Catholic Bishops have betrayed the Church
By Dr. Larry Fedewa (August 17, 2018)
On the day before the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Mother (August 14, 2018), the latest bombshell in the ongoing curse of the Catholic clergy was finally released by the Pennsylvania Attorney General, Josh Shapiro. The official title of the 1356-page document is 40th Statewide Investigating Grand Jury Report I [Redacted]. It further destroyed whatever was left of the moral authority of the Catholic bishops of the Pennsylvania dioceses involved, and by extension all the other American bishops as well.
The Report is the work of a Grand Jury which sat for two years listening to stories of child abuse, brutality, and destruction too horrific to even hear, let alone experience. The perpetrators of these criminal acts were not human traffickers or pimps or terrorists.
They were Catholic priests.
But even worse is the fact that these monsters were shielded, protected and even encouraged by the successors of the Apostles, the Catholic bishops of Pennsylvania. Of all the conclusions which were reached by the Grand Jury. the most emphatic is that the responsibility for this terrible lapse of decency lies directly at the feet of the bishops, who colluded, enabled, and facilitated massive pedophilia. The degradation and destruction of thousands of innocent children by hundreds of priests is a stain on the Church of Christ which will never be erased. It is far more pernicious than Martin Luther’s propositions or Henry VIII’s many wives. The difference this time is that no wars will be fought by the victims against the clergy. The masses of the faithful will simply continue to drift away.
So, the question arises, “What now?” Are these acts against nature events of the past? Are there still monsters wearing Roman collars in our midst? Are today’s bishops still hiding them? And, what accountability faces the bishops who have betrayed the Church? The bishops’ solutions so far have been elaborate reporting and investigations of alleged incidents to the diocese. What was done with these detailed investigations?
The Report details extensive lists of crimes reported and documented which led to “counseling”, transfers, suspensions, and above all – secrecy! No one was reported to police; no one went to jail. The cover-up has continued! In fact, the reason for the delay of publishing the Report was lawsuits of active clergy protesting that publication of their names would impact their livelihood! The Pennsylvania Supreme Court reduced the redactions and ordered the publication.
World to Bishops: there is only one report that should be made for any incidence of child molestation: CALL THE POLICE!
Changes in statutes of limitation
The Report presents several recommendations which address both the necessity of extending the law to accommodate the rights of victims to demand justice from the Church and to assure compliance with the laws protecting children in the future on the part of the bishops.
The lawsuits which are sure to follow will bankrupt the local dioceses. The financial links between the various organizations within the Catholic Church – archdioceses, religious orders, the Vatican, etc. – are sure to be tested, as the search for assets advances. The future of the American Catholic Church as a viable organization is thus at risk.
Underneath the obvious questions about the financial costs of accountability, however, is the fact that disclosure and reformation has had to come from outside the Church rather than from its own conscience – to the profound embarrassment that all Catholics are bound to feel about this evil cancer. It is eating at the very foundations of our Church, which is supposed to preach the Word of God in our lives.
Indeed, if there were ever a case of John Lord Acton’s observation that “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”, this is it. The best solution to the abuse of power has always been to disburse power among many. This logic argues for changes in the hierarchical structure of Church governance. Bishops have forfeited their right to absolute power. The thousands of innocent victims of child molestation all over the world have proven conclusively that there must be another structure developed to hold every bishop accountable for his actions.
In the 1830’s, John England, first bishop of Charleston South Carolina, deigned a diocesan governance system modeled after the American government. It consisted of a General Council composed of lay Catholics elected by the parishes and a Clergy Council appointed by the Bishop, with authority over the entire diocese (including financial and personnel matters) subject to the veto of the bishop. (See The life and times of John England, first bishop of Charleston (1786-1842). Peter Guilday, New York, The American Press, 1927). A system like that would have averted the entire crisis.
Bishops should resign
In reality, however, nothing of any significance is going to happen to Church governance unless the Pope leads the movement. In a reflection of the mass resignation of all the bishops of Chile, the Pope’s first move should be to accept the resignations of all the bishops in America. Only those who can prove their innocence should be reinstated. Without some such acts of repentance and reconciliation, this cancer will continue to warp the credibility of the Church until there is nothing left but dying old bachelors in fancy costumes of the past.
Those of us used to the old ways may tolerate the disgraced clergy, but we will not pay the financial costs which will be demanded by the victims of past sins. Their legal claims are being recognized by new laws and will bankrupt the patrimony left by our ancestors to the care of the bishops. American courts will enforce retribution that episcopal consciences could not. The financial ruin of the Catholic Church is looming with seeming inevitability.
What is worth preserving?
So, what is worth preserving, even if Catholics have to meet in homes instead of churches? There is much that is worth preserving. The Catholic intellectual tradition is the oldest by far of any in Western civilization. It has a perspective, methodology, doctrine and morality which have stood the many tests of time. The fellowships of the congregations which make up the Church are worth maintaining for their own sake as is the idealism and moral standards which bind them together (even if the clergy cannot embody them successfully). There are also cultural traditions, including music, liturgy, and literature which inspire average people to a higher standard.
Catholics can stand by and watch our Church slowly descend into obscurity, or we can undertake a new Reformation – reorganize our governance, retain our identity and our heritage, and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit under new leadership,
Pope Francis I
And, where will this new leadership come from? Ah, there’s the rub. Vatican II was called by Pope John XXIII to meet the challenges of the postwar era. Unfortunately, the very people who would constitute a new Church Council, i.e. the world’s bishops, are the same people who have failed us. Pope Francis I is the logical source of new leadership. Is he up to the challenge?
If not, we had better start praying for another Martin Luther!
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