Could there have been a worse year for Roman Catholic clergy, especially its upper echelons? Fuss about whom the pope didn’t single out in his “begged forgiveness” message to conclude the Year of the Priest:
Victim groups said they were also disappointed that the pope did not mention the responsibility of bishops, who have been accused of moving predator priests from parish to parish instead of defrocking them or turning them over to the law.
What could we expect? This isn’t the Year of the Bishop, after all. It was an expression of mea culpa of the JPII variety, though:
We too insistently beg forgiveness from God and from the persons involved, while promising to do everything possible to ensure that such abuse will never occur again.
And that says something. But some ask, is it enough?
SNAP’s Peter Isely would prefer heads to roll, and quickly:
The pope should have announced an absolute zero tolerance approach to priests that abuse around the world, ensuring that they will be immediately removed from priesthood. This is a much more important move than showing remorse.
Yes, actions do speak louder. But the Church also needs to take responsibility for its clergy, that they aren’t just set loose on the world once booted from the active priesthood.
All in all, not a good year for the priest. Abuse revelations rock a number of European countries. Mandatory celibacy and men-only prescriptions still not enjoying a virtual unanimity among the clergy, let alone the Church as a whole. At least MR3 wasn’t implemented this year. Pope Benedict gave us the Curé of Ars when maybe we needed Peter Damian as the patron saint of 2009-10.
A desire, I think, for continuity with the old days–or, rather, our rosy perceptions of the old days. The Church is still very much in need of serious reform. Continuity remains a second-shelf virtue.
Top image credit: Pier Paolo Cito, Associated Press