lent, a looming conclave, and the sexual abuse crisis

Mea Maxima Culpa; Silence in the House of God

This year, the global church entered into Lent with the bombshell announcement of Pope Benedict’s abdication. The news over-shadowed all other church stories in the media – for a day or two. Papabile prognostications quickly replaced emotional commentaries and quickly drafted summaries and evaluations of Pope Benedict’s legacy.

John L. Allen Jr. has provided daily commentaries for the National Catholic Reporter. Allen is my favorite Vatican journalist and writer. He has an amazing depth of knowledge and the ear of many at the heart of the action. His respectful and balanced writing has obviously won him the respect of many in Rome. Besides keeping us updated on the latest details of the transition period, Allen has been writing daily essays on each of the Cardinals who are considered possible contenders to don the papal whites. The essays are valuable, as he points out the positive and negative qualities (real or perceived) of each candidate.

Perhaps because we aren’t wrapped up in mourning the death of a pope, more attention is being made on vetting the cardinals in the public forum. This is a good thing. With transparency and honesty, though, comes a realization there is no perfect person to step into the shoes of Peter. The sexual abuse scandal continues to make international head-lines with new revelations each day.

Should Cardinal Roger Mahony, former Archbishop of Los Angeles, be allowed to participate in the conclave after court documents were released showing his role in the cover-up of abuse cases?

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, was deposed Wednesday in a lawsuit filed by clergy sex abuse victims. He was called to testify over his management of priests in the Milwaukee archdiocese, which he led from 2002-2009.

Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana was highlighted as the Papabile of the day by John Allen on Tuesday. By the afternoon, his remarks during an interview with Christiane Amanpour on CNN were making headlines. He told Amanpour that the sexual abuse crisis has not reached his country because, “African traditional systems kind of protect or have protected its population against this tendency. Because in several communities, in several cultures in Africa homosexuality or for that matter any affair between two sexes of the same kind are not countenanced in our society.” As the lid is blown off the abuse crisis around the world, his denial is either naïve or dangerously ignorant.

Hubby and I sat and watched Mea Maxima Culpa this past weekend. It was a difficult documentary to watch. The only thing worse than the ongoing abuse perpetrated by these most unholy of priests, was the institutional denial and cover-up from bishops and the highest offices in the Vatican. Sadly, the smoking gun too often pointed to the desk of the current Pope.

Perhaps this is the true Lenten penance of our church; to finally face head-on the reality of a scandal so evil and so far reaching. As the College of Cardinals prepares to elect the pope, it is a reality that can no longer be ignored. The people of God demand that justice be done. We must have a pope with a proven record of standing on the side of the victims, not on upholding the pure image of the church. Is there such a man?

Here is a short piece I wrote for the NCR Today blog.

2 thoughts on “lent, a looming conclave, and the sexual abuse crisis

  1. I try to be a hopeful person, but in the matter of expecting much from a new Pope stretches my optimism beyond the breaking point.
    Some things are perhaps too broken to fix. Even JohnXXIII found himself up against a brick wall more often than not.
    If the Curia doesn’t like what the Pope is doing, they just wait for him to die, and then work to undo things like Vatican II.

  2. Hi Jerry,
    I’m hoping that the next pope will have the courage to do some serious house cleaning. There has been too much corruption, intrigue and scandal within curial walls. We talk about opening up the windows of the church to let the Spirit flow freely, but we need to do some cleaning up before those windows can be opened. Hmmmm…..wonder how many cardinals would get the house-cleaning metaphor…. 😉

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