To understand why so many Catholics and victims are disillusioned with the church hierarchy, consider what happened in Rome yesterday.
-- The first action by the College of Cardinals was to draft a thank you message to Pope Benedict. Not a letter to the Magdalene laundry victims in Ireland. Not a letter to the parents in Spain whose babies were sold by nuns. Not to the victims of Cardinal O’Brien in the UK. Not to the African nuns who, years ago, reported being assaulted by priests. Not to family members who lost abused loved ones to suicide. Not to any of the hundreds of thousands who have been victimized as innocent children or vulnerable adults by priests, nuns, bishops, seminarians or other church staff (and often later betrayed by prelates).
-- Cardinals heard a talk by the long-time “papal preacher” Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa. According to the Associated Press, in a Roman church in 2010, Cantalamessa “likened accusations against the pope and the Catholic church in the sex abuse scandal to ‘collective violence’ suffered by the Jews.”
-- Slovenian Cardinal Franc Rode was one of three men who were tapped for a conclave leadership role.
In April 2010, he caused “a furor” by telling a newspaper that sexual abuse by clergy was a "statistically insignificant problem" that has been “inflated.” Rode also claimed that “97% of child abuse takes place in families, among friends and in institutions that are not at all linked to child abuse.”
--Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re was also given a leadership role. In 2002, Re tried to gut some of the already vague and weak abuse policies adopted by US bishops.
Re is also described (in the National Catholic Reporter) as a “powerful patron” of the widely-discredited Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali, whose archdiocese has been severely criticized by prosecutors for keeping 37 accused priests on the job even after Rigali pledged reforms in the wake of a scathing grand jury report on cover ups by Philly church officials. (The NCR also suggested the Re pushed for Rigali’s promotion over that of then-Boston archbishop Sean O’Malley because he didn’t want to slight the disgraced Cardinal Bernard Law.)
-- Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe was also given a leadership role. In 2011, he called an International Criminal court complaint charging Vatican officials with crimes and cover ups “the usual anti-Catholic remarks.”
According to La Stampa, in June 2010, Sepe “was under investigation by Perugia's public prosecutor's office over alleged corruption cases. Media reports alleged that during his time as prefect, various “Propaganda Fide” apartments were made available, free or for a very low rent, to a variety of public figures including politicians, lawyers and journalists.”
-- Cardinal Francis George of Chicago disingenuously claimed that “zero tolerance” is now “the universal code of the church.” (It is not.) And while providing no proof whatsoever, George confidently – and again disingenuously – proclaimed “that efforts by American churchmen had led to a sharp reduction in reported abuse cases.” (It has not. Victims always have, and likely always will, struggle in silence for decades before being able to recognize and report their abuse, so it’s premature at best – and irresponsible at worst – to suggest that somehow over just ten years, centuries of abuse and cover up have suddenly been reduced thanks to rarely-enforced policies and procedures adopted by the very same men who cause the crisis by hiding crimes, shifting predators and deceiving parishioners.)
And remember, all of this happened on the first day of the pre-conclave meetings. When wrong-doing is ignored – or even worse, rewarded – wrongdoing is encouraged.
Sincerely, Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh, Chicago
Sincerely, Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh, Chicago, Illinois
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