in defence of pope francis

francis

My last blog post was an angry rant. I believe that anger is the correct response to the seriousness of the abuse crisis. Anger is the wake up call. Anger is the emotion that will fuel the desire to face the problem, search for solutions, and begin the difficult task of reforming and rebuilding.

But, we also need to put anger aside to gain clarity and perspective amid a deafening cacophony of opposing voices. In the next few posts, I hope to share some more thoughts with the hope that you will share yours. Dialogue is needed more than ever before.

In reality, the problem is greater than one grand jury report. Greater than one diocese. Greater than one cardinal or one bishop or one priest. Greater than one pope. The sheer magnitude, world-wide, of the abuse crisis defies any “one size fits all” solution.

Heavy the head that wears the crown. But, I have more faith in Pope Francis wearing that crown than any other head in our church today. Here’s why…

From day one, Francis has railed against the evil rot of clericalism. He preached about it to the cardinals as they prepared for the last papal election. After he became pope, Francis never tired of criticizing men who enter the priesthood for power and prestige. He pointed his finger at cliques within Vatican circles that spend their energy in political posturing, infighting and gossiping.  He consistently preached to bishops and cardinals, old and new, to be true servant leaders not princes.

As a bishop and cardinal, Francis lived a simple, humble life in the poor neighbourhoods of Buenos Aires. When he counsels families on daily life and love, he speaks with an intimacy and knowledge that defies his celibate life. His words reflect the many hours he has spent with families, sharing their joys, their sorrows and their struggles.

Francis’s deep love for children is without question. We know he will do all within his power to protect these little ones and their families.

Francis is a Jesuit. At the core of Jesuit spirituality is the discipline of discernment. Discernment requires deep prayer and hard work. And, it takes time. This is hard to accept when we yearn for quick and easy solutions.

No words of penance or sorrow can take away the damage, both personal and institutional, that this crisis has caused. But, I do believe that when Francis speaks he speaks from his heart. His words are genuine, honest and transparent.

This crisis is greater than the wisdom of any one person, no matter how kind, wise, loving or holy they are. Francis is not perfect. He has and will continue to make mistakes. For some, his words and actions will be too much. For others, not enough.

The church is in a mess beyond the power of any one person, committee, inquiry or program. If any pope is capable of beginning the clean up, it’s Francis.

 

thoughts on an imploding church

Much has been written and continues to be written about the most recent sexual abuse bombshells in the Catholic Church. I keep putting off writing a blog post about it, hoping that I can calm down and write something thoughtful, not simply rant from a place of deep anger.

WARNING. I am not even attempting a balanced commentary.  Is there a dialogue to be had? Can you defend the indefensible?

The first bombshell was Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s long history of sexual misconduct and abuse of diocesan seminarians. A shock to most, but apparently not to many seminarians, priests and bishops who knew McCarrick.

The second was the grand jury report from Pennyslvania, based on internal documents from six dioceses,  which concluded that over 300 predator priests had abused more than 1,000 child victims.

This past weekend, the abuse crisis took centre stage at the World Meeting of Families in Dublin, as it should have. The church cannot and should not preach about the beauty and gift of family life without acknowledging the horrific violence perpetrated on her children by ministers of the church.

Without acknowledging the damage it has done to each and every life affected by clerical/church abuse.

Without acknowledging the loss of moral and spiritual credibility of its leadership. A leadership who has self-righteously instilled fear and guilt into women and men for centuries for not living up to its sexual teachings – teachings that tried to control our right to freedom over our fertility, freedom to choose whom we love, how we love them, and whom we marry.

YES, we the People of God are angry and disgusted. WE HAVE HAD ENOUGH!

YES, something has to be done. NOW.

NO, that “something” isn’t for us to join priests and bishops in prayerful fasting and penance. WE ARE NOT THE PERPERTRATORS.

NO, this is not the time to finally open leadership in the church to the laity. We have been denied a voice and active role in all other decision making. Victims and their supporters have been speaking truth to power for decades about clerical sexual abuse, only to be ignored or silenced. THIS IS YOUR MESS. OWN IT. FIX IT.

NO, this is not a gay problem. It is AN ABUSE OF POWER PROBLEM.

YES, the root of all this evil is clericalism with it’s elitist, self-promoting and self-protecting culture of princely titles and princely garb; YOUR HOLINESS, YOUR EMMINENCE, YOUR EXCELLENCY, YOUR VERY REVEREND FATHER.

YES, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Pennsylvania is only one state in America. America is only one country. THIS IS A GLOBAL PROBLEM FOR THE CHURCH.

YES, sexual abuse is a crime. YES, those who help to cover up sexual abuse are guilty of aiding and abetting a crime. THE ABUSE AND THE COVER-UP ARE BOTH CRIMES.

These crimes must be punished. NOT with canonical slaps on the wrists. NOT by whisking away the perpetrators to safe houses or monasteries  to hide them from public scrutiny.    THESE CRIMES MUST BE PROSECUTED IN SECULAR COURTS OF LAW.

For those of us yearning for a new church, we have often talked about the need for the current structures to implode in order for real change to happen. The gospels are filled with images of pruning, dying and rising to new life. The coming months, years, decades will be a time of pruning and dying. We will not see new life overnight, but it will come. It must come.

For some, the current crisis will be the final straw that pushes them out of the church doors forever, if they haven’t left already. Others will stay and fight the good battle for the church they love. And, fight they must. Silence and turning a blind eye enables evil to continue.

The mighty are falling from their thrones. And, fall they must.

 

 

 

 

 

 

what next???

Trump and his administration are kidnapping and incarcerating children of refugees seeking asylum in America. I’m sorry. Are my words politically incorrect?

What else would you call forcefully taking a child from a parent, taking them to an unknown location, and giving no assurance that they will be reunified in the future?

What else would you call corralling children into pens, removing their freedom and denying them contact with the outside world?

In 2014, Boko Haram abducted 276 school-girls in Nigeria. The world was shocked but not surprised. After all, Boko Haram is a violent, terrorist group. Still, we were appalled. We imagined it happening to our own daughters. We imagined the horror of living with the image of our child being brutally snatched.  The horror of not knowing where they were. Not knowing what was happening to them. Not knowing if we would ever see them again.

Today, in America, over 2,000 children have been abducted from their asylum-seeking parents, and transferred to “holding facilities” around the country. We are now finding out that no process was in place to register the children and parents in order to facilitate an easy reunification. How does a baby or toddler tell you their parent’s name or even where they came from? Even if they are reunited, what long-term mental and physical damage and trauma will be suffered by these children and their parents?

From where I sit, approximately 200 km north of the 49th parallel, the daily news from the USA is unfolding like a dystopian novel or movie. Only, it’s not fiction. This is not the stuff for big screens and bowls of popcorn. This is not the stuff for book club discussions over a glass of wine.

This is REAL.

This is HAPPENING.

NOW.

IN AMERICA.

Trump claimed he would make America Great Again. He has either failed miserably, or his version of greatness is unspeakably cruel, inhumane and evil. What will he do next? And, there WILL be a next! There will be another horror, another crisis that will need to be addressed. Resisted. Fought.

There will be another horror, another crisis challenging us not to take our attention away from these 2,000 children, or the victims of Parkland, Florida, or the other mass shootings, or Flint, Puerto Rico, Russian investigations, love-fests with dictators…

Yes, there will be a next.

And another.

And another…

Until Trump is removed from office.