Thursday, 29 July 2010

Examining the Abuse Crisis in the Church: NCR Review

It’s been a while now since I wrote anything at all about the problems of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. That is not because I’ve lost interest, and still less because the problem has gone away – quite the contrary. I just reached a point, especially after the papal response to the Irish bishops, that there seemed so much to say, but also so much being written elsewhere, that the issue was in danger of becoming all-consuming, and with it, a risk of becoming contaminated with what my colleague Jayden Cameron calls “psychic poison”.  I needed to take a step back, and get some of the perspective that comes with distance.

With that advantage, I now want to make a regular return to the topic, not with my own thoughts, but by drawing to your attention some of the better commentary I have seen elsewhere – with the emphasis on commentary, not the gory details. I am also no longer particularly interested in analysing the causes, (except  where there is something fresh being said), as much of these have been discussed endlessly, both here,  at Queering the Church, and elsewhere. I am now more interested in writing about the likely long-term impact on the church (as I began to discuss here).

(As Andrew Sullivan observes, "One imagines that this 1973 design for the Catholic Church's Archdiocesan Youth Commission would not make the cut today")
To kick this off, I wiant to draw your attention to what has become an impressive continuous series on the subject at National Catholic Reporter, some of which I will be discussing later in more detail.

A proposal for dealing with priest perpetrators

by Mary Gail Frawley ODea on Jul. 28, 2010
About 5,000 priests and religious brothers have been identified as credibly accused of sexually violating minors. Most of these men were unavailable to criminal prosecution due to statutes of limitation; some within the statutes are in prison. The rest are dead, have voluntarily left the priesthood, were laicized, are residing in religious communities with more or -- usually -- less appropriate supervision, or wait in limbo for the church to adjudicate their cases.

Beneath the child abuse scandal

by A.W. Richard Sipe on Jul. 22, 2010
Many people, including bishops, date and label the "Crisis in the Catholic Church" to Jan. 6, 2002 when The Boston Globe began publishing its series about sexual abuse of minors by priests and revealing the conspiracy of bishops in covering up crimes. That was the flash point of a worldwide scandal. The crisis it epitomizes is more profound.
Read the full report here: Beneath the child abuse scandal

Scandal vs. crisis; PR vs. raw data

by A.W. Richard Sipe on Jul. 09, 2010
Ron Westrum, professor of sociology at Eastern Michigan University, suggests that organizations react in a series of stages to “anomalous reports.” They are: 1) suppression, 2) encapsulation, 3) public relations, 4) local fix, 5) global fix, and 6) investigation of root causes. He came to his formulation through the study of the battered child syndrome that many people, even professionals, found hard to admit was a widespread phenomenon.
It is not difficult to match the trajectory of church response to allegations of hidden clergy sex abuse against Westrum’s model. It’s a good fit.

Compromised hierarchy needs relational wisdom of women

by Charlene Spretnak on Jun. 17, 2010
If the church is to emerge from the crisis of the clergy sex abuse scandal and cover up and enter a new day, rather than being permanently degraded and diminished by it, a vital project of renewal is needed. It would involve all Catholics -- laity, nuns and priests, including the hierarchy -- in an energetic search for creative and vital means of replacing patterns of domination and control with more cooperative ways of interacting.

Mandatory celibacy: the heart of what's wrong

by James Carroll on Jun. 08, 2010
Like all Catholics, I gratefully depend on the faithful ministry of the many good priests who serve the church. Yet I offer a broad critique of something central to their lives and identities -- the rule of celibacy. Many priests will recognize the truth of what I describe.
I write from inside the question, having lived as a celibate seminarian and priest for more than a decade when I was young. In the Bing Crosby glory days, celibacy was essential to the mystique that set priests apart from other clergy, the Roman collar an “Open sesame!” to respect and status.
From a secular perspective, the celibate man or, in the case of nuns, woman made an impression simply by sexual unavailability. But from a religious perspective, the impact came from celibacy’s character as an all-or-nothing bet on the existence of God. The Catholic clergy lived in absolutism, which carried a magnetic pull.
Read Carroll's full commentary here: Mandatory celibacy at the heart of what's wrong

Sex: Obedience & Disclosure

by A.W. Richard Sipe on Jun. 01, 2010
Theologian Yves Congar once said, “In the Catholic Church it has often seemed that the sin of the flesh was the only sin, and obedience the only virtue.” This dynamic dichotomy forms the linchpin to the structure of the entire clergy sexual abuse crisis currently embroiling the Catholic Church.
But the sexual abuse of minors by clerics vowed to celibacy is only the symptom of a system desperately in need of fundamental reconsideration.

Surely Rome can do better

by James Ewens on May. 26, 2010
Let me take you into a situation that illustrates the church institution's instinctive reaction to cover-up scandal. It was a workshop in 2000 for new Jesuit superiors. The presenter, a former provincial, was discussing the circumstances when a superior could break the bond of confidentiality between himself and the men he was in charge of. He said something could be shared with the provincial "If it was a matter of danger for the individual or to others."

