02 April, 2010

Sex Abuse and both/and ?

Can there be a middle ground in the ever widening sex-abuse scandal engulfing the Catholic Church? John Allen of the NCR asked this question yesterday and provided his judgment on that issue

I consider myself a Vatican II Progressive Catholic, but deeply impressed into my being is an appreciation of and commitment to the "both/and" characteristic (sacramentalism, analogical imagination) of Catholicism. I understand, but appreciate less, the "either/or" view of life. The world always appears in terms of gray, thus the both/and view is essential. However, we are sometimes (often?) called upon the make specific and clear choices.

The sex-abuse scandal is a complex situation and the issue of Benedict's action makes it more so. Those who have read my previous posts should know that I believe:

  •  That the primary response of individuals and "the Church" must be compassion and assistance to the victims of abuse.
  • That prevention of further abuse must occur even if that calls for dramatic or major changes in Church administration, internal procedures, and practices (E.g. optional celibacy, Married priests secrecy,).
  • That abusers should also be treated with compassion, but should always be prosecuted to the full extent of Civil and Canon law. The goal must be the protection of the community (society) and not revenge. 
  • That we must stop talking about "mistakes." Call things what they are: "illness" or "moral" evil as the case may be. In both civil life and the Church no one ever seem to do anything "wrong" these days. Everyone seems to only "make mistakes." Abusers my be ill; they make bad or sinful decisions. An adult doesn't just mistakenly abuse a child or anyone subject to his influence, authority or power.
  • What has been said of abusers applies even more so to priests, bishops, and a system that neglects, covers up or "makes mistakes" about sex abuse. I have experienced the culture in which deviant behaviors (E.g. alcoholism, sexual behaviors)  were interpreted only as moral/spiritual problems. That is the culture that many Church leaders grew up in. However that day must pass.
I long for and struggle to discover the kind of both/and view and decisions that will move us forward. I must admit it's a difficult. Any of, you, my readers, have any insights or suggestions? Send a comment!!!

When it comes to the current crisis, especially regarding the Holy Father, John Allen asks whether there is a middle ground.  Based on his extensive knowledge and experience, he makes two points.

The two cases from Pope Benedict's past that have recently come to light, one in Munich and one from his years at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, raise important questions, and the pope needs to answer them in order to move ahead. (Emphasis added)
 We live in a new age, a time that requires, demands, transparency. Look at our political life. Think of Richard Nixon and Watergate, Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky affair, the whole debate about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, or recent accusations of "back room politics" and health care reform. People can no longer, and will never, accept "cover-ups, appeals to secrecy, etc.

People want, increasingly demand, the "truth" and admission of wrong doing from their leaders. Whether or not Benedict has told the "truth" or allowed or participated "cover ups," it will eventually become necessary to provide a credible explanation and, if necessary admission of wrong doing by commission or omission.

Allen's second point is that:

Those questions, however, have to be seen in the context of his overall record on the crisis, and particularly since 2001, when John Paul II put then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in charge of reviewing the case files, there's a lot to be said for that record.
I believe any objective observer will agree that some positive change has occurred since 2001. The question is whether there has been enough "positive changes" and if they are the correct changes in the right places.
If you have an opinion leave a comment.

Sadly, Allen reports that response his article(s) has been divided between the two extremes: those who claim that he's part of the extreme Left and doing a "hatchet job" on the Church. At the opposite extreme, commentors  say things like, "Don't you ever get tired of being an apologist for the Vatican?"

John  ends by asking, about very controversial issues, "Is there room for a middle ground?"

My answer right now is "I don't know, but I hope so."

What about you, my readers? Do you have an opinion?


  1. The Church is going through a purification. The Holy Father himself is being wrongly persecuted, especially by the liberal media, no one would say the NY Times has been fair to His Holiness. The smoke of Satan has entered the Church, the Church must be cleansed. It will be difficult for all Catholics, but we must suffer as Christ has suffered. The sins of a few priest and bishops have greatly damaged Christ and His Church. Its all because of sin and the workings of Satan that entered the lives of these once holy men. What better way for Satan to try to destroy Christ Church than through its own members? There is a greater conspiracy going on here, its the workings of Satan and of man. Satan is using man for his purpose, and some men freely follow him. The conspiracy is much greater than the sex abuse, that is only the tip of the iceberg, it goes to the very core and many laity are also to blame. Refusing to accept Christ Church and teaching we are refusing Christ. What is going on now has been prophocized for many years, and Catholic Saints have talked about this. The Church will survive, but the Church is forever changed.

  2. Davide,

    Thank, you, as always, for your comment.

    I tend not to believe in "conspiracy" theories in the Church or civic life. They never seem to pan out.

    Yes, if one reads Church History, the Church has had some very bad times, but, even though deeply wounded it has, because of God's love and mercy, kept the Faith.

    I guess the place where we differ most is that I believe good men (speaking of bishops) do things that are very wrong (not just mistakes) and that Church leaders create SYSTEMS of administration and "pastoral care" that become evil. That is, the humanly created systems become the means by which good men do bad things.

    There is so much goodness and holiness in the Church, the People of God, that it will prevail. Evil will never prevail.

    The hierarchy does not need to tamper with the fundamental Beliefs of the Church. No one is asking or demanding that. I believe (opinion) that the clergy are able and will take hold of this horrible situation, be purified, and re-right the Barque of Peter.


Comments most welcome.