Friday, April 18, 2008

Doing the Right Thing

Bravo, Benedict! Giving credit where credit is due, but there is more to be done...

Survivors of Joseph Birmingham - Bernie McDaid and Olan Horne

In my last post, I issued a plea for Pope Benedict to meet with some of the victims (or should I say suvivors) of clergy sexual abuse. I had a feeling that he would quietly do so, and that hope was rewarded. By all indications, the meeting with Bernie McDade and Olan Horne (Survivors of Joseph Birmingham), Faith Johnston and others went well. I heartily applaud Pope Benedict for having done this. It was an enormously important gesture, but of course, there remains more to be done.

Before the Meeting

I am not kowtowing. I will not kiss his ring. If we walk in and we're served a large plate of platitude, I can be guaranteeing you that I will be the first person to say that this man does lack the moral authority to manage the Catholic Church. I expect more than an apology when I leave that room...

After the Meeting

We were all able to answer all of the questions that needed to be asked and for him to respond to. And he did -- and he did forthright. He seemed to intrinsically understand what we were talking about. And he spoke to those issues to each one of us in a spiritual way, in a pastoral way. And he also was very respectful of where and what we wanted to talk about. My hope was restored today from what I heard... I left there with a promise, and I can guarantee you that I will hold this man's feet to the fire on the promise that he left me with today.
--Olan Horne

There were some recent statements attributed to Cardinal Levada indicating that some changes in canon law are being considered with respect to the statute of limitations. In terms of what Olan Horne was referring to, one can assume that this includes holding bishops accountable for what happened in the past and what may happen in the future. In our particular archdiocese, this would refer of course to bishops such as Bernard Cardinal Law, Bishop John McCormack, and Bishop William Murphy. The continuing relevance of the issue of bishop accountability is especially underscored when someone like the afore-mentioned William Murphy goes on record in Newsday today praising the meeting as if the crisis had very little or nothing to do with his actions. The irony and the brass of this wasn't even noted in the article.

There were some victims and victim's advocates groups who considered the meeting to be little more than a publicity stunt, or too little from the Church too late. Unfortunately, I think there are some victims, through no fault of their own, who have become so embittered that nothing would ever serve to assuage their pain other than the utter disappearance of the Catholic Church altogether, and even that might not ease their suffering. There have also been a number of lawyers who have become very wealthy out of the litigation that has come out of this scandal. Be that as it may, justice does need to be served and laypeople do have to continue to be vigilant and to respectfully press for accountability from the hierarchy. If that pressure is taken away, we will all too easily fall back into the patterns that allowed the crisis to arise and fester to begin with. More has to be done than to simply belabor the same old points about the over-sexualization of our culture and the failings of individual priests, even if they are fair observations to make. The hierarchy needs to look inward, not just outward.

Listen on WBUR, Locals React to Pope's Meeting


Garpu the Fork said...

Unlike what some bloggers think, my first reaction when Benedict was elected wasn't printable. But reading Horne's account after meeting with the Pope, I'm fully convinced the Holy Spirit got it right. Something tells me that Benedict is the type of person who'd try to keep that promise or die trying.

Jeff said...

Hi Jen,

Nobody's ever doubted his determination. Watch the 2nd video tab on this page with the three of them. They are very different kinds of people, but they are all speaking in respectful terms for him. It's very moving

crystal said...

Good post :)

Sometimes when a bad thing happens to someone, only the resoration of how things were before is enough. Usually that's impossible, though.

I didn't expect Benedict to do this and I was skeptical about his intentions until I read what the survivors had to say - theyseemed convinced of his sincerity.

cowboyangel said...

Hmm... I'm neither a victim nor part of an advocate group, but I can understand why some people would feel like this was "little more than a publicity stunt, or too little too late." I agree that it's a step in the right direction, but how have the people in positions of power who made the decisions to move these priests around been held accountable at all? Meeting with five victims is a nice gesture, but what does it do to remove Law or Murphy? The heinous and coldly calculating decisions made by these men goes beyond the pale. And not only were they not really reprimanded - they STILL hold positions of power. It's as if the Church hierarchy simply refuses to admit that THEY were part of the problem.

No, I don't think you have to be "embittered" or want to see the Catholic Church disappear. You simply have to want to see justice done and the Church take responsibility for a horrendous moral disaster that it helped create.

It's not unlike Bush meeting with the mothers of soldiers killed in Iraq. Okay. Nice gesture, but the people who made the decisions that led to the disaster still haven't been held accountable at all.

Jeff said...


You deleted all of your posts for 2008? What prompted you to want to do that??

Jeff said...


I hear you. Perhaps nothing will ever happen as far as cardinals like Law are concerned. All I can say in response is that McDaid and Horne have been at this for a long time, and they have pretty good BS detectors. By their own reckoning, they have become accustomed to being served up big plates full of platitudes many times in the past. This seemed different to them. I trust their judgment on this as much as anyone's. We'll see. Horne said he'd hold his feet to the fire. We'll see.

crystal said...

James Martin SJ had a piece in the New York Times about Benedict and the survivors that made a point about symbology. Something like that what happened to the people abused was one on one and physical and damaging, and how what the Pope did helped because it was also personal and physical .... link

I got depressed when my sister on vacation and I thought I'd feel better when she came back, but just feeling very down still. Deleting is a symptom of that, not sure why.

cowboyangel said...

Jeff, thanks for the good response. I'm sure my frustration came through on my last post. Your reply helped.

Jeff said...

Thanks, William. How've you been? Busy?