Cracks in the wall of the curia

by Jason Berry on May. 20, 2010
The Roman Curia is the Vatican bureaucracy. Most people know little about the men who run the curia. But press coverage of the clergy abuse crisis is closing in on cardinals whose blunders in the clergy abuse crisis have begun to draw criticism from other Princes of the Church.
As words fire back and forth in the press, the wall of secrecy that traditionally surrounds the curia is showing cracks.

Don't expect accountability from the last feudal system in the West

by Donald Cozzens on May. 17, 2010
Miters somewhat askew, the recent queue of bishops from Ireland to Germany, and beyond stepping forward to offer apologies for sexual abuse by their priests is unprecedented for the European Catholic church.
Even as the apologies pile up and policies for dealing with abuse allegations are tightened and meetings with victims are promised, something remains amiss that takes the heart out of the bishops' mea culpa.

On the crisis, Benedict XVI changes the tone

by John L Allen
Lisbon, Portugal -- Not long ago, there was a brief flurry of speculation in the Italian media hinting that Benedict XVI was insulated from the full gravity of the sexual abuse crisis swirling around his papacy. Reports suggested the pope was getting only a carefully redacted daily press digest, producing a skewed impression of global discussion – and in particular, perhaps, shielding the pope from grasping the negative fallout of the “blame the messenger” commentary from some senior Vatican aides.
Tuesday morning, however, Benedict XVI seemed to show that he gets it just fine.

The gift of shame

by Mary Gail Frawley ODea on May. 10, 2010
Examining the Crisis
Jesuit Fr. James Martin suggests on the Huffington Post that the church’s hierarchy, from the pope on down, largely has failed to perform penance for its role in the relentlessly ongoing sexual abuse crisis. This omission is a grave deviation from the church’s own paradigm of penitence and restoration -- the sacrament of reconciliation -- which requires the penitent to make reparation to those harmed and to the larger community. The steadfast refusal to welcome the hope accompanying shame may be at work in this pastoral absence.

Church leaders are spinning their wheels

by Maureen Paul Turlish on May. 04, 2010
The institutional Roman Catholic church can attack every newspaper in every country in the world but that will not change the fact that as an institution it has participated in an extremely well documented, egregious pattern of enabling and covering up for the sexual abuse of thousands of innocent children the world over during almost an entire century.

Abuse crisis is actually a hierarchy crisis

by An NCR Editorial on Apr. 30, 2010
The sex abuse crisis is not fundamentally about sex. The phrase is a convenient tag that has been applied to a deeper, ongoing problem that, at its core, has to do with power and authority and how it is used in the church.

Secret sex in the celibate system

by A.W. Richard Sipe on Apr. 28, 2010
Sexual behavior has a long and well-documented history. Even the current problem of sexual abuse of minors is neither new nor limited to clerics. It is a practice that crosses ethnic, cultural, religious and economic strata and custom. Incest (familial contact) is the most common. However, the sexual abuse of minors by declared celibate clerics poses special issues. There are three factors that draw special attention to the sexual practices of Roman Catholic clerics today.

Rehabilitating Peter, praising women

by Ross Beaudoin on Apr. 23, 2010
A homily for the Third Sunday of Easter
The gospel reading [for April 18] is a double-header. We get two stories in one. Both stories are about the apostle Peter, and they take up most of Chapter 21 of the Gospel of John.
Scholars tell us that Chapter 21 was added to the Gospel, which originally ended with Chapter 20, and that this “postscript” material probably dates around 60 years after the death of Jesus. These added stories must have been very important to the early Christian community. The question becomes: Why did the Johannine community feel the need to add these stories to the Gospel?

Revising history Vatican style

by Thomas P. Doyle on Apr. 21, 2010
The latest Vatican attempt at damage control and image recovery is really an example of history revision. The Vatican has posted to its Web site a short explanation of the 2001 motu proprio, Sacramentorum sancitatis tutela. This decree was not hidden in official secrecy and is fairly well-known throughout the world. The short article provided a summary of the main action steps for cases of sexual abuse of minors by clerics. That offered nothing new. A real surprise, though, is found in one sentence: “Civil law concerning reporting of crimes to the appropriate authorities should always be followed.”

Turn this dreadful moment into a graced moment

by Fr Michael Ryan on Apr. 20, 2010
As he read the scriptures for the Third Sunday in Easter, Fr. Michael Ryan, says, it was hard " not to read all this in light of what is currently happening in our church, and to express the hope that, during this current, painful crisis, our church leaders will hear Peter's words as a challenge to humbly acknowledge that, despite their intentions, instead of speaking for God they have sometimes spoken -- and acted -- all too humanly."

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