A scene from Ireland:
It was easy to spot the first morning when I made my way to daily Mass. Since it was Lent, I expected to see an enlarged congregation. I found the opposite.
My hosts told me that the abuse scandal in the church in Ireland and the poor response from the Vatican seemed to have sealed the fate of Catholicism in Ireland for some time to come. A government investigation into the horror of Irish clerical abuse — both sexual and physical — brought everything to the surface. All the usual elements were there, thanks to the Irish bishops — cover-up, lying, bullying, threats, the hiding of evidence, the sealing of witness testimony, and most of all the willingness to let the guilty clergy get away with the crime.
Do the bishops, jetting to and from Rome, returning to sit in easy chairs, thumbing through the Office, drinking brandy and smoking cigars … do they realize their collective actions have brought the antigospel to Boston, Philadelphia, Ireland, and other places?
More from the once-interim chair of the USCCB National Review Board:
As Catholics we know that we must act with wisdom — we must forgive, but not forget. We must exercise good judgment and courage — both gifts of the Holy Spirit given at the time of confirmation. This means that we must be blunt with the Holy Father and the other men who continue by either business as usual, or misguided loyalty, to permit the unspeakable to occur.
Does that mean we should ask a different question when we see our local bishop or vicar general? “What have you done, today and concretely, to safeguard children and end the abuse of your brother priests? Have you sent a card to a survivor? Written a letter to a family? Visited and prayed with a victim? Phoned Cardinal Rigali to chide him for boneheaded actions?
Preaching the gospel is hard work. Evangelization happens too often in a trickle. But the converse is not true. Arrogance and alienation will empty the Church like pulling a bathtub plug. When the bishops get that, we’ll know they’ve turned the corner.
Meanwhile, we don’t need them, really. I mean: they’ll still get appointed and ride circuit to do confirmations and ordinations and such. But they’ve placed themselves at the fringes of the spiritual life of the Church. Other people will take their place in the pulpits and altars and in the loft and in the pews. Whether he realizes it or not, Cardinal Rigali is sitting on the front steps