Sin Inside the Church
En route to Portugal, Pope Benedict XVI spoke bluntly about the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church. “The suffering of the church also comes from within the church, because sin exists in the church…today we see it in a truly terrifying way,” said the pope. “The greatest persecution of the church does not come from enemies on the outside, but is born in sin inside the church.
One might seize on the pope’s words as proof that he had finally grasped the severity of the crisis and that he was also rebutting Curial officials who had blamed the church’s woes on “enemies on the outside.” If so, one would be only half right: the pope has been aware of the problem for years. During his time in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger strove to discipline the Rev. Marcial Maciel, the now-disgraced founder of the Legion of Christ. As pope, he met also with abuse victims during trips to the United States, Malta and Portugal.
On the other hand, the pope’s words did signal a rebuke to the Curial cardinals who have blamed the media and other so-called “enemies” for a problem that was of their own making.
The pope’s strong words should be followed by strong actions: establishing U.S.-style standards for handling abuse cases; making reparation to victims; apologizing whenever possible; accepting episcopal resignations; reforming the Roman Curia; providing stronger assurances to parents for organizations that have children in their care. Failure to match actions to words, particularly in this case, would be just as “terrifying.”
Failure-Prone Climate Bill
We have learned in the last weeks how sophisticated technology can lead to disaster. Soon after multiple system failures caused the collapse of a British Petroleum oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, which now threatens the U.S. Gulf coast with ecological collapse, a glitch in the electronic trading system seems to have plunged the Dow to a 1,000-point drop in a matter of minutes, dragging down blue-chip Proctor and Gamble to a one-cent value. The most ingeniously designed systems can cause enormous, unanticipated damage when they fail.
Congress should think of that as it considers eliminating roles for the Environmental Protection Agency and for the states in the new Kerry-Lieberman climate and energy bill, known as the American Power bill. That statute would exclude the E.P.A. from a role in regulating greenhouse gases. In 2007 the Supreme Court upheld that responsibility as consistent with E.P.A.’s mandate, under the Clean Air Act, to regulate air pollutants. The new bill would also supersede inter-state covenants for controlling atmospheric emissions. It would replace them with a new, nationwide cap-and-trade system shaped by financial analysts and energy industry lobbyists.
The country and the world need a U.S. climate change bill, but not one that disallows action by the E.P.A. and the states. They have both acted as Congress dithered. They should be allowed to continue as necessary back-up systems in the event a loophole-ridden nationwide cap-and-trade mechanism designed by lobbyists fails to reduce greenhouse gases—even as it enriches traders and energy producers.
Kony at Large
As violence rages in eastern Congo, Congolese bishops blame the Congolese government for allowing the violence to continue “under the impassive eyes of those who have received a mandate to keep the peace and to protect the population.” Among the deadly bands ravaging the countryside is the Lord’s Resistance Army, led by Joseph Kony, a self-proclaimed spokesperson of God. The L.R.A. killed over 300 villagers last December and abducted over 100 children to serve as child soldiers and sex slaves. Kony is thought to be hiding in a national park near the Sudanese border. The International Criminal Court issued warrants in 2005 for his arrest and that of his senior leaders, but the indictments have not led to their capture.
Faith-based organizations are providing humanitarian assistance in the midst of the devastation. Catholic Relief Services, for example, has trained local women in psychological counseling for survivors of sexual attacks. Rape of women and young girls has been used for years in eastern Congo as a weapon to force villagers from their homes. Denis Mukwege, M.D., head of the C.R.S.-supported Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, reports that in many cases the reproductive organs of victims have been completely destroyed. Dr. Mukwege has met with congressional officials in Washington to heighten awareness of rape atrocities.
The House of Representatives has just passed a bill approved by the Senate in March, the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act. It requires President Obama to develop a regional strategy to protect civilians in central Africa and to focus on apprehending Kony and other L.R.A. leaders. This is a step in the right direction.