It was the worst of times, and the worst of times

Two tales out of one city, Rome, leave me wondering if some of the priests who finally "get it" about the sexual abuse crisis may be found in an order that has endured what can only be described as extraordinary revelations of abuse, while some at the Vatican are prepared to continue digging deeper rhetorical holes (evidently to someday accommodate, ostrich-like, their big heads). Both are from CNS:

Legionaries acknowledge founder abused seminarians, ask forgiveness


Top officials of the Legionaries of Christ acknowledged that the order's founder, the late Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, sexually abused young seminarians, and they asked forgiveness for failing to listen to his accusers.

A statement released March 26 by the Legionaries and its lay branch, Regnum Christi, said that any members of the order who were guilty of cooperation in Father Maciel's crimes would be held accountable.

The statement said the Legionaries were looking to the future with the hope of continuing to serve the church, but with a greater emphasis on reconciling with those who suffered from Father Maciel's actions and greater cooperation with local pastors and other church officials.. . . The statement asked forgiveness from "those whom we did not believe or were incapable of giving a hearing to, since at the time we could not imagine that such behavior took place."

"If it turns out that anyone culpably cooperated in his misdeeds, we will act according to the principles of Christian justice and charity, holding these people responsible for their actions," it said. . . "Once again, we express our sorrow and grief to each and every person damaged by our founder's actions," the statement said. It offered the order's "pastoral and spiritual help" to those who were injured by Father Maciel's actions. . . . The statement said the Legionaries would follow the instructions given by Pope Benedict in light of the Vatican investigation, which was conducted in the order's institutions around the world. Many at the Vatican expect a major reorganization of the Legionaries, perhaps with direct supervision by the Vatican.

As it looks to the future, the statement said, the Legionaries resolved to do several things, including:

-- Reach out to those who have suffered.

-- Tell the truth about the order's history.

-- Protect minors in all its institutions.

-- Cooperate better with bishops and church institutions.

-- Continue oversight and demand accountability in the order.

-- Redouble its efforts to bring the Gospel to as many people as possible.

Let's compare that response (and let's hope the Legionaries will be true to the above promising commitment) with some of the self-serving and tone-deaf rhetoric that emerges in this report:

Amid crises, priests must convert, hold onto hope, says papal preacher

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Amid difficult moments facing the church, bishops, priests and deacons are called to conversion and to have hope in the future, the preacher of the papal household told Pope Benedict XVI and other top Vatican officials.

 "Christ suffers more than we do for the humiliation of his priests and the affliction of his church," said Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the papal household.

In his March 26 weekly Lenten meditation for the pope and his closest collaborators, Father Cantalamessa focused on readings from the Book of Lamentations and the Book of Jeremiah, including the prophet's crisis of faith and his lamenting of those who persecuted him.

The priest said the readings take on "particular significance if they are read in reference to the present moment of serious hardship we priests of the Catholic Church are experiencing," he said, referring to the growing revelations of sex abuse by clergy around the world and the increased media speculation over the role of the pope and the Vatican in handling past cases.

Father Cantalamessa said that in response to critics, God told Jeremiah to repent and return to the Lord, who would restore him. The prophet was told "if you bring forth the precious without the vile, you will be my mouthpiece."

The preacher addressed the pope specifically and reminded him that God told Jeremiah that before his detractors he would make him "a solid wall of brass. Though they fight against you, they shall not prevail. For I am with you to deliver and rescue you.. . . "The media's tenacity -- and we have seen it in other cases -- in the long run will bring about the opposite effect that they had hoped for," he added. . . . 

I feel terrible that Father Cantalamessa has to endure such shame and hardship because of the actions of other priests. It must be a hard fall. I can assure him that we laypeople are equally ashamed and disheartened when we think about these crimes and for how long we turned a blind eye to them or ignored or refused to believe our own children when they reported them. Let's remember if it weren't for the tenacity of the media in regard to this ongoing, unfolding crisis, the Vatican and episcopal offices around the world would be continuing today with business as usual. 

