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Maggie Pedersen wrote:

Hi, guys —

Please take some actions so that you may restore our confidence back into the Catholic Church.
I am socked and disappointed with all the sex scandals.

Until you come out with full transparency, this problem will not go away. At the moment, I am so embarrassed with my Church.  This should never have happened.

Why is the Church so defensive?

Please answer with your heart, honesty, and to the best of your knowledge.

Maggie

  { How can my confidence be restored in the Catholic Church after these sex scandals? }

Mary Ann replied:

Maggie,

It is not our job to explain bad behavior, only doctrine. The fact that some priests and bishops are sinners only serves to show the divine guidance of the Church, which survives its Judases.

I don't mean to excuse the scandalous behavior in the Church but there is much sexual corruption of minors:

  • in Hollywood
  • in education
  • in families
  • and in Congress

but we still:

  • go to movies
  • send our children to school
  • get married and have babies, and
  • pledge allegiance to the flag.

Mary Ann

Mary Ann followed-up:

Maggie,

Here is one of many articles showing the facts, rather than what the New York Times printed.

It's wrong to point finger at Pope in sex abuse scandals

By Bishop Fred Henry, For The Calgary Herald — March 30, 2010

(This is a pastoral letter that was sent to all of Calgary's Catholic parishes).

In the Liturgy of the Hours for Passion (Palm) Sunday, part of a Sermon by
St. Andrew of Crete reads: "Let us go together to meet Christ on the Mount of Olives ... In his humility Christ entered the dark regions of our fallen world ...
his love for humanity will never rest until he has restored our earthbound nature from glory to glory, and made it one with his own in heaven."

These are not easy times. Priests and people feel battered and scattered by the seemingly relentless media campaign about child sexual abuse in the Church.
We, too, have entered into the dark regions of our fallen world. This is a painful, emptying and humbling experience.

Pope Benedict XVI, in his Pastoral Letter to Catholics in Ireland, has expressed his dismay at the sexual abuse of young people by Church representatives and the way this was addressed by local bishops and religious superiors. He speaks of his closeness in prayer to the whole Irish Catholic community at this painful time and he proposes a path of healing, renewal and reparation.

Addressing the victims of abuse first of all, he acknowledges the grievous betrayal they have suffered and he tells them how sorry he is over what they have endured. He recognizes that, in many cases, no one would listen when they found the courage to speak of what happened. The Pope urges victims to seek in the Church the opportunity to encounter Jesus Christ and to find healing and reconciliation by rediscovering the infinite love that Christ has for each one of them.

In his words to priests and religious who have abused young people, the Pope calls upon them to answer before God and before properly constituted tribunals for the sinful and criminal actions they have committed. They have betrayed a sacred trust and brought shame and dishonor upon their confreres. Great harm has been done, not only to the victims, but also to the public perception of the priesthood and religious life in Ireland.

The Pope encourages parents to persevere in the demanding task of bringing up children to know that they are loved and cherished, and to develop a healthy
self-esteem.

Parents have the primary responsibility for educating new generations in the moral principles that are essential for a civilized society. The Pope invites children and young people to find in the Church an opportunity for a life-giving encounter with Christ, and not to be deterred by the failings of some priests and religious (officials). He looks to the younger generation to contribute to the Church's renewal.

Addressing the Irish bishops, the Pope notes the grave errors of judgment and failure of leadership on the part of many, because they did not correctly apply canonical procedures when responding to allegations of abuse. While it was often hard to know how to address complex situations, the fact remains that serious mistakes were made, and they have lost credibility as a result. The Pope urges them to continue their determined efforts to remedy past mistakes and to prevent any recurrence by fully implementing canon law and co-operating with civil authorities in their areas of competence

A sidebar to the Irish Pastoral Letter has been the attempts to personally embroil Benedict XVI in the sex abuse scandals.

The New York Times on March 25, and parroted by other newspapers, accused Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of intervening to prevent a Wisconsin priest, Father Lawrence Murphy, from facing penalties for cases of sexual abuse of minors. The story is not even supported by the evidence of the Times.

Cardinal Ratzinger does not appear in the record as taking any decision. His office, in the person of his deputy, Archbishop (Tarcisio) Bertone, agreed that there should be a full canonical trial. When it became apparent that Father Murphy was in failing health, Archbishop Bertone suggested more expeditious means of removing him from any ministry.

Furthermore, under canon law at the time, the principal responsibility for sexual abuse cases lay with the local bishop. Archbishop (Rembert) Weakland had from 1977 onward the responsibility of administering penalties to Father Murphy.
He did nothing until 1996. It was at that point that Cardinal Ratzinger's office became involved, and it subsequently did nothing to impede the local process.

In August 1998, Archbishop Weakland writes that he has halted the canonical trial and penal process against Father Murphy and has immediately begun the process to remove him from ministry. That same month, Father Murphy dies.

The New York Times flatly got the story wrong. Readers may want to speculate on why.

The sin and stigma of sexual abuse is not unique to Ireland, nor is it unique to the Catholic Church. It is a sin found in all societies and nations. Sexual abuse of children, like the abuse of women, has deep historical roots. Hopefully, by serious investigations of the social, psychological and cultural root causes of this behavior, we can eliminate it as we have made encouraging progress in eliminating violence against women.

Let us pray together for the healing and reconciliation of the Irish Church, of the Church in Canada and the United States, and for the Church in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Italy and all those places where the Body of Christ has been deeply wounded by the sin of sexual abuse. Together, let us bind the wounds and be agents of healing, reconciliation and peace.

