The CDF's Response to Abuse

Today the New York Times featured a front-page story on the response of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to the sexual abuse crisis, during the time when Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger was prefect.  For me, the most surprising part of the article, called "Church Office Failed to Act on Abuse Scandal," were the pointed comments made by bishops and archbishops (and a few canon lawyers) on the congregation's handling of abuse cases. "There was confusion everywhere," said Archbishop Philip Edward Wilson, of Adelaide Australia.  And this, about a special session of English-speaking bishops who met with the CDF in 2000 to address the crisis, this:

Archbishop Wilson said in an interview that during the session he had to call Vatican officials’ attention to long-ignored papal instructions, dating from 1922, and reissued in 1962, that gave Cardinal Ratzinger’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, previously known as the Holy Office, sole responsibility for deciding cases of priests accused of particularly heinous offenses: solicitation of sex during confession, homosexuality, pedophilia and bestiality.  Archbishop Wilson said he had stumbled across the old instructions as a canon law student in the early 1990s. And he eventually learned that canonists were deeply divided on whether the old instructions or the 1983 canon law — which were at odds on major points — should hold sway.


If the old instructions had prevailed, then there would be no cause for confusion among bishops across the globe: all sexual abuse cases would fall under Cardinal Ratzinger’s jurisdiction.  (The Vatican has recently insisted that Cardinal Ratzinger’s office was responsible only for cases related to priests who solicited sex in the confessional, but the 1922 instructions plainly gave his office jurisdiction over sexual abuse cases involving “youths of either sex” that did not involve violating the sacrament of confession.)

Few people in the room had any idea what Archbishop Wilson was talking about, other participants recalled. But Archbishop Wilson said he had discussed the old papal instructions with Cardinal Ratzinger’s office in the late 1990s and had been told that they indeed were the prevailing law in pedophilia cases. Just over a year later, in May 2001, John Paul issued a confidential apostolic letter instructing that all cases of sexual abuse by priests were thenceforth to be handled by Cardinal Ratzinger’s office. The letter was called “Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela,” Latin for “Safeguarding the Sanctity of the Sacraments.”

In an accompanying cover letter, Cardinal Ratzinger, who is said to have been heavily involved in drafting the main document, wrote that the 1922 and 1962 instructions that gave his office authority over sexual abuse by priests cases were “in force until now.” The upshot of that phrase, experts say, is that Catholic bishops around the world, who had been so confused for so long about what to do about molestation cases, could and should have simply directed them to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith all along.

Bishops and canon law experts said in interviews that they could only speculate as to why the future pope had not made this clear many years earlier. “It makes no sense to me that they were sitting on this document,” said the Rev. John P. Beal, a canon law professor at the Catholic University of America. “Why didn’t they just say, ‘Here are the norms. If you need a copy we’ll send them to you?’ ”

Nicholas P. Cafardi, a Catholic expert in canon law who is dean emeritus and professor of law at Duquesne University School of Law, said, “When it came to handling child sexual abuse by priests, our legal system fell apart.”

Are these fair critiques, and is the Times coverage fair? On that last point Michael Sean Winters, now blogging at NCR, says no.

The Times article comments, this is not reporting really, that, “Yet throughout the ’80s and ’90s, bishops who sought to penalize and dismiss abusive priests were daunted by a bewildering bureaucratic and canonical legal process, with contradicting laws and overlapping jurisdictions in Rome, according to church documents and interviews with bishops and canon lawyers.” Have Ms. Goodstein and Mr. Halbfinger [the reporters] ever seen a rerun of “Law & Order”? Legal processes are complicated and sometimes bewildering. The authors note that some cardinals were worried about maintaining the presumption of innocence in ecclesiastical tribunals. The horror. Shame on them. Worrying about a silly thing like the presumption of innocence in a court of law. Hell, it is only one of the cardinal (no pun intended) principles of a civilized society.

As for the import of the 1922 and 1962 documents, about which the story makes so much, the Times acknowledges that there was confusion about who did and did not have authority to deal with the crime of sex abuse until 2001. That confusion reigns still. This morning I consulted two highly respected canon lawyers. One said that the documents did give the CDF authority in the disputes. The other said the documents only gave CDF authority over the crime of solicitation in the confessional. Again, check in with Jack McCoy.

What do you think of the Times piece?

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Brendan McGrath
8 years 6 months ago
I'm frustrated with all of the following:
1) Various members of the hierarchy, for their corruption, and for what they have done and failed to do in responding to the scandals.  I'm especially angry that so much of what they're doing / failing to do is going to alienate more Catholics and cause them to fall away from the Church.  To put it in a way that conveys the paradox: I'm angry at many bishops for causing people to reject the bishops; I'm angry at the pope and the bishops for causing people to reject the truth that the papacy and episcopacy are divinely established.  (What is not divinely established, of course, are things like bishops being driven around in limousines, dioceses acting like corporations, bishops closing Catholic schools rather than selling their mansions first, the recent infuriating claim that only a pope may criticize a cardinal, the lack of accountability and transparency, the fact that lay people, religious, and "lower" clergy don't have a voice in decisions on school closings, etc.) 
2) I'm angry at "the media," for getting so much wrong in their reporting, and for making things seem worse than they already are, thus exacerbating the alienation of people from the Church.  "The media" is not consciously or deliberately anti-Catholic, and may even have a strain of "pro-Catholicism" at times, but it coexists with an ingrained anti-Catholicism that rears its ugly head at times.
