be his special representative at a ceremony on June 18, 2011 honoring St. John Neumann in the Czech Republic. What is this all about? Does Benedict not understand how the faithful and the public will interpret this accolade for Rigali? Does he care? Does Benedict misunderstand child abuse as John Paul did when he rescued Cardinal Law from Boston? Do these two popes and two cardinals still accept the fixed idea at the heart of the problem: "My Church preferably right, but right or wrong, my Church!"

There is solid reason to think that the two popes "still don't get it". John Paul rewarded Cardinal Law, who exponentially multiplied the numbers of damaged children by reassigning abusers. Benedict conferred a special mission and honor on Rigali at the very time Rigali is shamed by the Philadelphia grand jury and calls for his resignation are being made. How unfortunate it is that these popes, with their fixed idea of a glorious and beneficent Church, can honor two cardinals, who, however unwittingly, caused injury to thousands of children. Both popes apologized for the sins of abusing priests. But the bad personnel management by many bishops has invariably been described by both popes in using the passive voice: "The matter was badly handled!" The harsh reality must be faced: the sins of abusive priests are outrageous; but the $2 billion of the faithful's contributions were paid out for settlements and court judgments for mismanagement by many bishops. When popes and bishops dispel the old Church-protective fixed idea, the way is open for salutary reform.