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James Martin, S.J.March 16, 2010

These have been dark days for the church universal, and I feel very discouraged about the news in Ireland and Germany, which seems a repeat of Boston in 2002.  That is why these words from Kieran Conry, the bishop of Arundel and Brighton in the U.K., were so bracing.  Hearing a bishop speak plainly is one thing that the church needs, among many other things, to continue to combat the scourge of sexual abuse.  Words like his are not sufficient, but they are necessary.  This is from the Times Online.  (H/T to Robert Mickens at the Tablet.)

The Roman Catholic Church is “holed beneath the waterline” and may take generations to recover from the sex abuse scandals, according to the first English bishop speak out on the crisis.  The Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, the Right Rev Kieran Conry, rejected accusations of media bias against the Catholic Church and said the problems of paedophile priests dominating headlines in the UK and across Europe were problems of the Church’s own making. “The Roman Catholic Church sets itself up to be the great moral authority. When it does fail its own rigid standards, it deserves to be attacked and criticised,” he said.

 Bishop Conry denied that there was a link between celibacy and child abuse but admitted that priests were suffering because of loneliness. “Very often clergy sublimate that into alcohol and other dependencies,” he said. However, he said that he would never call or campaign for an end to priestly celibacy and he did not believe that ending it would ease the shortage of priests.

He said the problems could not be covered up. “It is real, it is reality, you can’t deny it and it’s going to damage the relationship between many individuals and their church in the way it has damaged the individuals who are the victims of the abuse,” he told The Times.  He believed the problems had not been exaggerated. “I think what we will find is the number of cases will grow. We can’t pretend it is something we can ignore or dismiss. The Church is one of the great moral champions in terms of its own rigid moral codes. When it fails it deserves to get hit.”  --Times Online

James Martin, SJ




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Michael Baumann
12 years 11 months ago
Those words are not sufficient.  I was the target of a pedophile priest when I was 13.  He had help keeping his secret.  He is still being protected by a Diocese that moved him from parish to parish.  They finally moved him to treatment, conveniently out of the jurisdiction that could have prosecuted him for sexual crimes he committed against other children.  They moved him without informing the civil authorities.  They facilitated his escape, they are complicit in the sexual abuse of every child he touched or raped after they had the intitial report.
Many of us have no recourse in the courts, criminal or civil.  Some have gone to the church seeking help, seeking the truth, or seeking justice.  The hierarchy of the church is so busy protecting the treasure of the church, they have turned their back on the children and vulnerable adults who were targeted by the opportunistic wolves in roman collars. 
I do not classify all priests as predators, but I see that the hierarchy of the church sees this crisis, no it is not just a scandal, as an exercise in risk management.  There is nothing Christian about the way victims have been treated by the ''church universal''.
If you want to fix the problem, tell the truth!  Turn over the files of the priests credibly accused for investigation.  Tell the congregations that there was a predator in their midst.  Seek out those who still hold on to the great terrible secret and instead of isolating them, get them the help they need. 
The Catholic Church is not the ''great moral champion'', in fact, it is morally bankrupt.  This crisis is not over and it has not moved to Europe.  As long as Bishops remain silent, more victims will come forward.
Ana M. Spes
12 years 11 months ago
I don't want to use space for comments as my personal weeping blog, but...Living in Europe and being a european Catholic these days isn't easy, but at all. What is happening to us, to our Church? I understand that nobody will ever be able to guarantee that a pedophile won't sneak into the Church, these monsters can be found everywhere. But to COVER up whole thing again??? For God's sake.
OK, I'm turning this into a private weeping space now; I'm 26 years old, and I spent last 6, 7 years of my life as a lapsed Ctholic, or something even worse - I used to say pretty mean stuff about my Church, just being one of those irritating pseudo rebellious young people. But I decided to come back. And I loved it. Still love it. I love my Church, but I can't help feeling that my Church doesn't love me.
Maybe I'm reacting emotional "at the heat of the moment", but I feel discouraged and almost betrayed. Is this ever going to end? I'm actually fisicly sick and just sad, sad, sad.
Btw, father Jim, I love and admire your work, ever since..well, Colbert report, I guess. :) Sorry for weeping. And broken english.
12 years 11 months ago
It's good to hear a bishop cope with reality, however he is wrong that  the ending of mandatory celibacy would not increase vocations. that 25 thousand priests in the USA alone left to get married is one proof. How many of the 18 thousand married deacons could be fully ordained is another. This June/July all dioceses will again close parishes having  such numbers of parishioners that Protestant ministers would beg to have that many. The abuse scandal is enough proof of bad management by hierarchy and the parish closings and priest shortage is another. Where is the lever to change a failing system? A resigning Pope is a hope for change. No Pope or his reputation is worth more than a generation of the Faithful. And leaders who think he is worth more should resign with him. And the conclave would not have silent cardinals  as the 'elephant'  wanders around outside in  St Peter's Square.
Carolyn Disco
12 years 11 months ago
Thankfully, Kieran Conry in Britain and Diarmuid Martin in Ireland, two out of how many dozens of bishops, break rank to speak truthfully that the media is not to blame. Benedict needs to clue in his spokesman, Federico Lombardi, to that fact.
One must be grateful for even glimmers of reality in the face of the denials and distortions of Vatican bureaucrats and their complicit “brothers”. Speaking out takes courage because it is very painful when the brothers find vicious ways to undermine one of their number. Just ask Geoffrey Robinson in Australia.
Keying off Conry’s statement, the relationship between laity and hierarchy deserves to be grievously damaged. Bishops are impediments to the participation of many in the church, drawing contempt for their self-serving lies (I’ve got a list) and arrogance.
I search for clear, unequivocal, explicit admission of the criminal endangerment of children and obstruction of justice they practiced in numerous countries. But owning personal culpability is anathema to prelates.
Carolyn Disco
12 years 11 months ago
Some ideas to clear the slate, for starters:
-          stop parsing theological reflections about evil as red herrings to deflect from episcopal accountability,
-          Immediate removal of Law from his exalted position,
-          fire Brady and Drennan in Ireland by ordering their resignations,
-          accept resignations offered by the three Irish bishops left hanging,
-          clean house of the major US complicit bishops, avoiding normal retirement exits with honors
-          release of all diocesan and Vatican secret archives to investigating civil authorities and survivor attorneys so the truth is fully revealed,
-          mandatory reporting of all allegations to police and child welfare agencies,
-          dissolve the Legion of Christ with direct admission seminarians were abused by Maciel,
-          invite Maciel victims and leaders of survivor groups for extended meetings at the Vatican, with full court honors (the actor who played Christ in Gibson’s movie got an invite, why not those molested by clergy?),
-          release the names of all credibly accused priests so the depth of abuse may be known
-          eliminate canonical statutes of limitation in abuse cases
-          let the Gospel suffice for consultation, versus lawyers and PR personnel
12 years 11 months ago
Thanks for posting this.  I find it incredible that the priest who was convicted of sexual abuse in Germany has been working ever since - if the church was held to the same standards as a secualr corporation, the pope would have his socks sued off and would probably be forced to resign.   I do think allowing married priests (and women priests) would  make a big difference in sexual abuse in the church. 

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