Michael Sean WintersApril 07, 2010

My friend and colleague Austen Ivereigh has a post below about the revelations of corruption contained in a new investigative report by Jason Berry over at NCR. I concur with everything that Ivereigh says except this: "It makes for shocking reading." I was not shocked in the least.

Perhaps Austen has spent too much time with those British Whig historians who always see human advancement and improvement in history. They think that the sins of the Borgias, say, are unique to the Renaissance. Or, that, hiding behind theological gibberish in order to justify inhumane acts was unique to Pope Pius IX’s concurrence in the kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara. Such scandals cannot happen in our own time. We have moved on, we have progressed, we are better than the past.

Alas. I recall sitting down with an Italian monsignor. We were discussing some scientific development, I do not recall which, and he said, "Well, of course, this can be put to much good." Then, he paused before adding, "and much evil." Who was it that said technology was nothing more than improved means for unimproved human ends?

The sins of the fathers are not visited upon the sons. The sins of the fathers will simply find different ways to manifest themselves in the lives of their sons and their grandsons and their great-grandsons. The manner and methods change but the human capacity for greed, for corruption, for a sense of entitlement, remains the same. Borgia cardinals may have taken gold goblets as bribes. Cardinal Sodano may have taken cash. But, should it really shock that men invested with such power, and who are so removed from the actual work of pastoring or working with the poor, and who are accountable to no one except the Pope, is it shocking that they should behave badly?

Buckle up. This story is not nearly over. Cardinal Sodano links to Father Maciel and the Legionnaires are profoundly ugly and the lawyers will find a way to bring much of that to light. (Note to the Vatican: Having this same Cardinal Sodano conduct an interview in which he blames the scandal on gays and those who favor abortion rights is probably not such a smart idea!) It is shameful that those who so closely worked with the late Pope John Paul II will now trash his reputation with the stain of their own corruption. But, there it is.

Plus ca change. None of us should be Catholic because we like our priest, or we respect the Pope. The only reason to be Catholic is because the deepest yearning of the human heart – to live forever with those we love – is a restless yearning that does not go away until it finds landfall, and the news that the Crucified Lives is our landfall. What did or did not happen in the Vatican in the latter years of John Paul II’s pontificate is not decisive. What happened in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago is decisive. Our hearts also demand justice, and no one, not even a Cardinal, should be spared the demands of justice. But, our faith cannot be touched by curial malfeasance.

Michael Sean Winters

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11 years 8 months ago
While I, of course, do not support the abuse cover-ups by the church hierarchy, I think it's important to mention that this is not uncommon behavior for any self-policing institution.

As an attorney, I have prosecuted many cases involving hospitals and doctors' groups protecting the misdeeds of their staffs; and several cases involving municipal police departments covering up the illegal behavior of cops.

In none of these cases do the institutions support or promote the bad acts; rather, knowing the impact that public dissemination of such bad acts might have, and being ideologicially opposed to such acts, these institutions -relying, perhaps ignorantly, on the individual perpetrators' ability or desire to correct themselves - do take measures to resolve these issues internally.

What bugs me is how this story about the church cover-ups is spun as if the abusive activity that was taking place was aggressively promoted and encouraged from the hierarchy. I believe that the issue here is one of poor management, not conspiratorial criminal activity on the part of the church hierarchy.

11 years 8 months ago
Austin's post has a good word for it: "ROT".  It is sickening to thing of the spiritual evil reaped by this man, sickening to think of the cover up, & infuriating to think that the Vatican is investigating religious sisters, but ignored this!  Reform the Curia, Benedict!  They should be term-limited, then booted!  The authority of local bishops & bishops' conferences must be strengthened.  And the Legion has to be disbanded, pure & simple.  It seems clear the entire organization was founded to serve this one man.  How do you "salvage" anything leftover?  That is not a judgment on those good, earnest Legionnaries. 
James Lindsay
11 years 8 months ago
The Church is the human organ of transmission of the events of almost 2000 years ago, however it is more than the Latin rite and its leadership. It may be quite appropriate to change how one relates to the message of 2000 years ago by voting with your feet and keeping your faith (although I prefer to stay and raise a ruckus instead).
Thomas Piatak
11 years 8 months ago
Mr. Brooks makes a valuable point.
Dale Rodrigue
11 years 8 months ago
Agreed Michael Binder!  I think I'm one of the few members of my family to stay.  Even my brother renounced Catholicism and is now a deacon in another denomination.   Not me.  I'm staying, THIS IS OUR CHURCH and I'm madder than Hell at what I like to call the ''cabal of clowns'' in the Vatican.  It's time to clean house and they all are getting tossed out.  Benedict for his silence and the rest for their complicity in this mess.
John McCloskey
11 years 7 months ago
Those who are outraged need to write, write, write! Write to the bishops. Write to Vatican bureaucrats. Write to the nuncio. Write to the pope. If you have observed abuses of any sort, and the effects of abuses and most of all the effects of ineffectual leadership, write all this down in detail. Bury Rome and your local chancery with paper. Make them understand that Catholics in the pew are outraged.
And then, keep your wallet closed. Especially keep it closed for national collections and Peter's Pence. Much of this money goes to charities, but for a time, this is the only way you will be heard. Write out checks instead to specific charities that you support. Collections need to plummet.
Finally, note that in most dioceses there is an "October count" of people who actually go to Sunday Masses. If your conscience allows it, consider not showing up on those Sundays. Let the diocesan tabulations show plummeted attendance. If there is a parish in your area where the priests are outspoken and honest on this issue, go there instead in October.
We need to raise the roof. And especially if you are clergy, remember this: at the cost of our souls, we must fear God and his judgment. Secondarily, we are to respect and obey the diocesan bishop, but we cannot allow ourselves to fear him.
Livia Fiordelisi
11 years 7 months ago
I suggest that the faithful who are outraged organize and select one Sunday in October to not contribute to the weekly collection. Place a note in the basket explaining why. Choose instead to give your donation to a local Catholic CPC, soup kitchen, shelter or other social service organization that week. Empty baskets will be noticed.
11 years 7 months ago
Write, write, write is good advice.  Not giving at the collection basket as vengeance for the misdeeds of individual priests needlessly hurts innocent parishes and the recipients of their goodwill.  It's a stupid idea, as is skipping church on Sunday; i"m outraged to see such a suggestion by Fr. Sebastian.
The media (and its liberal cronies) is doing enough to bash the Church for this issue and any other issue that it hopes might result in the Church's demise.  It's time for parishoners to stand up for the Church, help her in her time of need, and not succumb to the destructive efforts of the media witch hunt.
Honestly, you all sound like a bunch of Protestants - go be a protestant if you don't love your church.
Livia Fiordelisi
11 years 7 months ago
Mike Brooks,
Sometimes tough love is required. The innocent will not be hurt if the faithful donation directly to them for one weekend only. If necessary, one can choose to double the contribution the following week so a poor parish isn't harmed. But let's take some action.

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