3) I'm angry, or at least disappointed, with the unconscious Donatist attitudes and assumptions among many lay people who let the scandals and other corruptions drive them away from the Church, or doubt the Church's divine institution (though of course the manner of the Church's divine institution isn't like the silly version that is often imagined or portrayed).  I.e., I'm frustrated not only with bishops and popes who don't practice what they preach, but also with those lay people who assume that because bishops and popes don't practice what they peach, that therefore that preaching is false. (Ny "preaching" here I mean the infallible teachings, the core things of the Catholic tradition, etc. not the exasperating and obliviously tone-deaf spoutings of individual bishops who turn a child of God away from a Catholic school, or in ignorance of canon law announce the excommunication of a nun in a difficult situation when what is needed is compassion (why the nun, and not the doctors, the mother, etc.?), etc.)
4) I'm frustrated with Benedict XVI - I think he is fundamentally a good and holy man, as well as a brilliant scholar and theologian, but he MUST move beyond just words to ACTION.  And the first action should be to remove Cardinal Law from power and from his post at St. Mary Major - the value of this would  be mostly symbolic, but it would be so helpful.  Actually, for me, it's not the lack of consequences for Cardinal Law (or for other bishops who may be given as examples) per se that bothers me - it's the fact that the lack of such consequences alienate people from the Church.
It's such a paradox and an irony when you believe and take seriously the doctrine on the papacy and the episcopacy, but simultaneously allow yourself to be angry and frustrated rather than mouthing pious platitudes: like it or not, we're stuck with the pope and the bishops, for somehow in spite of it all and how absurd it seems, they are what they claim to be, though so often unworthy of it.  The bishop who covered up child sexual abuse REALLY CAN absolve you from your sins; the teachers who are untrustworthy give teachings we can trust above all else; the filthy hands feed us with the One who cleanses all filth.  The ultimate love-hate relationship: the bishops you can't stand belong to the episcopacy you can't live without.
Peter Lakeonovich
8 years 6 months ago
I am with MSW on this one. What is the rambling, incoherent piece in The New York Times even about? Seems like a big snoozer to me heading into the holiday weekend. Happy Independence Day to all!

By the way, on a related note, how uplifiting and transcendant the Mass celebrated at the Vatican on feast of Saints Peter and Paul where the Metropolitan Archbishops were given the Pallia. These JPII Bishops will not fail to act in solving this crisis of fidelity.
michael gonyea
8 years 6 months ago
Responding to accusations with attacks on the accusers in murdochesque fashion is beneath you father jim. [it is not beneath michael sean winters however}.
michael gonyea
8 years 6 months ago
The future [now current] Pope, God bless him, messed up. Responding to accusations with attacks on the accusers is murdochesque. I believe B16 is cool with this pov. I'm not at all sure he knows where to go from here.
Cathy Fasano
8 years 6 months ago
There is a very human desire that we want every horrible thing that happens in the world to be someone's fault.  That way we have CONTROL - we can pass laws against bad things, and punish the people responsible for the bad things.  But real human beings screw up.  They don't know what to do.  They don't know how to do what they think should be done.  They make judgment calls about who to believe and make the wrong calls.  Bad people deliberately hide their activities and are SUCCESSFUL and so the good people who could have stopped them if they had only known don't know.
If only the human race were all made up of fabulous comic-book superheroes, I would just feel so SAFE knowing who the Good Guys (YEAH!!!) and Bad Guys (BOO!!!  HISS!!!) are and that the good guys are always going to win!  So much of what I read in the pages of the NYT is quite indistinguishable from the rage against the superheros for their "failures" to fly in on capes - or drive up in their batmobiles - and *WHAM* *POW* knock out the bad guys.
Mary Carney
8 years 6 months ago
I think the New York Times despises Ratzinger and Catholics.  This is agenda driven reporting.  There is not only nothing new in the accusations, it is manipulated.  I disagree with those who think Ratzinger hasn't done anything and I think that we fail to recognize what he has done and is doing is a pitiful sign for Catholics.  He has asked us to pray, do Adoration, do penance and offer it up, beg God for Holy priests, fallen on his sword more than once in acts of obedience and humility.  What people want is bishops heads to roll - I wonder if that's what Christ really wants?  Or would he, as Ratzinger, has done say to them - go out and make it better, heal - don't hide.  The fact that we don't recognize all of this as action is appalling.  What people want him to be is what they loathe - the political leader of an orgainzation, with all the power they want to deny him.  I'm a college professor - think of the clergy and bishops as tenured faculty - no tell him - what's he supposed to do?  Look at what he has done and asked us - the faithful to do.  He's asked us to engage in our faith as a response to evil, and we pooh-pooh the idea - even on the pages of a Catholic magazine.
8 years 6 months ago
I found the article informative, if depressing. The Vatican should have  noticed the fact that sex abuse was a crime and notified the authorities when it came to their attention, but instead they covered it up.  I still haven't read of any morally acceptable reason for why this was so - it seems to have been all about protecting the institution at the expense of the faithful.  I don't understand why we get caught up in criticizing those who bring this to our attention.
