Not An Exit Strategy

I read this story where Cardinal Turkson is bothered by the cloud hanging over the Church.

Turkson told attendees he glimpsed the impact of the scandals during the 2012 International Eucharistic Congress and the 2018 World Meeting of Families, both held in Dublin. He said that during the 2012 event, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin offered an apology for clerical abuse during basically every event he attended.

“At one point, I thought it was too much. I thought he was making this huge cloud hang over everything,” Turkson said, explaining that he understands victims’ pain, but said, “Now we need to find a way of exiting this experience, [because] otherwise it will suffocate us.”

I’ve thought well of Cardinal Turkson, and maybe I still do. This is a problem statement, and I’m not even a survivor of church-perpetrated sexual abuse.

I think there is a way to exit, but it will be a very slow one. Victims continue to be created by clergy and bishops, and it seems Buffalo is another in a continuing line of problem dioceses. After 2002, if US bishops as a group had kept their noses clean, I think we might be able to say that the exit was approaching. But that’s not the case. Chicago, Santa Rosa, Kansas City-St Joseph, Scranton, St Paul-Minneapolis, Lincoln, Boston, Washington, Philadelphia, and those are just the ones that blundered the cover-up. We know about these. How many more are there?

If the percentage of clergy abuse was in the mid-single digits, that’s serious enough. But bishops covering up seems to be significantly higher. And that is far worse. If African bishops are working off the same American memo, then the good cardinal has a lot of neighbors who still want to be on the highway to hell. And keep it secret.

Marie Collins, once part of the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, had some starter suggestions for finding that exit:

  • He should recommend the Church institute a transparent process of accountability for negligent/corrupt bishops,

  • deal with the huge backlog of abuse cases lingering in the CDF,

  • put in place universal mandatory reporting to civil authoriti

  • stop fighting the extension of statutes of limitations,

  • put in place strong normative child safeguarding policies in every country,

  • stop the use of pontifical secret in abuse trials

  • implement REAL zero tolerance in all cases of a guilty perpetrator.

It seems Cardinal Turkson has yet to grasp the seriousness of the sin engulfing the Catholic hierarchy. Good bishops are suspect because the secrecy has been so well establlished for so long. A bishop with no scandals appears to be either very good, or very bad but good at hiding problems.

Some Catholics resist the memory of the 1970s. It was a bad time perpetrated by bad liberals, they say. But even worse were the 90s and early decades of the 21st century. This will be the era reviled by future Catholics. JP2 and B16 bishops, sought after and appointed to bring order to a Church in upheaval, may well have clapped themselves on the back for steering the cart onto a safer, sounder path. But their efforts at cover-up have tipped the cart off the cliff.

You can’t just trot out some new cart as if that wreckage below doesn’t exist. It might take ten seconds to reduce a vehicle to a twisted, shattered wreck. How long does it take to put the pieces back together? That’s the question that must be posed to Cardinal Turkson. He may want to go to the vendor and buy a new means of transport. Who cleans up the mess at the bottom of the incline? Who retrieves what can be saved from the wreck? Who buys the new cart? Him? Us?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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