Saturday, March 23, 2019

ROBERT MICKENS HITS THE NAIL ON THE HEAD: I WOULS SUGGEST A NEW YOUNGER POPE OF THE RATZINGER SCOOL OF THOUGHT

Francis has done nothing to stop civil authorities from doing what Church authorities have not been able to do – bring bishops to accountability before the law.
He is surely aware that there is a danger in this; namely, that he, too, could one day face charges in a civil court for having concealed clerical sex abuse from law enforcement officials. It would be a humiliating blow to the Church, the papacy and especially to Pope Francis.

But, according to St. Ignatius of Loyola, the most perfect form of what the Jesuit founder called the three degrees of humility is to desire poverty, dishonor, and even to be a fool for God "in order to imitate ahnd be more in reality like Christ our Lord" (cf. Spiritual Exercises, no.167).


As the abuse crisis deepens, Francis sets his face like flint





Has the expanding phenomenon of clergy sex abuse thwarted the pope's ambitious project to radically reform the ethos and structures of the Catholic Church?

Robert Mickens, Rome  
Vatican City 
March 22, 2019

Pope Francis is now in his seventh year as Bishop of Rome and chief pastor of the Universal Church. His pontificate, which began in March 2013 with such promise and hope, now seems to have been struck a mortal blow by an institutional crisis that looks to be spiraling out of control.
While there are still too many men in the Catholic hierarchy who continue to put their heads in the sand, it can no longer be denied that the phenomenon of clerical sex abuse (and its cover-up) is global in scope.
The organizers of last month's abuse "summit" at the Vatican made it their primary goal to convince all the world's bishops of this fact.
But let's be honest, is it really possible that prelates from Africa and Asia (and even Italy!) – where the abuse crisis continues to be downplayed or ignored – could be persuaded in the course of only four days of something that it took decades to drill into the heads of their confreres in places like the United States, Germany, Australia and Ireland?
In the dizzying and fast-paced age of social media and instant communication, we learn each day that yet more priests and bishops – in every part of the world and none excluded – are being accused of sexual, spiritual or psychological abuse against a child, an adolescent, a religious sister, a seminarian or another vulnerable person.
And we see that in almost every case, the immediate instinct of the hierarchy is to cover-up the abuse – the abuse of clerical power.
Perhaps never since the Reformation in the 16th century has the Roman Church been so shaken to its foundations by a crisis of this magnitude. In fact, this current moment has the potential of being even more devastating than the events that split Western Christianity some five centuries ago. 

The seven-year itch

Obviously, it did not begin in this pontificate. Long before Jorge Mario Bergoglio SJ was elected to the papacy, the Vatican had already been forced to deal with revelations of sexual abuse in several parts of world.
But Francis, in ways similar to his years as a bishop in Argentina, did not make addressing the problem one of his top priorities once he became pope – at least not initially.
Instead, he merely tweaked the protocols and procedures for dealing with abusive priests that already had been established by his predecessors, especially by Benedict XVI.
However, over the past year the Jesuit pope has had no choice but to give his full attention to this issue. And yet his efforts continue to be marked by ambiguity and ambivalence, as well as by an inability or unwillingness to hold bishops accountable for covering up abuse.
The pope's refusal this past week to accept the resignation of Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, recently convicted of violating France's mandatory law to report sex abusers to civil authorities, has baffled and disturbed many Catholics.
Even some of Francis' most enthusiastic supporters, and those who have been willing to give him the benefit of the doubt up to now, are left wondering whether the 82-year-old pope, at this late stage in the game, completely grasps the full ramifications of the crisis.
In marriages and other romantic partnerships there is something known as the seven-year itch.
It's the observed occurrence that couples somewhere during or after their seventh year together begin to drift apart or grow bored of the relationship. Is it possible that this will also be the case in the love affair that so many Catholics (and others) have had up to now with Pope Francis?