Winifred Holloway
8 years 6 months ago
When I read the article in the Times my overall impression was that there was considerable confusion over which congregation, which code of canon law, etc. was operable.  What strikes me is that the Vatican dithered.  As pointed out in the Times piece, liberation theologians were gone after with a vengeance.  Abusers?  Dithering.  Why?  Perhaps they didn't see it as all that important.  It reminds me of that attitudes displayed in the documents from the archdiocese of Boston that were released in 2003 by court order.  Cavalier, callous and clueless.  Our bishops.  The Times is not anti-Catholic, so let's not shoot them.
Stephen O'Brien
8 years 6 months ago
I thank Brendan McGrath for comment #1 above.  It would be wonderful if the Holy Father were to read that comment and take it to heart.
All Catholics should take to heart the following words of Christ: ''The scribes and Pharisees [. . .] have established themselves in the place from which Moses used to teach; do what they tell you, then, continue to observe what they tell you, but do not imitate their actions, for they tell you one thing and do another'' (*Mt* 23:2-3; Knox).
Jim McCrea
8 years 6 months ago
It has become quite regular in some Catholic blogsites for some to attack the reporters rather than refute their claims.
To point out the errors of self-righteous arrogance is not anti-catholic; is it simply pointing out the errors of self-righteous arrogance.
Kate Smith
8 years 6 months ago
I'm one of the Catholics who have seen too much.  Way too much.
So, here is my promise.
If Catholics here keeping blaming it on the NY Times and not on church leaders, I will do what it takes to leave the church, whatever hidden, not talked about much process there is in canon law for baptized Catholics to stop being Catholic.
I see no effort to deal with the problems in the church, just blaming people who see the problems.
And THAT is on top of everything else.
Hey, you won't miss me anyway.
Brendan McGrath
8 years 6 months ago
Stephen - I'm glad you liked my comment!
Michael Gonyea - You wrote to Fr. Martin, ''Responding to accusations with attacks on the accusers in murdochesque fashion is beneath you,'' but Fr. Martin did not do anything of the sort; he simply quoted Michael Sean Winters's article for us to discuss; he did not endorse its contents. 
Kate - I've read your various comments on the blog posts here, and have been saddened and angered by the facts you've related, and frustrated with those Jesuits who've failed not only you, but the Church as a whole, and God.  I wish/hope that various Jesuits reading your comments (e.g., Fr. Martin, perhaps?) would/will look into the case and apply pressure where pressure may be needed.  Also - You're wrong that people wouldn't miss you if you left the Church: I would miss you.  It's not that I think your salvation would be endangered or anything (objective and subjective dimensions being different, etc.), but I would miss your ''company'' in the Church, so to speak.  Others here at America would miss you. 
What's more, St. Peter and St. Paul would miss you. 
St. John the Evangelist would miss you. 
St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Polycarp, and St. Clement of Rome would miss you - Ignatius, ground as God's wheat for your pain, yes, he would miss you.
St. Justin Martyr, Athenagoras of Athens, and Theophilus of Antioch would miss you.
Don't doubt it for a second - they would miss you.
Clement of Alexandria, St. Irenaeus of Lyons, and Origen with their tomes of catechesis, glorious visions of Christ who recapitulates all things, reams of Scriptural commentary and apocatastatic vision - they, too, would miss you.
Tertullian - nevermind the Montanism - he who wrote volumes, volumes to forge your faith - Tertullian would miss you.
Heaven forbid you should think think these are simply names on a list - no, they are a litany of people who love you and care for you and share your anger and pain and surround you with their presence.
Saints Perpetua and Felicity would miss you.
St. Antony in his hundred-year desert stretching into triune eternity would miss you.
St. Lucy would miss you.
St. Athanasius, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, and St. Hilary of Poitiers would miss you.
The Cappadocians St. Basil, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, and St. Gregory of Nyssa would miss you.
St. Ambrose would miss you.  St. John Chrysostom would miss you.  St. Cyril of Alexandria would miss you.
Egeria, Marana, Cyra would miss you.
St. Jerome and, yes, St. Augustine - ''take and read,'' he whispers - would miss you.
All these holy men and women would miss you.
St. Patrick, St. Bridget, St. Brendan would miss you.
Pseudo-Dionysius, whoever he is, would miss you.
St. Benedict would miss you.
St. Maximus the Confessor and St. John of Damascus would miss you.
St. Aneselm would miss you.  Abelard would miss you.  Hugh and Richard of St. Victor would miss you.
St. Bernard of Clairvaux would miss you.   
St. Hildegard of Bingen would miss you.
St. Dominic would miss you, he who gave you your rosary.  St. Francis of Assisi - pierced through on Mount Alvernia, still dancing and singing among the animals and flowers and birds, dancing for joy within you - St. Francis would miss you.
St. Thomas Aquinas - I answer, that there are three ways in which he would be said to miss you.  And St. Bonaventure, that seraphic doctor, would miss you.
Meister Eckhart would miss you.
St. Mechtild of Magdeburg would miss you.
Hadewijch would miss you.
Julian of Norwich would miss you.
St. Catherine of Siena would miss you.
St. Catherine of Genoa would miss you.
St. Joan of Arc would miss you.
St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Francis Xavier, Matteo Ricci, they would miss you.
St. Teresa of Avila - can you look me in the eye and tell me she is not praying for you now and that she would not miss you?
St. Robert Southwell, St. Robert Bellarmine - they would miss you.  St. Francis de Sales would miss you.  Blaise Pascal, with his scraps of paper for the Pensees, swirling around the glowing center of an unfinished masterpiece, dreamed for you - he would miss you.
