Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A Church in need of an thorough examination of conscience

Those of you who know me, which, I am assuming is most of you, my small group of readers, know that I am as Roman Catholic as one can be. I love the Church with my whole heart. This love is not narrowing, but broadens us by always calling us forward, beyond ourselves. Further, I thank God that the spiritual leadership of our local Church over the years, particularly our bishops, has done a better job than many bishops across the country and the world in the prevention of and response to the few instances of sexual abuse committed by a few members of our clergy. Like Rod Dreher, to whose article I am providing the link, I am grateful that the chair of Peter is currently occupied by Joseph Ratzinger, a truly holy man, who is not afraid to confront issues head-on.

As an example, take the case of the sickening scourge of clergy sexual abuse. As Pope, Benedict XVI has acted decisively in the very prominent case of Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, a case that was unconscionably delayed and dissembled about during John Paul II's final years, when Fr. Maciel was protected by Angelo Cardinal Sodano, the recently retired Secretary of State. In May, Pope Benedict, in a move that did not surprise anybody who knows him, called on Maciel, through the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, which has responsibility for sexual abuse cases, "to renounce the [further option of a] canonical process" and to "invite" him "to a reserved life of prayer and penance, giving up all public ministry." The CDF's statement ends abruptly with: "The Holy Father has approved these decisions". Of course, with much feigned piety, Fr. Maciel and his Legionaries with words about cross-bearing and enduring injustices patiently, that make the truly humble blush, obeyed knowing the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith has the goods on Maciel and his predatory ways that would be made use of in any further canonical process. Maciel is bearing a cross of his own making. His cross is light and still does not rise to justice. The mercy was shown because Maciel is 86 years-old.

Nevertheless, there is still a stench in many chanceries, male religious houses, and seminaries. Because many bishops are implicated in the messes which cause this smell, we are still a long way away from cleaning it all up. This all leads up to this examination of conscience written, no doubt with a broken, but healing heart, by Mr. Dreher, whose article I learned about from reading Fr. Neuhaus' posting on the First Things blog. Here is the link to Orthodoxy and me.

Fr. Neuhaus writes that Dreher's "decision is in large part reactive. But he is reacting to very real corruptions in the Catholic Church. I hope every Catholic bishop and priest will read his essay, and especially those bishops and priests who are inclined to heave a sigh of relief that we have weathered the sex-abuse scandal. And every Catholic engaged in the standard intra-church quarrels, whether on the left or the right, should take to heart what he says about Catholics being more preoccupied with church battles than with following Jesus." As a Roman Catholic deacon, I appreciate very much his writing what needs to be written, not just pertaining to the sexual abuse crisis, but the deeper, underlying crises of liturgy, to include preaching, as well as catechesis and evangelization. In short, a Church that is intimidated by a largely hostile culture.

I pray that God continues to richly bless Rod and his family, especially through the sacraments. I cried as I read about Eric Patterson and his brokenhearted parents. It is time, way past time for people like the Pattersons, for us as a Church to squarely face the truth about the abuse and the cover-up, which is on-going, as well as the sad state of liturgy and catechesis, the Catholicity of Catholic education, the list goes on. To paraphrase then-Cardinal Ratzinger, in his book length interview with Vittorio Messori, The Ratzinger Report, more than anything else, the Church needs saints.

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