Kevin Clarke

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James Lindsay
8 years 11 months ago
I have a modest suggestion. Let us quit referring to the current revelations as a crisis. A crisis would refer to revelations of abuse that are happening currently. As far as we all know, that really is not what is going on. No one has been caught abusing a seminarian or an altar boy or student in the past month. What has happened is an investigation of how such abuse was handled or mishandled in the past. A reexamination of such things does not a crisis make. Indeed, such things are only a crisis for some in that they reveal the need for the expanded participation of the laity. Only rabid defenders of the feudalistic system of Church governance are in crisis. The rest of us just want an accounting and some measure of change. Instead of hysteria, what we need is a clear and unmistakeable call for reform.
Peter Lakeonovich
8 years 11 months ago
Thanks for the post, but where is the self-serving and tone-deaf rhetoric you are referring to? I don't see it. Or are you describing calls to conversion and hope as "self-serving and tone-deaf rhetoric?" I see nothing of the sort in either conversion or hope, or in the words of support of Father Cantalamessa to the Holy Father. Do you think the Letters of St. Paul are full of self-serving and tone-deaf rhetoric? (Try giving Timothy a read and you'll see very similar messages about the need to endure.) Conversion is a gift from God and very often is the grace or fruit of the sacrament of Confession. In the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, there is conversion first and then reconciliation. Is that self-serving and tone-deaf rhetoric? Yesterday, Palm Sunday, we heard Jesus tell Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers.” Jesus tells Peter that after he has sinned by denying Jesus he must "turn back" (conversion!) and "strengthen his brothers" (hope!). Surely that is not just self-serving and tone-deaf rhetoric.
Joseph Farrell
8 years 11 months ago
I fail to see any "tone-deaf rhetoric" outside of certain outlets such as America which has been extremely disappointing throughout these revelations in Europe.  Some writers in this magazine are calling for the end of Catholicism as we know it.  We are blessed that it is the Holy Spirit guiding the Church and not reactionary theologians.
Father Cantalamessa is one of the most insightful and deeply spiritual men I have ever encountered.  Anyone who objectively read the amateur muckraking and unfair smearing done by the New York Times knows that the Holy Father's preacher is absolutely correct.
There are always such good things to be gleaned from this magazine, especially from Father Martin, but I'm thoroughly discouraged by short-sighted analysis and anti-clerical shouting I'm encountering.  I'm finished with reading it anymore.
John Raymer
8 years 11 months ago
These comments and the quoted article by the Vatican are most disgusting in that they fail to appreciate the complete, total depravity and violence of priestly pedophilia, and the complete and total depravity of the coverups. There is nothing that can be done to smooth over these heinious crimes - just like there is nothing that can be done to smooth over Nazi genocide. (Given that priestly pedophilia has been occurring and institutionally tolerated for over 500 years, the numbers of lives destroyed are probably comparble to the Nazi genocide.)

President Nixon had to resign because he covered up a burglary - a nonviolent crime in which no one was hurt but which was serious nontheless. But pedophilia is a pre-mediated violent crime on a par with murder and rape. How can church leaders - bishops and popes - who knew about this and covered it up not be held accountable? Resignation is the only honorable thing they can do. Prison for certain church leaders would be more appropriate.

The crisis is real. It is a crisis of the very validity of the Catholic Church as we know it. The crisis is for the souls of all who try to write about these things as matters to be resolved objectively. Those who try to discuss the Nazi genocide objectively are rightly derided. The same goes for priestly pedophilia and culture that has tolerated it for so long.

8 years 11 months ago
The crisis is real; however, St. Paul tells us to be strong in our Faith. Remember:

Romans 8:35-39

"Who then shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation? Or distress? Or famine? Or nakedness? Or danger? Or persecution? Or the sword? 36 (As it is written: For thy sake, we are put to death all the day long. We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.) 37 But in all these things we overcome, because of him that hath loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor might, 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord".

He is "with us always, until the end of time".
Eric Stoltz
8 years 11 months ago
I'm going to have to swim against the tide on this one a bit.
I too was repulsed by the quotations from Fr. Cantalamessa's homily. They seemed clericalist, devoid of compassion and smacking of an institutionalist view of the Church.
However, I then looked up his entire homily, and I must admit it is not quite what it has been made out to be by the excerpts. See
He does call priests to a certain conversion in an authentically Franciscan way. There is  a whiff of clericalism about it, but much less than one might have gathered from the excerpts. And in times like this, one must take small consolations as they present themselves; to me it seems Fr. Cantalamessa's homily is one of these small consolations.
James Lindsay
8 years 11 months ago
What happenned is real, the reforms required are real and the need for justice for the victims is very real - however just because it is emerging does not make it an emergency. Embarrassing? Definitely. We should not link what is needed for the victims with the need to modernize the Church, since the victims can be taken care of without modernization. Modernization is needed of its own accord and will happen whether the clerical culture welcomes it or not.
Livia Fiordelisi
8 years 11 months ago
 "Christ suffers more than we do for the humiliation of his priests and the affliction of his church," said Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the papal household.
I believe Christ suffers most in the raped bodies, destroyed souls, and tortured minds of the countless children now adults who were abused by priests and ignored by bishops.
Somehow, it's always only about the clerics.
John Raymer
8 years 11 months ago
This is an emergency and it is a crisis - it must be and must be made to be. True justice must be more than buying off this victim or that victim, or punishing this priest or that priest. True justice must be reforming the church such that these things can never happen again. But only a deep crisis can provide the energy to drive such a reform.

Patience and moderation are often virtues but sometimes are simply a cover for sloth. Learned analysis can bring light to a complicated subject but when the time for action is come, ongoing analysis just leads to paralysis. Was Jesus immoderate when he overthrew the tables in the temple?

There will be those who will take offense at linking the need for reform to the victims of abuse. But the abuse is not a series of isolated incidents by a few sick people. It was the result of a culture of corruption that has systematically tolerated and covered up such abuse for centuries on a world-wide scale. And it is certainly going on even now. Pedophilia is a latent crime that typically takes 10 to 20 years to rise to the surface in a victim's life. The reason all the abuse is from the 60's, 70's, 80's and 90's is that the abuse of last year has yet to boil up and the abused from previous decades have largely gone to their grave.

Jim McCrea
8 years 11 months ago
" -the Holy Spirit guiding the Church -"
I think She has been on long-term sabbatical way too long!
Jim McCrea
8 years 11 months ago
“ - the present moment of serious hardship we priests of the Catholic Church are experiencing,"
Garbage!  The serious hardship is where it has always been:  with the laity who are constantly forced to defer to the clergy, and pay for the problems caused by clerical malfeasance and crimes against men and women, children and adults.
The self-serving pap that this Franciscan came up with is disgusting.  He should be ashamed of himself for uttering it in public.


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