John Henry Newman, St. Therese of Lisieux, G.K. Chesterton (oh! how he's miss you!), Simone Weil, Thomas Merton, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Karl Rahner, Flannery O'Connor (who'd write you letter upon letter)... they'd miss you.
Stay, Kate - do not leave the Church; I implore you.  But not just me - it is the triune God Himself/Herself who implores you, the majestic Christ who implores you. God the Father implores you; God the Son implores you; God the Holy Spirit implores you. The Blessed Mother of God implores you.  The mystery of the cross implores you. The faith of the holy apostles Peter and Paul and of all the saints implores you. The blood of the martyrs implores you. The continence of the confessors implores you. The devout prayers of all holy men and women everywhere implore you. The saving mysteries of our Christian faith implore you.
All, and God who is all All in All, would miss you.
michael gonyea
8 years 6 months ago
Michael Gonyea - You wrote to Fr. Martin, ''Responding to accusations with attacks on the accusers in murdochesque fashion is beneath you,'' but Fr. Martin did not do anything of the sort; he simply quoted Michael Sean Winters's article for us to discuss; he did not endorse its contents. 
Brendan, You are correct. I hope that Fr. Martin and you will accept my apology. The hurrier I go the behinder I get.
When I would complain that the Church seems to be stuck in the past, my mom would respond by saying: "The Church moves slowly, and that's not necessarily a bad thing." She was right of course. Truth is not relative, and humankind evolves very slowly. However Mr. Winters is off base. The church is once again "stuck in the past" except this time the issue is moral as opposed to doctrinal, and there is considerable evidence that the Church swept abuse issues under the rug. The failure of the CDF, and John Paul II, to address the abuse issue in a timely fashion was reported accurately by the Times. Understanding who knew what and when, as Jack McCoy would no doubt agree, is essential to determining innocence or guilt.
michael gonyea
8 years 6 months ago
David Smith, Sorry to irritate you with unpleasant truths. If you've grown tired of them, please take a rest.
robert hoatson
8 years 6 months ago
Thank God for journalists like Laurie Goodstein.  Coverage by the secular media has resulted in the much of the truth about clergy sexual abuse being exposed.  It was clear that Cardinal Ratzinger was more interested in disciplining liberation theologians than disciplining predator priests.
Michael Kelly
8 years 6 months ago
For those criticizing critics of the NYT story: see
''Another vicious, inaccurate, and contradictory New York Times attack on Pope Benedict''
By Phil Lawler  July 02, 2010
''New York Times rips Pope, says he could have stopped abuse scandal in 1990s''
charles jordan
8 years 6 months ago
As we look at 'just the facts' in the NYT, and MSW's response, we can draw several conclusions.
1) It is a mistake to fast track Archbishop John Paul ii's cause for sainthood.
2) The virtue of courage is in short supply in the Curia. Is it too much to ask that a bishop, on recognizing that another bishop, here Archbishop John Paul ii, is not acting appropriately, to behave rightly and with courage, and without concern for career paths.
3) The theology of the new priesthood is impaired. We the Church need to also teach that sometimes amoral, or very sick men are ordained, and that not dealing with them and their bishops publicly and forthrightly ultimately damages the Church's responsiveness to the vocation of the new priesthood. The sacrament of ordination is never medicinal.
4) Just because one does not like the interpretation of the facts, does not change the facts.
 5) If the law, or a code of law, is causing damage, then what good is it.
8 years 6 months ago
I have a completely different take from many on the sex abuse reporting both by Catholic and non-Catholic sources.  I admit I haven't read more than a small percentage of the coverage but here are a couple reactions that I have:
First, the NY Times is an atheistic institution and in no way can you expect anything friendly from its pages relevant to the Catholic Church.  Some stories will be neutral and some will report positive aspects by some members (see Father Martin's post a few days ago.)  Many will say that they are just reporting and that they are just the messenger and that is nonsense.  If they were just reporting then they would not try to slant the coverage is subtle and some times not too subtle ways.  For example, while there is no smoking gun that the pope condoned or ignored the behavior of the religious who were involved in sex abuse there are all the hints that he did not stop the behavior when he supposedly could of.
A truly balance bit of reporting would have laid all the Church has done since it became apparent how wide spread the behavior was and how it is now pretty much under control.  I rarely see such a story but only new episodes that took place several years ago.  Now many in the Church are complaining that the back lash is too extreme and that many good applicants for the priesthood are being denied.  A fair reporter would emphasize the dates of the egregious behavior and when the last of it was excised from the Church.  I hope it is currently excised but something like this is almost impossible to stamp out completely.  
But we are not given such reporting but only a litany of faults about the hierarchy of the Church.  There is only one reason for this and it is not the good of the Church the NY Times has in mind.  And many Catholics have fallen for it.
Second, this behavior did not just arise in the last 50-60 years.  What did the Church do to priests that did this for the 1900 years since the time of Christ.  There must be some history of these tendencies in the clergy and religious.  What is this history and why did it explode starting in the 1950's and 1960's.  What did the Church do before that.  They couldn't just covered it up for 19 centuries and done nothing about it.  I believe we have to understand that before we can understand the last 60 years.