We've only just begun

Seven years might seem to be long a time, especially when we are now conditioned by Twitter and Instagram to move from one bit of "news" to another in rapid succession.
Accustomed to reacting to quick hits of information, we have all but lost the ability to take the long view of unfolding situations, issues and events.
Instead of seven years, social media has reduced our attention span to little more than seven minutes or hours. Clear details of things that happened several weeks or months ago fade quickly from our memory.
Often we rarely, if ever, spend considerable time to ponder their significance, so distracted are we by the latest topic that goes viral in the Twittersphere.
Or, as in the case of the clergy sex abuse crisis, the quick hits can often focus exclusively on one particular issue and tempt us to lose perspective of the bigger picture. This seems to be happening right now in relation to the Church and the current pontificate.
Those who fear (or cheer) that Pope Francis' efforts at ecclesial reform have been derailed by this new and worrying phase of the crisis need to stop for a moment and think back to what the atmosphere in the Church was like just before his election.
An honest assessment of all that has transpired since he became pope can only conclude that Francis has brought about monumental changes in the ethos and even the structures of the Catholic Church.
He has opened up and encouraged debate and discussion on many issues that his predecessors had long since stifled or prohibited.
Groups that were ostracized and excluded from any meaningful or full participation in the Church's life – from homosexuals to divorced and remarried Catholics – have begun to be welcomed.
The pope has started a number of processes aimed at transforming mentalities and structures of Church governance.
Chief among these are the baby steps he's taken towards implementing a synodal paradigm for decision-making at all levels of the Church, which seeks to fully include all the baptized and not just the men who are ordained.
Although many bishops are resistant or still reluctant to respond in concrete ways, Francis has also laid foundations destined to give episcopal conferences great doctrinal authority.
And he's transformed the Synod of Bishops into an instrument of conciliar deliberation, beginning a process that could transform this body, which previous popes used to rubber-stamp their policies, into an institution with key decision-making authority.
'I have set my face like flint'
Nonetheless, many Catholics who are in favor of all these efforts at reform have become impatient with Pope Francis.
They have been especially critical of him and his Council of Cardinals (C9) – another "reform" of the instruments of the papacy's role in universal governance – for not yet completing an overhaul of the Roman Curia.
But such criticisms overlook the fact that Francis has already made major changes to the structure of the Church's central bureaucracy in Rome.
They also fail to see the real value of the pope's decision to send the draft document of the Curia's complete restructuring, Predicatum evangelium, to national episcopal conferences for further review and suggestions.
This is not an act of dithering, but a real attempt to forge an even more radical reform with the help of people who are not members of the Curia and, thus, have no interest in protecting the current structure with its privileges.
More doctrinally conservative and self-described traditionalist Catholics have also been critical of Pope Francis, mainly for his efforts to decentralize ecclesial authority, dialogue with people of other faiths and no faith at all, work hand-in-hand with social movements and make the Church a place of welcome rather than a harsh judge of moral conduct.
Neither of these groups of Catholics, nor the sexual abuse crisis, has deterred the pope from pursuing radical reforms that seek to make the Church more reflective of the poor, persecuted Jesus of Nazareth and his Gospel rather than the powerful social institution it has become since the Donation of Constantine and the fall of the Roman Empire.
We read in the third Song of the Suffering Servant of God:
"Lord God has given me a disciple's tongue
for me to know how to give a word of comfort to the weary.
Morning by morning he makes my ear alert
to listen like a disciple.
Lord God has opened my ear
and I have not resisted
I have not turned away…
Lord God comes to my help,
this is why insult has not touched me,
this is why I have set my face like flint
and know that I shall not be put to shame"
(Isaiah 50, 4-5.7)
Pope Francis has made these verses his own. Despite the insults he receives, even by men in the Catholic hierarchy, he continues to discern the Word of God and try to offer comfort to a weary people entrusted to his care.
The pope has set his face like flint and is steadfastly seeking to do what he discerns to be God's will for the Church, even in the face of great opposition and bitter criticism.
The abuse crisis has made this task more difficult, but it has not derailed the pope's project of reform.

St. Ignatius and the third degree of humility

It is telling that Francis has thus far taken a hands-off approach to the civil suits that have been brought against Catholic bishops and cardinals. He has not invoked immunity where that is possible, nor has he sought to intervene before the judicial process has ended.
This has surely angered those churchmen who feel that the Supreme Pontiff has the duty to protect the ecclesial institution and its leaders.
Instead, Francis has done nothing to stop civil authorities from doing what Church authorities have not been able to do – bring bishops to accountability before the law.
He is surely aware that there is a danger in this; namely, that he, too, could one day face charges in a civil court for having concealed clerical sex abuse from law enforcement officials. It would be a humiliating blow to the Church, the papacy and especially to Pope Francis.
But, according to St. Ignatius of Loyola, the most perfect form of what the Jesuit founder called the three degrees of humility is to desire poverty, dishonor, and even to be a fool for God "in order to imitate and be more in reality like Christ our Lord" (cf. Spiritual Exercises, no.167).
As Cardinal George Pell observed in an interview early in this pontificate, Pope Francis is "a very good example of the old-style Jesuit" who "practices what he preaches." 
Pell, who is now in jail awaiting appeal on a pedophile conviction, concluded: "I think he will be able to make a profound and beneficial contribution to the life of the Church."
With no misgivings and despite so much opposition, many of us agree.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

The EU court just convicted Karadzich. Could the Pope be indicted by the same Court for miss-handling the sex abuse crisis?Extradited to Brussels: the Brussels captivity; the second Babylonian captivity of the Church? Potentially, the greatest humiliation of the Church in 500 years. Pope Francis please give Chair of Peter to an orthodox prelate better equipped to lead us in these troubled times!

TJM said...

I just don't think PF has the energy or the desire to do what needs to be done. There would be a lot of empty slots in the hierarchy if the proper steps were taken.