Friday, November 13, 2020

Addressing an Open Wound

This week a report was issued by the Vatican regarding one of the highest ranking clerics of the Roman Catholic church who was accused of being a sexual predator. Theodore McCarrick is ninety years old and rose through the ranks to the position of cardinal. He became a powerful figure in the church because he had the ear of powerful people in American society, including politicians, and he was an effective fundraiser. Through the decades McCarrick was accused of abusing young seminary students and children but somehow avoided criminal prosecution and censure by the Vatican. 

The report reveals that both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict were aware of the gravity of the accusations yet McCarrick not only continued in his roles of responsibility, he was essentially promoted. After years of denial and financial settlements with accusers it was only in 2018 that McCarrick was "laicized" or expelled from the priesthood. He has never accepted responsibility for his actions, no genuine repentance or work toward reconciliation. 

I find this so appalling that I can barely control my anger and disdain for McCarrick and all those who enabled him. Pope John Paul was fast-tracked for sainthood yet he was complicit in cover-ups which almost certainly meant that more innocent and trusting young men and children were victimized. There is simply no excuse for this, and it undermines the credibility and spiritual authority of the Roman Catholic church. While Pope Francis has made repeated promises to address sexual abuse by priests he became pope five years before McCarrick's eventual ouster. 

The glimmer of hope in this sordid situation is that the investigation occurred and the report was released to the public.There is a level of transparency here which is essentially unprecedented in the Roman Catholic church. In an article in CRUX, an online newspaper which addresses Catholic issues, editor John Allen Jr. offers this:  

To grasp the full significance of what’s happened, let’s take a step back. Since 1870, when the Vatican lost its temporal authority and was compelled to become an exclusively spiritual power, operationally it’s had two core principles: Secrecy and sovereignty. Secrecy meant we don’t air our dirty laundry in public in order to avoid scandal, and sovereignty meant we don’t owe an explanation of our actions to anyone.

There have been far too many shadows, far too much dishonesty, and,most importantly, far too many innocent victims through the years. As John Allen observes in the article, this report is a fundamental shift, and the church can't go back now, whatever the consequences.In the Vatican's response to the the report there is both explanation and remorse: "This wound cannot be treated solely with new laws or ever more effective codes of conduct, because the crime is also a sin. To heal this wound, humility and penitence is needed, asking God’s forgiveness and healing. "

 We can pray for those who have suffered for years not only from the abuse by individuals but the ongoing betrayal of trust by the institution. Many of the survivors have been robbed of personal faith and the solace of the community of Christ. May the peace of Christ be with them, and may justice be done. 

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