Fred B. Henry is the Catholic bishop of Calgary.
© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald


The Long Ascent to Calvary
On the Church's mishandling of sexual abuse by priests

March 30, 2010
by Fr. Thomas Berg

At Holy Week, the Church throughout the world, through liturgy and personal meditation, accompanies Christ on the long, arduous road to Calvary. Last week, for all those whose lives have been scarred directly or indirectly by the crime of clergy sexual abuse, that road became even more onerous.

A front page story in the New York Times last Monday presented an account of a group of men who were sexually abused as children by the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy at a school for the deaf in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

This story was preceded by allegations that the Pope had mishandled an abusive priest when he headed the Archdiocese of Munich-Freising. It was followed last Friday by a statement from the Legionaries of Christ - a religious congregation to which I belonged for twenty-three years - admitting and recognizing that its founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel, had sexually abused seminarians for years and fathered at least three children. All of this has contributed to a maelstrom of controversy around Pope Benedict, and the reopening of the terrible wounds of so many victims of this abuse.

There is no denying that the Church's handling of cases of sexual abuse and pederast priests was for years more than deplorable. The acts of these priests have been criminal. Changes in the manner of handling these tragedies have come far too late.

Objectivity and intellectual honesty require us to insist, however, that those changes have nonetheless come.

As George Weigel put it in an article appearing yesterday in First Things:

Reprehensible patterns of clerical sexual abuse and misgovernance by the Church's bishops came to glaring light in the U.S. in 2002 …That the Catholic Church was slow to recognize the scandal of sexual abuse within the household of faith, and the failures of governance that led to the scandal being horribly mishandled, has been frankly admitted - by the bishops of the United States in 2002, and by Pope Benedict XVI… It took too long to get there, to be sure; but we are there.

As for the New York Times article, numerous commentators have pointed out significant inaccuracies and omissions. Fr. Raymond D'Souza notes among other problems:

[Documents made available at the NYT website supporting the story] show that the canonical trial or penal process against Father Murphy was never stopped by anyone. In fact, it was only abandoned days before Father Murphy died. Cardinal Ratzinger never took a decision in the case, according to the documents. His deputy, Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, suggested… that more expeditious means be used to remove him from all ministry…The charge that Cardinal Ratzinger did anything wrong is unsupported by the documentation on which the story was based.

As for Pope Benedict's broader role in changing the Church's way of handling abuse cases, a recent article by John Allen in the National Catholic Reporter describes a Cardinal Ratzinger who, after the CDF took charge of handling the Church's abuse cases in 2001, became “a Catholic Eliot Ness” in terms of handling high profile abuse cases. And in a follow up op-ed in the New York Times on Sunday, he affirmed:

The outside world is outraged, rightly, at the church's decades of ignoring the problem. But those who understand the glacial pace at which change occurs in the Vatican understand that Benedict, admittedly late in the game but more than any other high-ranking official, saw the gravity of the situation and tried to steer a new course.

And the Pope's recent pastoral letter to the members of the Church in Ireland, though widely criticized by victims groups and the secular press, attests to that new course. Shockingly blunt at times, it represents a real break with previous protocol.

***
In my own life, I have been given at least a small glimpse of the unspeakable hell that victims of priest sexual abuse have lived. The rage, and raw emotions, the sense of crushing betrayal that I personally felt upon discovering the double-life lived by the founder of my own religious congregation have afforded me that. To those victims, I pledge in this Holy Week my own acts of reparation, prayer and atonement, desiring to accompany them with eyes fixed on the triumph of Christ's resurrection, and on the Kingdom “where every tear will be wiped away.”

***

Fr. Thomas Berg

Hope this helps,

Mary Ann

Maggie replied:

Unfortunately you could not give me a satisfactory answer, but just excuses. It does not matter; the facts speak for themselves.

The Church will need to do much more soul searching and change some of it's archaic policies in order to regain its flock back.  In the figurative sense, lots of Catholics these days are in limbo; they really don't know what to do and where to go. That is a fact not fiction.

How to go about in the future remains to be seen, not only in the eyes of the world, but at the core of the Church.

May God bless us all with divine insight.

Maggie

Mary Ann replied:

Maggie,

I responded as I did because you asked us to "take action." As an apologetics group, we have no power to take action, and it is not part of our mission. We do not have to nor wish to defend bad behavior. Far from it! The Church is defensive because many clerics care more for money and reputation than for souls.

That said, there are now manifest lies circulating about Benedict. I think his enemies on both the right and the left now see their chance to render him ineffective. I have been fighting about this issue since the late 80's, and it is good to see the average Catholic wake up. Before, and back in the 50's - 80's when people had complaints — the Catholic in the pew would stone them, and often the parents and the cops wouldn't believe or act. At least now, things are better. So let me offer you that hope.

As for transparency, I think they have finally started to do that. Like anything, it can be carried to a harmful extreme, because it is always possible for someone to allege things about you that aren't true. That is why we in the US have Grand Jury proceedings kept secret. A person's reputation should not be ruined until there is reasonable cause to believe he has committed a crime. An allegation is insufficient. It is sufficient for investigation, but not for publicizing.
If someone is a victim, one has a duty to report, and warn others of the danger. Too often victims have been told to keep quiet to avoid scandal, or they themselves have not warned others when they had the ability to do so. Still, what the clergy, especially the bishops, have done is beyond the pale, beyond explanation and beyond resolution by simple apology.

You said:
In the figurative sense, lots of Catholics these days are in limbo; they really don't know what to do and where to go.

Here is a good first step: Leon J. Podles :: DIALOGUE A Discussion on Faith and Culture.

Mary Ann
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