Third, I am deeply grateful of the hierarchy (popes, bishops, heads of orders) and all they have done over the centuries and no less in the last 100 years.  I am not ashamed of them as so many disgruntled Catholics seem to be.  Yes, they have made mistakes and they are human just like everyone else I know and have the same temptations we all do.  But yet they are made to bear incredible burdens and sometimes they do not make the right decisions.  Lay Catholics often haven't a clue what these burdens are and I can't imagine any sympathy from NY Times reporters at all.  Just ask the local parish priest how he spends his week and then look at what the bishop has to do.  The responsibilities mushroom at each level as it goes up and they have to make lots of decisions and then take the responsibility for them.  The Catholic Church is the largest organization in the world and also its oldest.  So they must have been doing a lot of things right.  Seldom do I see any appreciation for this amongst the disgruntled Catholics who constantly snipe at the hierarchy of the Church.  They are like the Monday morning quarterbacks who think they could do better than the coach of their favorite team.
michael gonyea
8 years 6 months ago
So many good Catholics. Such poor leadership. I am Catholic forever. I thank the wonderful priests and bishops who do God's work on a daily basis. The Church will never die. The current heirarchy will. I will too. As will JR Cosgrove.
robert hoatson
8 years 6 months ago
Is Mr. Cosgrove serious:  after all he has read, heard, and digested during the past 8 yeras at least since the Boston abuse scandal erupted, he is still apologizing for corrupt and deceitful behavior by Church higher-ups.  He has to be kidding.  The NY Times is atheist...that's a new one.  In that case, it's good they are atheist, because it means they have no "religious" bent.  Isn't that good, Mr. Cosgrove?  They treat all religions equally....and report those very important issues that need to be reported, such as the corruption and hypocrisy of the Roman Catholic Church.  Long live the truth!
8 years 6 months ago
''Is Mr. Cosgrove serious''
I am very serious.  I doubt you will find anyone at the NY Times that is seriously interested in religion other than as a specimen to be examined under a micro scope.  And they definitely have a religious bent, it is anti religious.  And no way does that mean they are after the truth.
Jim McCrea
8 years 6 months ago
"...there is developing within me, an inborn and profound opposition to what is usually regarded as the form, the hopes and the interests that are Christian. What can you expect: in the Christian world as it is presented in our ecclesiastical documents and the catholic gestures or conceptions, I suffocate absolutely, physically...We are no longer in fact ‘Catholic’; we are defending a system, a sect."  
attributed to Teilhard de Chardin, 1926 (citation unavailable)
8 years 6 months ago
Another wonderful quote from your vast archive, Jim McCrea.
Anyone who has ever overdosed on ecclesiastical documents from the Vatican will know just how Teilhard de Chardin felt. The ritualistic, over-elaborate style and deliberate obscurity seem designed not to communicate but to impress and at the same time, obfuscate,  allowing for  endless after- the- fact revision. (If you can't have made a mistake, you can, of course,never be seen to change your opinion.) And if you are always right about everything you don't have to make a good case for your views, just assert them and repeat them. The effect in the end is utterly stifling. 
Brendan McGrath
8 years 6 months ago
Re: the Teilhard quote - I'm a huge fan of Teilhard; I had a class on him at Georgetown with Fr. Thomas King, SJ, who passed away last summer (I mention Fr. King in case anyone else here might know and love him too).  Anyway, I thought it might be good to provide some other Teilhard quotes on the Church that show a different picture than the previously quoted passage- despite his frustrations, Teilhard was extremely loyal to the Church:
From "Introduction to the Christian Life" (aka "Introduction to Christianity"), 1944, in "Christianity and Evolution" (New York: Harcourt, 1971, trans. Rene Hague), pgs. 151-172:
Pg. 153:  "...the Church is a supremely living 'phylum.'  That being so, to locate, as Catholics do, the permanent organ of this phyletic infallibility in the Councils - or, by an even more advanced concentration of Christian consciousness, in the Pope (formulating and expressing not his own ideas but those of the Church) - is completely in line with the great law of 'cephalization' which governs all biological evolution."
Pg. 166: "Catholics are often reproached by other Christians for seeking to monopolize Christ for themselves - as though there were no true religion outside Catholicism.  After what has been said earlier about the living and evolutive nature of the Christian faith it is easy to understand that this privilege claimed by the Church of Rome of being the only authentic expression of Christianity is not an unjustified pretension but meets an inevitable organic need."
Pg. 167: "Everything goes to show that if Christianity is in truth destined to be, as it professes, and as it is conscious of being, the religion of tomorrow, it is only through the living, organic axis of its Roman Catholicism that it can hope to measure up to the great modern humanist currents and become one with them.  To be Catholic is the only way of being fully and utterly Christian."
From "On My Attitude to the Official Church," January 5th, 1921, in "The Heart of the Matter" (New York: Harcourt, 1978, trans. Rene Hague), pgs. 115-116:
"...the more I become aware of certain failures on the part of the Church to adapt herself, of the loss of her vitality (to which I shall return later), the more I recognize how incompetent I am and how ill-qualified to take it upon myself to give a definitive appreciation of her in her general or, if you prefer the word, her axial character.  The Church represents so powerful a channeling of what constitutes the moral and 'sublimating' life-blood of souls, a conduit dug so deep into the whole of man's past - in spite of certain accidental and ephemeral lapses from generosity, she has to so marked a degree the faculty of encouraging human nature to develop itself fully and harmoniously, that I would feel guilty of disloyalty to Life if I tried to free myself from so organic a current as the Church provides.  In spite of the unvoiced and instinctive wish I have at certain times experienced, the wish to find a positive reason for 'dropping everything,' I cannot shut my eyes to the fact that 'It would be a biological blunder for me to leave the religious current of Catholicism.'"
