Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Pope on Sex Scandal

Many critics want the Pope to address the scandal of the US Church. He has done so before he even touched down.

“It is a great suffering for the church in the United States and for the church in general and for me personally that this could happen,” he said. “As I read the histories of those victims it is difficult for me to understand how it was possible that priests betrayed in this way. Their mission was to give healing, to give the love of God to these children. We are deeply ashamed and we will do what is possible that this cannot happen in the future.”

Apparently drawing a distinction between priests with homosexual tendencies and those inclined to molest children, the Pontiff said: “I would not speak at this moment about homosexuality, but pedophilia which is another thing. And we would absolutely exclude pedophiles from the sacred ministry.”

“Who is guilty of pedophilia cannot be a priest,” he added.

The Pope said church officials were going through the seminaries that train would-be priests to make sure that those candidates have no such tendencies. “We’ll do all that is possible to have a strong discernment, because it is more important to have good priests than to have many priests.”

“We hope that we can do, and we have done and will do in the future, all that is possible to heal this wound.”


Kevin said...

It's interesting that the Pope's comments focus on the pedophile priests, rather than the bishops who enabled them.

SBM said...

Great point Kevin.

The real shame and tragedy is by the bishops for covering up the scandal, and maybe even indirectly supporting it by moving the pedophiles to another location and in the same position to commit the same crime, then moving them again, and again, and again. Some of the bishops even had their subordinates threaten and bully people who dared to complain.

A major problem in the Church is the hierarchy. I believe the hierarchy culture is worse than the pedophiles. If the hierarchy had moved quickly against pedophiles, we would not have 30 or 40 years of kids being abused at the scale we had.

There are a lot of reasons why people selectively listen to the Catholic leadership. This is a major one. Something is seriously wrong culturally with our bishops if they not only let this happen but also somewhat kept it going (with their rotation of pedophiles).

Does this pope get this? He needs to say he is ashamed of the bishops for their reaction to the pedophiles, and he needs to convince us that somehow that the culture of the hierarchy will change.

Screening for pedophiles will help cut down on the number of pedophiles, but it will not help deal with the problem of the Catholic hierarchy. I fear if we don't deal with the hierarchy problem, we will have another scandal in 10 years or 20 years on perhaps another topic and wonder how it happened simultaneously in so many dioceses at the same time.

The pope's response reminds me of a story I read 25 years ago. There was "free food" from the US found in the markets of El Salvador. Of course the US government complained and so the Salvadoran generals arrested the low income women in the markets selling the free food. But how did they get it? What generals and colonels were stealing the food provided by the US? Of course, later on they find other US gifts to El Salvador being sold on the open market. Why? El Salvador leadership had a structural problem and a cultureal problem. The Catholic Church has a structural and a cultural problem with its leadership as well. Otherwise, how can you explain the crisis in so many dioceses at the same time? With similar tactics by bishops across the country at the same time?

Sometimes I think the lawyers of the plaintiffs did all of us a favor by bankrupting the dioceses so the bishops would "get it" that pedophilia is a problem. Other times I think that we'll just give more, cut back on spending, and the bishops will fail us again on another issue because we have not dealt with the culture and their environment that allowed/fostered the scandal.