Thursday, May 02, 2013

No Fundamental Change in Catholic Church Sex Abuse Policy

Throughout the sex abuse scandal that has raged over the last decade or more, the Catholic Church hierarchy has worked hard to (i) paint the problem of priestly sex abuse as a problem of the past, and (ii) convince gullible Catholics and the larger population that the Church has changed its ways.  The problem is that both of the Church's PR efforts are not true as repeated stories from around the world reveal.  A piece in the National Catholic Reporter looks at the current situation and concludes that no fundamental change has really occurred whatsoever.  The bigger question is why, if this article is correct, anyone gives the Catholic bishops the time of day?  Especially, politicians who ought to be running from ties to child rapist enablers.  Pope Francis may talk tough, but nothing has really changed to date.  Here are some article highlights:

Rumors that the Roman Catholic church's clergy sex abuse crisis is a problem of the past have been greatly exaggerated.

"The bishops' public relations machine has persuaded the people that it is a problem that was, not that is," Jeff Anderson says, "and that is a living lie. There have been superficial changes, but not fundamental changes."

Anderson, one of the most well-known lawyers to bring a lawsuit against the Roman Catholic church, was part of a panel to promote the publication of Mortal Sins: Sex, Crime, and the Era of Catholic Scandal, a new book by journalist Michael D'Antonio.

The event took place April 23 in New York City's Bleecker Street Theatre, one week before new revelations that, just across the Hudson River, Newark's Archbishop John J. Myers allowed a priest who admitted to groping a 14-year-old boy to attend youth retreats, travel with a youth group on a pilgrimage to Canada and hear the confessions of minors.

In addition to Anderson, the panel, moderated by D'Antonio, included some of the biggest names in advocacy against child sexual abuse, all of whom figure prominently in Mortal Sins: canon lawyer Fr. Thomas Doyle, psychotherapist Richard Sipe, former priest Patrick Wall, and Barbara Blaine, founder and president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

Much of the conversation among the five panelists focused on why these abuses continue to persist given that in the past decade, the institution has suffered severely negative press, a mass exodus of followers, and more than $3 billion in settlements worldwide.

D'Antonio traces the root of the problem to the church's unusual relationship to spiritual and political power, which he said began in 1870, when the pope was given a new form of authority called infallibility. Then, 60 years later, the Vatican's civil status was defined in a concordat signed by then-Prime Minister Benito Mussolini.

"Catholicism became the only religion in the world with the status of a country, ruled by a churchman who was also a monarch," D'Antonio explains in Mortal Sins.  For Doyle, it's the church's monarchical structure that has made the global sex abuse cover-up possible. "In the office of pope, there is the power to demand complete obedience and to require secrecy in order to preserve that power."

Anderson said the obedience requirement has resulted in the "absolute exclusion of critical thinking" among the clergy, who are threatened with "the loss of pay, power and pension" if they refuse to obey.

"I have a deep respect for church as the body of Christ, but no respect left for the institution, the pope or the bishops," Doyle said. "There is corruption from the top down."  .   .  .  . What changed me was meeting the victims of sex abuse and their mothers and fathers," Doyle told the panel audience.

Like Doyle, Sipe trusted the institutional church would eventually fix this crisis, and he, too, said the cover-ups "reach the highest corridors of the Vatican."

"We will not see radical change under this pope or any other pope unless there is a change in the system that says the pope and cardinals are above everyone because God made them that way," Doyle said. "The men at the top need to be fired."  "We must demand and require legally and culturally that the Vatican disgorge itself of its secrets and that they obey civil laws," he said.
There's more to the article, but readers can see where it is going.  I remain of the view that until more Catholics simply walk away, the powers that be in the hierarchy will see no reason to change.   Until the hierarchy's power, money and undeserved privilege is seriously threatened, there will be no change.  Meanwhile, members of the laity who continue to drop checks in the collection basket help finance the criminal enterprise.

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