From a bit later in the essay: "...Even if we were to suppose that this form of religion [Catholicism] is even further from Truth than we think, the fact would still remain that it is the most perfect approximation to that Truth - and that, if we are to mount higher, we have to outdistance it by growing with it; we must not abandon it to seek our road by ourselves."
Later in the essay: "...I do not consider that I have the right to break with the Church (it would be suicide)..."
Brendan McGrath
8 years 6 months ago
With regard to my last post - note that the strongest "pro-Catholic Church" statements (to put it clumsily) come from "Introduction to the Christian Life," which is dated to 1944 - i.e., much later in Teilhard's life than the somewhat more lukewarm statements from "On My Attitude to the Official Church" in 1921; also later than the 1926 passage Jim quoted.  Of course, "lukewarm" is all relative; saying that it would be suicide to leave the Church is only "lukewarm" if you're comparing it to, "To be Catholic is the only way of being fully and utterly Christian," or ingenious argument that papal infallibility is not backward, but rather a jump forward in evolution.
This is the guy that so many conservative Catholics are afraid of? 
Believe me, Teilhard is much more orthodox than people realize - even if there are areas of his thought that are problematic, we can take what is good and modify for ourselves what needs to be modified, etc., just like we do when looking to the early Church fathers (and mothers) as a resource.
michael gonyea
8 years 6 months ago
Sorry Mr. Cosgrove. While we obviously disagree, my patently stupid reference to 'the jetsons' and you was, well, patently stupid. god bless.
8 years 6 months ago
Mr. Gonyea,
I am not sure what we disagree on.  No one answered or even tried to answer my questions.  Maybe they were not put forth in the best way.  In no way am I defending corrupt practices because I find them not only sinful as well as destructive.  Destructive to the individuals who were the targets of the actions as well as to the degenerate who did them but most of all to the Church in general.  
I am tired of the constant assault on the hierarchy from people who have little understanding of what it takes to do the job.  It is the same phenomena as people who constantly criticize managers in business and from experience as a low level manager in business I can attest how hard it is to manage both people and resources well, especially people.
Thank you and God bless.
Stanley Kopacz
8 years 6 months ago
I've been around long enough to recognize poor management in general.  The present hierarchy exhibits all the characteristics of non-collaboration , imperiousness, aloofness, rigidity and a few etceteras beyond that.  I remember someone saying after a general meeting run by the managers, "It's all about them."  It seems to be that way in the Church, now.  Consult "Band of Brothers", the TV series or the book, and look at the difference between a Captain Sobel and a Lieutenant Winters.
The most difficult thing about becoming a priest, today, is not the celibacy, burdensome as that is, but the probability of having to serve under a tyrant 24 hours a day.  Who would want to work for these guys?  You have to be either a saint or demented.
As for my criticism of the hierarchy, I've seen good management and bad management and will express my appropriate opinion of both when I see them as I have always done.
Jim McCrea
8 years 6 months ago
If the accepted, nay - expected - relationship between priest and bishop is that of son to father, then there are no end of problems that can be encountered:  being "daddy's boy", trying to earn the favor and approval of a stern father, the dependent relationship that carries into adulthood, etc.
No wonder there is tension between bishop and priest.
robert hoatson
8 years 6 months ago
Mr. Cosgrove:  you are tired of the ongoing assault on the hierarchy.  How about the ongoing assault by the hierarchy on children, teenagers, and vulnerable adults?  Should we stop the assault on Hitler and his associates for the Holocaust?  No?  Then, any assault on the hierarchy is well-deserved and necessary because "they" haven't gotten it yet.  They continue to operate as they have in the past, and children, teenagers, and the vulnerable are still not safe.
You point to the "difficulty" of being a bishop.  P.L.E.A.S.E!  The only difficulty about being a bishop is the temptation to become exactly what Jesus warned "leaders" not to be.  How many bishops would you give more than ten cents for?  I can't think of more than a couple, and those men are "marginalized" by their own kind.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, the Archbishop of Dublin, is looked upon by many of his brother bishops as a traitor because he turned in his own!  Good for him.  Wouldn't it be great to see an American bishops' meeting interrupted by the FBI (a la Belgium), the bishops held in one place for 9 hours while all cell phones, laptops, and documents are seized, and the bishops not eat or drink for hours?  Maybe they'll understand what clergy abuse victims go through on a daily basis.
A bishop has a difficult job?  Only if he chooses not to do the job of a bishop and instead acts like an executive for Enron! 
Brendan McGrath
8 years 6 months ago
Hm... if some priests are "daddy's boy" in relation to bishops, then if we could ordain women as priestesses, if their bishop was male, a priestess could be "daddy's little girl"!  A female bishop ("bishopress"?) could have a male priest who's a "mama's boy"! 
I personally would rather have a father-son relationship between bishops and priests than something else - the only thing that needs to be remembered is that lay people are part of the family too.  The cold, formal, arm's-length, "professional," ephemeral, "networking," smoothly and tactfully "polite," superficial-corporation-style relationships that we tend to have in American society and that we slice away once they're no longer convenient are enough to make anyone choose the Church over "the world" any day.  (By the way, in my mind here is that early blog post about being "unsentimental" Church leadership or something that I never commented on.)  That's not to say that the corporate mentality (or "model," if you prefer) never infects the Church - but one of the most comforting and invigorating things about Catholicism is the way in which you don't have to do anything to "earn" the right to belong to the Church, and you're never, ever turned out (even excommunication is not meant to be permanent). 
