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.
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