At Enlightened Catholicism, Colleen has posted a powerful piece from Australia, after Pope Benedict’s visit there and expressions of regret and sorrow over Australian clerical abuse. The author, Tom Doyle, writes of his experiences and reflections on the church, after appearing as an expert witness at several trials over abuse claims, concluding with his suggestions for what Benedict could and should have done – but didn’t, and won’t.
Colleen makes some important points about the comparison with the current reports out of Ireland, which hardly show any more appropriate response from the ecclesiastical authorities. Read Tom Doyle’s thoughts, and Colleen’s response, at “Two Views of Meaningful Vatican Responses for the Abuse Crisis.”
(Jayden Cameron at Mystic Gay sees in this an improbable sign of hope:
My own feeling, which may seem pessimistic to some, but not to me, is that the Spirit is simply moving us away from dependence on these large institutional religious structures. We are being forced into the catacombs and onto the desert margins where the wild Spirit blows, and from this marginalization with come the radical restructuring of the tradition, burned free of it’s deadened, ossified structures. Spiritual seekers will simply begin looking elsewhere for their spiritual transformation, in smaller, independent religious communities whose primary obligation at this point in history is to offer a light in the wilderness….except it isn’t a wilderness at the moment. There is an extraordinary explosion of spiritual consciousness taking place at the moment, much of it chaotic, much of it highly creative, and quite a bit of it deeply inspiring. But it is not taking place, for the most part, within the major religious institutions of conservative Christianity, which have more or less lost their way. So be it.
What caught my eye, though was an observation at the end of Doyle’s article on our response. Making the point that the church is unlikely to do the things he has suggested, and which it quite clearly needs to do, where does that leave us? Do we simply wring our hands, express regret, and continue as before? Doyle sees the challenge for us in rather more bracing, even shocking, terms:
I think we all know that all of the above have no chance of happening. Perhaps the most realistic thing we can hope for is an awakening by isolated bishops here and there. We can also continue to hope that lay Catholics, who persist in looking at the hierarchical system through rose-colored glasses, will start to grow up, get past their denial and see reality for what it is. The recent popes and the hierarchy have enabled the most horrendous spiritual and emotional destruction of vulnerable people in a thousand years. Thus far they are doing precious little to make it right.
Those who continue to bow and scrape at the medieval ecclesiastical court are not faithful Catholics but enablers of evil. The heresy here is that the pope and the bishops seem to have no real clue that the plunder of the bodies and souls of the vulnerable…..boys, girls, men and women is evil that is perpetrated by clerics and religious men and women whose lives are supposed to combat evil rather than cause it.
This is strong stuff, but needs to be considered very seriously. The widespread scandal of clerical abuse has not just been the result of individual weakness and a failure of governance, but has been deeply ingrained in the entire institutional structure of the church. By paying lip service to their remorse while failing to address the real problems in any meaningful way, the hierarchical system is indeed continuing to inflict real evil on the entire church. Is heresy too strong a word?
The rest of us, outside the system, are accustomed to being told that we should defer to the “wisdom” of the (self) appointed leaders of the church and their teaching. But in accepting our subservient status, we are aiding and abetting the evil. We have a clear choice here: to participate in the ongoing heresy of denial, or to stand in vocal and prophetic witness against it.