It's funny sometimes to hear people think that the Church doesn't welcome everyone - there are legitimate issues behind such impressions, but on another level, what other entity could possibly be more welcoming than the Catholic Church?  Think about it: not does the Church WELCOME you to be Catholic, but it teaches that it's a sin to refuse to enter or remain in the Church if you're convinced it's necessary for salvation!  Not only are you WELCOME at Mass, it's a mortal sin (objectively, not necessarily subjectively) for you not to attend!  Not only that, but it's free!  You don't pay a membership fee, and although you're asked to donate, they'd still rather have you come and not contribute than stay away - in fact, they insist on it!  You can never be laid off from the Church, or not re-elected, or fired, or expelled permanently, or divorced, or not renewed, or anything of the sort.  Where else are you welcomed so much that you're given an indelible seal on your soul?  Where else are you welcomed so much that you could commit the most horrible attrocities and still be not only welcome, but required to attend, and offered absolution as well?  Where else does your welcome and your identity come not from what you DO (such that it would go away if you stopped doing it or were unable to), but from what you ARE?
Give me a bishop over a CEO any day.  He may be corrupt, but at least he's always mine.
Dale Rodrigue
8 years 6 months ago
Poor St. John Chrysostom said it best: ''The floor in Hell is paved with the skulls of bishops''.  The bishops then marched him to his death in the desert.
The next conclave will determine if the church survives or shrivels away.  Action always speak louder than words.  Go Pope Schonborn, clean out the curia!
Brendan McGrath
8 years 6 months ago
Katie - I was afraid someone was going to ask something like that.  ;)  I wrote that line, "Give me a bishop over a CEO any day," and then realized I probably had to add another line to clarify or justify it somehow, or at least acknowledge and reiterate once again that bishops can still be corrupt, and that's kind of all I could come up with!  But I hope my main point about the underlying attitude of Catholicism, contrasted with "the world" or corporations, etc., still holds up.  I'm not quite sure how to answer your question - though I can offer some thoughts that come to mind.
I'm from Philadelphia - in September 2005 (just a few months after I graduated from college), the Grand Jury report on clerical sex abuse in the Philly archdiocese came out.  I remember driving home that day, having heard about some of what was in the Inquirer about the report, and feeling more and more sick to my stomach as I got closer to home where the paper was waiting for me.  Beyond the horror of the abuse itself and the cover-up (a term which may be more appropriate in some instances than in others), what worried me most was 1) that this could alienate more people from the Church, and 2) that it could somehow damage the Catholic school "world" that I love so much.  And also, I guess I had hoped that things weren't as bad elsewhere as they were in Boston - it's one thing to read about the scandals in another city; it's another thing to read about them in your own city (and suburbs, where I was raised and still live), your own home, on the streets that you love and that you've driven and been driven on countless times over the course of your life.  Don't misunderstand me: I wasn't questioning or doubting my faith, or my belief in infallibility, the sacraments, etc.; I'm not a Donatist (and I'd never been raised to think that priests were always holy anyway).  What was upsetting me was the fear that the "Catholic world" would collapse, for lack of better words.  (Incidentally, there's a short story I got an idea for at the time that's on the backburner right now, but eventually I'll finish it, and deals with this sort of thing.)
I read what was in the paper... it was sickening, heart-sickening, frustrating, infuriating.  That night, neither my Mom or I felt like doing anything; nothing seemed "palatable" - like when you have a stomach ache or virus, and the sight of any food repels you.  I had an away message up at one point saying that Cardinal Bevilacqua (our archbishop who had retired about a year or so previously, and the one most implicated in the report) belonged in jail.  At that point (i.e., during that month or so), I was in the middle of reading Julian of Norwich's "Revelations of Divine Love," having read excerpts of it a few years before and falling in love with it - anyway, that night, I was reading it, and even that, even Julian or Norwich, was barely enough to comfort me. 
As I said, I was furious at Cardinal Bevilacqua - but nevertheless (and here's where I'm getting around to your question), for some reason, as time went on, I could never really hate him completely.  I don't know why, but I just couldn't help but sense there was some good in him.  I remember hearing that he'd sort of withdrawn into seclusion, and that he wasn't physically well - that may still be the case, I'm not sure; he's never in public as far as I know, even though he still lives at the seminary.  But anyway, I just can't hate him: yes, I know how awful his actions and lack of actions were, and I have great sympathy for the victims; I went to a Voice of the Faithful rosary/demonstration outside Cardinal Rigali's mansion... but I can't help feeling some sort of bond with Bevilacqua.  I don't even feel a bond like that with Rigali - maybe it's because my feelings would be more valuable to Bevilacqua, since he's the one who fell and would need them more.  I think to myself, "what if I'd been one of the kids that he let a priest abuse" - but I still can't hate him. 
