By Joe D’Amore
“We may be surprised at the people we find in heaven. God has a soft spot for sinners. His standards are quite low” Desmond Tutu.
God’s mercy is uniform, constant and unwaveringly applied to all who seek it. Justice, however, is a flawed mimicry of it because it is a human invention and therefore subject to discretion.
The fabric of the catholic church is torn and there’s no repair in progress. Once again after a cacophony of recent news of abuse by high ranking clergy, at the conclusion of a summit of bishops in Rome to address the issue, the Pope disappoints.
In a faux response the church announced through the Associated Press that it would issue a “ new law” creating a child protection policy that covers the internal bureaucracy at Vatican City. Perhaps, the Pope and the hierarchy missed the proverbial memo. Criminal sexual abuse of children has become institutionalized throughout the world for decades by the church as well as its coverup.
There is neither nothing new about this condition, nor are the crimes localized within the walls of Vatican City. Certainly, the application of the law directed at “ bureaucracy” provides a “ line-in-the-sand” whereby high-ranking officials are now finally at risk of being held materially accountable . Certainly, this is a novel approach.
But criminal conviction remains still the exclusive purview of civil authorities. The church’s internal authority is devoid of a genuine will to initiate comprehensive justice in its most basic forms:
investigation, defrocking, conviction and referral to civil authority for disposition of cases. Likely, the Vatican City -centric policy is a tepid response to the recent conviction of Cardinal George Pell, formerly in charge of the Vatican’s treasury, who was convicted of molesting boys. Certainly, there are likely others like him who remain in the shadows cloaked in the church’s secretive confines.
The Pope’s post summit “8 point pledge of priorities” was bracketed by prayerful resolve and this for me as a devout catholic is not only central but also absolutely necessary. However, beyond this point the theme that a culture must be changed to no longer tolerate abuse and cover-up is muted solace. My witness is more powerful when I relate my Catholicism as part of my identity and not just an affiliation. The continued failings of hierarchal leadership to constructively coordinate policy to support civil authorities remains a glaring failure that will lead many to disassociate with the church. For me personally, this is a struggle too.
Many local priests have integrated statements in their homily’s pointing to hope for the end of the scandal. The Boston Archdiocese affected the same in a widely circulated open letter to parishioners. But most are fearful of declaring outright condemnation of the church leadership. The hierarchal nature of the church concentrates power in a small minority and for decades –suppression—remains the dominant strategy still firmly in place.
There remains no authentic response by the church. And the practice of silence, which is a form of complicity, points to many more years of disappointment. Joe D’Amore, Groveland, MA
You can email Joe at: firstname.lastname@example.org ◊