Temperatures Rising

Well, yes, the snow has largely melted here in central Iowa, leaving salt and dirt-crusted snowbanks of varying sizes. But it seems lots of folks are getting heated up about the swirl of scandal touching deep into the pope’s one-time archdiocese.

According to the NYT, Father Tom Doyle, botherer of bishops, isn’t buying the protest of innocence:

Nonsense. Pope Benedict is a micromanager. He’s the old style. Anything like that would necessarily have been brought to his attention. Tell the vicar general to find a better line. What he’s trying to do, obviously, is protect the pope.

So is the VG really shielding the pope? Given the pope’s track record on administration, does it seem likely he would delegate important personnel matters to his top assistant? He oversees a few thousand bishops these days–more prelates than the clergy he was spiritual father to in München. The media reports that the abuser was sent to treatment by then-Archbishop Ratzinger. Is it credible to believe a return to ministry wouldn’t have been carefully scrutinized by the person ultimately responsible?

Vatican PR is at work today, too. Rev. Federico Lombardi told Vatican Radio:

It’s rather clear that in the last days, there have been those who have tried, with a certain aggressive persistence, in Regensburg and Munich, to look for elements to personally involve the Holy Father in the matter of abuses. For any objective observer, it’s clear that these efforts have failed.

A few clarifying perspectives:

First, the scandal is not about sex abuse. We’ve all known that bad eggs bully and terrorize and harm the innocent. This whirlwind is primarily about the willful cover-up of sexual abuse by bishops. The sooner Rome realizes this and adjusts its PR accordingly, the better. While other professions and religions have had their own sad stories of grievous abuse, none have had multiple examples of offenders being returned to abuse again and have the details of such episodes hidden from potential victims. That’s why the Catholic Church is different: we’re more authority-driven, not to mention we set higher standards. As we should.

Second, as Archbishop Ratzinger, the pope may well have authorized the return of a “cured” abuser to ministry. Lots of otherwise good bishops did it in the history of the Church. It would have been a tragically misguided and ignorant decision. But it wouldn’t have been a standout from the cultures of the 70’s and before Vatican II. How would Mr Clinton advise our leader? ‘Fess up now before it hurts you worse later.

Third, the culture of the media embodies a hermeneutic of competition. Not only are various media organs competing for the advertising dollar, but they also want to best the others. Getting a “scoop” isn’t a new notion. Reporters will probe into the pope’s past because they know if they can find something, it will be like that game-winning touchdown pass with no time left. It’s a gamble to poke around powerful people, but if you dig up the dirt, it will mean personal glory. You and I may not agree with it, nor is it how we or Father Lombardi would operate ourselves, but it is an unedniable fact that when the water is bloodied, the sharks will circle.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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