There were two times I remember seeing Bevilacqua: once when he visited my kindergarten classroom, another at the archdiocesan youth day (not the sort of thing I usually attended) in... I think in 2000, where he said Mass.  I remember this one part of his homily: he said something about how people may not like going to Mass, or they find it boring, but they often speak about how they'd like to have been there when Jesus was alive, or they wonder what it would like to be at the foot of the cross.  I'm heavily paraphrasing and I'm not sure if he said anything like this, but I remember quite clearly that he went on to say this: "But do you know that it is the SAME THING???" (i.e., the Sacrifice of the Mass and Sacrifice of the Cross).  His voice was odd and quirky as he said it - at the time I don't think I understood what he was saying, but when I looked back at it later, I recognized the doctrine behind it.  The little memories like these: they're not fond memories, really; they're not warm, they're not anything special at all.  But... I can't help harboring some small glimmer of affection for Bevilacqua, even if it's disrespectful to the victims.
If he's corrupt, why should I care if he's mine?  I don't know - but all the same, he's mine, whether I like it or not.
Jim McCrea
8 years 6 months ago
Brendan:  I want to know what you are smoking so I can get some too:
"You can never be laid off from the Church, or not re-elected, or fired, or expelled permanently, or divorced, or not renewed, or anything of the sort."
You must be quite young.
Brendan McGrath
8 years 6 months ago
Jim - I'm 28, so I guess I'm quite young (I hope I'm quite young).  I hope you're not misunderstanding me - I'm certainly not talking about being "laid off" in the sense of being laid off from a job at the archdiocese or a Catholic school (in fact, that happened to me in June 2009, I was "bumped" from my position during the Philly archdiocese's constriction process for the secondary school system - though some good news, I recently got hired to teach Theology at another school for the coming year), and I'm not talking about being forced out of a position as a bishop or pastor, etc.  I'm talking about basic membership in the Church: other than excommunication (which isn't meant to be permanent), you're not going to be "laid off" so that you're no longer a Catholic.  Perhaps that seems like a dull observation to make, but at least for me it means a lot, as I imagine it might to lots of other people, particularly twenty-somethings like me who at various times have dreaded hearing the question, "so what are you doing these days?" and not having a quick, easy, acceptable answer. 
You graduate from college (or grad school, or whatever - and I know I'm talking about only a certain segment or society), and suddenly, after being cared for and supported (hopefully) by your schools for years, having a place you belong and a web of support, suddenly you're not quite "on your own," but you don't have a place you belong: and when you do find a place (i.e., a job), however much it may be a family or a community, you're not accepted unconditionally - your "value" there depends on what you do; if you stop "doing," you're no longer wanted.  I guess I sense all this more than a lot of people and am more aware of it; I realize it can come off sounding whiny or childish or pampered.  But my point is that when I go to Mass, none of that matters.  I'm always "wanted" at Mass by the Church, to the point where the Church teaches it'd be (objectively, not necessarily subjectively) sinful for me not to be there!
To go off on a tangent, though one that IS related to this: I've thought a lot about how in society, we're not really accepted or valued unconditionally.  Consider this: suppose society in general were forced to choose between one of two options concerning a college senior who's currently both a great student and a talented athlete: which of these two eventualities would society really prefer to have happen, if forced to choose?  There are only two options:  either 1) this college senior will, upon graduating, succumb to some emotional disorder and be a bum, lazy, mooching off other relatives and friends, completely unproductive, an embarassment and heartache to everyone, or 2) this college senior will, before graduation, and at his/her academic, social, and athletic peak, commit suicide.
Which would society choose?  And is there a difference between what society would SAY it chooses, vs. what it really thinks?  I've thought of this question now and then: a case of suicide like the one described actually happened involving a guy from my high school who was a year behind me - in fall 2005, during his senior year at Penn, this football star who seemingly had everything shot himself.  I didn't know him personally, but I went to the viewing: the line stretched the entire way around the church, around the parish school, through the parking lot, and back onto the street - I waited in line for hours.  All those people came, all those people with their outpouring of love and fondness and sympathy.  But I wonder - would "society" want him back, if (hypothetically, for the sake of argument) it meant that the first outcome I portrayed above would come to pass?
I have doubts about what society would say.  But (and this ties back kind of to the original topic), I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever what the Church would say - not individual bishops, priests, or popes, but the Church as Body of Christ, as teaching authority, as "Catholic tradition," etc., etc.  The Church (and God) would say it doesn't matter what a person does or fails to do, that no thought, word, or deed can ever take away our infinite value as human beings made in the image of God and called to union with the triune God as part of Christ's Body; that it is always good that we exist, not because of anything we do or accomplish, but just because God wills us to exist, creates us out of nothing and loves us into existence every single microsecond of our lives with a love that's completely gratuitous, unearned and unearnable.
Anyway, that's what I meant when I said you couldn't be "laid off" from the Church, etc.  Sorry this post is rather rambling and messy; it's late and I don't have time to polish it.
Gabriel McAuliffe
8 years 6 months ago
I am not one to automatically attack the New York Times reporting but something did not strike me well at all about this one.
It did not address the fact that the Congegation of the Clergy had at least been handling abuse cases prior to 2001 (that is why Hoyos name is mentioned often as the head of this Congegation).
It did not mention that, it seems to me, the Code of 1983 that replaced (superceded?) the Code of 1917.  Those two documents from 1922 and 1962 came in between.  Maybe, Fr. Martin, you could have that clarified.
And, with such quotes as ''But the future pope, it is now clear, was also part of a culture of nonresponsibility, denial, legalistic foot-dragging and outright obstruction'' it seems more like an editorial than a straight reporting piece. 


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