more bishops in the news

Barely a week goes by without reading head-lines of ongoing or newly exposed sexual scandals in the Church. Yesterday was not a good day for bishops in the news. Here in Canada, the disgraced Bishop Raymond Lahey was “sentenced to 15 months in prison and two years probation but will receive a two-for-one credit for time served. Lahey pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography for the purposes of importation to  Canada.” (CBC News Report) Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Gabino Zavala has resigned after admitting he fathered two children. (NCR)

Both stories have started a flurry of online discussions. Many are infuriated that Lahey is already freed. (see National Post) Over at the National Catholic Reporter, an editorial by Michael Sean Winters  and a letter from Pax Christi try to balance the news of Bishop Zavala with acknowledgement of his many social justice efforts. While some describe genuine shock and sadness over Zavala’s resignation, there appears to be no love lost over Lahey.

I’m presently reading Render Unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church by Jason Berry. It’s a long, depressing slog of a read. It exposes not only the web of secrecy behind the abuse scandals, but also the abuse of parish and diocesan funds used to pay for cover-ups and legal costs.

Hopefully all this will explain my need for a good rant today…

In today’s gospel reading, Jesus sees Nathanael approaching and says, “”Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him.” (John 1:47) The NRSV translation replaces duplicity with deceit. Both words are effective, but there is something about the image of duplicity that is worth pondering. Duplicity is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It is a two-faced person.  It is someone who presents the world with one persona that can be trusted and respected, while secretly living a life of lies. Once the lie is revealed, trust is lost. And, sadly, the distrust is often passed on to others through association. This is what is happening in our church.

In no way can I relate my own frustrations and anger to those who have been directly abused, deceived or hurt by duplicitous, deceitful, sinful priests and bishops. Yet, I do have anger; and it’s not going away. I’m angry at the pomposity of clericalism that has put men on a pedestal by virtue of ordination. I’m angry at the men who defiled this sacramental gift in such horrific ways. I’m angry for all the years (centuries!) that Catholics have been told to pray, pay and obey; no questions asked.

I`m angry because my church is now being identified with these sinful and corrupt leaders. This is wrong. But, it is understandable. The culture of clericalism was built on inflated egos, greedily hoarding power and authority. Too many priests and bishops claimed to be the sole voice of the church, in all matters. They claimed to BE the church. All decision-making powers rested with them, and they made sure we understood this. Well, now they can take responsibility for the loss of trust and respect that our church has suffered. They can take responsibility for the aura of duplicity and hypocrisy that surrounds us.

I have been blessed with many priests and bishops of integrity in my life. These men have my respect, affection, and continued prayerful support; especially in these difficult times. These men also have the wisdom to know that WE are, together, the Church. And only together can we get through this mess. It is time for us all to more intentionally embrace a life of integrity, and demand it of our leaders.

And, it is time to bury the old clerical culture for good.

a not so random thought

I posted some random thoughts yesterday on the news that American lawyers were trying to bring a case against Vatican leaders to the International Criminal Court. My thoughts were random, because I really wasn`t sure what to think. This morning, I found a more reasoned voice online. Michael Sean Winters, again over at National Catholic Reporter, wrote a scathing editorial called Shame on SNAP`s lawyers. He writes,

In Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, the crimes were ordered by political leaders. No one, so far as I know, has suggested that Pope Benedict XVI ordered any priest to rape a child. There is a difference, a moral difference, between a systematic attempt to slaughter a people and an effort to cover up the crimes of one’s subordinates. So far as I know, no one has been charged at the ICC with trying to cover up the genocide in Rwanda or the ethnic cleansing in Sarajevo. Those who have been charged perpetrated the crimes….

This legal effort to get the ICC involved not only holds out false hopes for the victims of clergy sex abuse, it is an offense against the thousands upon thousands of dead, maimed and raped victims of Milosevic’s crimes as well as the hundreds of thousands of victims of genocide in Rwanda. To treat other crimes like those crimes is to diminish the unique evil which considered rape and murder a means to an end.

This thoughtful and well-reasoned analysis was a much needed answer to my own uncertainty and discomfort with this news story. I encourage anyone who is interested to read Winter`s full editorial. And, of course, any thoughts or reflections are always welcomed! After all, that`s what dialogue is all about.

Intl Criminal Court urged to investigate Vatican officials | National Catholic Reporter

Lawyers today filed a petition with the International Criminal Court on behalf of clergy sex abuse victims urging an investigation of high-ranking Roman Catholic Church leaders, including Pope Benedict XVI, charging that the widespread sexual abuse by priests in various countries and the handling of those cases by bishops and authorities in the Vatican constitute widespread human rights abuses.

via Intl Criminal Court urged to investigate Vatican officials | National Catholic Reporter.

This news story is bound to kick-start many a debate. Is this a justified approach towards accountability? Is it merely a publicity move, with no chance of further action?

Here are some random thoughts,

  • I completely agree that rape and other forms of sexual violence are a crime against humanity, and need to be judged as such.
  • I also agree that the Church has much to answer for after decades of cover-ups, denials, and shuffling around of abusive priests.
  • Pondering history, I wonder how the Church would have fared post Crusade and Inquisition times if there had been an International Court at the time.
  • I`m puzzled at my own reaction to this story. On the one hand, I`m saddened to see my Church being equated with countries that have committed some of the worst horrors of our time. On the other hand, part of me is eager to see true accountability for the wide spread rapes committed by clergy around the world.
  • I find it interesting that American lawyers are eager to prosecute Church leaders through an International Criminal Court which is not supported by its own government.
I`d love to hear your own thoughts….random or not!