On Virtue and Justice

On the legal front, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has some complaints. Defense counsel getting into shouting matches with a judge: how’s that bluster working for them, I wonder? I thought we only saw that stuff on tv. “Blistering” is how the NYT reporter called it. A more detailed piece is here. Conspiracy charges are being brought into the case. I notice that it may not come to trial for about a year. That’s not going to be good. Internet chatter, probably more investigations in other dioceses, will probably keep the issue at a low but distinctive hum for months. Then we’ll see the dredging up all the details in 2012. Do you see any of the suspended clergy getting back into ministry any time soon?

To the archdiocese there: please, don’t taint other Catholics by claiming the legal system is anti-Catholic. The justice arm of society is anti-criminal, and if the criminals happen to be Catholic, then they must be treated firmly, fairly, and with justice.

Speculation on dotCommonweal is vigorous, too. Conspiracy means somebody is going to follow the legal trail to others not-yet indicted. Will Msgr. Lynn take the fall for higher-ups? Cardinal Rigali is at the end of his active life as a bishop. Him too? Better him than some of his fiftysomething protégés, right?

Some survivor allies are going to want blood. I don’t see a cardinal trading red for prison orange. But I can’t escape the notion that this is going to play out far worse than in 2002. Not only do the laity know that the bishops now know, but we know that the bishops broke promises in Chicago, Santa Rosa, and in a big way, in Philadelphia. I can imagine that some American bishops are seething over Rigali’s mismanagement. They should be mad. I can imagine there’s also a scramble in two-hundred-some dioceses to double-check the lists of accused clergy and make sure nobody’s on the loose today.

I was thinking about the motto on the Pennsylvania Quarter from 1999, especially “virtue.” The staff in the woman’s left hand symbolizes justice. Unlike 2002, which was a journalism investigation, this one could get quite serious with regard to consequences for those involved. Sex acts have landed people in jail, certainly. But those who “get it” know that for the last decade, the problem has been with mismanagement on the part of bishops. A few bishops have been humbled by their own tussles with the law, but nobody’s gone to jail for what most suspect is happening: conspiracy.

I notice the USCCB, through Archbishop Dolan, has a statement of sorts up. It’s not going to be enough. In fact, it might be hurting the cause of episcopal rehabilitation.

I believe that the bishops want this scandal to be over. I also believe that the bishops want to protect victims, and I’m sure that almost all of them find the notion of their brother priests having sex with children is incomprehensible and heinous.

Unfortunately, I also believe that a number of bishops are arrogant, aristocratic, and narcissistic. They would prefer their errors stay out of public view. Stepping outside the lines of the prelatial culture might endanger their upward mobility.

Too many bishops have forsaken the motto-worthy virtue touted by a secular commonwealth. Their croziers are bent or limp compared to the staff of justice. Even before this tainted generation of leadership is gone, we lay people have to find the serenity to move on and rebuild the Church where we can.

Getting angry at bishops isn’t going to be productive in the long run for us. Unfortunately, today, I’m fresh out of ideas. This is a sad and long Lent not only for Philadelphia, but for the Church. Thanks to the so-called orthodox reforms of the past generation, we are burdened by bishops out of time, out of tune, and perhaps, out of legal options. The damage to Church unity is incalculable. The lack of creativity, contrition, courage, and flexibility will continue to haunt these prelates. And that’s a tragedy, because the Catholic Church needs good bishops. None of us are sure we have them. The antigospel is ascendant, it would seem.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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6 Responses to On Virtue and Justice

  1. Liam says:

    Long Lent No. 3 (2002 in the US, 2010 in Europe (with wounds of 2002 in the USA being abraded and ripped open) and 2011 again.

    Each time this happens, there are effects in Boston. Last year, you could see church attendance (especially by young adults) fade noticeably. Baptisms down, weddings down, funerals down. The self-styled orthodox rump seems to interpret the small church getting smaller in practical terms as an indicator of success.

    Btw, you have to give Fr Zed a peculiar kind of credit. His only mention of Philadelphia in the past month was that the seminary will require training in the 1962 Missal. He did not, so far, take his usual anti-media defensive maneuver. Is that progress?

  2. David D. says:

    If I’m reading correctly, only Monsignor Lynn is being represented by archdiocesan attorneys. DeSipio, Father Brennan’s attorney, is the one who made the accusations against Judge Hughes.

    • David D. says:

      Nope, I was wrong. Brennan originally had a court appointed attorney but has since retained private counsel who apparently expect to be reimbursed by the archdiocese. Although that’s quite a conflict I still don’t think it’s right to say that the archdiocese is crying anti-Catholicism.

    • Mike K says:

      Actually, Richard DiSipio referred to the DA’s office as being anti-Catholic. Ironic because the DA himself just happens to be a very active parishioner in Philadelphia’s most prominent African-American parish.

  3. FrMichael says:

    I, for one, look forward to seeing some bishops and priests in jail for conspiracy. That is what is needed to get the attention of the chancery rats, clerical and lay alike.

    “Thanks to the so-called orthodox reforms of the past generation, we are burdened by bishops out of time, out of tune, and perhaps, out of legal options.”

    Don’t follow you there. The episcopal conspirators include numerous progessive icons as well as conservatives. The problem is a culture of coverup, Romanitas, and clerical privilege that is common to both camps, not the conservative/progressive divide.

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